Chapter 30 - "House" Training

In the beginning, a housetrained llama is a convenient "byproduct" of llama culture, which is wonderful, until you start taking your llama into nursing homes, parades, shows, or your car. At that point, if you've lived with a well-trained dog, you start wishing you had a little more control over the matter.

COMEBEFORES - Your llama needs to be fairly relaxed in order to relieve himself (or downright desperate, but we're not planning on using desperation). To be relaxed, he needs to understand what you're doing, so don't start "housetraining" until he's halter-trained, lead-trained, used to being tied to a wall, and comfortable with you touching him.

START HERE - Tie him on a fairly short lead to a wall in the barn or the side of a trailer (inside if possible). Leave him there for half an hour or so. This is a good chance for you to do some barn chores. You'll need to have a dung pile nearby - just outside the door of the barn, perhaps.

AIM FOR THIS - You lead the llama to a dung pile, let him sniff it, and command "Go outside, hurry up" (or whatever your cue will be). He uses the dung pile and you confidently walk him into a school or show ring. In advanced mode, you're on a trip. You stop at a gas station, go back and take your llama out of the trailer and into the ditch nearby. You show him a Tupperware container with llama poop in it and give him your command. He goes. Your trailer stays clean. Does it get better than this?

HOW TO TEACH IT - It's a simple matter of using his desire to use a dung pile to teach him to use it when you ask him to. That's why you tied him to the wall for a while, so he'd be ready to go. With NO fuss, untie the leadrope and take him to his pile. If he lowers his head on cue, ask him to lower his head to the pile. Don't try to hold his head down - remember he needs to be calm and relaxed. This isn't the place to teach him to hold his head down. You're merely asking him to lower it so he'll notice he's on top of his dungpile. If he wants to sniff it, though, great. Leave the lead loose and let him sniff.

There's a little artistry involved here. You want to keep him moving. If he just stands still being bored, he isn't likely to "go". On the other hand, you don't want to convince him that he's there to march around the pile. Stay out of his way, and don't keep distracting him from appropriate thoughts. Sometimes I find that very gently suggesting he back up (by moving quietly into his space and allowing him to step or lean backwards) will be enough of a suggestion to get him started.

Here's the real trick. Don't give him more than two minutes standing on or near the pile. This is called a "limited hold". It's not rocket science - either he goes when given the chance, or he doesn't. If he does, super! If he doesn't, don't be upset, don't give him ANOTHER two minutes. Just take him back inside and tie him up again. Let him stand for another 15 minutes and then take him back to the pile to try again.

In the beginning, a housetrained llama is a convenient "byproduct" of llama culture, which is wonderful, until you start taking your llama into nursing homes, parades, shows, or your car. At that point, if you've lived with a well-trained dog, you start wishing you had a little more control over the matter.

COMEBEFORES - Your llama needs to be fairly relaxed in order to relieve himself (or downright desperate, but we're not planning on using desperation). To be relaxed, he needs to understand what you're doing, so don't start "housetraining" until he's halter-trained, lead-trained, used to being tied to a wall, and comfortable with you touching him.

START HERE - Tie him on a fairly short lead to a wall in the barn or the side of a trailer (inside if possible). Leave him there for half an hour or so. This is a good chance for you to do some barn chores. You'll need to have a dung pile nearby - just outside the door of the barn, perhaps.

AIM FOR THIS - You lead the llama to a dung pile, let him sniff it, and command "Go outside, hurry up" (or whatever your cue will be). He uses the dung pile and you confidently walk him into a school or show ring. In advanced mode, you're on a trip. You stop at a gas station, go back and take your llama out of the trailer and into the ditch nearby. You show him a Tupperware container with llama poop in it and give him your command. He goes. Your trailer stays clean. Does it get better than this?

HOW TO TEACH IT - It's a simple matter of using his desire to use a dung pile to teach him to use it when you ask him to. That's why you tied him to the wall for a while, so he'd be ready to go. With NO fuss, untie the leadrope and take him to his pile. If he lowers his head on cue, ask him to lower his head to the pile. Don't try to hold his head down - remember he needs to be calm and relaxed. This isn't the place to teach him to hold his head down. You're merely asking him to lower it so he'll notice he's on top of his dungpile. If he wants to sniff it, though, great. Leave the lead loose and let him sniff.

There's a little artistry involved here. You want to keep him moving. If he just stands still being bored, he isn't likely to "go". On the other hand, you don't want to convince him that he's there to march around the pile. Stay out of his way, and don't keep distracting him from appropriate thoughts. Sometimes I find that very gently suggesting he back up (by moving quietly into his space and allowing him to step or lean backwards) will be enough of a suggestion to get him started.

Here's the real trick. Don't give him more than two minutes standing on or near the pile. This is called a "limited hold". It's not rocket science - either he goes when given the chance, or he doesn't. If he does, super! If he doesn't, don't be upset, don't give him ANOTHER two minutes. Just take him back inside and tie him up again. Let him stand for another 15 minutes and then take him back to the pile to try again.

The standard travelling-llama trick is to put a little fresh dung from his home pile in a Tupperware container. When you stop for gas on trips, take the llama out of the trailer into the ditch, let him sniff the dung in the container, give him the cue, and he'll perform.