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Full Version: Clicker training a shy goat to become a pack goat - ungoing process
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Here's, as promised, Freddie's story.

Freddie’s story start’s a few years before his birth. Mind you, I can’t scientifically prove my theories so anyone else who keeps goats might have a different opinion.

With Freddie I can follow a trait of somewhat inherited shyness through his family.

We bought his grandmother Mona in 2005. She was then a very shy 1,5 year old doe who had formerly lived with another doe which was constantly mobbing her. I believe that part of her shyness resulted in the mobbing she experienced. I’ve seem something similar in one of our first lambs we had back in 2002 – Muffin. Muffins mother also was a formerly shy goat who turned to become a people friendly, attentive doe in a smaller group and with enough patience and kindness. Muffin however, although handled from his first day, turned into a stand-offish buckling which was hard to catch. I also observed that everytime I tried to handle him, his father would intervene and butt him off. My theory then and now was that some goats connect the mobbing from other herd members to the person that is present during the mobbing and therefore avoid him/her, too.

Muffin proved this theory right because his father died in a freak accident when he was two years old and in the course of the year that followed, Muffin became tame and eager to interact with people.

Back to Mona. She became tame when she kidded the first time and we had to take her and the lamb into the house for a few weeks because of the hard winter in that year. Her daughter, though, kept being stand-offish until we sold her to a family with kids were she bonded to one daughter.

Freddie’s mother was from Mona’s second lambing. I wasn’t able to handle her directly after birth as we had contractors working on the house and they weren’t willing to wait for me to check that she was ok. Her brother who was born first and received his initial handling, is tame and well socialized.

She wouldn’t follow her mother’s example and loose the shyness in the following years but passed her behaviour and her shyness to Freddie.

As, years ago, when I started with goats and then began the packing, we added goats from various sources to our herd, I have some experience in how to „tame“ a goat and often had good results with the approach „time, patience and kindness“.

Freddie (and his mother) and one of Freddies half-brothers did resist this approach. Although handled with kindness from birth, Freddie turned into a stand-offish goat when he was just a few weeks old and stayed that way for the rest of his life until I started to click him in December 2014, when he was 6 years old.

For the years previous to that date, you would find Freddie somewhere in the back of the herd, keeping other goats between him and me (or my husband) and catching him to trim his feet or administer medical care was always accompanied with some scheme to get him into a corner and then hold onto him. He became very adept at reading the signs that I was planning to get him, off course. In the winter months everything was a bit easier, because with the restricted room the flight distance would go down and for a few days every winter I was able to give treats and ask him to accept being touched but this always broke down as soon as even the slightest demand was put to him. So I resigned myself to let him live his life out in the brush clearing group and just „be a goat“ but we had a very sad thing happen in Autumn of 2014 that got me thinking again and trying to find a way to get him to be able to interact on a calmer level with me:

While moving the herd to the next pasture, which at that time involved loading the herd into a trailer, Feddie’s mother and his shy half brothers separated from the herd. We didn’t manage to re-capture them that day nor in the weeks that followed. They turned feral and where in the end shot and killed while attempting to cross a highway by police to prevent an accident.

When I started clicker-training our ponies in December 2014 I wanted to give a last try to getting Freddie tame and him to clicker the really old-fashioned way without any protected contact or targeting.

Started with just a bit of grain in my hand, letting that trickle out of the hand and clicking until he made the connection that there’s food in the hand and the click means that food will be released. As he knew the hand feeding from previous years this wasn’t completely new to him but I didn’t know at that time if under clicker training his behaviour would hold when I would make demands, like „allow being touched“.

The decision to work without protected contact was made because he already had this hughe flight distance and I wanted him to become comfortable near to me.
I spent the winter months of 2014/2015 with working on nearness, allowing touch and following free. After 15 sessions he was able to interact not only during the clicker sessions but at times when I would work in the paddock without clicker, would come to me for some scratching, did no longer move away when I was walking towards him while doing chores.

With turning them out on pasture in spring he regressed, didn’t want to interact and had no interest in clicker plays.

I had to return the herd to the stable for two weeks and while I didn’t click him, he was again interested in social interaction and stayed that way during the summer.

I clicked irregularly over the summer, showed him the saddle once in August and then again made a long pause until just after New Year of 2016.

Within three sessions we refreshed social interaction, hand-target, following free and allowing the saddle to touch him resp. being placed on his back.
Then we had THE break-through moment of the whole year spent training him. Freddie accepted being saddled.

We now work on leaving the stable (because we are being pestered by the other goats), introducing the panniers and, as soon as the weather allows, going out with some of the experienced packers, although I will secure him with a lead rope then.

The next challenge is now hoof trimming without fighting or fussing. As I don’t want to wrestle with him for his foot I started to introduce a body taget = he is supposed to touch my hand with his carpal joint by lifting his leg and this will then be transformed into „place your leg into my hand“

The leg lifting was very easy, took just two sessions. Folding the leg and putting it into my hand is a bit more challenging. But the targeting has the side effect that he becomes more comfortable with me being near his front legs – hind legs will be another story, still.

I also play with him with saddling, right now with „standing still while being saddled“ and I’ve incorporated some leading techniques that are used with horses with good results. To explain these would go too deep, if your interested, I would suggest that you look at the clicker work that Alexandra Kurland is doing with horses.

I realise that I have placed several clicker-related terms into this story. If you want to know what specific terms mean, just ask.
Excellent post! Very informative. I agree about goats becoming shy of people when they are bullied by other goats. The goat Pac-Man, who we sold last year, was terribly shy when we got him even though he was a bottle baby and very friendly as a youngster according to the folks we bought him from. They said he became skittish after he was moved to the buck pen. My theory was that he began to associate people and feeding time with getting beat up by the other goats. Luckily since he was a naturally friendly goat it only took us a couple of weeks to retrain him to love people again. The main thing I had to do was make sure Cuzco didn't smack the poor little fella every time he approached us.

I still have a very skittish goat, Sputnik, who is naturally shy for some reason even though every other goat in my herd, including his mother and twin brother, are quite friendly. He has always been on the bottom of the pecking order, and he became noticeably more approachable after we sold his brother. However, Sputnik has a second element to his skittishness, and that is his loathing of touch. He will tolerate it with treats, but I've resigned myself to the probability that he will never enjoy being petted or scratched. He acts as though it actually hurts his skin. He doesn't mind a packsaddle or harness in the least, and he is marvelously well-behaved for hoof trimming. I don't have to tie or restrain him at all. But the minute my hand touches the hair anywhere on his body behind the neck, it's as though he's been hit with an electric shock and he will jump away if he's not tied. He has become far less dramatic in the last six months (unless I accidentally surprise him), but I can tell that his acceptance is only tolerance, not enjoyment. I wonder if he's like those autistic kids that simply cannot bear to be touched but can be interacted with in other ways. He's very smart and loves attention as long as it doesn't involve petting or scratching. I know our bodies have electricity, and some people and animals are far more sensitive to it than others, so I've tried to be sensitive to his touch aversion when working with him.
that's interesting about Sputnik. If he can tolerate the higher pressure of saddle and harness, maybe it's the relative lightness of a hand touch that bothers him.

I remember a similar symptom from a homoeopathic remedy: hair ends sensitive to touch and that this in humans can be related to migraines.
I thought of that too, but it doesn't matter how hard or soft I touch him--he just plain doesn't like it. He doesn't even like to have his back scratched, and I thought EVERY goat liked to have it's back scratched! He also HATES it when I even approach him with a brush. If I tie him up short he will barely tolerate the stiff dandy brush that every other goat enjoys, but he absolutely panics if I bring out the wire shedding brush. Now, in his defense, a couple of the other goats also don't like the wire brush (and some of them adore it), but none of the other goats panic at the mere touch of it to their skin. Brushes do raise a little static electricity, and I know that our bodies also produce a tiny bit of electricity when we touch. I sometimes wonder if maybe Sputnik is super-sensitive to that electricity.

In any case, after I tried diligently for several months to get him to enjoy being touched, I've decided that I can't force him to change his feelings. I can work with his attitude and his intelligence and even his emotions, but if he gets a creepy-crawly sensation from being touched then I'm not sure there's any way to change that, and it might be akin to torture for me to try. He works very well off rewards, hand signals, and voice so I'm sticking with those tools. I make a point to touch him a little every day so that he is used to it and doesn't react in sudden and dangerous ways. It's torture for him when I have to pull a burr out of his coat, but he is learning that he must sometimes accept it and not leap up into my face or run over top of me in alarm. I think he respects me a lot more now that I'm respecting him by not trying to touch him all the time, as if he could learn to like it.
you're right. We cannot train everything (or everything away). And part of the "clicker approach" or rather the approach of positive reinforcement is to allow the animal room for self-expression - as long as safety isn't compromised. The chance to say "no, can't do what you're asking, please ask something else".

As goat owners we might be more used to giving our animals that wiggling room but in the horse world this is a novelty.

Just to be clear: positive reinforcement doesn't mean that one has to allow an animal to run amok or push a person around. Safety always comes first and manners/politeness is the first thing that should be taught: to take food politely, to keep a distance. But the approach is to achieve this through "yes, that's right" = the step back offered willingly, turning the head to a neutral position, the stopping when asked and not "no,that's wrong" and force the step back with intimidation.

That is where protective contact comes into play: to start an animal with positive reinforcement in a set up where it can reach the treat and/or target but where the trainer can also step back and be slightly out of reach = a barrier. Tying an animal isn't as effective because is restricts free movement more than a stall.

With the barrier between I can wait for the step back that will at some point come, even if it will take a few minutes at worst and then mark that step back with the click and the treat as "yes, that's right". The animal has come up with the solution about how to earn the next click and treat itself and we all know that solutions that we have reached ourselves are the most rewarding and lasting. The trainer didn't intimidate the animal into stepping back which, when we are honest, will end in an never-ending circle of intimidation because animals and humans can incorporate an enormous amount of intimidation and pain into our lives when the goat is worth it.
Great posts on this topic, thanks. It's good to know that others are experiencing similar issues that I am with my goats, and very interesting to read about the different approaches you take.
I can add some more progress to Freddie's story.

I started to click oncoming cars: when a car would approach I would offer my hand for targeting and click and treat. The timing was so that the car passing and Freddie touching the hand would ideally happen at the same moment.

Therefore Freddie would connect the car - which in itself was frightening - with the good and rewarding action of targeting to my hand and earning a click and treat. He learned to do something else than bolting when he felt in danger.

Last Sunday I expanded on that and played with him how far he was able to leave herd and stable. It wasn't very far, we got to the sidewalk in front of our home - approx. 30 metres from the entrance to the stable. But it was far for him, being out with me alone and he walked that distance eager to explore.

He was also able to weather several oncoming cars (bolting at the first two) by targeting to my hand as soon as he heard the motor noise. The connection "car - handtarget" is strong enough already that he will look at me and ask me to offer the handtarget. This is one of several safeguards I will train with him to override his natural instinct of bolting and running for home so that he can eventually be left to follow free on the hikes.

At the moment I'm re-visiting the saddling process to teach him to stand still while being saddled and not fiddle around, searching for my hand as target. As beneficial as this behaviour is, I need to have alternatives in place for times when I need both hands on him.

This is another important lesson in clickertraining (again not from me but other renouned trainers): "for every behaviour you teach there is another, opposite behaviour that you MUST teach also!"
I didn't do much clicker training with Freddie after these last sessions in February.

Weather got bad and then Freddie's grand-mum, Mona, got severely sick and needed intensive care for several weeks. Sadly, I had to put her down at the end of a long and generous life to prevent further suffering.

Now, with the main group out for brush clearing and two additional, experienced packers left at home I took Freddie and the packers out for a first training hike yesterday.

For safety I kept Freddie on a leash but he did great. Of course, he knows moving from pasture to pasture as part of the large herd but being out in a small group of three is something that all goats need to get used to again after spending a long time in the herd.

I liked his attitude: attentive, interested but not panicky. Able to respond to clicks for wanted behaviour (following, walking next to me). Have not put on a saddle since winter, have to re-visit that part of his training, soon.

But so far, I have great hopes for this guy.

Freddie is the one still on leash.
I haven't been on this forum for a long time. Needed to keep my focus on things that matter - care for the animals and care for family.

Just wanted to give a very abridged update on Freddie: He continues his progress as a people friendly goat. Took the time to teach him standing still while being saddled and he can now be saddled free on pasture, in the herd and carry a saddle without being on a lead rope.

He has carried panniers while standing tied and I will introduce him to carrying panniers while walking this winter. He can stand on a highline, lets himself being touched, caught, handled on pasture and in the barn.

Our remaining issue is with foot care, which will be another project for winter. He isn't nasty but he doesn't accept it as much as I would like.
That's wonderful to hear, and it's great to see you back. Thanks for the update! I'll bet Freddie makes excellent progress with foot handling this winter.
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