Pack goats are becoming increasingly popular among survivalists and homesteaders. Previously, they’ve been called upon for hiking, camping, and hunting trips.
If you start training pack goats when they are young, it is a great way to build a solid foundation for a longterm partnership between you and your pack goats. And if you can start with a bottle-fed goat, you are already leaps and bounds ahead of the game.
The Secret to Training Pack Goats: Practice and Patience
Pack goat training isn’t unlike other animal training endeavors. It requires patience, understanding, and practice.
Luckily, goats are intelligent critters with an inquisitive nature, which makes them a fairly easy animal to train.
Aside from pack goats, these ancient animals have also been used for cart-pulling and trick performing in circuses. It’s safe to say that goats have been a quiet part of humanity for a long time.
Clicker Training Makes It Easier
It’s best to start pack-training your goat once they are used to a halter and collar. Goats are similar to horses in that they learn how to give to pressure, and soon learn to follow your lead.
Clicker training is a fantastic method, many use it for training their dogs, that rewards the goat with a click and a treat when she achieves the desired outcome.
You can get clickers online, and make sure to get a few because they are always getting lost (trust me on this one).
Whenever you goat follows through on a command, click and treat with their favorite snacks.
Pack Training Your Goat
If you’ve had the luxury of raising your goat as a baby, she probably enjoys your company. You can pet her all over, and she wants to spend time with you. This makes it infinitely easier to saddle her for the first time. Everything after that comes down to patience and practice.
Ready to train the best pack goat ever?
Here we go!
1. Show Your Goat Her New Saddle
If you’ve ever saddled a horse for the first time, this is no different—I take that back, it may actually be a bit easier!
Take the new saddle to your goat, let her sniff it, nibble it and scrutinize it. By observing her saddle in this manner, she is determining that it is not dangerous, and probably not edible (but then again, she’s a goat).
Once she loses interest in the boring saddle, you can move on to the next step.
2. Slowly Place the Saddle
Don’t make a big show of this by sneaking it onto her back. She knows it's there and it’s better to just deliberately and purposefully place it on her. She may move, or get a little upset, but just keep doing this until she realizes it isn’t going to hurt her.
If your goat is used to wearing coats, this step will be a cinch…pun intended.
3. Cinch and Secure the Straps
Secure the cinch firmly under her belly and fasten the butt and chest straps of the saddle to your goat. She may dance a bit, but that's ok, just give her time to get comfortable.
Make sure the straps are secure, if the saddle becomes dislodged while she jigs around, she could get tangled, tripped up, or injured. Events like that can be traumatizing. So make sure the saddle is secure.
4. Go for A Walk
Your goat is ready to start moving. Take her by the lead and walk her around the yard with just the saddle. She will feel awkward and uncomfortable but the more you practice, and the more patient you are with her, the better it will get.
5. Slowly Add Packs
Once she is comfortable with her saddle, you can slowly add empty packs. Once she knows they are harmless, you can start putting things inside them. Do your best to keep each pack weighed about the same for comfort and balance.
Must-Know Pack Goat Commands
There’s a lot you can teach your goat, but there are two commands that they must know to be safe and polite.
Stop and Stay
Teaching your goat to stop and stay is not much different than how you’d train your dog to do the same. Here’s the breakdown:
- Walk side-by-side with your goat
- Stop abruptly
- Walk in front of your goat, facing her
- Hold your hand out and say stop
- Start walking backward, away from your goat while saying stay
- If she stays, click and reward, but if she follows say Stop and hold out your hand again and repeat the process
- Keep doing this until she stays for long periods of time
Loading Up for the First Time
If you are traveling with your goat, you may be able to squeeze her into the back of your SUV, or even car, but if you are using a trailer, you will have to teach your goat to load nicely. It makes it easier to head home after a long day of hiking or hunting if your pack goat loads politely.
Loading into a trailer is easier than teaching your goat to jump into the bed of a truck crate, but either way is acceptable.
With a trailer, simply lead your goat into the trailer. Go slow, she may balk at the dark unknown innards of a trailer. Never use force or push her into the trailer. A bad first experience could ruin her for life. Being patient the first time will make for a pleasant 10-years of pack-goating experience.
If you need your goat to jump into their traveling compartment, use treats and clicker training to get her into her space. Again, go slow, and never use force.
The Only Obstacle – Crossing Water
Everything up until this point has been pretty easy. Goats are more agreeable than you might realize, and in many cases much easier to train than other livestock.
With that being said, they do have a hangup about water. They just hate getting their hooves wet.
Practice getting your goat used to walking through water on her own turf. Find a small puddle, or make one, and lead her through the water. It won’t be easy at first: she will dance around it, and do everything possible to avoid the puddle, but as soon as she steps one hoof, for even a second, into the water, reward her handsomely.
This is another time clicker training comes in handy. Your goat will not be able to fathom why you would possibly want her to walk through water…just preposterous in her mind.
So light leading and rewarding when she gives to pressure works wonders. And remember, patience is key!
Having a polite pack goat who understands just a few basic commands will make your life so much easier if you are taking her out on the trails. She will stick with you, oblige when asked to stay, load, or cross water, and in general, be a pleasant goat to keep in company.
Featured image by Catandrea