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Llama Training: What is Involved?

Mar 31, 2008
Llama training is not a skill that everyone needs, but if you ever do, you will find it is a pleasure. Llamas are highly intelligent and they learn extremely quickly. Every llama ideally should be taught:

1. To be haltered.

2. To walk along with you when on a leash, keeping the leash loose.

3. To load into a vehicle.

4. To let you handle their body, so you can do grooming or check injuries.

Beyond the basics, people train llamas to do a variety of things. Perhaps most common is training to accept a pack so that the animal can carry a load. Llamas are sometimes trained to drive to cart. They can also be taught to "kush" which means to sit down; of course, if you train that, you also want to train the llama to get back up on command!

"Llamas are very fast learners," says Bobra Goldsmith, a well-known llama trainer. "When you are teaching a llama something, don't be surprised if he gets it after just a few trials."

After I heard Bobra say that once, I thought I would test out her assertion by counting how many repetitions it did take before my llama Whiskers would willingly enter my VW van through the side door. I didn't have to count very far, just to five! Afterwards, he would always jump right in the van when we wanted to take him somewhere. Sometimes it was many months between outings, but he never forgot. In contrast, I have never succeeded in teaching any of my dogs something in only five trials.

Speaking of dogs, llamas learn much more quickly than dogs to walk easily when on a leash. Where a typical dog will be pulling this way and that at first, llamas are far more likely to keep the leash quite loose. So it's great fun to hike with them. By the way, if you are out hiking with a llama and you see one or more horses coming along the trail towards you, do give way to them. Horses can be rather afraid of llamas when they first meet.

Bobra teaches her llama training methods. Take haltering, for example -- she has developed a slow motion method that llamas seem to like. With the gradual approach of the halter to the llama's face, the animal comes to trust the process more easily than if you just waved the halter around faster. You can also do this with alpacas, for that matter. These methods have been used on both animals.

She works with young llamas, typically several months old, and she also works with adult llamas who may never have been trained or may have been trained minimally. While ideally every llama would be trained, the reality is that many owners don't know how to do it or just don't take the time. Bobra's methods can be learned from a DVD, and you can get the DVD online. So if you have some llamas out in your pasture to train or if you are just wondering about what it would be like to have llamas, you can find out everything you need to know about training llamas.
About the Author
For more about expert llama trainer Bobra Goldsmith and her techniques, visit this llama training page. Rosana Hart is the author of two books on llamas and worked with Bobra to produce the DVD.
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