Shangrila Llamas

Using Click and Reward
for Obstacle Training

Our friend Deirdre Martin, Shangrila's Matador's owner decided to try out one of our weanlings Shangrila's Astro on our obstacle course.  He had just attended a PR event where he had done really well with Clicker Training.  He is a chow hound and will do pretty much anything for food. Luckily I had my camera with me.   All these pictures were taken in one session. This was the very first time he had gone over the obstacles.


The first jump he just sort of stepped over but he still received a click and reward for the effort and not balking.  This made him much more enthusiastic The next jump he actually did jump over.  Deirdre brought

 him to the next obstacle to teach him back.  She walked him into the obstacle of landscape timbers and had Astro slowly back up.  We use a "Back" command to get them to back out of the restraining chute so he knew this command already.  He still did well and stayed within the obstacle.  So of course he got a click and reward.  Then she took him to the bridge.  He wasn't to sure about this one so she took it one step at a time. The most important thing I have learned from training with a clicker is to break it down in little steps.  And to click and reward even the smallest accomplishment.
First he had to put at least on foot on the bridge.  To do this Deirdre used a little pressure on the lead until he was on the bridge then he was clicked and given a little grain.  And I mean a little, just a few grains.  Then he followed Deirdre's closed hand onto the bridge and was clicked and rewarded. 

Teaching a llama to target a closed hand is one of the "handiest" training tricks I have learned to do.  I have llamas that will follow my closed hand (fist) from the middle of the pasture into the barn.  I may have to click and reward part way there if I have food and a clicker.  But if they have done this before I can get them all the way in even if I do not have food.  This works so much better than shaking the grain bucket when you just need one llama.    If you have grain and no clicker I have found you can use a word like "good" and give just a little grain (never an entire handful).  But the clicker is still a better marker. 

And even if they have mastered a command and will do it on cue, go back and click and reward it every once in awhile.  So that they see the benefit of doing what you ask.  Even something as simple as putting on a halter is worth adding to a training session.  It makes the halter a good thing not just what gets put on before giving a shot.  It's sort of like recharging a battery. 

Back to Astro.  You can see by using the targeting of her hand she was able to get Astro to complete the bridge on a loose lead.  She then had him do the obstacle the other way with less clicks and rewards.

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To see an entire article about training the Tunnel obstacle you can go to http://www.shangrilallamas.com/clickerTunnel.htm.  Astro was in the groove and was willing to follow Deirdre in with a little coaxing and a few clicks and rewards.  It went so fast I just had time to get the ending picture.  We usually need to get them comfortable with the tunnel itself before they will go in it.

Astro and Dierdre then when up the ramp obstacle, clicked and reward him for that and then worked with him to walk down the stairs on the other side holding his head down so that he does not


 jump off the obstacle instead of walking down step by step.  You may notice that we have "training wheels" on this obstacle.  The llamas are much more willing to go up the ramp and stairs with the gates attached on the sides of this obstacle.  Of course you don't have this luxury at the shows. 

Deirdre walked Astro up the stairs to


 
our deck which she starts training our babies to do when halter and lead training.  She also likes to bring them into the house in case they end up as therapy llamas.  And every llama needs to jump into the trailer at sometime so this is how she often ends her session with them.  
 


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Shangrila's Herd Sires:  BAL Haggerty - BAL Whisk Me Away - Power Spike - Boogie Knight

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