Dealing with aggressive behavior

Discussion in 'Beginners Goat Raising' started by Feira426, Dec 25, 2019.

  1. Feira426

    Feira426 Active Member

    Dec 11, 2019
    I'm still pretty new to keeping goats and while I've figured some things out, other things... well, I'm still some degree of clueless.

    What do you guys do to train your goats not to be aggressive towards people? Mine are usually good, but occasionally someone decides to try for a headbutt for no apparent reason, and I've had some of the younger ones try to jump on people (the jumping seems less aggressive and more playful, but still hurts and I need to get them to stop). I have a LOT of experience training horses - even did some horse training professionally. And I'm fairly good at training dogs. But goats are SOOOO different from anything I've worked with before.

    A perfect example, and the reason I'm writing this right now instead of doing Christmassy things: my nine-year-old daughter was helping me with the milking this evening and went to bring in one of our does. Usually she comes in very willingly and doesn't cause any problems (aside from pulling kind of hard in her eagerness to get to her grain, which is a bit annoying but doesn't result in anyone getting hurt). This evening, for unknown reasons, she decided to start headbutting my daughter. It took me a minute to get out to help her, as I was in a separate area getting the milking things ready. She was scared and a little scratched up on her leg. She'll be fine, but I need to do something!

    What a way to end Christmas. I feel so bad. I guess I still need to be with my daughter whenever she handles the goats. It's tough, because she wants to try things and learn to do stuff independently, and usually she can manage, so I want to let her help; but when they start getting rough she doesn't know what to do. I myself honestly don't know what to do when it happens to me either. I instinctively go into fight mode if they ever mess with me. A bop in the nose, a shout... when my big buck tried to mess with me I just flat out charged at him, waving my hat, and chased him across the pasture - it was the first thing I thought of to do.

    It worked. He never tried to make a go at me again. But I don't know if it was the best thing I could have done. Are my instinctive responses good? They kept me from getting hurt and the goats don't seem to be afraid of me; but I don't want to be unnecessarily mean. If there's a gentler way to get them to not hurt me I'd like to know what it is. And what can I do to train them not to be rough with my daughter? I'd like for her to be able to help with the goats, safely, as she enjoys doing so.

    I'm sure there are a lot of different approaches to dealing with goats' rough behavior. I'd love to hear what some of yours are. I need some ideas.

    TLDR: I don't know what I should do when my goats get rough, specifically with people. How do you address occasional headbutting or other dangerous behavior (pulling, jumping on people, etc.)?
  2. Goats Rock

    Goats Rock Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    NE Ohio
    There are many different answers. The key is consistency. For the same bad behavior, you have to jump and correct immediately and firmly. Don't let it slide, ever. If a baby jumps, a firm no and down each time. It's cute to let little goat kids jump up at you. A 200# bucks isn't! So, be consistent.

    I use a riding crop with a big bat. The slapping sound on them or your leg, along with a firm no and it usually startles them into paying attention. Squirt guns work too. But never push on e forehead or hit around the forehead. They take that as a challenge, either to play or fight. I don't mean beat a goat, but a good swat will get their attention. For aggressive bucks, a hotshot (cattle prod). ( But, if I have a really aggressive animal, get shipped to the meat buyer. )

    They are not seeing your daughter as a boss, she is smaller so in their dumb little goat minds, she is a herd member and can get beat up, like they do with their herd mates. Maybe a squirt gun would be good for her if they rush her.

  3. Trollmor

    Trollmor Well-Known Member

    Aug 19, 2011
    Goatless in Sweden
    Luckily I never had this kind of experience. I am at a loss. WHY are they doing this? What do you know of their previous experiences of people? I once saw a woman unknowingly train her billy to butt, by coming with very nice twigs, going close enough for him to butt (he was tied with a rope), and, when he did, she got scared and let go. This she did every day, you can imagine that he butted!!

    The biggest difference I know between horses/dogs and goats is that if you offer them a reward for a certain behaviour, they want their "salary" each and every time. In my youth I trained a buck to do some tricks, and he did them. But if he found the treat was too small, he just strolled away searching for grass.

    True, the goats probably do not see your daughter as a boss. But what pleasure is it to have a goat butting smaller goats? In my flock such behaviour gave a free ticket to Freezer Camp.

    Very nice to see you, I was so intrigued by your problem that I almost forgot that!

    PS Maybe @Damfino can have some ideas?
    Feira426 and MadHouse like this.
  4. NDinKY

    NDinKY Well-Known Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    I’ve been using a squirt bottle (with a strong stream) for my buck who kept trying to flirt with me. It has worked amazingly well. One squirt to the face and he backs off.

    Your daughter may need something like that if the does are challenging her. Was the doe in question in heat? Sometimes that can make them behave oddly. I wouldn’t let her alone with that doe, or any one who challenges her, until you’ve figured out how to get rid of that behavior. I’ve got two young human kids, and if any of my goats started challenging them they would move on (or move to the freezer).
  5. Damfino

    Damfino Well-Known Member

    Dec 29, 2013
    Right behind you
    It's very possible your doe is in heat and hormones brought underlying aggression to the surface, but it sounds like this has been building for a while. You said this goat drags people toward the milking stand, which means she's food aggressive. She has probably been getting more and more irritated that your daughter holds her back from the food and it finally came to a head last night. I think you might need to do some retraining on this goat yourself so she learns to respect people leading her to and from the milk stand, and then work with your daughter and this goat together for a while until training for both is established.

    Also, watch your daughter's body language in the goat pen and any time she handles them. It's possible she's been subtly skirting around them when they walk toward her or get in her way. She needs to learn to walk "through" them. If a goat is ever in my way, I bump into it with my body or give it a thump with my boot to make it move. I never walk around the goat because that teaches it to deliberately walk in my path and make me move. Outright disrespect and aggression soon follows. It's very easy to accidentally get into the habit of walking around the goats because it's a lot less work than pushing through them, but unfortunately goats pick up on it and read it as subordination. You daughter may need a little training in body language so the goats don't see her as a target.

    Your response to the buck who charged you was appropriate. Shouting, waving my arms, clapping my hands, etc. is one way I teach young goats not to mess with me when they come up with hackles raised and horns cocked (a phase young bucks often go through when they enter their first rut). It usually only takes one or two "treatments" and most fall right into line. I don't recommend charging weaponless at a buck or wether with established aggression issues because he might charge back, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're dealing with in your herd.

    Finally, teach your daughter that self-defense is always ok. If she ever finds herself in a similar situation, she can throw dirt in the goat's face, splash it with water from the trough, or pick up a stick, rope, bucket, or broom--whatever it takes to make the goat back off so she can get to safety. While it's obviously never ok to abuse animals with these things, self-defense is important. I once found myself smashing my neighbor's aggressive buck with a shovel because he cornered me in the back of a horse trailer and was threatening to break my kneecaps. I obviously don't recommend ever beating a goat with a shovel, but sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to get yourself to safety and not worry about what it might do to the animal attacking you.

    Good luck!
  6. Feira426

    Feira426 Active Member

    Dec 11, 2019
    I appreciate all the ideas! This was very helpful. Thanks very much!

    The goat in question was bottle-raised (her dam rejected her) and I've heard bottle babies can tend to become pushy. My other doe has only tried a small headbutt a couple of times and I think she was just nervous and felt she was defending herself. She can be a little wary of people sometimes. Not me so much, but other people.

    I don't know if Hasi is in heat. Honestly, so far I haven't been able to tell when either of my does is in heat. I haven't really had to worry too much about it because when I had my buck he lived with them full time. I'd like to learn, though. Especially if their heat hormones can make them act unusually.
    GoofyGoat likes this.
  7. GoofyGoat

    GoofyGoat Well-Known Member

    Sep 21, 2018
    On YouTube, there's a channel called that has some great training methods that will help with leading and using water guns to correct bad behavior.
    Hasi also had the issue with bad feed if I remember right, so maybe she's still recouping from that. No matter though bad behavior does need correcting. @Damfino is great when it comes to training and she offered some great advice as did everyone else.