The most important thing for me is to make sure you feel safe with the llamas, and they with you. We start with meeting the chickens as an “ice breaker” before entering the llama paddock. This allows the llamas a chance to observe you with me first. Though they have a hierarchy within their herd, I am the “boss” of them and head of the herd as their gatekeeper, the one who looks out for their safety, brings food and comfort. So when you accompany me inside of their domain you will be accepted as a member of the herd too.
I’ll answer your questions, review safety and any other concerns before we set out.
When we first greet the llamas, keep your hands in your pockets or behind your back. Look slightly down at your feet at first, not eye to eye, which to them is a threatening posture.
We move, talk and interact slowly and calmly. We are making them feel safe. If we scare them, we lose trust and have to win it back.
Llamas greet each other by sniffing each other’s breath. Once you have approached or been approached by a llama, blow out softly from your nose or mouth. Your llama may blow back gently with his breath. This is a very good trust building exchange. He may then gently touch noses with you as sort of an Eskimo kiss. It tickles.
Stay calm, remember they don’t bite. You will eventually be able to pet them.
During this greeting, I introduce each llama by name, age, and personality. This is where you choose your partner or they choose you. I am observing the whole time and may make or suggest the matches instead.
A llama’s halter must fit up close to their eyes as they have very little bone or cartilage on their noses. If it fits improperly, they will feel that they might suffocate. For the same reason, they don’t like to be petted on the nose. Most like to be scratched or petted on the side of their neck or under their chin.
After our visitors are paired up, I review walking on a lead and around obstacles, what words they understand, and what to do if you accidentally let go of your lead.
We may do a little brushing or grooming so the llama can get used to the walker’s energy, sound of their voice, scent, and feel of their touch. Then we do trial walks around some cones inside the pasture fence.
When I am confident that our visitors are ready, we leave the fenced area to walk the llamas in the woods.