Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Having Lots of Tools For Alpaca Training

In my previous blog on the subject of working with Johnny Be Good, I wrote about having to break my rule of waiting for cria to be curious and start trusting me before I work with them.  My instincts and observations with Johnny were showing that he was going to stay aloof and he was displaying a behavior I didn't want to encourage.  He was kicking at me when he thought he was getting away from me and if I did have to catch him for his well baby checks, he had even landed a kick or two.  It maybe cute as a baby, but not cute as they get older!  I wanted to modify that behavior while he is still young.  Behaviors are easier to modify often at this age.  That behavior hasn't been reinforced over time so not as strongly imbedded.

If an alpaca isn't clicker trained yet, not food oriented, then what?  That is when having more tools in the box is really nice.  Having TTouch, Reiki, Healing Touch for Animals and using my intuition becomes more important and very handy.  Catching Johnny Be Good yesterday and doing TTouch and using deep calming breathing techniques with him, showed again the value of these other positive, gentle and respectful methods.  Johnny did not leap away from me nor did he kick at me.  I held him gently and used TTouches at the notch of his ear and gently massaged his neck right at the base of his scull.  I could feel his body relax somewhat.  Then I did several deep calming breaths.  He relaxed even more after he felt the calming breaths.  As soon as I felt his body shift, I let him go before he decided to squirm again.  I do my best never to release when they are squirming and trying to get away.  I want calm and quiet releases with good manners to the end.  I don't want to reward the squirm especially after he already has learned that jumping and kicking at me has worked to get away before.  This builds trust between us even without the food motivation and reward.  Although the catching is unpleasant and he doesn't like to be held, nothing else bad happens to him.  He feels something that feels actually kind of good (even though they are often loathe to admit it!).  And in just a few moments, when he relaxes, he is rewarded with being let go. 

We are going to get more practice in being held soon.  The time to begin our oral Vitamin D regimen is about to begin.  I dose my cria every two weeks with Vitamin D.  Since our days are growing short, we don't get much Oregon sunshine in the winter, so these nicely dense alpacas must get the supplement.  Many like the taste however, I suspect, Johnny Be Good may join his buddy Charango in the drama award for taking his vitamins though.  Time will tell! 

Calvin Loves His Vitamin D.  He comes back asking to lick the syringe!

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