A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 21, 2007

Sometimes Things Just Click

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — alpacalady @ 7:56 am

We heard great news from our friends with the bottle fed cria yesterday.  The cria has gained one pound in weight overnight and is doing really well.  It sounds as if her plasma transfusion and the additional supplemental milk are working out well for her.  She did have one day when she didn’t seem as interested in her milk but we feel that was due to the switch from her dam’s milk to goats milk.

The cria had taken to following our friend around as she did chores around the farm, and was continually trying to nurse off her even when she had just been fed.  As cute as this might seem it was not a good thing, the cria was not respecting appropriate boundaries with our friend and our friend was literally tripping over the cria at times.  Our friend knew she had to put some distance between herself and the cria, yet still be able to feed the cria when necessary.  Our friend came up with the bright idea of using clicker training to let the cria know when it was time to feed from the bottle.

Clicker training has been used for several years to train dogs, but can also be used for other species.  The whales and dolphins at Seaworld are trained using clicker training and I am aware of some llama breeders who routinely use clicker training.

 Clicker training is a method that uses positive reinforcement when the animal performs the desired good behaviour.  A small device called a clicker is used, this device makes a clicking noise when pressed.

Our friend started by clicking the clicker when the cria came up and started nursing on the bottle.  By doing this she was getting the cria to relate the click of the clicker to the reward of milk from the bottle.  As with any training consistency is important and our friend was consistent in her use of the clicker every time the cria started nursing on the bottle.  Within a short time our friend was able to enter the pasture set up the cria’s bottle in a bottle holder and then click the clicker.  At the sound of the clicker the cria now comes running and nurses from the bottle.   Interestingly the cria has stopped following our friends every move and now remains with the other alpacas for the majority of her time.

I have not used clicker training with our alpacas yet, but the next time I have a bottle fed cria I will take a leaf from my friends book and give it a try.

It’s great to hear that the cria is doing so well, we will keep our fingers crossed that she will continue to make great progress.

 Rosemary

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