Most sensible people at this point will be thinking “Great, I can get the llama to move. The PROBLEM, though, is getting the llama to STOP!” You’re right. Llamas protect themselves from minor inconveniences by moving away from them. Before you can be promoted from minor inconvenience to trainer to friend, you’re going to have to get your hands on the sucker!
COMEBEFORES – An untrained llama will be much too busy trying to escape to concentrate on what you’re saying when you ask him to stop. Teach him “Let’s Go” before “Whoa” and you’ll make life easier for both of you!
START HERE – Start in the round pen.
AIM FOR THIS – Your llama is in the pen. You say “Whoa” and he stops and stands calmly.
HOW TO TEACH IT – You can move the llama forward by putting pressure on his tail. Now try moving him backwards by looking at his head. He might stop and stand still. Great! He might stop and back up. Great! He’s really paying attention to your power! He might turn toward you, turning to go the other direction around the circle. Also great! Most llamas aren’t comfortable backing up before they’re trained to do it, so turning is a natural reaction to your pressure on his head.
POSSIBLE PROBLEM – He might turn away from you to go the opposite direction. Remember the Big Sin? Yes, he reacted to your push on his head, but he made a mistake. He turned his tail toward you. Next time step out in front of him a bit, closer to the edge of the pen, giving him more opportunity to turn away by turning his head into the centre of the pen. Let him walk on for a moment, then put your power on his head again. Try to be a little less forceful this time. You’d like him to stop, but not necessarily to turn and go in the opposite direction. Think about moving your focus out in front of him, relieving the pressure on him without pushing him backwards.
Brenda turns her face and shoulders to Fox’s head, and Fox stops going around the pen.
Note the excellent quiet body language Brenda’s using!
RVL Baretta really wanted to go out to the pasture with her buddies. I needed to give her face AND hand to stop her. You can see from her posture that she thinks I was abrupt and unreasonable!
I wouldn’t have needed the hand if I’d used my shoulders as well, but Life required me to hang on to the gate!
POSSIBLE PROBLEM – He might ignore your pressure and move right through it. Turn and meet him on the other side of the circle. Lean toward him this time to increase your power. If he ignores you again, take a step toward his path to partially block his progress. Yes, you’re still leaving him a clear path, that path just isn’t in the direction he’s going.
GETTING BETTER – When you’ve successfully stopped him several times, start “speaking more quietly”. If you had to step toward his path the first few times, try stopping him by just focusing on his face. See how little you can do and still get the result you want.
ADD A CUE – I don’t usually use a hand signal for stopping other than having both hands at my sides. I’ll say “Whoa” just before I put my power on his head to stop him.
USING IT – Your llama moves when you ask him to, and stops when you want him to. Congratulations! You now have the tools to herd llamas. If you don’t get TOO close to him, and you concentrate on the pressure you’re using, you can, single-handedly, move him around pastures, through gates, and into and out of barns. I consider this an extremely useful tool, as most of the complaints I hear about llamas are about how hard it is to catch them.
Imagine your llama sneaking out through a gate you left open. Imagine yourself quietly saying “Jimmy, Whoa!” Imagine him stopping and waiting there for you. Imagine not spending the next half hour chasing him around the yard and hoping he doesn’t get out on the road!
You’ve taught him the first behaviour in standing him on a scale.
You’ve taught him the first behaviour in grooming, in cutting nails, and in being sheared. You’ve taught him the first behaviour to get ready to put the halter on him, the pack, a saddle, costumes or a pulling harness.
TRAINING TIP – Stay in the centre of the pen unless you need to step closer to the llama for a moment to stop him in the beginning. If you do move from the centre, return to it as soon as possible.