Our poor dog has had to learn to adjust to so many new friends and animals over the years. We’ve had him for a decade – and I wonder how he’ll do when we add alpacas to the mix. So, I did some (massive) research about alpacas and dogs.
Alpacas and dogs can be fine together as long as each animal has been trained to act appropriately with the other species. Dogs need to be trained to protect and not chase alpacas. Alpacas need to be accustomed to the dogs so that they don’t attack or run from their canine friend.
Okay – so when we do add an alpaca (or two) to the backyard homestead, as long as we go about it in a good way, we can make it work. Let’s see what we need to do to prepare!
Alpacas and Dogs Can Get Along OK
Based on my research on various YouTube channels, forums, and scholarly articles, it’s pretty clear that dogs and alpacas can get along – there’s just a big if.
Oh, and spoiler: no scholarly articles study canine-camelid interactions – that’s where we have to rely on purely anecdotal evidence. Which is fine – those are fun to review, too. 🙂
So – back to the big if that guides whether or not your dog(s) and alpacas will get along. The big if has to do with how you prepare your animals to interact with each other. In other words, you have to train each of them so that they can get along – and to meet your expectations.
How do we need to prepare and train them? Well, let’s go through each one – that way you’ll have all of the details you need to make sure that your alpacas and dogs do get along well (and better than just OK).
How to Prepare and Train Your Dog to Be OK with Alpacas
The first thing you need to do with training your dog to be okay with your alpacas is to decide what their role is.
- If your dog is going to be a guard dog for your livestock, they’ll need more intense training.
- If your dog is just a pet, you won’t need as much training for guarding – but you’ll need to train the dog to leave the alpacas alone.
Part of deciding on what your dog’s role is should be based on what they were bred to do. I’ve read and heard far too many horror stories about people who wanted to train their very lovable mutt to be a guard dog – and then things ended very, very poorly – for either the dog, the alpacas, or all of the above.
So if you want a livestock guard dog, I’d recommend that you get a dedicated livestock guard dog – and train them as such. They can double as your pet – as long as it doesn’t interfere with their duties. As I’ve never trained a livestock guard dog, I’d also recommend you work with a specialist – you can usually ask your guard dog breeder for a local training recommendation or ideas.
However, if you want your pet dog (of whatever breed) to be okay with the alpacas, they need to be trained to do (or not do) a few things. Here is what you need to cover in pet-dog-alpaca training.
- Do not chase the alpacas.
- Ignore the alpacas if they’re okay.
- Run to a safe place if the alpacas charge – and don’t chase them in return.
- Alpacas are not playmates – this is the biggest issue I found in my research. It’s ended poorly, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.
- It may be best to have a fence between your dog and alpacas at all times to reinforce the training.
Now, this can usually be done with some leashed exposure therapy. Our mutt (he’s a Labradoodle who doesn’t look like either a poodle or a lab) has been able to learn all of these lessons with our chickens and goats by spending time and learning that they’re boring not-playmates. We’ve kept him on a leash until he’s shown that he can reliably ignore our livestock.
And even then, we try to keep a fence between our dog and the livestock – just in case. Just because he’s passed basic animal training doesn’t make him a guard dog – and it definitely doesn’t mean we should trust him blindly with the livestock.
So even after you’ve trained your pet dog to some degree, remember that you always need to watch them – and it’ll save you from tons of heartache that I’ve read about with other dog and alpaca owners.
How to Prepare and Train Your Alpacas to Be OK with Dogs
Okay – so your dog is ready to be around the alpacas. But are your alpacas ready to be around the dog?
You want your alpacas and dogs to be comfortable around each other. And doing that will take time, patience, and a lot of training. In this YouTube video, you can see how these alpacas are curious about a small dog – and there’s some serious exposure therapy going on for everyone involved!
The best way to get your alpacas used to your dog is going to be by using a lot of the same techniques you used with a pet dog’s “training” (it’s exposure therapy) to be around the alpacas.
- Teach your alpacas that dogs are just there – they’re part of the background and experience.
- Dogs aren’t playmates. They’re boring animals on the other side of the fence. Or they’re boring and on a leash.
- Make sure your alpacas have a safe place to run if they need to – like into their shelter.
- Consider keeping a fence between your alpacas and any not-seriously-trained guard dogs.
- You may want to keep an eye on the guard dogs – just in case.
Some alpacas can be trained to do tricks – but that’s a whole other kind of training, so we won’t go into that. But just getting them to be okay with your dogs is a huge first step, so congratulations.
See How Your Dogs and Alpacas Interact
Once your animals have passed basic training (so that they will tolerate each other), it’s still important to keep an eye on them over time. That way, you can head off any bad behavior before it becomes, well, a problem.
For example, here’s a dog and some alpacas running alongside the fence together – as if they’re playing.
While it’s cute to consider from our perspective, what’s going to happen when the dog gets into the alpaca pasture? Or what will happen if the alpacas get out? They’re going to be running alongside each other – only this time the dog’s running may trigger a prey response in the alpaca.
Now, I don’t know if that happened in this exact scenario. But it’s important to make sure that your dog is trained to watch the alpacas – not chase or run them. These dogs just look like herding dogs – so that’s going to be a lot harder to train out of them (if not impossible!).
And make sure you watch your alpaca for how they react if the dog gets too close to their personal space – just like you should watch how they react to any other animal that gets too close.
While it’s good that the alpaca feels confident enough to chase off a perceived threat, you also want to make sure that your alpaca isn’t becoming overly aggressive. That’s a problem – and you can read more about why alpacas fight (and what to do about it) in my article here.
Having a dog is an amazing lifestyle and journey – and so is having an alpaca. But if you want to have them together, you need to do the legwork and preparation to make it successful. We are doing that while we’re preparing to add alpacas to our backyard homestead – and I’m okay with (and even excited) doing the work so that it’ll be a successful experience once the time arrives.
Can Alpacas Be Indoor Pets? Alpacas have been brought inside as pets with success on many occasions. For more details and specific examples, please read my post on having alpacas as indoor pets.
Where Do Alpacas Like to Be Petted? Alpacas only like to be petted by people they know and trust. They may enjoy getting their ears scratched or a belly rub, depending on the individual alpaca’s preferences. For more information on petting alpacas, click here.
Are Llamas or Alpacas Better Pets? Answer those questions in 200-300 characters as if for an encyclopedia. May include links to articles on your own website.