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August 21, 2006  Alpaca and Their Tasty Treats


Llama Training

Can you give examples of any kind of treats that Alpacas like?

Llama Training

I have had the best luck with feeding, as an occasional treat, a bit of the same pelleted feed that your animals normally eat.  Any new treats should be introduced slowly and carefully.  In general, I am not a fan of treats or hand feeding; preferring to use body work and walks as a way to build a relationship with my animals.

Alpacas are browsers and love to eat bushes, tree limbs and various kinds of weeds and shrubs so as long as you make sure that these kinds of things are not poisonous you might try them.  You might try making camelid "lasagna" to try to get your alpacas to try something new.  Put what ever it is you want them to try (i.e. grated carrots in a shallow dish and put alfalfa leaves on top).  This will encourage your alpacas to get a bit of the new thing in his or her mouth and perhaps develop a taste for it.

I would like to just offer some general advice about food.  While food is useful as a distraction and an incentive, it can be easily misused.  A few guidelines will help use food responsibly.

1.  Don't use food when you can't control it.  For example I discourage owners from going into a group of alpacas with a bowl of grain or treats.  The alpacas will argue with each other and you will get caught in the cross fire.  This actually teaches your alpacas to be disrespectful of you.  I discourage new owners from using food with assertive alpacas who will practically take your clothes off to get the food.  If you can't control the situation don't use the food.

2.  It isn't fair to lure the animals to you with food and then punish them for trying to get it.  If it is mayhem when you feed block the animals out of the barn, deal out the food making sure that you have plenty of feeder space (10-15 feet between animals is not too much) and then open the door and let them into the food.

3.  Food does not make alpacas like you.  If you walk in to the pasture with food and you are mobbed it is not because the alpacas love YOU they love food and you happen to be holding it.  In fact, you can make points with nervous and tentative animals by making a big show of putting the food on the ground instead of insisting that they take it from your hand.  Work at being a trusted and safe presence and your alpacas will enjoy being around you when you don't have food... then you have really accomplished something.

4.  Absolutely don't use food with overbearing youngsters who already invade your space and behave disrespectfully.

5.  Using food effectively for training means behaving like a slot machine not a coke machine.  Only use the food sporadically as reinforcement and you won't create "paid employees."

Happy Handling!



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