APRIL 13th 2013
Whilst I do very little grooming, I have done a bit with Maggie recently as a way of desensitizing her to my touch. Fortunately her coat is very short and brushable on her neck so am brushing there, and also surface brushing her back. The main reason, though, is not grooming for appearance but to get her used to being touched :I am driving her and need to be able to put her harness on rather more quickly than in the past!
THE METHOD I'M USING...or rather not using !
I do very little grooming. Unless I am out in the public eye I do the minimum, and then only a surface groom with the type of household brush that is commonly sold with dustpans in UK. My only exception is when I am putting a harness on a driving llama and making sure there is nothing really dramatic in the fibre under the saddle, girth or breeching, such as a teasel, in which case I will usually end up cutting it out.
Why do some owners have this obsession about grooming their animals? Do they think the llamas enjoy it? Are they confusing them with cats and dogs? Or perhaps horses? Do they mistakenly imagine that camelids groom themselves in the wild? ( Not even the crias are groomed by their dams.) This family is one of the few where "grooming there is not"!
Some placid, resigned animals certainly appear to tolerate it, but for many longer haired animals, it must be quite an ordeal. Even the coarser haired llama has more than a million (yes, a million!) hair follicles to one square inch of skin. There is no comb or brush on this earth that can actually separate these hairs, and once they are of any length and debris gets trapped in, there is no way of brushing it out, without pulling fibre from the roots. It cannot even be washed out. The only way to extract it is to cut it out, usually and hopefully done in shearing.
And from a training perspective..and that's what this website is about.. most attempts at grooming weaken the bond between owner and animal, particularly when the animal is tied for this torture, as invariably it is.
I do, however, blow my animals with a noisy, garden leaf-blower. Once they get used to the din, they seem to quite like it. I think the stimulation to the skin must be enjoyable? It does seem to get a tiny bit of debris out as well. And having read Jim Krowka and Gwen Ingram's study on heat-stress in unshorn llamas, I shear annually for the comfort of the animal.
So..my method is to do the minimum, a quick surface flickover if I'm in a situation where folk dont understand about llama fibre and would conclude that my llamas are "dirty".
And I give a lot of apologies and compensating treats to my animals as I do it.
If you can add anything to my work or have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.