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Moose, our almost 1 year old Togg, has been with us since he was a few weeks old and bottle raised by us. He has always been very friendly and loving. We knew before we got him that Togg's can be more alert, but thought that could be a good thing. He always has been very alert and is almost like a guard dog; I can look out the window and tell if something’s going on based on his actions.
Unfortunately, he also spooks way too easy and is very skittish. At times he acts like a scitzo crazed rodeo bronco. He ties ok, and walks well on a lead. We formed a great bond over the summer and he's a great goat other than this. The other goats that he's bonded with just look at him like he's nuts when he does this! Today he topped the cake (and almost hurt himself). My husband was spreading hay with the pitchfork and he acted like it was the scariest thing in the world. He was tied and started running left a right, each time being jerked back at the neck by the lead rope. He then ran so hard the rope jerked him back, flipped him and he fell over onto his back and rolled down, then the rope drug him back by the neck. My husband made sure he was ok, then staked the pitchfork in the ground in front of him. Moose sniffed it up and down and checked it out. He then raised it and waived it around in the air while petting and reassuring Moose with the other hand. All seemed well, until he freaked out at the sight of it minutes later. My husband repeated the process, with no luck.
Another thing, he does great on the trail. We came across horses for the first time a few weeks ago. The horses were way more afraid of us and started making alot of noise. We pulled the goats far off the trail to let them go by and I made sure I had a good grip on Moose because I thought he would freak out. He just ate grass and didn't even acknowledge them.
I really love this crazy goat and want to work with him, but don't know if this is a sign he may not work? He young and should be curious like his "brothers", instead of scared. I don't want to put alot of money and time into him if he continues to spook all the time like this. Any advice and ideas on how to calm him down?
 

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A technique used by horse trainers for years is called desensitizing. Basically you do things to the goat that makes it nervous and you keep doing it until the goat stands still for a second then you stop. You are teaching the goat that it can make you stop bugging it if it simply stands still. Repeat the exercise over and over over the next few days, making the goat stand still a little longer each time before you stop. Once the goat is OK with whatever you are doing then look for something else that makes it nervous and do it again. The goat will get quiet much faster with the new item because it will know the drill. Every time you find something that makes the goat nervous then use that in the next exercise. Eventually the goat will learn to simply stand still when it encounters something that scares it. Fluttering plastic bags and pieces of plastic seem to be especially scary to goats so that is where I start.

We all look for big calm goats but if the goat is a good packer then it is easily worth a little more work in this area. Geez, most horse people just take spookiness for granted....lol We are just spoiled with goats.
 

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Hello,

I would work with him like a horse in getting him used to different things. The desensitizing has been mentioned already. I would include Tellington Touch, obstacle courses and maybe think about having his eye sight checked. Bach flower remedies come to mind, too, Aspen, Rock Rose, maybe Chestnut Bud, as well.
 

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I think Sabine might be on to something. I would definitely think about getting his eyes checked. I've got what I would call a "skittish" goat, and he's never panicked at the sight of someone he knows doing something familiar. I've trained many horses as well, and none of them have been spooky in the way that you are describing unless they had been abused. It's possible Moose was more afraid of the restraint than of the pitchfork (that happens a lot with horses), but for him to be that scared of someone and something familiar is just not normal. My goat had a similar panic attack while tied to a tree when my dad went too close to him with a weed whacker. But my dad was a stranger and weed whackers eat goats. ;)

The good news is that even if he does have some sort of perception problem (it's not always easy to determine if an animal has an impairment since he can't read an eye chart), he can still be desensitized as Rex says. It will take time of course, but he can learn to trust you and think of you as his "security blanket." I've known horses who went totally blind in one (or even both) eyes that were absolute wrecks and terrified of everything. But with some patient and consistent training they became gentle and safe again.

The one word of caution about desensitizing is that you need to make sure you don't make your goat panic. I trained one horse that had been "desensitized" by a string of trainers who simply flapped frightening objects at the horse until he was too tired to run away. That horse was a basket case by the time I got him... scared of his own shadow and completely unsafe for anyone but a skilled rider to handle. The horse had been allowed to panic, and no animal can learn when in a panicked state. The horse had run from a tarp tied to his saddle until he was too exhausted to run. He had run from tires tied to his saddle until he got his foot through one of them and seriously injured himself. He had not learned that the tarp and tires would not hurt him. On the contrary, he had learned that the tarp would chase him until he dropped dead and the tires would attack his leg! It took me a long time to help that horse come to terms with anything flappy, unfamiliar, or even just something touching his back! Never tie something to an animal that you can't pull off of him if he panics!

It's ok for your goat to be uncomfortable and nervous about something, but when he panics it's time to back off to a less stressful place and then ease up the pressure again. Otherwise the only thing he will associate with the object or situation is fear. When he shows even a small sign of acceptance or curiosity, pet and praise him and offer a treat. Animals think with their stomachs, so you want to use that to your advantage. ;)
 

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Thanks for all the advice! I think he is more skittish when tied because of the restraint. I'll try these training exercises with him, on a very short nylon tie so he doesn't hurt himself. I think his eye sight is ok, he can spot a deer across the property in the woods before the other goats or I can.
 

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I think his eye sight is ok, he can spot a deer across the property in the woods before the other goats or I can.
Yeah, that's almost what makes me wonder. It sometimes seems that an animal with poor vision will notice things that no one else notices, and it's because they see movement but can't identify it so they will notice stuff and lock onto it because they aren't sure what it is, while everyone else takes it for granted. I had a horse that had an eye injury and she noticed everything. She was the one that looked up first when deer or elk crossed the pasture, or a person approached, or a dog got in. But I wonder if she noticed because she couldn't see as well. She was not blind, but one eye had a pretty good scar in one corner. I have no way of knowing for sure that the old injury affected her vision, but she did seem to see things differently from other horses and it seemed to make her more "aware" in the way that you describe.

She was the best horse I've ever thrown a leg over and we used her for every activity you can imagine from team penning, to dressage, to jumping, to pulling a carriage, to caring for handicapped kids in the special Olympics. But she was never able to ride in anything but a stock trailer after her eye injury. If she were confined at all in any sort of straight or slant load when the trailer began to move, she would lose her balance, panic, and try to climb the walls or get under the partition. The vet said her eye injury had temporarily affected her equilibrium and that she would get over it when the eye healed. She never got over it. If she were scared of the trailer, she would never have gotten in. But she always loaded just fine. It was only when the door was shut and the trailer was moving that she would suddenly go berserk. She trailered calmly in a two-horse only one time, and that was at night. After I found her lying on the floor halfway under the partition with her head still tied in the feeder and her legs flailing under the horse next to her, I immediately bought a stock trailer and decided she would never "learn". It wasn't a fear thing to overcome. I'm convinced it was an actual physical feeling of vertigo for her where she believed that the walls of the trailer were the floor and she was trying to stand on them. Since she trailered just fine before the eye injury, I can't help thinking that her vision somehow affected the way she balanced in the trailer. But otherwise you would never know she was any different to any other horse (other than the "alert" thing, but that was minor enough to be dismissed as a personality quirk).
 

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My wife's family is all Scottish.

Al G.mas' 105th birthday party I wanted to endear myself to her by demonstrating how well I knew Scottish history.

"One early foggy morn in the highlands of Scotland, one could hear in the distant chill...'Ma, he's wearin' my skirt' and they've been fighting ever since."

I didn't have to eat outside till I said that the French were a Scottish clan that chose chiffon for their tartan.

Oh.... Skittish.... never mind. ;-)
 
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