COMEBEFORES – Walking On Loose Lead.
START HERE – Outside where you have some room to walk.
AIM FOR THIS – The llama is walking just off your right shoulder on a loose lead. When you straighten up a bit and slow down, he does too. When you stop, he stops without swinging his body forward out of position.
HOW TO TEACH IT – If you’ve been clicking him for being in position at your right shoulder, he’ll probably slow down when you do. Emphasize that you’re slowing by standing up straight and leaning back a little. Click him for slowing. If he doesn’t slow down, or if you’re not clicking, try turning toward him and putting your left hand in front of his face to block his forward motion. Reward him when he slows or stops. Soon you’ll notice him starting to slow down when you lean back or turn your shoulders toward him a bit. This will be especially useful for right-hand turns, as you need to be able to move out around him.
POSSIBLE PROBLEM – If you absolutely can’t get him to slow down or stop without yanking on the lead, you have two options. I’d recommend both. Go back and explain Go and Stop to him again in the round pen. Maybe you didn’t spend as much time on that as he needed. And try walking directly toward a wall. Just before you get to the point where he’s going to have to stop to avoid hitting the wall, turn toward him and ask him to stop.
POSSIBLE PROBLEM – He might not know that he has a rear end. When his head stops moving, his tail might keep on going. To do this, it’ll have to swing out to the right, leaving you stopped facing north, with him standing on your right facing west. Not usually a problem if you’re just going to be moving him from the barn to a trailer, but when you’re showing him, driving or packing or trying to move him in tighter spaces, he’ll need to learn to stop in the same direction he was walking. Try making a 45 degree turn to the right every time you stop for a couple of days to remind him to let his tail follow his head in a straight line!
ADD A CUE – The biggest problems with getting the llama to change speeds to go faster when you do, and slower when you slow down are teaching him to give to the lead (which you’ve already worked on), and learning to give him a clear cue to tell him what you want. He’s using your right shoulder and hand to tell him where to be, so you can use them too. When you walk, you lean forward a little. When you slow or stop, straighten up, moving your shoulders back. Move your hand back a little as well, but work on getting him to slow or stop on this cue, not because of the lead. When he’s slowing well, you can start telling him what your voice cues will be. “Easy” for slowing down, and “Whoa” for stopping. Say the word just before your body asks him to slow or stop.
Dana asks Ritz to slow down. She’s turning her face and just starting to turn her shoulders to face him. This is his second time outside on a lead and he’s been going cheerfully forward with his ears up. His mother and herdmates’ cultural training will keep him from walking forward into Dana’s personal space if he has this chance to calmly think about what he’s doing.
Brandon is a little farther into a turn with Jedi. Brandon’s body is turned much more toward Jedi and he’s moving the lead off to their right. Note Jedi’s shortened strides and spreading ears as he slows down and prepares to turn. If he wasn’t slowing, Bran would put his left hand in front of Jedi and turn more authoritatively toward him.
TRAINING TIP – Let the stopping come from his brain, or because you turned your power toward him, or because you physically swung in front of him to face him and blocked his forward motion if you had to, but not from the lead pulling him back. Pulling back on the lead will turn him toward you and teach him that he doesn’t need to control himself because you’ll always be there to do it for him. It also kicks in his “freedom reflex”, which tells him to actively push forward against anything physically holding him back. NOT what you want him to know about giving to the lead!