Basic trainingLet's start with a little llama psychology. Every animal has a natural instinct to protect itself. Some animals like the wild cats of Africa will protect themselves with claws and very big teeth, A bull elk might attack with sharp antlers, a whale will swim away....A llama is a flight animal. It's means of defense is to run away. They will do whatever it takes to get away from danger. Anyone who has tried to catch a llama in a large field can verify that they are VERY good at dodge and evade!
This evade technique tells you the cardinal rule of llama training....Space is their friend. They will protect their space at any cost. This is my space and you are not allowed into my space. If you enter my space I will either spit at you or run away. In the herd they will spit at the other llamas to say "Leave my baby alone," "Get out of my feed" "Back off dude. I have a headache today"
So as a trainer, if you understand the space thing you can use it to your advantage. First of all the ideal is to gain the llamas trust enough that he will allow you into his space. That is the ultimate goal. Start with the llama in a catch pen about 12 x 12 or 15 x 15. The first couple of day just go in the pen a couple times a day and feed him, change his water, and clean up the manure. Don't really pay a lot of attention to him and DON'T corner him in any way. Let him know you are not a threat. Once he is comfortable with you around the area you can begin to talk to him and move closer. When you get close enough that he wants to move away let him.
After a few days you can take a piece of PVC pipe, a buggy whip, or a sorting pole into the pen. (about 5 feet long) and use it to rub across his back. As he moves let him move but keep in contact with the pole. Again being careful not to corner him. Gradually he will discover that the pole is not a threat and you can begin to move closer and closer. Do this until you no longer need the pole and you can touch his back. Begin on his shoulder and start working your way up his neck, under his belly, and around his head. Talk quietly and don't get excited. When he is standing quietly you can move out of the pen. Don't leave until he is standing quietly even if you have to back off and ignore him until he is comfortable. Continue this until he will let you touch him all over his body and head and then you can introduce him to a halter. Rub the halter over his neck and around his head and slowly put it on. Put it on and take it off several times until he is comfortable with the procedure. DON'T put the halter on for the first time and immediately start halter training! This will make him think the halter is a restraint and the enemy not a fun thing that lets him get out and go for a walk!
Look for additional training tips in the next Quality Llama Products Newsletter.