We aren't new to new animals around here. When we first brought Bertie and Bella home, as well as Thor, we had to spend a lot of time out in their yard talking to them, sitting with them and getting them used to us. Now, of course, we walk in to the yard and they come running for attention, but it takes a lot of work to get to that point.
Alpacas in general are more skittish. They take a little longer to come around and trust humans. Ours come for food and hay, but we still have to walk very cautiously and stay quiet when we are in the barn while they are eating. They will eat grain out of the boys' hands though, which is a start.
So this weekend we started our halter training. We have 2 older boys who have been halter trained previously and 4 younger ones who have been on a halter but aren't completely used to it yet. The goal is to be able to walk into the pasture and walk up to the animal without any resistance, or at the very least be able to corral them into a small space and still have them calm enough to approach.
We only have simple rope halters at the moment, which aren't ideal but will work for training while we order the appropriate type. The halter needs to be high up on the alpacas face, close to the eyes. Having it too far down on the nose is dangerous for the animal as it can compromise the nasal passageway. These rope halters are good on the nose, but pull from under the chin which can make the alpaca uncomfortable.
We don't have a good corral set up in our pasture, so we use the barn as place to herd them in order to handle them. Atreyu is the biggest and oldest alpaca we own. He is trained well on the halter and lead so he is a good one to take out with the young ones. He isn't quite used to us, so he was unsure of me placing the halter on his head, but calmly allowed Cale to lead him in the yard.
When training a younger alpaca is a good idea to take him out with another who is already trained. They will follow behind and see how the other acts. Lakin's little black boy, Midnight, has only been led a handful of times but after he got over his initial upset he waked very calmly- enough for Lakin to walk him alone .
Midnight went for a walk with Two Socks. He was rescued by the farm we bought him from and was in pretty bad shape when they brought him home. In the 2 times we visited their farm, he always came up to the boys, which is one of the reasons Rylan chose him. He is by far the most trusting of us, and will eat grain, hay and grass from our hands. He is halter trained but because of his previous treatment, I think he has some issues and he let us know he was unhappy:
We are new alpaca owners and I have never seen an animal fall like this before. He just collapsed. Fell over and refused to get up. He had an obstinate look in his eyes, like our goats sometimes get when they don't get their way. But after some research tonight, apparently this is a common thing for alpacas to do. It's called cushing. And it can happen for a variety of reasons. But I assume in this case it might be the rope halter that he doesn't like combined with his history of mistreatment. So until we get a new one we will only use this halter on Two Socks to hold him near us and get him used to us approaching and touching him. We'll try walking him again once we have the correct halter type.
Blaze is Cale's little brown boy. He was a little less agreeable to being led, but he calmed down quickly and Cale led him on a short walk. We plan on spending time each day working on getting closer to our new animals and earning their trust. Our 2 Suri boys are by far the most skittish and will take the most time to train. One is fairly young and relatively easy to handle if you can get close to him. The other is a bit older- and bucked so much the day we got him that he bloodied his face when he was being unloaded from the trailer. The breeder said he has always been less than trusting of people and has always put up more of a fight than the others. Hopefully with time he will come around to us.