Chapter 18 - Lowering His Head
COMEBEFORES - Giving To Lead.
START HERE - In the round pen.
AIM FOR THIS - The llama lowers his head willing when you ask him to, all the way to the ground, and holds it there as long as you ask him to.
HOW TO TEACH IT - Do a little giving practise first. Ask him to move his head to the left, to the right, and straight forward. Now, gently put pressure on the lead straight down from the halter. Wait for the slightest relaxation or lowering, and reward it by leaving the lead loose for a moment before asking for lowering again, or by giving him a treat.
IN OTHER WORDS - If you're having trouble getting the idea across that lowering his head will release the pressure, try luring his head down with a treat or treat pan. When he can lower his head this way, start putting a tiny bit of pressure downward on the lead just before you present the treat, so he gets used to the cue of the pressure to lower his head.
MAKE IT BETTER - As he figures out what you're asking for, gradually ask for more a lower head, lower for longer, lower with less pressure, lower following your hand only.
ADD A CUE - When he lowers willingly for your hand motion only or for minimum pressure on the lead, start telling him what it's called. I use "Put Your Head Down".
USING IT - This is a useful behaviour in several situations. It's excellent extra practise in giving to the lead pressure. It's wonderful to be able to tell a llama to relieve himself before entering a nursing home, hospital, your living room, or even your trailer. This is a behaviour we take for granted with show dogs, and it's at least as easy to teach to a llama. Leave him tied on the wall for half an hour or so, then take him on lead to a poop pile and start using your cue when he decides to "go". The easiest way to give him the idea is to get him to lower his head so he can sniff the pile. Lowering his head is also the first step in teaching him to kush (lie down) on cue. When he's unsure of whether or not to walk on a surface, take a jump or get into a trailer, asking him to lower his head gives him a chance to examine the situation and see that it's safe. It's also the first step in getting him to go through tunnels and under limbo sticks.
TRAINING TIP - Remember that you're not trying to pull his head down. You're only putting a minimum of pressure on the halter to ask him to lower it himself.