Fuzzy animals just seem to be magnets for getting scratched behind the ears or being petted in general. But do livestock, like alpacas, like to be pets – or would they rather skip the scratching?
Alpacas do not usually like to be petted, although they will tolerate it from some people. In some cases, an alpaca may even enjoy being petted by a favorite person or family. Their reaction will depend on prior socialization with people. Before petting an alpaca, always ask the owner’s permission.
Ready to learn about petting alpacas? Keep reading to see what I’ve learned in my research and experience.
Alpacas Can Enjoy Being Petted – Sometimes
Alpacas are herd animals with a strong prey instinct, which means that they can be pretty flighty – especially if spooked. However, the scholarly articles I’ve read (you can check the sources below if you’d like to read them – they’re quite intriguing!) indicate that if you can get an alpaca accustomed to human touch, interaction, and even your voice, that they’ll be happier and calmer overall with regular human interaction.
In other words, alpacas can and do enjoy being petted – if they’re used to it and you, or at least people in general. Some alpacas, like in a petting zoo, absolutely love people – or at least the treats they get out of the deal.
And petting your socialized alpacas means that they’ll have a lower heart rate, better overall blood pressure, and fewer issues with balking and poor camelid behavior.
Otherwise, though, alpacas don’t enjoy being petted, stroked, or touched. It terrifies them – and their prey instincts kick in. For most alpacas, this manifests as freezing, a quick position change (getting up or laying down), or all of the above.
An alpaca’s response to being petted is a lot more like sheep than other animals. On a side note, if you’d like to read about a sheep’s reaction to being petted, I’ve got this article for you to read. But let’s get back to alpacas.
So just because the alpaca holds still while being petted doesn’t mean they like it. In fact, if they’re really holding still, it actually means the opposite – it means that they’re scared spitless and they can’t move. They don’t like being petted – they’re terrified you’re going to eat them.
That raises an interesting question, though. How do you raise and/or train your alpaca so that they go from freezing to enjoying human interaction and touch? Let’s go into that next.
When Alpacas Do NOT Like to Be Touched
Alpacas who aren’t used to humans – or aren’t used to you, anyway – generally don’t like to be touched. They also don’t like to be touched if you sneak up on them. That is, after all, how a predator would approach them.
So if you do manage to sneak up on an alpaca, please don’t go in for the ninja-style petting technique. Sure, you might manage to pet the poor animal, but you’ll also scare it – and make it that much harder for anyone else to approach the animal in the future.
Instead, keep reading to learn the proper way to approach, talk to, and pet an alpaca.
A Note on Petting Alpacas (Yours or Not)
Whether the alpaca in question is yours or not, now let’s talk about the proper way to approach, talk to, and pet the alpaca – so that it’s a positive experience for everyone. And, better yet, it reinforces to the alpaca that you’re a trustworthy person who can be allowed into their oversized personal bubbles.
If the alpaca isn’t yours, it’s best to start by asking the owner for permission. That way, they can let you know the alpaca’s preferred method of interaction. If the owner isn’t present (or available), it’s best to stay on your side of the fence. The alpacas will most likely feel safer with that barrier there.
Then, please be aware of any signs that are posted and be sure to follow them. You are, after all, on somebody else’s land.
If the alpacas want to approach you, let them. Offer up your hand so they can give you a sniff. If that goes well, you can try to give them a pat. If they back up or freeze, give them their space. Oh, and make sure that you’re using both a gentle tone of voice and language when speaking. That way, the alpacas will know you’re one of the good guys.
If the alpaca is yours, then many of the same principles apply – except for the ones about you being on someone else’s land. The alpaca is part of your farm’s livestock – and you’re the owner.
So in this case, give your alpaca time to adjust to you. Let them get used to your smell, your presence, and your demeanor. From there, allow them time to sniff you and come up to you. Be gentle and give them time – and then start to pet them.
Over time, your alpacas will come to know and trust you. And once they’re at that stage, they’ll enjoy (or at least tolerate) your presence and any petting.
Now, if you’re able to raise the alpaca from being a baby, you’ll be in an even better position to raise them to enjoy being around humans. So let’s talk about that next.
How to Raise Alpacas Who Enjoy Human Interaction and Touch
If raised around humans since a cria (baby alpaca, whether male or female), baby alpacas will have a much easier time socializing with humans – and they’ll enjoy being petted much more.
So when your alpaca is a cria, start sending time with them. Pet them on a regular basis so that they normalize to human touch.
What if you’re getting an adult alpaca to add to your backyard homestead? Well, in that case, you won’t have been able to train them since babyhood to be socialized with people.
However, you can pick an alpaca breeder or rancher who spends time with their herd. Work with them to select a well-socialized animal that will fit your needs – and has already been trained to enjoy being around humans.
Oh – and make sure you get the right number of alpacas. That way, they’re feeling safe when they move to your farm because they have a friend coming along, too. To know how many alpacas you should get, make sure you read my practical guide on how many alpacas to get.
Alpacas can be an amazing animal for any backyard homestead – but they each have their own distinct personalities, preferences, and idiosyncrasies. So look around and talk to an alpaca farmer or rancher to find both a person who will be a good resource for you – and who can help you find the right animal for your backyard farm.
Then, make sure you give everyone some time to adjust to each other and the new location. That way, you’ll be setting your alpacas up to trust you (and your family) so that petting them can be an enjoyable, relaxing activity for everyone involved.
Best of luck with your alpacas, friend!
Do Alpacas Make Good Inside Pets? Alpacas can make good pets if they have enough interaction, space, and their basic needs met. They will also need an adopted herd – whether comprised of other animals or a human family. For more information, read my article on alpacas living indoors.
How Often Do Alpacas Need to Be Sheared? Alpacas generally need to be sheared once per year. For more information, read our guide on the dos and don’ts of alpaca grooming.
Can Alpacas Share a Pasture with Other Livestock? Alpacas can be pastured with other livestock, including goats, chickens, and even cows if the circumstances are right. For more information on housing alpacas with other animals, check out our following guides: alpacas with chickens; alpacas with goats; alpacas with sheep; and alpacas with cows.
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Windschnurer, Ines, et al. “Alpaca and Llama Behaviour during Handling and Its Associations with Caretaker Attitudes and Human-Animal Contact.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Elsevier, 19 Mar. 2020, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159120300721.
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