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How to Train Goats
Goats are stubborn, destructive, cute, smart, loving, and… did we say stubborn?
Goats are some of the most popular animals for the homestead. They’re great lawn mowers, provide dairy, meat, and fiber for knitting! But you have to have goats that have been trained in order to have any success getting them to work for you and with you. With such a variety of goat breeds, it’s important to spend some time researching which goats are best for your needs. For example – the best breed for milking is Saneen and the best for fiber is the Angora. But training your goats is important for more than that. You also want to be able to get your goats easily into a trailer, you want them to hold still for grooming, and you don’t want to have to fight to trim their hooves.
The key to training your goats is to build trust. Trust is the key to getting your goat to work with you and not against you, and chances are if you’re fighting with your goat you’re going to lose.
There is so much truth to this – we had to evacuate during a fire that came within a quarter mile of our house. The goats were terrified, we were terrified. We have never trained our goats. More injuries were sustained in loading the goats into their trailer than at any other part of evacuating because we had to fight to get them loaded and safe.
But how do you build trust with a goat? There are three key pieces:
Find the one thing your goats absolutely love and save it to give them when you’re training. These treats are a great motivator; reward them when they do what you want them to do.
Repeat it and then repeat it again!
Use repetition – start small. Start by getting them to follow you to a place you want them to go. If you plan to have the milking or grooming stand in a certain area, pull it out and lead them over to stand near it. Give treats. Eventually, work up to encouraging them up onto the stand, give treats. BE PATIENT! If your goat gets stressed or frustrated, or you feel frustrated, then it’s time for everyone to step back and take 10-15 minutes away. This is a key part even after training. Remember, trust is the key to success. If you try to force your goat you will break trust and have to start over where the goat feels comfortable.
Learn how to lead without pulling or pushing.
Once they’re climbing onto a stand, put food in the feeder so they learn to understand that they will be fed while they’re standing there. Then, you want to get them used to human touched. Start slow and don’t be quick or rough so you don’t startle them.
Note: Never strike or hit your goat. You can let them know you’re unhappy with a brief squirt of water from a water bottle.
These same steps can be used to get your goats used to any activity you want them to learn. If you have taken the time to build trust and remain patient then you will achieve success.