Llama training is not a skill that everyone needs, but if you ever do, you will find it is a pleasure. Llamas are highly intelligent and they learn extremely quickly. Every llama ideally should be taught: 1. To allow you to halter him quickly and easily. 2. To hike with you on a leash that they don't pull taut.
3. To jump into a van, pickup, or trailer for transporting. 4. To accept handling all over its body. Beyond the basics, people train llamas to do a variety of things.
Perhaps most common is training to accept a pack so that the animal can carry a load. Llamas are sometimes trained to drive to cart. They can also be taught to "kush" which means to sit down; of course, if you train that, you also want to train the llama to get back up on command! Bobra Goldsmith, a pioneering llama trainer, observes, "You can teach a llama to do something after several repetitions. It often surprises people how quickly llamas learn." After I heard Bobra say that once, I thought I would test out her assertion by counting how many repetitions it did take before my llama Whiskers would willingly enter my VW van through the side door.
I didn't have to count very far, just to five! Afterwards, he would always jump right in the van when we wanted to take him somewhere. Sometimes it was many months between outings, but he never forgot. In contrast, I have never succeeded in teaching any of my dogs something in only five trials. While we're on the subject of dogs, something that llamas learn much more quickly than dogs is to walk on a loose leash. This makes hiking with them a pleasure, as you can just amble along a trail with them.
Do be aware that if horses come along, you should step a good ways off the trail, and on the downhill side if there is one. Horses spook far more easily than llamas, and many have not encountered llamas before. Bobra teaches her llama training methods. Take haltering, for example -- she has developed a slow motion method that llamas seem to like.
With the gradual approach of the halter to the llama's face, the animal comes to trust the process more easily than if you just waved the halter around faster. You can also do this with alpacas, for that matter. These methods have been used on both animals.
She trains llamas of all ages, and you can learn to do it too. While you might wish that all your llamas would be already trained when you get them, you are likely to find some that need more work. This is because people often don't know how to train or they just don't bother. But you can get a DVD online which shows Bobra Goldsmith's methods. It's useful for learning to train llamas, naturally -- that's what it was made for -- but it also turns out that quite a few people get the DVD before they get llamas, to get a sense of what is involved in llama training.
For more about expert llama trainer Bobra Goldsmith and her methods, visit this llama training page. Rosana Hart is the author of "Living with Llamas" and worked with Bobra to produce the DVD.