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A while back someone asked me to elaborate on how I trained my packgoats to present their horns to dogs (on and off the trail). Don't get the sound of that wrong, my goats are not butting and being aggressive towards the dogs, they are simply showing that they are not afraid of the dogs.

As most of us already know, when we go hiking with our goats it is inevitable that we will run into another hiker with a dog. And where is that dog? About 30 yards ahead of its owner running excitedly right at your goats. One of the biggest problems we face on the trail is this exact encounter. If this happens the goats may spook and take off for the hills with your gear and worse yet spark up that predator response in the excited pooch. There is no way a heavily packed goat will out maneuver an excited german shepherd through the woods. All those years of training a goat to pack just to lose a him to a dog that decided to attack. We can't control the other hikers and how they handle their animals, but we can prepare our animals how to handle that situation.

***This type of training should not be done with kid goats. It should be done when you goat has reached a certain level of understanding of what training sessions are like, they have built up some confidence and are already bonded well to you. This article isn't necessarily a "HOW TO" its "How I Did It". I started this lesson well after "back up", "Stand", "get out of my barn", "spin right", "spin left" and of course "give me your hoof" :) :)

The basics of the training started as a group lesson (four packgoats). While out of their home environment (to avoid territorial setbacks) I would introduce friendly dogs on leashes to the goats. At first my dog, then the neighbors dogs. I would let the goats get nose to nose with the dogs and if they stood their ground they got verbally rewarded. I would have the dog walked away after a few short seconds (before the excitement grew) and would reward the goats with a treat. Only the ones who didn't run got treats. At this stage, everyone was getting treats because the dogs were happy dogs and showed no aggression or chase instinct. The goats just stood there and sniffed the dogs face mostly.

After exposing the goats to as many possible friendly dogs I could find, I stepped it up a notch. **To be perfectly honest here, it happened on accident but it was going to be my next step. While we were out hiking, a neighborhood dog had got loose and although she was friendly, she was excited and wanted to sniff the goats and run circles around them. Not much to my surprise, all the goats did exactly what they did with the friendly dogs from the beginning lessons, they stood facing the dog and didn't turn and run. If this was NOT a chance encounter, I would have preferred the dog be leashed at first so I could of had more control of the learning session but it was what it was. I verbally rewarded them and carried on as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Typically, once the dog leaves (or is walked away) the boys get treats. In the case of this loose dog, my goats got treats but also got a new hiking partner that day by way of a very excited black dog.

So now the goats have a pretty good idea that running away from dogs doesn't get them any rewards AND it takes them away from the protection of the herd. So as far as going to the next step of training is concerned....... its time to bring on the masses. I was taking my goats (mostly one or two at a time here) into public venues. I would walk them down the street, go to the parks, go to old homes day, join parades etc. All of these places I knew were likely to have people walking their dogs on leashes. Most dogs in this setting have never seen a goat so judging what its reaction to one might be is difficult. Most dogs are more curious then aggressive but take caution either way. When someone would ask me if their dog could meet my goat I would say yes, but briefly explain how best to do the introduction, when to end it and further explain that if the dog gets aggressive or loud then I will ask my goat to "present" his horns as part of his training. Most people are very understanding of the animal training process and respect you when you explain to them what a goat is doing at the park.

I think I introduced my goats to over 100 dogs of all shapes and sizes. Dogs who are loud, hyper, aggressive and even ones that are scared. Every time a dog would be in the vicinity or introduced, I would ask my goats to "present. I also made up a hand signal for this. It looks like I'm giving the peace sign, kinda. The reason I ask them to "present" their horns to dogs that are just barking or playfully lunging is because I want them to think about what they are doing. I don't want them to ever get panicky and take flight ( It's the whole right-side or left-side brain function thing). Plus it only takes a split second for a playful excited dog to turn and become a biting dog. Dogs don't typically go into the predator /chase mode unless the "prey" is facing away and/or running. The repetition of giving the command "present" on every dog, the goat facing the dog, getting verbally rewarded, the dog walking away and then its treat-time can be as common as "stand" or "back up" or "get out of the garden".

Ok so at this point my goats are confident. **Note that they have been in DOG Training for about two years at this point*** Even dogs that run up to them don't spook them. I took it up another level and introduced them to a known livestock killer. I did this under strict controls and I don't recommend anyone doing this with their goats. I'm not going to detail this meeting because I don't want anyone to think that this would be a cookie cutter situation. I did it in part to continue training/testing my goats and part to see if a knowingly aggressive dog would kick their instinct in over their training. The training prevailed and I am very pleased with my boys.

In conclusion, dog training your goat is a LONG process. It took me years and LOTS of dog introductions. This short story just can't really explain the whole process, it just gives an idea and shows that dog training a goat CAN be done. You have to be dedicated and consistent. You have to ask for help from dog owners and you have to be prepared to protect your goat should a dog get out of the control of its owner. I always carry a Dog Dazer with me. When the owner "thinks" the dog is ok...but its not, I give the pooch a little buzz before things get out of hand and everyone (except the dog) walks away happy.

Although dog training seems difficult, its much less stressful then carrying your favorite goat down a 5 mile trail and taking it for a 3 hour drive to the closest vet due to a dog bite.
A few of the added bonuses of this training has been the positive exposure the packgoats have gotten around my area. They are now called in to do volunteer and paid "gigs" all over New England. They are exposed to so many situations during training that nothing stresses them. NOTHING. I don't have to worry if the neighbors dog gets loose and tries to chase my goats, I don't have to worry about when its fireworks time if the goats are going to freak, I don't have to worry about sounds, cars, dogs, anything. If they were horses they would be called "bombproof".

I don't think I missed anything major but If anyone wants me to give more detail on a specific part of training or if you have any questions, I would be happy to answer.

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Very good post! I will refer to this one day when training for dog encounters. For Cuzco I think it's a bit late--he's terrified of dogs and won't eat treats when he sees one. We just have to make sure he's on a leash if we have any close encounters of the canine kind. But for a younger goat without deeply rooted dog baggage this sounds awesome!
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