Training Young Goats: Part 1

This multiple-part series will go in depth with some of the methods we have used for training our young goats

Reader Contribution by Fala Burnette
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by Fala Burnette
Botan (white/brown) and Yukina (black/white dapple) show interest in a round of positive reinforcement clicker training.

Training and socializing livestock is a valuable way to not only build a better bond between you and your animals on a small scale, but to also improve your chances potentially for sales. This multiple-part series will go in depth with some of the methods we have used for training our young goats, to not only socialize them, but to teach them a variety of skills whether it be practical or for fun.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified animal behaviorist or trainer, and anyone interested in training should reach out to a professional or do extensive homework on the subject first.

In the beginning years of my husband and I building up our homestead, we had a pair of goats we lovingly named “Linda” and “Triscuit.” Linda was a beautiful white and brown mixed breed female, who we brought home at a young age, and the first few weeks of adjustment were tough for her after being separated from her home herd. But having the opportunity to apply the previous experience and concepts of positive training, which I had used in the past with cats and dogs primarily, taught me a great deal about goats and inspired me to try training with my other livestock as well.

Fast forward to years down the line, and we’ve finally been able to begin anew with our two newest friends, little female goats named “Yukina” and “Botan.” After my experiences with our earlier goat herd, and years of studying more into reward-based training like clicker training, I was much more confident in handling these two girls.

The initial part of our journey together began with bringing them home and letting them settle in quietly. These goats had just been through a very hectic sale barn and had no clue who we were or what our new home for them was all about. Their stall was prepped, and we put them in together and closed the door to let them be. For me personally, the goal was to give them a quiet and small space for a few days to not only help them adjust without too much stress, but to also limit them where it would be easy enough to examine them or handle them if need arose. The first few days were critical to simply letting them know: it will be alright, we will provide for you, let’s take this slow and be friends. No loud sounds, no sudden movements, no pressure to start training immediately.

Because we were not there from the time these goats were newborns and providing for them and their mothers, they had to get used to us and show signs of opening up. Yukina, the black and white dapple, ended up being very attached from the start. She would call to you and perk up when she saw you, while Botan (the white and brown, larger of the two) would stay to herself and give you that wide-eyed and slightly feral look. With a soft-spoken voice and careful body language, I made each visit have a meaning, and would bring them bits of brush every time I saw them. Within a few days, both showed promising behavior and entered their large pen.

Because they were still young, we put them up each evening with food and water available, and they stayed in their house until the morning. Calling them to the house became a very simple task, and yet again we were using a “snack” as a positive reward to achieve this. In part two, I’ll discuss a little more about how we introduced sounds as a training method, introduced them to the clicker, and even started them with being on a harness and leash. Have you ever trained your goats, whether to socialize them or do fun tricks? Be sure to share with us!

Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They have built two cabins with their own hands, enjoy milling their own wood, and enjoy raising heirloom crops in Spring and picking up discarded hides to tan in Winter. They have a small flock of rescued chickens, goats, and raise Khaki Campbell ducks.  

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