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By popular demand ... Get Connected! training workshops with Jim and Gwen!
Just as humans
must be educated in social and intellectual matters to function
acceptably in society, llamas -- as domestic animals -- must
also receive education about functioning with humans and in a
largely human-created environment. "Training" is the
word that is used to mean "teaching animals," and try
as we might, we can't effectively dispense with the word and
the attitudes that come with it -- it is simply too ingrained
in our society. So, we simply say that we "train,"
while understanding, in our own minds, that we really mean "educate"
and let others choose the meaning with which they are most comfortable.
been said, what most people expect in a "trained llama"
is a "flawlessly programmed llama." They forget that
animals continue to make choices throughout their lives, and
one of those choices is whether or not a particular human deserves
their trust and thus their compliance. An educated llama who
doesn't trust his or her human will seem extremenly uneducated
when in fact it is the human's problem!
Certain tasks are prerequisite for any of
our llamas. Law requires that llamas not on our property be under
physical control by means of halter and lead -- this implies
that they allow themselves to be approached and haltered, and
that they also respect and understand the concept of leading.
Health needs dictate that llamas allow their coat to be groomed,
their nails to be trimmed, and their bodies to be inspected.
In turn, these tasks imply the knowledge and acceptance of standing
while tied, lifting individual feet when asked, and standing
still without restraint. Courtesy demands that while interacting
with a human, llamas interact with other humans and other llamas
in specific ways -- and refrain from certain other actions. All
these constitute a portion of what is socially acceptable behavior
for a domestic animal. Our manner of teaching plays an important
role in not only how well these tasks are performed, but, just
as important to us, how comfortably and willingly the llama acquieses.
What is often overlooked is regarding the importance of mastering
before attempting to comprehend more advanced levels of schooling.
In order to fully enjoy a human-companion
animal relationship, we've found that some additional education
becomes pertinent. Walking on a loose lead, relying only on visual
and verbal cues, is not only enjoyable for both llama and handler,
but is one important litmus test of partnership between the two.
Daily or periodic walks are enjoyable for both llamas and humans.
In order to enjoy more variety and avoid trauma and trouble on
these excursions, a llama must also understand a number of simple
concepts: proper protocol for negotiating gates, to follow behind
on a narrow trail, how to respond in traffic, crossing pedestrian
and vehicle bridges, and how to negotiate shallow water, mud,
close trees and brush, low barriers such as fallen logs, and
man-made "obstacles" such as steps and ramps. Finally,
a whole new world is opened up when a llama loads readily into
vehicles, travels well, and has been taught s/he can anticipate
taking advantage of periodic "rest stops" rather than
being forced to soil his or her traveling accomodations against
his or her own sanitation standards.
Performance llamas may earn their keep by
packing, driving, or showing. We've defined our own expectations
for each of these occupations on a combination of basic equine
achievements and additional pertinent tasks that llamas are uniquely
suited to perform. Although our llamas achieve these moderate
standards and thus become very enjoyable and willing working
partners, the majority of llamas currently are not even expected
to willingly perform the basic tasks outlined above, and are
only forced through the most essential occupation-specific tasks.
These llamas are not enjoyable until they have been reeducated,
and sometimes rehabbed -- a process that can take substantially
more time than if they had received proper training in the first
place. Until there are enough well-educated llamas visible to
the public and thus creating more discerning buyers, the current
embarrassing level of "performance" will unfortunately
continue to be the norm.
For packing, we require that a llama stands
anywhere untied, tethers, stands for saddling, stands and kushes
as directed for loading and unloading, manuevers loads between
objects, crosses streams alone with verbal direction, and strings
(lead, middle, caboose)
A pleasure driving llama uses distinct gaits
on verbal command (walk, jog, run), ground drives (starts, turns,
and stops without a "header"), stands untied for harnessing,
accepts all types of llama-drawn vehicles, drives on roads and
trails, maneuvers around basic obstacles, and backs into and
out of narrow spaces.
An entry-level show llama can negotiate all
obstacles defined by current show association regulations.
Therapy llamas are very reliably "house-broken";
negotiate all types of structures and restrictions found in buildings
such as rooms, hallways, floor surfaces, elevators, and long
flights of stairs; kush and/or willingly bring head down for
easier access; and are "spook-proof."
Borrowing a term from the equine world and
expanding its meaning to include several disicplines, "high
school" training is pursuing further education for its own
sake. If mastery of moderate occupational standards is uncommon,
pursuit of high school work is very rare. Although the definition
of driven dressage is drawn heavily from its equine counterpart,
off-lead work is being defined and redefined as it is pursued
by those who practice it, and the details of master-level obstacle
competition are not even in the hands of the trainers, but of
Neck leading -- an intermediate
Dusty and Gwen . . Hyder Llamas
Sahalie and Jim
(photo by Carolyn Blalock) ........................................................
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