Shangrila Llamas

Using Click and Reward for Public Relation Events

For about seven years we have brought llamas to the Roanoke Festival in the Park.  They give us a 20’ x 20’ tent under which we placed corral panels.  This is plenty of space for three llamas walk around, eat from hay bags and drink from a water bucket.  It also gives the llamas more than enough room to avoid the public.  The first year that is exactly what they did.   Children and their parents looked at them and asked questions, but couldn’t get close enough to touch them.  We tried letting them feed them, but there was just too much of a risk of spitting over food.

The next year Donna Anderson had just done a Clicker Clinic at our farm so I was all revved up to practice what I had learned.  My intention was just to kill time by practicing.  That, in itself, made us more interesting to the public, because they wanted to know what I was doing.  So I gave little mini lectures on what clicker training is.  

In demonstrating targeting, I was leading the llamas up to the people where the kids could touch the llama while I was feeding them.  Then after I clicked I started putting the grain in the child’s hand. This can be a challenge depending 

on the size of the hand. For the very young ones, I would put my hand underneath.  This is a totally different experience than just putting grain in a child’s hand and expecting the llama to come eat it.
First of all, remember we have three llamas in the same pen.  When we tried this without the clicker, all three would want to eat that handful of grain.  This way, only one llama is led to the hand at a time and the grain is not put in the hand until the last minute.  The other thing is you only need to put a small amount of grain in the hand for each reward.  Our clicker-trained llamas are already used to getting just a very small amount of grain for each click.  We had to make a pound of grain per llama last an entire day.  At times we had three of us working the crowd at a time.  So we could have a llama at each panel.

Here you can see Harry working with Matador and Wonder is waiting his turn.  Ishkabibble is not in the picture because he is behind Wonder just watching knowing that eventually he will get his turn. 

These boys did not get their daily pound of grain before we left home.  So they are not behaving so well because they are not hungry.  They are trained to know they will not get grain until they earn it.

Our friend Deirdre Martin, Shangrila's Matador's owner helps us at the farm and the festival every year.  She taught Raphael who is not a big kisser to kiss on command.  This was very handy when someone would ask what their temperament was like.  We could just say "Raphael come give me a kiss and he would walk over to me for a kiss."  

A word of warning though, it's best to get this on command and not reward every time they put their face up to yours.  Or they are literally in your face when you don't want them to be.

I taught Raphael to walk through a hula hoop with the clicker.  This is always a big crowd pleaser.  We were leading them around the poles.  Training them to Spin in front of us. Hold a little squishy football in his mouth.  Toss it and pick it up off the ground.  We were somewhat limited by space as to what we could do, but it made the day more interesting for us and the public.  I plan on bringing more toys next year.

If you bring them out for the Public to see and experience, I urge you all to at least target train your llamas.  It truly shows them at their best.

Click here to see an article on the last Clicker clinic.
Click here to see an article on Using Click and Reward with a Tunnel Obstacle 

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

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