It seems the clicker used for dog training may have many other uses, as discovered by Debbie Lumley, CPDT-KA, the owner of Intercept Dog Training in Dunnellon, Fla. She was recently asked to be a guest speaker at an Ocala club but her audience was not the usual group of dog lovers. Lumley was addressing the Florida Alpaca & Llama Association Inc., (FALA).
Lumley was invited to speak by Claudia Hammack, a member of the association, who is also an adoption coordinator for the Southeast Llama Rescue. “Like any other animal, their situations and circumstances change, so alpacas and llamas need help finding new homes too,” confirmed Hammack. But she and Lumley first met through rescuing the numerous lost and abandoned dogs that seem to find their way to Hammack’s Peaceful Acres Llama Farm, in Dunnellon. Hammack says, “It’s like there’s an invisible sign, telling them this way to safety.”
Dogs and these South American camelids are not easy companions. Llamas are often used to guard alpaca herds against coyotes and such predators, and they view dogs as predators and dogs view a llama or alpaca as prey. Hammack confirms her two rescued dogs, a puppy mill schnauzer and a pit bull mix that was abused, are kept away from her herd. She says her llamas have always had dogs around but are nonetheless unsettled by their presence.
Llamas can be trained easily; alpacas perhaps not so easily as they are sometimes deemed a little flighty. Some llamas are house-trained and many participate in shows and a camelid form of agility. Hammack studied clicker training for her dogs and the llamas she shows. So she asked Lumley to talk at the club meeting about training techniques and to demonstrate the clicker method to the FALA members.
Clickers are effective training tools as the sound is “loaded” to be associated with a reward, for the animal’s required behavior. For a llama the reward would be any llama feed or treat, such as goat sweet feed. The demonstration was successful and impressed its audience. Lumley admitted, “This was a first for me and the llama. But she was an eager participant and we achieved her required task in response to the clicker within a 10-minute learning curve.”
Lumley confirmed, “The clicker technique is particularly good in capturing behavior association; the behavior you want. It obviously transcends all species, as the technique was originally developed and used to train anything from pigeons to dolphins.” Lumley concluded, “I’ve often been asked if it will work for children or spouses.”