THE METHOD I'M USING
is really just a fun thing. Fun for me and fun for the boys, in particular Oscar
who, it seems, would keep it up all day so long as I threw the bag, ball or glove
Retrieving is merely an extension of targeting. The object to be thrown is firstly given a special significance in the same way as is the target. The object is then dropped and a click and reward is given for nosing it on the ground. Then more is asked of the llama; he has to get a little more vigorous with the object, pushing it around with his nose or mouth. At some point he will open his mouth, usually by accident or randomly and attempt to grasp it. THEN the click and reward comes into its own. And the praise!
From this point on, progression is made to picking up and dropping, then picking up so that the handler is given the object, then throwing the object a few inches so that the llama has to walk a step to hand the object over... and so on until he is going out several yards to retrieve. If anyone is attempting this, may I pass on a comment made to me by Paul Rose of Roseland Llamas. I had asked him why llamas find it difficult to carry objects and whether there was anything it could carry easily. Whilst Paul could not help with the latter, he made the interesting comment that camelids are one of the few animals that never carry anything in their mouths in nature. They do not carry their young and they do not carry prey or food. So I am asking a lot!
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 has been retrieving for over two years and I have been working recently at increasing the rate of run out and bring back. He has worked with all sorts of objects including a dumbell. Toby has started to carry a ball back to me and it's coming on well. I am currently working at retrieving with the alpaca
JANUARY 3rd 2014
I have been doing quite a bit of work with my alpaca, Banksy, recently. He is VERY enthusiastic! He has been having some trouble walking and running with the soft ball in his mouth, tending to drop it every few yards, but he is improving. It is self-correcting; the more he drops it, the longer he takes to get to his reward!
The run out to the thrown ball has proved quite difficult to teach. I am, after all, asking Banksy to run away from his food reward. I found it useful to throw the ball and then run WITH him, clicking as he reached the ball. But there must be a better way. Wish someone would tell me!