Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bad to the Bone's Johnny Be Good: Teaching Him To Be Good

Johnny Be Good in the back and Lady Marmalade in the front
 My first cria of the year is a cute suri who lives up to his name of Bad to the Bone's Johnny Be Good.  When I have a cria, I like to minimize how much I handle them in order to gain their trust.  There are the essential tasks I must do such as weights and his well-baby checks.  But unless I need to do more, I hold off handling them much.  It is really hard to do because they are adorable and so incredibly soft.  Johnny Be Good is a goofy guy who loves to play and run but is not warming up to me.  My other cria, Lady Marmalade is becoming more social.  She is curious and will come and snuffle my face and hair.  She will even let me pat her lightly.  She is getting more used to it and doesn't run off.  But Johnny still keeps his distance and jumps if I move towards him even if I'm not doing anything with him. 

The other day I had to do a well-baby check on them and as I let Johnny go, he kicked up and gave me a little swat with his rear leg.  I decided that some behavior modification work was required because I was inadvertently reinforcing his bad behavior of kicking at me every time I let him go or he thought I was going to catch him.  He was doing this kick behavior too regularly near me.  This is not behavior I want to encourage or have with any of my alpacas.  So, I broke my rule of what I normally do of being patient and going their speed to gain their trust.  My being pays off probably 95% of the time but once in awhile I get an alpaca that never warms up to being around humans and I have made the mistake of waiting too long and not showing them that even though they don't like being handled, it doesn't have to be scary.  If I wait until I have to handle them and do something unpleasant, then it proves in their mind that they were right to be wary of me.  However, if I handle them and all I do is some light TTouches and breathing energy work with them and then let them go quietly, at least they know that not all handling is awful. 

I had Johnny in a good place where I could catch him a couple of times.  I touched his legs and body lightly and gently.  I waited until I felt his body relax and released him when he stopped squirming.  When I released him, he gave me the kick routine but this time missed me.  Still it wasn't the behavior I wanted and he was still in the spot that was easy for me to catch him up.  I caught him a second time and repeated touching his legs and body lightly and did a little TTouch on his neck to quiet him.  I took several deep breaths to help calm him further.  I felt his body relax and I let him go.  This time, he walked away without a kick.  I rewarded him by walking away this time.  His ears were pinned back and he ran to his momma and stood on the other side of her looking at me warily. 

I caught Johnny again this morning before he went out to the big pasture for the day.  He was not happy about it but I repeated touching his legs and body.  He didn't squirm as much and when I released him, he walked away nicely.  I'm being more patient with Lady Marmalade and touching her lightly when I have the opportunity.  She is already eating pellets so I know it won't be long before she and I are best buddies playing the clicker game and I can follow my normal training methods with her.  I haven't seen Johnny eating pellets yet so he may take after his daddy who is not a super interested in treats.  Johnny may not look like Bad to the Bone but he definitely has his temperament.  Hopefully, Johnny will learn to like his pellets more like Mom, Grandma and Lady Marmalade so I can be more effective in teaching him the clicker games.  In the mean time, he is learning at least not to be such a goofball when caught.  No kicking allowed.  I much rather say, Good Boy Johnny than Johnny, Be Good!

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