COMEBEFORES – Haltering and Wearing The Lead.
START HERE – Yep, still in the round pen!
AIM FOR THIS – No matter where the lead goes, the llama follows it. The lead stays loose.
HOW TO TEACH IT – The job of the lead will be to keep the llama safe, and to help you tell him what you need him to do. The job of the lead isn’t to pull the llama around, to jerk or yank him, or force him to do anything. To get to this point, you need to explain to the llama that when the lead moves in one direction, he should move with it. This isn’t easy or natural. All animals (and humans) have a “freedom reflex”. When you pull an animal, it naturally pulls back. Push on it, it pushes back. If you’re going to overcome this, you’ll have to remember the basic rule of training: Reward what you want. I do early lead training in my small pen where I’ve got everything under control. I lead train my crias when they’re about a week old. With these little guys, I prefer to sit down, which helps me keep my hands quiet. With adults, I need to stand, but I still want to be in my small pen. To teach the baby to give to the lead, sit down on a chair in the pen with the lead in your hands. Slowly tighten the lead until you’ve got enough pressure on it that the llama knows it’s tight, but not enough pressure to pull him or force him to move. Hold the pressure very quietly. The llama has several choices. His natural response will be to pull away from the pressure. Hold steady. Don’t yank, don’t jerk. Just hold on. He can’t go anywhere. If he’s getting really worried, you’ve got too much pressure on the lead. This is just supposed to be an explanation, not an argument. You shouldn’t ease up on the pressure just because he pulls away a bit, but on the other hand, if you’ve put too much pressure on the lead and he’s getting hysterical, you aren’t explaining, you’re just scaring. If he hasn’t figured out what to do yet, hold tight, but if you’ve made a mistake, ease off and try again more gently. His other choice is to give to the lead. Watch for ANY amount of give in the beginning you’ll be able to feel the give in the lead if he relaxes his neck at all, if he turns his head or shifts his weight toward you. The INSTANT he gives, give back. Reward his decision by loosening the lead and letting him stand for a moment. Tighten it up again, and again reward anything he does to loosen it.
IN OTHER WORDS – I used to wait until the babies were old enough to want treats from me. Yes, lead training will go faster if you can use edible rewards, but if you’re starting a youngster, don’t wait! Crias are so willing and pliable a week after birth that it isn’t worth putting off lead training.
GETTING BETTER – Watch for the llama to start following your hand motion instead of waiting for the tight lead to tell him to move his head. Now he’s got it!
TRAINING TIP – Don’t tighten the lead straight out in front of the llama. His freedom reflex is very strong in this direction and he’s liable to get stuck pulling back. Tighten the lead off to one side or the other so that if he was going to take a step, he’d be stepping off to the side.
TRAINING TIP – You’re going to be putting a little pressure on the lead and then waiting for the llama to loosen it. Make sure you’re standing or sitting in a comfortable position so you’ll be able to outwait him.