Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alpaca Fun at Hum Sweet Hum

Clicker training can be used for more serious training like teaching alpacas to walk nicely on their halters but sometimes the alpacas and I just like to have some fun.  Bringing something new out to their pasture stimulates their curiosity.  I especially like to take new things out to my boys.  Keeping their minds active helps dampen more negative behavior like fighting.  They have something much more interesting to do and keeping their minds active reduces stress too.  Their attention span is pretty short so it doesn't take a lot of time out of the day to go have some fun.

In the picture above, I attached an extra large hula hoop to some PVC pipe.  The more brave of the lads came right over to check out my new contraption.  Others hung to the back and let the first guy make sure it was safe.  I didn't insist on them going through the hoop right away but gave the brave ones a click for being curious.  Knowing that click sound means treat, that immediately tells them that game time has begun.  So now the challenge is to figure out how to get more clicks.  So they try different things to hear the click and I lure them closer to the hoop with the treats so when they get close enough to where I want them, I click them again.  A few times doing that, they start getting the idea of me wanting them to pay attention to the hoop.  Then I ask a bit more of them and want them to stick their head through the hoop to get the click.  They do that a few times and then ask for more.  Some catch on pretty fast and go through the hoop pretty quickly but others I have to work more to lure them through.  Once one gets it, the others tend to get braver too.  Or sometimes the brave one is having so much fun, he starts to hog the fun to himself! 

After the game time is over, I sometimes leave the toys out to see what the boys will do.  Is it ever cute to watch them go through the hoop on their own just for the pure fun of it.  Alpacas are really smart animals.  People often mistake their normal skittish behavior for lack of intelligence but I have found them extremely smart and catch on quickly.  If you don't have time, find a kid.  The alpacas love it and so will the kids.  It's a great afterschool project to make hula hoops and train alpacas! 

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