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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently purchased two supposedly trained goats. One is 5 and the other is ancient (and was free). There is a small rocky mountain near our house that we have taken the goats up three times to become acquainted and get them in shape. The mountain is very steep and rocky and the top of it is much like a volcano in that there is a crater and a rocky rim that goes around it. The route we take goes up the side of the mountain and then circles all the way around the rim and then goes back down to the car. The first time we did it the goats pretty much stayed behind us and did a great job following until we started heading down the trail towards the car. As soon as we got below the cliffs they traversed along the cliffs above us. When we got to the car the goats were perched on a cliff above us not about to come down. When I ran up to get them they did not run off and were easy to lead.

The second time when we were heading back towards the car we passed some hikers heading up the trail. The goats stopped for awhile in the trail as we walked one way and the hikers that passed us hiked the other. They looked up and then down as if they were mowing over in their minds who to follow. Then they darted up the trail after the hikers heading up.

Sorry for going on and on but here is the kicker. The third time as we circled the rim my wife and children ran ahead with the goats following. I fell behind. When I caught up to the others at the part of the rim where you cut down I learned the goats had failed to follow my wife and children down the trail but had totally ignored them and continued around the rim and had headed up to some high rocks. They were right on my wife's heals when they split so it is not like they were left in the dust. The sun was setting so I ran fast to catch up to them. When I was a couple hundred feet from them I whistled and got their attention. They looked at me for a moment and then continued heading for the high country. When I got closer I lured them in with some COB.

The goats seem to be somewhat independent. Most of the time they seem to be very willing to follow us and do not let us get too far ahead, especially when we are on a new trail. However, their willingness to ditch us for the high rocks makes me worry that perhaps they were not properly bonded to humans. It seems that part of the problem is they have become very familiar with the trail and they love being up on the rocks. Also the goats have not been worked with since last summer. Obviously the goats need to be worked with but is this behavior a major red flag? What's the chance that a goat that was properly bonded with humans would do this? I have experience working with llamas and other animals and really enjoy working with animals and overcoming challenges. However, I am new to goats and was surprised by their willingness to cut out on their own. To be expected or red flag?

Thanks for your input.

PS. These goats are a thousand times more enjoyable to hike with than the best llamas I have been with. Even with their independent streaks, goats are so much more personable than llamas.
 

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Well I don't have too much experience with what you are describing. I helped train 2 older goats with a friend and we didn't have that situation come up. We had to train more wtih getting them friendly. It dosen't sound like you have that issue with these goats so that is a good sign.

I do know that the 6-2yr olds I have (that I raised from babies) totally ignore me if there is something good - good eats or in your case the rocks they like to play on - especially if they know the area. If they are unfamilar with the area they stick much closer.

They are also much more "indapendant" in the spring when we haven't done much hiking and they are all wound up to get out.

I wouldn't think this is a major "red flag" but you need to correct the issue. Rex on this list is really great with training issues so hopefull he will put in his thoughts.

I would start at home and work on the "come" command. Find a treat they like (COB or peanuts are good). Start out with giving treats and then you don't always have to give them a treat but give lots of love and good praise each time they come. Move out to somewhere away from home or hide around the barn where they can't see you...especially when they are ignoring you. Maybe introduce the "go play" command when you are done. I often would take off walking in a field and when they got ahead of me just turn around and go a diferent way calling them to come and just keep going in different directions walking fast so they have to follow you praising and giving treats every once in awhile. (I don't like the goats going ahead of me on the trail-which they love to do)

Then head for the trail and work with them there. You might have to put them on lead at the area they like to take off at. Take a break or some time up at the rocks and get them to come and then go play.

It could be just some spring fever too but any new goat you need to really work with for a bit to make sure they get bonded to you and not just any passing hiker too.

Good luck and keep us informed.
 

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Two of my guys were adopted when older. For all I know, all people look alike to them, so I strated them on the whistle to call them and separate them from another 'herd' on the trail.

There is an article online somewhere critical of goats. The people rented some goats and took them hiking and wondered why they didn't stay with them as advertised. They seemed to follow anyone who passed on the trail going in the direction they wanted to go.

They need to get to know you. I kept mine on the leads for months on weekly hikes before trying them on the trail without them.
 

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Well Ryan, the bad news is, that's not good. The good news is they seem to be willing packers if you could keep them on the trail with you.

How are they at home? Do they come up to you, ignore you or walk away from you? The answer to those questions will help us know where the goats are with the bonding.

If they move away then its more serious. If they come to you or at least stand and let you walk up to them then you are in better shape.

First I'll say that it's not the norm for bonded goats to be that independent. As was brought up by Bob, rental goats who are with strangers view every human the same so they go with which ever ones are going the direction they want to go. After you have bonded more personally with them they will follow you specifically. A friend and I regularly hike together with our goats. If we split up, his goats go with him and mine go with me. So that's the difference between "general" bonding and "specific" bonding. If I took out a couple of goats and they walked away and did their own thing I would be concerned but I have learned that some goats are "rental goats" and some are not. Meaning... that some goats are "generally" bonded to people and will go with anyone and some are "specifically" bonded to the owner and will only go with them. When renting goats that was a critical aspect to know about each goat. That may be the problem in your case.

Honestly, if they weren't easy to catch and hadn't performed Ok on the trail I would take them back and not deal with the hassle. The fact that they did let you walk up to them and seemed Ok on the trail leads me to think that they are the type to be more "specifically" bonded to the previous owner. If you want to keep them then I would suggest spending some quality time at home building a trusting bond with them. Give treats and just hang out so they get to know you and are comfortable with you. Make your visits something they look forward to.

As Rachel said, they are much more insecure in unfamiliar territory so take them some place new and they will stick closer to you. Over time it will become habit and your bonding time at home should pull it all together. The last thing I would suggest is a whistle or rattle can that lets them know they are going to get a treat. Use it at home to teach them, then keep it handy on the trail if they start to wander off.

Some other thoughts....
One goat is probably the instigator. Try using them separately for awhile to see if they act differently. My guess is that they won't be so quick to wander off without a buddy to keep up their courage. Especially on a new trail. If you figure out which one is the instigator then lead that goat every time it decides to head off on its own or leave it home. Also getting another goat that is well bonded and sticks to you like glue will help keep the wanderer in line.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the insights. I have learned something from each reply.

This morning I got up early and took the 5 year old out by himself on a new trail. He is the one I actually paid money for. He led easily and when I unhooked him he stayed close. He was also easy to hook back up again.

In light of the entry by Rex I thought I would give a little more info on bonding and approachability to see what you guys think.

When you walk out into the pasture with food they come running. However, if they know you do not have food they will not come. The old one will let you walk up to him and pet him without moving away. The 5 year old will let you get about 2 or 3 feet from him and then he will step aside and keep eating. He doesn't run or resist aggressively but he would rather not be bothered with physical affection if you do not have food.

We have had weight on the young one and he is a driven packer. The old one leads the way on the trail and has been the instigator for following other folks and for heading for the rocks last night. Ironically, it is the young one that seems to be the more independent goat in the pasture.

The advise is very appreciated.

Ryan
 

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For bonding quicker, do night hikes with them. They are more nervous at night and will stick closer to you. Though you may want to do them on leads for a while.
 

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A few years ago I got 2 one-year old pack goats. They generally followed me pretty well, but when I stopped on a hike one would have a tendency to turn and head back toward the trailhead. At that point I’d grab the lead of the other and head up the trail. The ‘wanderer’ really didn’t want to be alone, so he’d turn back and follow us.

They are very good packers, but the bonding process was a progression that took about a year before I was really confident that they would stay with me.

As Rex said some goats bond generally to ‘people’ and some bond more specifically to a person (such as the previous owner). My experience suggests that ‘specific person’ bonding is more common; and that it takes time with them to build a good bond.

And: each goat has it own personality and quirks :)
 

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I only have four goats but it seems I have a huge range of personality types and "bondedness". The one I got as a 10 month old rescue is my guy who tends to want to go off on his own on hikes if he's off leash, taking the baby with him. The way I think about it is that he is horse-like, as opposed to dog-like, in his relationship to me. Whereas the three dog-like goats would love nothing more than to sit in my lap (which they don't) and eat snacks, the horse-like one is best rewarded by me not touching him and giving him space. At first I thought he would not be a good candidate for packing or carting because he doesn't really like being handled. But I have come to realize that he is the most responsive to pressure (doesn't pull on the leash, likes to walk in front of the cart in an orderly fashion, neck reigns) and the most controllable on leash of the four, like a well trained horse. It's just that there is a big difference in his mind between how you behave on leash and off. When he's on leash, he's a dream, when he's off, he's on his own time and will do whatever he damn well pleases. He is consistently the most eager to go on walks though, and doesn't mind being controlled by the leash in exchange.

If it were me I would go with keeping the leash on your older guy for a while, maybe for a year, and that horse-like bond will become more of the dog-like bond that means you can lose the leash.
 

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Good advice from the others. I would agree that taking them out independently might help to get them to see you as their best buddy instead of the other goat. Also when you see people coming if you can grab one of the goats and hold him until the people are gone, then the other should stick with you also.

A final observation... having goats scrambling around above you in steep, rocky terrain can be dangerous. They can dislodge rocks and send them tumbling down on you. I really have to watch out for that hiking around here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Just in case anyone was interested, I thought I would take a minute and give a progress report. I have focused on two things to help get them from being so independent and more manageable on the trail: 1) more bonding time, 2) training them to stay behind me. When the goats try to pass I have been saying "back" in an authoritative voice and planting a walking stick in front of them (recommended by Rex) or squirting water in their face. If one got past I would grab the second as he scooted by and then take him up the trail until the goat who had gotten by had to hike back up the trail. At first I went on narrow steep trails and I put enough weight on the most wild goat so that it was almost impossible for him to run ahead. At first it was a constant struggle. However, I have been 100% consistent with them. It has been getting easier and easier. They definitely know what "back" means.

The last hike I took them on I thought it was going to be hard because the trail was wide and flat and I did not put much weight on them . We had to hike through a large parking lot and then up a wide road before we got to the trail. As we hiked through the parking lot I was amazed to find both of my goats filing in behind me. On the way back my two year old (almost three) human kid wanted to walk. I thought for sure the goats would be constantly trying to streak by since we would be walking so slow and stopping almost constantly. Every time I stopped except once, the goats stopped too. I was amazed that there was almost no struggle. They were very responsive to the "back" command. The funny thing is they have come to associate me saying "back" with getting a squirt in the face. So now when I say "back", they stop and squint their eyes in anticipation of a squirt in the face.

Training the goats to stay behind me seems to have solved a lot of trail problems. The advice given to me on this thread and the advice in other threads about training goats to stay behind have been very helpful. Thanks to all. This forum rocks!!!
 

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Congratulations.That is a great story. I had the same experience. My alpha also squints when I say "back." He is 4 now and came to me as a teenage goat. My 2 year olds are now occasionally testing the back theory. I buy squirt guns 2 for a dollar, one even came with a holster.
IdahoNancy and the Oberpackers
 

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That's good that they have learned to "fear the squirt bottle". Fear is a great motivator (for people and goats). As you use your goats more you will probably find that they have a great capacity for orneriness. They will want to eat things they shouldn't. Or they will hang around your kitchen area in your camp and try to raid the panniers. etc etc. I have taught my goats to stop whatever they are doing (eating the wrong things, messing around my camp, running ahead of me while hiking, and such) by making a sound (CH CH CH). I refer to it as "the sound of death". When they hear that, they stop whatever it is they were doing. Because if they don't good old Dad changes from being nice and mellow to being a psycho goat killer. I start talking to them in a loud threatening voice and throwing things (sticks, small pebbles, pine cones and such) at them. When they stop whatever they were doing, and start behaving, then I switch back to good ol' Dad the goat butt scratcher and best buddy. They love that Dad. The other Dad is really scary and they don't like him. Now all I have to do if they start pushing past me, or eating a little pine tree in a parking area, is make the "sound of death" and they stop it.
 
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