TEACHING A LLAMA TO KUSH TO COMMAND

You will need:

1.One reasonably biddable llama, preferably a gelding ,who is catchable, easily handled, used to being haltered, groomable, and, most importantly, who kushes naturally anyway. (Not all llamas do!)

2. A willing helper, a person used to being around llamas.

3. A pocketful of bestest treats and the willingness to hand-feed treats. Not all llama-owners approve of this and I respect their views, but it would be a great disadvantage in this exercise where instant gratification is of the essence.

4. A couple of hours of time spread out over maybe two or three sessions. It should not take longer than this, if it is going to happen at all. I managed Toby in two sessions, one of exactly7 minutes and the second just under 7 minutes. But he was the fastest learner of the five boys.

5.A gate, or strong fence, that has a low bar between 6 and 12 inches off the ground. If possible this should ideally be in a corner so that you can work with the llama facing the gate and with a barrier stopping him from swinging round more than ninety degrees.

6. Your choice of a verbal command. For this example I'm going to say "Sit". You can say just what you like, so long as you ALWAYS SAY THE SAME COMMAND. Llamas speak llama, not English! Think out a command before you begin.

METHOD

Put a halter on your llama and position him facing the rails of the gate or fence. Attach a rope to the noseband ring, under his chin, and pass this rope under the lower bar of the gate, moving to stand on the outside yourself, ie with the gate between you and the llama standing with your helper

At a signal to your helper, give the command "Sit" and pull firmly on the rope bringing the chin of the llama downwards. At the same time, your helper needs to be putting firm, downward pressure on the back end of the llama.

It is absolutely essential that you reward any positive yielding on the part of the llama with lavish praise ( "Good boy. Good BOY!!") and get a treat in his mouth if you can. When I say yielding, I am talking about allowing the head to go down and bending of the forelegs in preparation to kneel.

Relax. Let the llama up, but not away from the gate, and then have another go.

The kush begins with the folding of the front legs and if you've achieved this you're doing fine.

Panic?!! Yes, there will be a bit of this initially; the poor soul will be wondering what's happening ...at both ends!

Accept some distress, because there will undoubtedly be some, but dont allow the llama to freak out completely, kicking and spitting for example. If he does this, try again another day..if at all. You should know your animal and how far to push things.

Try again. Give the verbal command. Keep his head low if you can, and encourage the bending of the front legs. You can tickle behind the knees if you can reach through and he's not too lively. Keep the pressure on that rear end, helper!

If you're lucky, he will go down into a kneel and maybe the back legs will fold down too. Both of you be LAVISH and I mean lavish, in your praise and bestest treats. Build up the association in his mind between kushing and something really wonderful happening.

Try again, not forgetting the verbal command, and aim for the complete fold-down (kush). PRAISE! PRAISE! REWARD! Be LAVISH! This is an unnatural experience for your llama, to be pushed down by humans.

So if it happens, let him stand up and then do it again. Pull downwards on the rope (you may not evenneed to tug now) Say."Sit" and go through the process several times. Keep up the praise and the treats.

And then you will find that he has built up an association between the word "Sit" and what he then does when he hears this word and what he gets for doing it. This is Operant Conditioning. Hopefully, after a while, you wont need to even tug downwards on that rope. You wont even need a rope. All you will need to do is say "Sit" and maybe make a finger movement to the ground. And down he'll fold.

Success!