|Get Connected! workshops||Lost Creek Llamas Blog||lost creek llamaprints publishing|
Guidelines for spending time
with young llamas
Rules for humans
The next group of guidelines also give clear messages in llama language, but the rules are for us, not for the llamas:
1. LOOK FOR BROKEN RULES AND METE OUT CORRECTION PROMPTLY AND CONSISTENTLY. You are the only one who can teach llamas the rules-about-humans in the foregoing section and make sure they are understood and followed.
Correction must occur regardless of supposed intent (or lack thereof), or the body language that accompanies them. Accidents do happen, but in llama-llama interactions, intent is never considered by the receiving party. All transgressions are consistently met with the same reaction. Young llamas who accidentally bump you and are not corrected might expect to be able to bump you in the future. A young llama who accidentally bumps an adult llama immediately learns to be more careful at all times around adults. Your goal is to demand that same level of respect.
Some people have been told that a baby that lays it's tail over it's back will grow up to be aggressive. Not so. Submission is acknowledgment that we are in charge, and approaching with submissive posturing is OK — as long as none of the other rules are broken. Breaking rules is the important issue.
Be aware that sometimes a cria (or more often, a weanling) uses the submissive posture as a deception in order to gain access to something they want. The difference is that those llamas also break a rule, usually entering our space and/or pushing. When a llama enters your or another llama's space with a submissive posture accompanied by a warbling hum, the attempted communication translates as "See, I'm a baby llama and the rules say you can't hurt me, so now you have to give me what I want...yeaaaaaaaah." In this instance, submissive posturing is used as part of manipulation (and is not itself the problem), and we correct the actual transgression immediately.
2. AVOID BENDING OVER TO CRIAS after they are comfortable with you. Bending over makes a scared or concerned llama more at ease because it is easily read by the llama as a submissive (rather than aggressive) posture. This can be a good tool, but once it's purpose has been accomplished, we generally avoid this because we need to convey that humans, like adult llamas, stand up and are to be respected.
That doesn't mean you can't bend over in any way, shape, or form, however. Bending over to sniff noses need not look like submission to the cria. Be careful not to bend over so far that you hold your back parallel to the ground, and make them reach UP to you.
3. A companion rule is that IF YOU MUST BEND OVER TO DO A NORMAL TASK (like shoveling manure, or picking up something off the ground), ALWAYS WATCH OUT.
First, bending over or squatting (facing away) can trigger a male cria's emerging sexual instincts and suddenly make him decide we are interested in becoming pregnant. This is a normal mistake for a young male who feels new hormonal urges and isn't sure yet where to direct them (this behavior can be directed at dogs and other animals as well). Swift, sound correction will mean this normal mistake occurs only once.
Second, bending over to shovel manure can trigger one (or both) of two instincts in adolescent males: the human appears submissive, and the human is (GASP) interfering with ... TERRITORIAL MARKING! We've never had a llama we raised take exception to us removing manure, but a number of rehabs have hysterics over the notion and attack; many normal males have a tizzy fit and run up to mark the spot as soon as we've departed with the wheelbarrow. We ALWAYS watch out when scooping poop -- better safe than sorry.
4. DO NOT LEAN AWAY FROM ANY LLAMA. A llama who comes close enough to you that you feel like leaning away has just invaded your space. If you step back or lean away, you are sending a clear message of submission (or fear). That encourages more spatial encroachment. Instead, lean at the llama, and if s/he's young, lean OVER (or perhaps more explicitly, "tower" over) him/her as well. That puts the llama on the defensive, and the lesson will be to exercise caution the next time s/he's around you, the tall, fearless one.