THE METHOD I'M USING
all the behaviours I've worked at with my boys, I find this the very hardest of
all and yet the llama trainers out there seem to think it is easy... I wonder.
Maybe it's because I am working off-lead. For a start, in trying to teach a llama
to stand still you are asking him to DO NOTHING. Can YOU do nothing? I cant. It
is a negative thing. And because it is a negative thing, how can you tell a llama
when he's done it? This is an area of training where I have tried many methods
including clicking and rewarding after different periods of time, one second,
three seconds, five seconds etc. but the problem is, my boys dont wear watches,
neither have I any concept of their concept of time.
Standing whilst I'm doing something to them, such as grooming, clipping etc. is perhaps more comprehensible to them. Here again, though, I'm asking them NOT to do something, viz moving.
I must confess to resorting to some negative reinforcement, in training them to stand. I decided as I was training llamas that it was appropriate to spit! But my "spit" comes from a squirty bottle of clean, warm water aimed just below their ear. It doesn't hurt them one iota, but they dont like it.
I have an arm free, I raise it and I have changed the command "Stand"
to "Standing" to make it more distinctive and whilst I am saying that
command .. and I repeat it every few seconds...any movement results in a squirt.
On the positive side, any standing for a lengthened period results in a reward.
I take great care to ensure that my request is reasonable in that particular situation
and that there is no real excuse for movement such as fear or discomfort.
To make an approaching llama stand, which is, of-course, halting and remaining still, I use a raised hand-up signal, much the same as a traffic cop.
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: All the boys are now standing to verbal command; at least, their feet are still. If I walk around them, still keeping the hand and vocal cue on, they tend to wind their necks to see where I am, but at least they aren't shuffling about. Toby is halting to stand as part of his combination exercise, and will stand for quite awhile so long as my hand is raised, but he'll move away if I lower it, even if I keep the verbal cue repeated. The girls are...well..they're just girls. But Banksy, the alpaca, is getting it!
I have long realised that in training, the hand cue is much, much more significant than the verbal one. Never is this more true than in training a llama, or alpaca, to stand still.
It has taken years to get there, but at this time of writing, I can say that Toby, Dillon, Oscar and yes, even Banksy the alpaca, all stand motionless when my hand is raised and all face the front whilst I circle around them.( It must look ridiculous to anyone looking over my gate!)
I still have to keep my arm raised, mind. If I lower it, it is seen as the cue to move. And the standing will stop if conditions become unfavourable, such as a dog rushing past or some other distraction. Well this is llamas!
I have done another related exercise with Oscar: I ask him to walk beside me in the field ("Walk on") and then I raise my hand ("Standing") and carry on walking. And, yes, he stops and gets left behind! He does know, though, that I'll call him to me and that he'll get a treat for coming. All about food really!
I should add, perhaps, that the above exercise with Oscar, goes completely to rats, as it did today, when he is in a new field with the distraction of grass ( such that it is in March). If he gets left behind, he simply wanders off. The disadvantage of food-based training!