Ninety percent of the work in training this type of animal stems from the foundation established early on to make this animal gentle and not afraid. Karen Gaines has been grooming and socializing our camels since 2002. “They are the most noble and regal of all animals, and my passion is to do as much as I can for them. In fact, there are few pleasures in life greater than spending a long day in the company of camels."
Karen retired after 40 years in medical electronics and aerospace publications management. She now devotes much of her free time to the study of camel behavior and physiology. She periodically attends national and international camel symposia, and in April 2013 she attended the International Camel Conference in London where she heard numerous notable speakers, among whom were Doug Baum of the Texas Camel Corp.; Dr. Maurizio Dioli, pastoral camel veterinarian and published author; and John Hare, founder of the Wild Camel Protection Association. In 2007 she traveled by camel in the Sinai desert with cameleer Doug Baum and his Bedouin family of close friends. Her interest in camels, photography, and Photoshop prompted her to create and provide annual Christmas cards that portray our camels and also the camel photos for most of this website.
Regular grooming is necessary to keep our camels clean, comfortable, and as bite-free as possible. Flies can spread disease, and horse flies can deliver painful bites that sometimes need on-the-spot treatment. Grooming provides the opportunity to check and treat each camel for bites, cuts, bumps, dry skin, and foxtails. Rubbing ears, cleaning eyes, and brushing a camel’s head promotes trust and also helps to prevent head-shying.
Every spring, a camel loses five to eight pounds of hair, depending on the species (dromedary or Bactrian). For 15 camels, this means that 75 to 120 pounds of camel hair are removed in one season. Karen uses special tools to remove hair and mats. After a winter season of thick hair that has collected grain, dirt, mats, and mud balls, a camel is eager to stand in line for grooming. “Camels enjoy being brushed and fussed over and frequently vie for position, pushing one another out of the way. I’m happy to work on whomever stands in front of me.” When content and happy, a camel often gurgles, and hearing these sounds is one of her rewards.
Young camels need socialization with humans because they’ll be joining a new family when they’re old enough to leave their mothers. The most important training they receive is from their mothers, but they also need to know their limits when interacting with people. Camels automatically use their mouths and prehensile-like rubbery lips when interacting with other camels, whether to bite, nip, play, or show affection. This is normal behavior for them, but they must learn that nipping and biting a person is unacceptable.
Our camels learn to accept a halter and lead rope at an early age, and they also learn to cush (kneel), which is a natural behavior for them. Whether playing with a young camel, sitting quietly with an older camel, providing exercise, or grooming, Karen plays an important role in their socialization, and she also makes sure that the youngsters have a Jolly BallTM or a 40-inch Equi-SpiritTM play ball to play with.
TMJolly Pets, Inc, a division of Horsemen’s Pride, Inc.
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