Llama training is surprisingly easy to learn. That’s fortunate, because it’s important. Llamas are large enough and strong enough that you don’t want to be using brute force to get a llama into his halter, for example, or to load him in a van. There are a variety of ways to train llamas. We learned from Bobra Goldsmith and then produced Llama Training with Bobra Goldsmith: What Every Llama Should Know, a two-hour DVD. You can see a couple of minutes of that DVD here:
Llama Training Is Easy to Learn
It’s easy in two ways:
- It is quite simple for people to learn how to train llamas, even if they haven’t trained any animal before.
- Llamas learn quickly and generally are interested in doing new things with you.
The second point is actually the reason for the first one! Because llamas tend to learn quickly, you can learn to train them relatively easily.
For example, if you have ever trained a dog or watched someone else do so, you know that it can take quite a number of repetitions before the dog really understands what you want and does it reliably upon request. Even with newer methods like clicker training dogs, they are generally slower to grasp what you want than llamas are.
I’ve had llamas be reliable about loading into a vehicle after doing it with them five or six times. The first few times, it can take some patience as the llamas are often reluctant to enter the unfamiliar confined space. But once they decide (with your gentle coaxing) to give it a try, each repetition increases their confidence. Nothing surprising about that — but it’s certainly rare for a dog to learn something with just five or six practices!
It’s also easy for us humans because it doesn’t usually require much strength. You aren’t pulling with all the force you can muster on the lead rope; you are encouraging the llama by showing it what you want. My mentor in llama training, Bobra Goldsmith, talks a lot about developing trust and willingness, and this is evident in her DVD.
Of course, llamas vary in their willingness to trust humans — just as we humans do ourselves. A llama who has been mishandled may be much less willing to trust people than one who has only know kindness. Llama personalities vary too — some are more placid and easy-going, some are more skittish.
It’s Important to Train Your Llamas
If you have llamas, or the responsibility for some, you want to be able to move them from one pasture to another. You want to be able to groom them, to transport them to a veterinarian if necessary or to a new home. You may want to take them on hikes. These are just a few of the countless occasions which could make you much happier to have trained llamas than untrained. Believe me, I’ve had both kinds.
In a perfect world, every llama would be trained to do at least a few basic things: to accept a halter, to walk easily on a loose lead rope, to go into a vehicle or trailer. Every llama would develop a basic trust in the humans that handle it.
Well, between too much to do and not knowing quite how to train a llama, over the years, a lot of llama owners have not come very close to that perfect world. But you can.
There Are a Variety of Ways to Train Llamas
Because llamas learn so easily, and because working with them is so enjoyable, a lot of creativity and effort has gone into llama training in recent decades. As I see it, there is no one right method to train. There are some basic guidelines that all the best trainers would agree on: You don’t need a heavy hand. Patience is a virtue. Llamas can learn by watching another llama being taught something.
My husband Kelly and I were fortunate that when we were just starting out with a small llama herd, we became good friends with Bobra Goldsmith, a well-known llama trainer even then. We have used her methods primarily, and we produced a two-hour program with her. It came out on video originally but is now only available on DVD. To find out more, see Llama Training with Bobra Goldsmith: What Every Llama Should Know.