COMEBEFORES – Walking On A Loose Lead, Whoa.
START HERE – Outside, walking around with the lead loose. Somewhere nearby, he has a goal, such as a treat pan on the ground, or another llama in a pen.
AIM FOR THIS – You walk, he walks. You run, he runs. You run really fast, he runs really fast.
HOW TO TEACH IT – Oooh, fast! Everybody wants to go fast. And the first thing everybody thinks of is pulling the llama forward, usually chanting “C’mon! C’mon! Hurry up! Hurry up!” You know what’s wrong with this scene, don’t you?! By trying to pull him forward, you kick in his freedom reflex, forcing him to lean back, thus guaranteeing he’s going to slow down. And then you’re giving a name to this slowing down behaviour. It’s called “Hurry up!”
Let’s start again. You’re walking calmly around the yard. The lead is loose. He’s off your right shoulder, right where he’s supposed to be. When you’re walking calmly like this, you’re leaning forward slightly. When you wanted to slow down, you straightened up. Now that you want to run, lean forward more and lift your feet – exaggerate a running motion. KEEP THE LEAD LOOSE! That’s the first big secret. You can physically stop him from going forward, but speeding up HAS to come from his brain. And here’s the second secret. When you first start asking him to go faster, ask him to go faster in the direction HE wants to go. Yes! You can run toward the barn as long as I’m running with you! We get to practise all kinds of things in this session. Walking on a loose lead away from the barn. Slowing and stopping to turn around. Walking on a loose lead toward the barn. Running toward the barn. Slowing and stopping to turn around. And walking on a loose lead away from the barn again. When he’s getting good at this, start asking him to run when you’re not QUITE going toward the barn. NEARLY toward the barn, but not right at it. After a day or two, you can try asking him to run in the other direction.
IN OTHER WORDS – If he’s very interested in your treats, you can try holding the treat in front of him to lure him forward faster. Don’t try to use an outside goal AND a treat lure though, that’ll just confuse you both. And don’t do this sort of luring more than five or six times, or you’ll be stuck using it all the time.
GETTING BETTER – Ask for Faster any old time. Toward the trailer. Away from the trailer. Walking down the road. Walking in the field. The more you practise, the better he’ll get.
ADD A CUE – When he’ll go faster toward the barn when you lean forward to ask for it, start telling him what faster is called. DO NOT cluck as you would to get a horse to go faster. Clicking is llama language for “Get outta my space”, so if you cluck, he should get AWAY from you, not try to stay with you! My Go or Go Faster cues are Let’s Go! and Hike! Hike is a word that comes naturally to me when I want more speed because I drove a dog team for years. Pick a word that will come easily to you when you need more speed, and say it every time he speeds up.
USING IT – For a marvelous view of a llama walking, pacing, trotting and cantering, for some precious time alone with him, for your ability to take him many different places to get him used to many different locations and situations, and for getting him in condition for tough stuff like packing and carting, take a TRAINED llama for a run beside an ATV!
TRAINING TIP – He doesn’t need to break into a fast gallop to be going faster. You can certainly work up to that, but in the beginning watch for a slight change of gait, or the Faster Sign. When he’s going faster than a walk or slow pace, his lower neck just in front of his withers will start bobbing back and forth. It looks really silly, but it DOES count as going faster!
TRAINING TIP – Don’t forget to reward him for walking normally, slowing, stopping, AND for going faster.