I have recently started clicker training some of the alpacas. You can see clicker training in action and watch our progress in the videos below.
In the first two videos, I am trying to get the alpaca to 'touch' a 'target'. In this case, the 'touch' is with the nose, and the 'target' is the item attached to the end of the wand I am holding. I want them to put their nose on the target. Targeting in this way is a foundation in the clicker training process. My ultimate goal is to get the alpacas to target an item, such as a halter (to make haltering easier); and to follow the target which will help in leading and stepping on unfamiliar surfaces (such as the scale).
Vienna, the brown alpaca, has had several days practice. Willow, the white alpaca, is interested in the process. Willow watches while Vienna practices. Each time Vienna touches the target she gets a 'click' followed by a food reward. Willow will train separately when Vienna's session is complete.
Willow really seems to enjoy clicker training and has passed Vienna in her learning! Willow now touches the target on cue and will follow the target when moved. You can see below that by targeting, Willow is allowing herself to be led over and around objects. She is not wearing a halter or being held by a lead - she is free to leave at any time, but is choosing to participate! This is valuable because:
#1 - It boosts Willow's confidence. She learns that she has a choice (she is not forced to do anything), and that interacting with people can be safe and rewarding!
#2 - It helps Willow understand what I am asking of her. I can focus on one behavior - and each time Willow does that particular behavior, I click and treat. She learns very quickly what I want and that if she chooses to do it, she will be rewarded. This is useful when herd health chores need to be done.
My ultimate goal with this exercise is to get her to step on the scale, but we take baby steps to get there. We begin with simple leading (following the target) exercises and will add more complex behaviors as she progresses. Stay tuned....
Above - Willow is encouraged to walk in a particular space - between the 2 pieces of pvc piping.
Below - Willow has never before seen the blue hula hoop. She is somewhat uncomfortable with the unfamiliar item, but is comfortable with her clicker training, so she allows herself to be led around the object. At the same time, when she sees a new object - rather than being frightened by it and avoiding it - she engages - a great example of her confidence while training!