Monday, April 9, 2012

Alpaca Positive Training Methods: More Than Just Treats

The training I do is all about reinforcing the behavior I want and rewarding it.  The key is rewarding with positive reinforcement.  Most of the time that is a treat.  My alpacas like their pellets and some enjoy carrots, apples and sweet potatoes as some of their favorites.  But what if your alpaca doesn't like any of those treats or won't take a treat from the hand?  Can you still train with a positive reinforcement method?  The answer is yes.  I try and find something they like.  I have two new girls that I purchased recently and they still think I'm a two-legger that should be avoided at all costs.  It's been a long winter but now that the weather is warming up, I have discovered that these two girls love being hosed down.  I offer them the hose if I'm filling up the water buckets squirting down their bellies and legs.  One raises her front leg to request more and I am always so happy to oblige. I am showing this girl that I'm listening to her and respecting her wishes for more hose.  Such a simple act and yet it has done more to establish trust than all the treats I've offered.  One of my new girls is beginning to take carrots now!  Although she won't take from my hand yet, carrots tossed at her feet are gobbled up.  It won't be long before she starts to take those from my hand.  It can take some patience when dealing with an animal that isn't super food motivated or their mistrust in you is more than their food desires.  But finding that thing that they love and being patient, you can overcome a lot.  Once they decide you're ok, the training will increase rapidly. 

Alpaca Pool Time

I had a female that had a horrible reputation as a spitter come stay at my farm.  I admit I wasn't enthusiastic about having her but after only a few days here, I saw her behavior was based on fear.  I saw it in her eyes as I walked past her one day.  I can deal with that.  Cranky animals are one thing but ones that are coming from a place of fear, I can more easily work with.  I discovered she too loved the hose.  She wouldn't come near me to get treats but the hose, she would come right away to get a good squirt down.  She would let me touch her if I was spraying her and she would come right up close to me on her terms.  Once I started hosing her, the treats came quickly after that.  She loved to come and participate in conversations.  Her head would go back and forth as if she were listening to whomever was speaking.  Then she learned to give kisses for her carrots.  She was quite enthusiastic about giving kisses.  Within a couple of months, her owners barely recognized her because she was so friendly and enjoyed coming over to say hello.  And, it all started with the hose!  

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