Chapter 13 - Walking on Lead

COMEBEFORES - Haltering, Wearing The Lead, Giving To The Lead.

START HERE - Still in the round pen!

AIM FOR THIS - When you walk, the llama walks with you, about a foot out from your right shoulder. Your lead is loose almost all the time. Two buddies, going for a walk.

HOW TO TEACH IT - When he seems to understand that he can take the pressure off his halter by moving into the pressure, you can ask for more. You tighten the lead, he moves his head slightly, but instead of loosening your end in reply, shorten it slightly to maintain the pressure. Now he'll have to actually take a step toward you before you reward him. Work a single step to the left, let him rest. A single step to the right, let him rest. When he can take one step, you'll ask for two. If you've been sitting down, you'll have to get up now so you can gradually ask for more and more work from him before you reward him by leaving the lead loose. As soon as he's moving a couple of steps, turn into the "walking position" with you both heading in the same direction, the llama off your right shoulder. If you hold your right hand up in front of the llama's face, it'll be easy for him to see that he's learning to follow you.

POSSIBLE PROBLEM - You may find the llama taking a single step and stopping. You have visions of spending the next decade going for walks one slow step at a time. This is a natural plateau. To get past it, don't spend too long one-stepping. As soon as he's willing to give you one step, ask for two, then three. Move as quickly forward as you can without making him balk or lean back on the lead.

IN OTHER WORDS - This is another excellent, easy, fun, and amazing trick to teach with the clicker. Start the llama off by letting him take a mouthful of oats from a small pan or your hand. Turn away from him counterclockwise, so if he wants more oats, he'll come up on your right side. Click and reward when he's in the walking position off your right shoulder. Take a step forward, click and reward when he comes up into your walking position again. Walk, walk further, turn left and turn right. Build up his ability to stay with you for longer periods and distances. Then try it with the halter on, then with the lead draped over his shoulder, then with you holding the lead.

GETTING BETTER - Walking on lead is one of the most basic and important lessons. Like all lessons, the more you practise, the better it will be. When he can walk in either direction around the pen, move out into the rest of the barn. Remember that when you make something more difficult (such as changing the place you're working in), you must make everything else easier (as you move out of the round pen, remind him that he can give to the lead, can take a single step, and finally can walk with you). From here, long walks together will help him learn, and help you both get to know each other.

ADD A CUE - You have a cue for walking forward already. When he's moving comfortably forward when your hand or the lead asks him to, start saying "Let's Go" just before you ask him to move.

MAKE IT USEFUL - Walking on a lead is the single behaviour that separates a wild llama from a tame one in most people's eyes. It's an invaluable skill, and it isn't particularly difficult to teach, either.

TRAINING TIP - Llamas don't like to change surfaces. Something as simple as walking through a barn door into the yard can be scary. Give him a chance to lower his head to examine the new surface before you ask him to move on. If he can't step onto it, go back to basics. Ask him to give to the lead, left and right. Ask him to take a step to the left, to the right, then forward. Stay calm. When he thinks he can do it safely, he'll try it. And remember not to stand facing him and trying to pull him toward you.

TRAINING TIP - It's the most natural thing to tighten the lead toward you, but the llama's always thinking about personal space, and you've already taught him not to come into yours. You'll get more cooperation by asking him to move to one side or the other rather than directly toward you.