I have been working with alpacas for 6 years and have found clicker training to be an incredible way to teach them new things plus to build a better relationship. I still have a lot to learn, and am still reading and trying new things. Some videos of working with them can be found at these links:
Change in Relationship
Now that winter is over, my daily clicker training sessions with my alpacas has given over to daily walks with grazing outside of the pen for my alpacas. What has been wonderful is that the intensive 4 1/2 months of daily training has made the trust level and communications with my two alpacas incredibly better. This was the season when Canela finally really learned how to learn. Last winter, he only half understood. This winter he caught on and mastered his lessons so much better. Furthermore, he started really getting excited about the daily lessons. Clicker training has been a wonderful path for a much better pet relationship for me with these two incredible alpacas.
My two alpacas have learned some new things, particularly chaining some behaviors together. I will add that video soon.
http://vimeo.com/19778495 More Rug Work--One and Two Alpacas
http://vimeo.com/19850382 Rug Work--Canela Cushes!
http://vimeo.com/19735756 Hook to Lead!
What do you use to reinforce your alpaca?
Have you found any rewards that they enjoy more than others?
Favoured Reinforcements Reply
I usually use cut up carrots when I clicker train. If it is really cold out, I sometimes use alpaca grain pellets, but sparingly as i don't want to make them fat.
Cushing on a Mat
Clicker training is a great way to teach alpacas to do useful tasks, like cushing on a mat or standing on scale.
I worked all last winter to try to get Gypsy to cush on a mat and never succeeded. Today, I decided to set up a more stimulating lesson putting several skills together that I know Gypsy has pretty well learned--following my finger, round-about, standing, and cushing. I spent ten minutes or so practicing with him with Canela on the side as the "cushing coach." Finally, Gypsy did his first cush on the mat!!! Giant reward for him--extra carrot bits. Then we repeated it a couple more times with instant success. So I just had to run in and get the camera to capture the sequence.
Yes, bear smells eliminate most any thoughts of training or of even continuing a walk. Since clicker training is supposed to be applied behavior, I really think it is important to learn to understand your animal's behavior. Because of where I live and the fact that there are very real threats about, I trust my boys when they tell me, "No, we are not walking down the field with you!" They stop dead in their tracks, nostrils flaring for the scent, front legs completely stiff, and will not move forward any more. There is no point in even trying because it would be a tug-of-war. In four separate incidents, after I turned around to head back the way we had come, I looked over my shoulder and saw the bear. So these guys and I have an understanding about not going where they say it is not safe.
Yay for clicker training!
That is really a powerful statement about applied behavior and understanding the animals behavior. I saw or read somewhere once that that is one of the coolest things about using clicker training, or really any kind of positive reinforcent training. If the animal listens to you the majority of the time and all of a sudden they seem to be completely ignoring you... most positive reinforcement trainers will stop and think 'Okay, what is going on here?' and try to look for other reasons as to why the animal is not paying attention. Not just that the animal is being 'stubborn'.
Whereas traditional trainers will usually just try to get the animal to do what they want anyways. Usually, there are always exceptions.
It is so awesome you have such a great line of communication between you and your alpacas.
I saw your videos about the enrichment you use for your animals and that got me thinking about what I can do for my chinchillas. Right now, I have been putting left over pellets from training into a bowl with hay. They enjoy searching them out. However, that is all I have been doing besides training for enrichment as far as working for their food goes. After watching your video, I decided to see what I could do to challenge them more. I got a bird toy for them, where they have to twist a handle looking thing to get a little barrel open. They figured it out in less then a minute! Smart little chins!
But they say, "Thank you, Nina, for getting mom to try and come up with more mentally stimulating games!" They really did enjoy it.
Yay for Clicker Training Reply
That is totally cool that you are enriching your chin's lives. Keep up the creativity!
Alpaca Rings a Bell
I taught my alpaca to ring a bell as a gesture for world peace. It did not take long to clicker train him to do this.
I have seen those videos. I bet you and those alpacas are having a blast!
Any particular tendancies that you encounter while clicker training that seem to be particular to alpacas?
Alpacas are very smart!
I love the light bulb moment. I think that is the most reinforcing thing to me while training. The animal is 'excited' that they now understand, and I get so excited for the animal. With my chinchillas, one time he even pop-corned, where they jump straight into the air. A pop corning chinchilla is a very happy chinchilla.
I can immagine that the smell of a bear would be distracting! If I thought a lion was in my classroom, there would be no way I could focus reading a book.