Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dusting Off the Clicker

When I teach my alpaca clicker training and positive reinforcement workshops, I tell students that it only takes a few minutes out of their day to train.  Alpacas attention span is not very long so if you train for 5 minutes, that is pretty much a training session.  We can certainly squeeze in 5 minutes to train, right?  It sounds so easy to do, but the reality when you operate your own farm and business is that 5 minutes is hard to come by.  Training gets slipped until maybe the next time I go out to fill up water buckets or when I bring the alpacas in for their supper and then that time comes and goes.  So I totally understand when students leave my workshops and training doesn't happen, because I have the exact same issues.  It is like any new habit we need to start for ourselves whether it be a new diet, or go exercise.  It isn't easy to get started.  Even knowing all the rewards of having well trained animals, it is not easy to find those 5 minutes.  Sometimes, it is even harder to find those 5 minutes when my alpacas are as easy as they are to handle and work with.  I socialize with them all the time while I am out in the pastures but it isn't formal training.  So, why train more?  They come running to me, they halter and walk nicely on their leads, they are engaged with farm visitors when they come so why spend 5 more minutes a day to clicker train? 

I have been watching more clicker training videos recently from Facebook friends and on Youtube and it is reinvigorating me to get back into training my alpacas.  I have been watching Peggy Hogan clicker train her mini-horses and her techniques are so great.  Watching those videos has inspired me to go back out and find those 5 minutes.  Watching the videos is giving me ideas of trying new things to train.  It is helping me break out of my rut.  We all need that from time to time.  Even the trainers need a boost and reminder.

Getting back into clicker training the alpacas, I'm having fun trying to adapt some of these new techniques I've seen from these other trainers.  My alpacas are having more fun and come to me every time I enter their pasture now in the hopes it will be clicker time.  They are enjoying learning new things too.  And, by taking that 5 minutes, I'm giving myself time to enjoy my animals.  Running a farm is hard work.  There is never enough hours in the day to get everything done.  But by giving myself those 5 minutes with my alpacas, I'm reminding myself, why it is that I'm working hard.  After all, the reason I wanted my own farm was to be able to enjoy my animals each and every day.  Clicker training isn't just about teaching the animals new behaviors.  There is an added benefit to clicker training.  It has provided a good and positive reminder to stop and just enjoy my alpacas.  And, by doing so, I am more energized and excited about training and being in this alpaca business.  That is a pretty good return of my time  investment of only 5 minutes.  I'm glad I dusted off the clicker.

Getting Back Into Clicker Training and Being Rewarded with a Kiss

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