As we’ve been researching pretty much everything about alpacas, I’ve learned a ton. But even when I learned about how kind they are, I wanted to know more about the right way to interact with them. After all, I want to be able to teach my children to approach alpacas the right way – and the safe way.
In general, the best way to interact and approach alpacas is by being calm, using the herd to promote a feeling of safety, being patient, developing a rapport with the herd, and using safe treats to encourage alpacas to trust more readily.
Ready to learn more about approaching alpacas safely? I’m sure excited to share what I’ve learned!
How to Approach an Alpaca
When you approach an alpaca, do so calmly and from where they can easily see you. It wouldn’t hurt to approach them with a safe treat, either. They may skitter away, but over time they’ll acclimate to your presence.
Then, when you’re able to approach their head, you can practice haltering them. Here are the basic steps to halter an alpaca.
- Position the halter open so that it can easily and quickly slide over them. Keep their nose free – if it gets tangled, your alpaca is more likely to spook.
- Pat your alpaca’s neck gently and put your elbow around it. This way, the head, and neck are contained.
- Then you can slip the halter over its nose and head without bumping its nose or scaring it.
- Give yourself a few tries – it’s usually a learn-as-you-go kind of thing.
Once your alpaca is haltered, it’ll usually follow you quite easily. You may want to stay next to its shoulder for a while to learn to follow the halter and lead. Then, once everyone’s used to the new normal, you can go enjoy some walks together.
How to Interact with Alpacas Safely
Alpacas feel safest and are healthiest overall when they have a herd. So one of the best ways to interact with alpacas is when they feel safe – and their herd is with them. At first, then, it’s best to interact with the herd as a whole. Then, over time, you can interact with the individual alpacas – and even pull them away from the herd safely.
Now, you may be wondering at the thought of working with a whole herd of alpacas (even just a herd that’s 2-3 alpacas) at first. Thankfully, the odds of an alpaca stampede are low. And even if they did run around, the alpacas are more likely to just run away from you than do anything else. But if you treat the whole herd with respect and calmness, then you’ll be able to interact with them much easier and safer.
So the keys to interacting with an alpaca safely are these:
- Be calm.
- Be patient.
- Keep the alpaca in a place where it feels safe – and preferably with its herd to keep them calm.
- Let new interactions be slow – especially with children.
- Give it time.
- Bring a snack if you want to speed things up at all.
Give it time – and you’ll be able to interact with alpacas like a pro.
This is How You Get an Alpaca to Trust You
The number one trick to getting an alpaca to trust you has two main parts. Ready?
- Be patient. Be prepared to invest a lot of time in interacting with your herd.
- Feed your alpacas. Animals tend to love (or at least tolerate) whoever is feeding them.
I really liked this quote I found on Cotton Creek Farm’s site about alpacas.
You either build or destroy their trust whenever you interact. Always strive to personally know and understand your herd. This will enable you to fully understand their behavior and how to interact with them.Source: https://www.cottoncreekfarms.com/alpaca-behavior/
So be patient. Let the time pass. Interact gently and intentionally with your herd. And then your alpacas will trust you. If you want a good video on haltering alpacas, check the resources section. I’ll embed the YouTube video I watched down there.
How Do Alpacas Show Affection?
Alpacas possess a strong herd instinct and it is always important to keep them in groups of at least two. When kept alone, they tend to get lonely.
They express affection to one another as well as humans through sounds and loving behavior. An alpaca can nuzzle your hand, run towards you or even kiss you.
A happy and calm alpaca hums to express affection. They also hum as a way of communication. Mother and cria (baby alpaca) constantly hum to one another to connect and communicate.
Here is a list of sounds produced by alpacas and their meaning. Or if you’d like the complete list, make sure you read my article on alpaca noises and their meanings next.
- Humming – alpacas hum to communicate and connect, and express anger or distress when separated or moved from the herd. They can also hum when cautious, happy, or curious.
- Snorting – they snort as a warning to other alpacas to stop invading their personal space.
- Clucking – they cluck to show friendly behavior or concern.
These next sounds aren’t showing affection. But they can help you learn what not to do, so they’re still important to know.
- Alarm or Alert call – loud donkey-like hee-haw sound. It signals fear.
- Screaming or Screeching – a siren-like sound made when alpaca is not handled correctly, scared or terrified.
- Orgling – A bizarre rustling sound, made by male alpaca when matting or in an attempt to mate.
Are Alpacas Friendly?
Alpacas are friendly. They are generally safe and gentle. Unlike other animals, they do not usually bite or hit. They do bite sometimes – but with good reason. They cluck to express friendliness when humans are approaching.
They make great pets and are easy to handle. They have a fascinating appeal, are intelligent, and are naturally inquisitive.
Alpacas are calming, and make awesome hiking partners and bedside companions. Once your friendship and trust with them grow, they’ll allow you to hug and even stroke their necks and backs.
Angry Alpacas: How to Know When Things Aren’t Great
Alpacas are generally safe and awesome to interact with. They move peacefully and beautifully around the field. It is highly unlikely for them to charge into humans. They don’t usually bite or butt. But when they’re angry? Then their teeth, toenails and feet, and spit will do the talking – and boy is those blunt.
Their soft padded feet can do no harm if they happen to kick. They can kick as a reflex reaction when approached from behind. It is however important to know when things are escalating.
The following table illustrates alpaca’s aggressive behavior and what to do before they get dangerous.
|Aggressive behavior||What to do|
|Kicking||Alpacas can kick as a reflex reaction when approached from behind. Train to desensitize their hind legs to avoid too much kicking.|
|Biting||It is extremely rare for alpacas to bite because they only have a hard pad and lower teeth. Ensure their teeth are well-trimmed to avoid any injuries.|
|Spitting||They can spit as a defense mechanism against one another. Rarely do they spit on humans unless accidentally.|
|Charging||Alpacas can charge at each other especially when they are scrambling for resources. Separate them and provide more resources.|
That being said, they can become dangerous when treated poorly or if things don’t go well. For more information, make sure you read my article on when alpacas can be dangerous.
Do Alpacas Get Along with Other Animals?
Alpacas generally get along with most animals, provided the other animal isn’t trying to eat them. However, pasturing alpacas with other animals is generally discouraged, as the gentle animals tend to get the short end of the sharing stick.
Keeping them in the same paddocks with other livestock can work. But it can also:
- increase disease risks
- alter parasite risks
- lead to one or more species getting inappropriate nutrition
- result in injuries in one or more species
- induce stress in lonely alpacas.
The information below illustrates the pros and cons of keeping alpacas with various species.
Alpacas with Horses or Donkeys
- Equines and alpacas have different gastrointestinal parasites
- Rotation pasturing of donkeys and alpacas reduces each other’s parasite burden.
- Donkeys can protect alpacas from coyotes.
- Donkeys can injure or kill alpacas by biting and kicking.
- Equine herpes 1 virus can be fatal to alpacas.
- Horses tend to dominate common food resources.
Alpacas with Cattle
- You might be able to keep an alpaca with a single cow. I wouldn’t risk the cons of running alpacas with a whole herd, though.
- Horned cattle tend to injure or kill alpacas unprovoked.
- They can share most of the gastrointestinal parasites.
- Cattle tend to dominate resources, especially food.
- Alpacas are highly susceptible to some diseases affecting cattle such as bovine tuberculosis.
Alpacas with Sheep
- Both can be kept within the same type of fencing.
- Alpacas can protect sheep from foxes.
- They share the same gastrointestinal parasites.
- Heavier sheep breeds can bully alpacas from resources.
- Horned sheep can butt alpacas causing injury.
- Adult alpacas can injure lambs.
Alpacas with Goats
- Both can share the same type of fencing.
- Alpacas can protect goats from foxes.
- They graze on different plants.
- They share many parasites.
- Goat feeds contain copper which can be toxic to alpacas over a period of time.
- Horned goats can butt alpacas causing injury
- Adult alpacas can injure kids.
Alpacas with Chickens, Ducks, & Fowl
- Poultry can reduce the fly burden for alpacas. They feed on flies and their larvae.
- Ducks feed on snails and slugs reducing alpacas’ risk of meningeal worms.
- Poultry reduces parasites in manure piles by raking and scratching over them.
- Poultry can harbor pathogens such as campylobacter and salmonella and pass them in feces.
- Poultry kept in the free-range can attract predators.
Alpacas with Pigs
- They do not share the same gastrointestinal parasites.
- They can reduce the parasite burden for one another when placed in rotation pasturing.
- Pigs, being omnivorous, can kill and feed on cria.
- Adult pigs can injure alpacas intentionally.
If you’d like to read more about how I got the data for this chart, I’ve got specific posts about keeping alpacas with the following animals. Check them out here:
- Can alpacas live with pigs?
- Are alpacas ok with dogs?
- Can alpacas live with horses?
- Can you run alpacas and cattle together?
- Here’s how alpacas guard sheep and lambs
- Can alpacas live with chickens?
- Can alpacas live with goats?
Seriously. I feel like quite the alpaca expert. But in an awesome way! Or, if you want to stack them all up together, then you can check out my epic article on which livestock are compatible. Seriously. It’s pretty detailed.
Do Alpacas Like to Be Petted?
Some alpacas like to be petted, while others don’t. Thankfully, you don’t have to guess – I’ve got a whole article on petting alpacas for you right here.
Final Thoughts on Approaching Alpacas
I wish there was some shortcut to the whole process. Especially since the process involves a good amount of time, patience, and hard work. But the simple fact of life with livestock is that there aren’t any shortcuts. Well, you can try with treats – but too many treats and you end up with sick animals. Or if you try some so-called shortcuts to try and make your animals respect you? It can actually short-circuit things. Sure, they might respect you as in fear you. But they won’t trust and love you.
So don’t try to find the shortcut. Go ahead and put in the work. Care for those animals and enjoy your time in the backyard homestead with them. Because it’s all about creating a better lifestyle – not just for you and your family, but for your livestock, too.
Now, get out there and enjoy your backyard lifestyle – right after you read this article next on if alpacas like to swim or not. Spoiler, they do, but you may not want them swimming.
Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “About Alpacas.” Alpaca Owners Association, Inc., www.alpacainfo.com/academy/about-alpacas.
- “ALPACA BEHAVIOR.” Alpaca Behavior, bigmeadowcreekalpacas.com/About%20Alpacas/Alpaca_behavior.htm.
- Alpaca Behaviour. www.alpacaconsultingusa.com/library/AA_AlpacaBehaviour.pdf.
- Alpacas – Handling. nswschoolanimals.com/alpacas/alpacas-handling/.
- “How to Understand Alpaca Behavior and Positively Influence It.” Cotton Creek Farms, 13 Jan. 2021, www.cottoncreekfarms.com/alpaca-behavior/.
- “PurelySuri 2015.” Issuu, issuu.com/thesurinetwork/docs/purely_suri_2015/29.
- Starr, Kimberly. “Are Alpacas Dangerous?” Backyard Homestead HQ, Backyard Homestead HQ, 23 June 2020, backyardhomesteadhq.com/are-alpacas-dangerous/.
- Starr, Kimberly. “Compatible Livestock: Which Animals Go Together?” Backyard Homestead HQ, Backyard Homestead HQ, 1 Apr. 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/compatible-livestock-which-animals-go-together/.
- “Training Alpacas – a Lesson in Trust and Communication.” Nature’s Pathways, 28 Feb. 2019, naturespathways.com/northeast-wisconsin-edition/may-2013/training-alpacas-a-lesson-in-trust-and-communication/.
- Understanding Male Behavior… In the Alpaca. www.camelidynamics.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/HER10Undertandmalebehav.pdf.
- This video on YouTube about haltering and leading alpacas.