Camel Training: Can a Camel Ever Be Your Friend?

There’s much debate in the animal world on whether or not animals, that once were wild, can ever really be your companion or friend. The questions linger about the reasons why an ancestry wild animal might want to be around a human and seems to, above anything else, result from humans making connections by offering a source of food to the animal. The question needs to be asked, do we manipulate animals to like us by bribing them with food and is it the end result we truly want?


Naturally, all animals have their ‘wild instincts’ within them for life, including camels. A camel that has had minimal contact with a human will act out of fear, unless of course, the camel is approached in a way that the human understands them. Why is it that the human race expects animals to try to understand them, when it should be the other way around? We see it time and time again in camel training. Comments like: my camel isn’t understanding me, my camel won’t do what I’m asking, my camel is misbehaving, acting a bit feral….etc.….etc… If one was to stop and think, “Maybe I need to understand the camel? maybe I’m misbehaving according to the camel? Maybe I’m the odd one out?” Then the tables are turned and the light bulb lights up. One of the main reason we don’t ask these questions is because it’s more challenging for us think like a camel than it is to think like a human, but it can be done and this is the core teachings of our Camel Connection, Trust Based Camel Training™.


Camels are a herd animal by nature. They have their selected ‘friends’ within their herd. It’s like a family unit!


You’ve got Uncle Jimmy that offers life advice at any chance he gets, you’ve got the teenage cousins always looking to stir up some trouble, then there’s Aunt Flo who is always kind and trying to keep the peace amongst everyone and of course there is Big Mumma, who's always making sure everyone is kept in line.


We’ve had our fair share of time hanging out with camels - especially when we’re stuck in the outback on a camel trek on a rainy day. The family unit really does exists within every herd of camels whether they are related or not! Camels really do thrive off the company of other camels, and most importantly they learn important life lessons from all their other ‘family members’. Which brings us to camel training and camel handling, can a camel ever be your friend? Lets rephrase that… Can you ever be your camel’s friend?



Can a camel ever be your friend?


The short answer is “yes” of course you can be friends with your camel. Naturally, friends have better and more trusting relationships than acquaintances or work colleagues. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional camel operator or in it for your own pleasure, even camel dairies aren’t excluded! In truth, especially camel dairies. Stating the obvious here, but if we were camels we’d much rather have a trusted friend pull on our teats than an acquaintance – just saying!


Friendship intertwined into camel training and camel handling can and does work, no matter what you’re doing with your camels. 


Much the same in human life, there are some basic friendship rules that apply for camel friendships too. How you treat your human friends should be how you treat your camel friends. We know this sounds really basic, but stick with us… Lets take a look at some general friendship morals: Always tell your friends the truth, if you like your friend don’t threaten them, always be kind to your friends, do not dominate or hoard your friends personal space, always be there for your friends and NEVER bribe your friends with food! This may sound a little like grade school, but these friendship rules, more often than not, seem to be forgotten about when dealing with camels. The most common misconception is that because a camel is large, it needs a heavy hand and dominance otherwise they will take over the world [insert evil laugh]… Nothing could be more further form the truth (excluding wild bull camels, of course).


Camels are the most receptive and inquisitive animals when it comes to human contact. During our in-person, Level 1, Trust Based Camel Training™ clinics participants are often so surprised when a wild camel will come up to them and give the first sniff, nudge or ‘kiss’. It’s a magical moment and even more magical since it’s never forced. Isn’t that how all good friendships start, with that first trusting connection?


How can you develop trust and friendship with your camel?


Well, the answer is simple! Make a conscious decision to understand your camel – not make your camel understand you. Choose the pathway that gains a camel’s respect, gains friendship and where the camel gains a desire to want to be with you, simply because the camel enjoys your company. A little side note on all the above: We’ve said this before in other blog posts and that is you cannot gain a camels trust and friendship with food. You’re simply just a source of food and the camel will do anything to get that food. That is not friendship or a trust  building exercise.


So, what will be? A friendship based relationship with your camel or other? If you’re all in on the camel friendship check out our tips below on where to start.


Let the camel know you’ll always be there…


Sounds a bit corny, but it’s important that your camel understands that you’re here to be their friend. Meaning, that the times they are scared or unsure about things you’re the one offering them reassurance with calm words, calm handling and using the ‘memory touch’ of their first experiences with you ever, which hopefully was a good one!? If not, there’s still hope!


All our working camels have a memory of their first touch with us. At anytime, anywhere, we can use the ‘memory touch’ as their reassurance that everything is going to be okay. We use this often in high stress situations when we sense that they are feeling a bit out of their comfort zone. We also use the ‘memory touch’ when they seem to be misbehaving, when more often than not, they are just scared (camels are very timid creatures by nature), confused or unsure about something. This recall of their first touch, especially if it has been achieved with quiet, gentle persistence, will bring your camel back to a sense of peace, calm and trust in you as the handler. There’s no battle of the wills, simply you acting as their trusted friend. It’s a mutual, unspoken, reassurance of a memory that is shared between camel and handler. We explain this in more depth in our in-person and our online Trust Based Camel Training courses.



On the flip side, if the camel only has a memory of violent handling with aggression, anger, dominance and pain why would the camel ever want to trust you as the handler ever again? The answer is simple, the camel just wouldn't. The camel would only be acting and obeying you out of fear of repercussions based upon it's memory of past events. There simply isn’t any trust and friendship with aggressive and dominant camel training or camel handling.


Camel’s that have had their training and handling built on the foundations of friendship and trust really do stand out from other camels. 


We’re fortunate enough to have contact with many camels over the years, with many different backgrounds and training styles and we can ALWAYS pick the camels that have had their training built on friendship and trust. These camels are really comfortable with humans, they want to be around humans (without food bribes), they want to please the handler and do what is asked of them to the best of their ability and will often go beyond their call of duty – those moments are really ‘WOW’ moments andshows their level of intelligence!



Camel’s that are handled and trained without the building of friendship and trust seem reserved, with no real interest in humans and seem to have no spark in their eye. Their whole demeanor seems like they’re living ‘just cos’ with no real purpose or connections made, it’s seems they’re just sad camels with a broken spirit. We’ve cried tears over camels like this, call us sooks, but when you’ve experienced camels that are wanting to be part of life and happy to be with humans, then the opposite, it’s quite a pull on the ol’ heart strings. Then there are the camels that have been dominated and manipulated with food and treats. In our experience, most of these camels have no respect for the handler, except as a food source, which can often be dangerous.


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