BACKING
..or "the statue game"

THE METHOD I'M USING

I use a clicker for this work. As with so much of clicker training, the very beginnings of a behaviour is a random movement, even an accident, on the llama's part. So it was with this. I wanted Oscar, with whom I was sharing a pen, to take a step back from me: I had no real means of telling him that. Yes, I could push him back and he would oblige, but this was a far cry from a voluntary step back, off-lead. I bided my time, keeping his interest with the grain he knew I had in my pocket. There was side-stepping, fidgetting etc but no definite step back. After a few minutes, with no luck I gave up and tried another day and then another, clicker in hand. This time my luck was in. After a few minutes, something disturbed him from behind me and he took a step back. I was ready! I clicked/rewarded the movement and we were on our way! It was awhile before he repeated the movement, but again I clicked it! I added the cue "Back Back" and the hand movement: a quiet clap-clap and worked on it. Gradually, over several sessions, Oscar associated the cue with the movement and the movement with the click.

If you can add anything to my work or have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.

 

HOW WE'RE DOING

The story so far: Oscar is backing well to cue, though I have given up trying to stop him putting his nose in the air as he does it! Toby backs seven or eight good strides, again with nose in the air. Banksy the alpaca gives me several good strides back too. Dillon, who I taught to back at the age of forteen, has picked it up.

May 1st 2016

NOTES ON RECENT PROGRESS

I can hardly believe that Dillon really has got it! Unbelievable, as I thought at his age (14 years) he would be too old to teach a new behaviour. I am getting about five good paces (=all four legs to a pace) backwards currently, but after this, he seems to switch off and come to me for his treat. This is even with the signal for backing still being repeated.

The brothers, Toby and Oscar, continue to back well though it is still toffee-nosed, with head thrown back .I think both would back for ever so long as I walked towards them, repeating the hand signal. They seem oblivious to what might be behind them; maybe they are just trusting me!