Aggressive Goats and How to Correct them
Aggressive goats are an issue for anyone who owns or deals with them. They are an animal with the tools and strength to potentially hurt their handlers. As the owner of packgoats.com I own and train pack goats and not only are my goats bred to be big and strong, they also have horns. This makes the stakes even higher that I have goats that are safe to be around.
A goat that lies in wait for a human to turn their back, ready to blast them, is what gives goats a bad name. In this article I hope to help you avoid ever having to deal with this issue with some preventive training and care. But, if you do have a goat that begins to test you, then my aim is to help you to correct the behavior.
How Goats Get Aggressive
Let’s first discuss the nature of why this happens and how we might head aggressive behavior off before it starts. Breeding can play a major role in helping this to never show up in your herd. I have found that aggressive does and bucks tend to throw aggressive kids. I’d avoid breeding goats that show those tendencies and look specifically for loving, gentile goats to breed. Now, obviously this is not a fail safe, but I do believe it’s worth mentioning for sure.
Proper training at a young age is a good way to stop or prevent aggression in goats. Our How to Raise a Baby Goat course covers the topic of training kids more in depth.
In my opinion one of the major reason aggressive goats “happen” is rough handling. If you teach your goats that they are going to be struck, punched, kicked, slapped, pushed, or handled roughly; they will think it’s appropriate to treat you similarly. Goats need to never be aggressively handled. We all lose our cool but remember that a goat, especially a bottle fed one, looks as you as a superior.
You’re the leader of the herd and they follow you by example. In their eyes, we are similar, yet, we are loving and lead with compassion. This is unlike the other goats in the herd that lead with a good pounding. To them, we are a benevolent alpha. We are their “goat leader” who doles out love and our reprimands are not physical. Our reprimands and discipline can only be the following… Yelling, gesturing, and a good squirt bottle. You can find a great squirt bottle here.
It’s also important to note here that I have experimented a lot with playing with goats. I believe we should not do it. It is confusing to them as to our role with them as an equal; which then opens us up to being treated like a goat. This leads to a bump here and there, which then leads to aggression. It’s important you realize goats being aggressive with peers is just “goat life”. We must rise above that, in all ways, and be their leader in our unique and special way.
The Best Cure is Prevention
The best prevention for never having an aggressive goat is to use a squirt bottle and yelling (or a loud voice) to teach them pasture manners. The two places where this will occur most often is when you are entering their area, at the gate, and when you feed them. This is where hanging a squirt bottle on that gate, so it’s always there, will pay off huge! As you enter, you say “back” and you squirt freely until they get back.
“Back” is the best command to teach a goat to never be “pushy” with you. They will stay away when you are feeding, trimming, petting another, and so on… The squirt bottle is a gift from God as a goat training tool. It’s the long arm of the law. Check out our How to Raise a Baby Goat Course for more detailed information about training baby goats and teaching them manners.
Squirt Bottle Training
I always make a “shushing” noise as I squirt, so they have a similar associative noise that I can use when I don’t have my squirt bottle with me. I also always put my squirt bottle in my back pocket as I enter so they see me make a motion to grab it when needed and I can fain that motion as well if I don’t have it. You’d be amazed how well they remember what they see right before they are going to get squirted. Reference the link above for in depth squirt bottle training methods.
This is also an awesome tool to give a child or a small person to be the equalizer when they enter the pasture or paddock. The same things should be used when feeding as well. The “BACK” command will be huge for never having an issue as it’s when we have to push goats away or get physical with them that we teach them we are fair game.
Train Up a Kid When they are Young…
So, if you are still with me in believing goats think you are “one of them”, then it’s important you realize heading off this aggression happens at a young age. Many goats will never test you but some always do. I find that a young goat (usually at the gate or at the food stall) “tests” us by bumping us with their horns or head. This needs to be immediately met with a loud “NO” and all kinds of crazy arm flails and gestures. Yes, your neighbors will think you have gone crazy, but your goal is to scare your goat. This is to have him associate a negative experience with the word NO. For many, this is all it will take and they will say “he is boss” and never test you again.
Then, there is the one that will do it again… This is the goat you will then say “NO” to and begin to flip him on his back. When you filp a goat you will be saying “NO” loudly. You will then stand over him while holding his front legs and repeat over and over again, NO….NO. You will hold him there for at least 10 minutes. It’s an important technique that the video link above describes fully. He will submit (you will see it). This is an extremely arresting and traumatic event for a goat and the goal is to show him you are dominant. It’s also for him to associate the word “NO” with a negative experience.
When to Call it Quits
Many of us (including me) deeply love our goats and having one that is aggressive always leaves us in a pinch. What do you do when they don’t stop being aggressive? After doing all these things and when should you give up? If they are going to learn not to be aggressive with you it’s going to happen right away. If you are having to continually correct this behavior, he needs to be considered a lost cause. In my opinion and you’ll have to either just deal with it or do something more drastic.
I have never had a goat I couldn’t turn after more than about 3 flips. It’s also important to note that many more times they never are aggressive with me at all. It is often smaller humans like children or women. In my pasture that is a goat that gets eaten by me or by someone who needs the meat. It’s either that or I sell them to someone who doesn’t have kids or isn’t worried about that behavior.
In conclusion, it’s important to head these issues off before they happen. Please heed my warnings about rough handling and you may never have to deal with it. I wish you well. Long live the pack goat!