The Steps of Goat Aggression
The following article was taken with permission from the archives of Goat Tracks magazine. This and many more wonderful articles are available for purchase in the back issues.

I read a story last month in Countryside magazine about a poor woman who was afraid to go out in her yard because of a goat she had raised from a kid. Its behavior had escalated to the point that it would immediately go after her anytime it saw her and she eventually had to get rid of it. This may be an extreme case but it does give us a hint at how bad an aggressive goat can get if left unchecked. Since this topic seems to come up over and over we are going to take a quick refresher and touch on the basic signs of aggression.

Generally speaking, aggressive behavior toward humans tends to show up when a goat reaches the teenage years. With a herd containing older dominate goats, that is usually around two years of age. If your herd does not contain any older animals you may experience this behavior earlier, say around one year old.

Generally there is a fairly consistent step-by-step process the goat uses to figure out its place in the herd hierarchy and with you as the owner. Knowing those steps will let you see trouble well before it becomes a serious problem. I’ll list the progression in general terms. Each goat is different and may jump steps or mix them up but the end result will almost always be the same.

1) The first sign you often see is a lack of general respect. It may be in the form of simply ignoring you while it moves through your personal space or not standing to allow you to trim feet or administer medication.

2) This generally leads to the goat getting pushy about getting fed or trying to get out of the gate when you try to go in or out of the pen.

3) If left unchecked the goat starts building confidence that it can push you around with out much consequence and begins getting more excited and aggressively challenging other goats when you are in the pen.

4) This play fighting gives the goat the perfect opportunity to test you. When fighting with the other goats it will pass close to you and posture to see what your reaction is. (Posturing, for those who don’t know, is an aggressive stance where the goat holds its head high and tips it slightly toward you. It may have its body arched and hackles raised). Ignoring the posturing will embolden the goat and the behavior will become more and more common when you are in the pen.

5) The goat will begin to move closer and closer while posturing to gradually gauge your response to his challenge. That’s basically what it is, a challenge to your standing in the herd.

6) If you continue to ignore the posturing, the next step is for the goat to start cutting you off when you walk by turning sideways in front of you and intentionally blocking your path to make you walk around it. This is considered very rude in goat terms. No dominant goat would stand for such behavior from a subordinate goat.

7) If you continue to ignore the goats behavior the next step is rearing up and stomping down in your direction.

8) This eventually leads to contact. It may be an easy push with the head or horns or it could be a "run by", where the goat hits you (seemingly by accident) while running past.

9) Lastly the goat takes us on directly with head butts, horning and biting.

Many people take a soft approach to these behaviors and hope the goat will grow out of it. The bad news is that it will probably get worse, not better as the goat gets older. Ignoring the behavior only emboldens the goat to do it more often and in an escalating fashion.
The behavior is relatively easy to correct in the beginning stages but if allowed to progress it will be much tougher. In the first two steps some simple training will generally alleviate the problem. At this point the problem may not be aggression but rather a general lack of training. Either way the solution is the same. Teach the goat some basic manners. Work with tying the goat for lengthy periods of time so it learns some patience and work on lifting and holding up its feet. Use a squirt bottle or water hose to make the goat back away from the gate or feeders on your command. Use the water to make them obey. Not only are you teaching the goat some common courtesy, but by putting yourself in charge of the situation you are automatically asserting authority over the goat. This alone may prevent the goat from ever escalating its behavior.

If you are already into steps 3 through 7 then its time to step up the method to correct the behavior. Do not let any thing in the list go unchallenged by you. If the goat even postures in your direction when he is playing, deal with it right then, right there. Even if it’s only a stern word and a movement in the goats direction to make it move away. Use squirt bottles, water soakers or the water hose to enforce your rules. (I like Carolyn Eddy's use of a full bucket of water over the head.)

If the goat turns and blocks your path give it a solid "head butt" to the ribs with your knee to make it move. You should never walk around the goat when it blocks your path. If you are on the trail and a goat is zigzagging in front of you to keep you from passing, rattle a stick between its hind legs or step on its heels to make it uncomfortable being in front of you. No dominant goat would ever walk around a subordinate one. The dominant goat tips its head in warning as it approaches and the subordinate goat either moves or gets a solid head butt to the ribs to make it move.

That’s goat communication 101.

If your goat has progressed to steps 8 or 9 then its time to step it up. I generally recommend tipping the goat at this stage. I constantly hear from people who have tried this and say it didn’t help. Tipping the goat only works if you hold it down for an extended period of time. You MUST break its will to dominate you. If you hold it down for a minute you may have won the day but if you hold him down for 10 minutes (sometimes much longer) you are winning the war. The goat must completely surrender to you. If you can’t physically tip your goat then try a shot of pepper spray on the nose or an electric shock collar. Just make sure the correction is administered at the exact time the goat is acting aggressively. Last but not least, don't give the goat multiple warnings. Deal with it immediately the first time, every time. Warnings only teach the goat it can get away with anything for a few times before you get mad enough to deal with it.

Keep in mind that just because the goat submits to "you", it may still challenge others so be ready to help enforce your rules with visitors. Consistency is the key to a happy relationship between you and your goat.

Authors Note:

I have no doubt that someone will read this and view the suggestions as too harsh. To that person I would ask what future does an aggressive goat have? You can haul it to the sale and tell yourself its going to be adopted by a wonderful family and have a great life but the honest reality is most will become worthless scrub goats with gnarly twisted feet and a load of parasites because no one can handle them to worm or trim their feet. Most likely ending up killed by stray dogs or on someone’s barbecue. Not a pretty picture. I'd much rather make things a little uncomfortable for the goat now so it can have a long, happy, productive life later.
Great read and thank you for posting it.
Pack Goat Prospects For Sale.

S.E. Washington (Benton City)
Good info, thanks!
If you can walk, you can walk far.
Hey guys
I just wanted to share my story of my little aggressive male goat. I hand raised bubbles (his name ) as he was too weak to live with mother so I adopted him and another little girl (mimi). When he was a baby he was so nice and gentle he used to sleep in my lap. I really love him a lot. Later on slowly he started to become very aggressive. I hot him desexed but worked only for few weeks and then back to aggressiveness. He started to hit every one and our legs used to become bruised often. My parents told me to get rid of him but I can't do that. He is actually my pet. Like a little I read so many posts and articles on goat aggression but could find any way to reduce his aggressiveness. So after researching I tried doing the following. That day he hit me with his horns so bad so I thought I will just try the techniques I held his horn with one arm going under his chin I tilted his neck a bit and with other hand I went over him and held one leg I held him very tight so he could hardly move (do not choke him to death) I held him for couple of mins and released him when he stopped struggling and gave up. If you let him go before he gives up it doesn't work. My goat stopped instantly ( I never wanted to do that but left me with no option or me Selling him would me indirectly killing him which I can't do). But when ever now he shows bit of aggression I tell him who the Boss is. I couldn't believe this would of worked I done it in my anger.i guess that was the first time I treated him like that. At our home he is treated like a king which I think made him thought he could do anything. Simply you just have to break your goats ego.
Plz don't give up on your goats. Remember the good days you spent with them.
Welcome! I'm glad you got things worked out with your goat. It's not fun when they're aggressive and rude.
As a seller, I have seen many instances of people getting bossed around by their goats. One of the biggest problems is people just dont understand the true workings of a goat herd ranking system. This is the structure by which they live by. If you are not the herd boss, then you are simply just another ranked goat to be tested and beaten. There are a multitude of goat personalities within this system. Those that dont wanna fight and are more then content to live at the bottom. They never look to really rise in rank. They may show the younger animals a thing or two but rarely get into serious fights. Then you have the up and comers. They are more often then not testing the higher ranked animals and or pushing around the lower ranked ones. These will also be the animals that want you for themselves and often take cheap shots at other goats that come up to you for some loving. They are in a constant state of readiness to do battle. Then there are the top ranked animals. They have fought their way up to the top and have well earned their rank. As topped ranked animals they will have allies who stand beside them in battles. (Its funny to watch a very eager but very out matched up and comer go after a top ranked animal and its friends). Then there is the "animal" herd boss. This animal is rarely tested but when done so, the fights can be epic. Over time once the lower ranked animals have gotten beat up enough, stop challenging and a reasonable peace will take hold. This is not to say the herd boss or higher ranked animals wont set their sites on the lower ranked animals at the drop of a hat. Some goats are just jerks. And if that jerk can make it high enough into the rankings, its often not fun for anyone. This jerk goat can be a jerk for their entire life.

And then there the human owner. Who has no idea that they may need to flip, smack, kick and punch their way through the ranks themselves. That they need to think like a herd boss and do like a herd boss would do. Non of the other goats test the herd boss without a swift and often painful retaliation. The same has to be the same with the person. The second you are challenged, you need to squash that challenge immediately. Now this is not to say you need to bash, kick or flip your goat. A bucket of water or a quick firm smack on the nose is often all thats needed. The important thing is that it be 100% effective. If you do it and the goat still tests you, then take it to the next level until your goat understands you are the boss.
Pack Goat Prospects For Sale.

S.E. Washington (Benton City)
When I turned 66 we had lived in Israel eight years in a village called Yavne'el. So after a life time of living in large cities we were owners of 4 dunim (about an acre), two of which were agricultural property. My wife had frequent contact with all sorts of farm animals as a child, while we had dogs, Guinea Pigs, white rats, pigeons and parakeets.
She rode horses as a stuntwoman and double in the movies, I rode a tired old rental horse in Griffith Park.
In short, we fenced the whole 2 dunim, built a 10 X 16 m metal barn with open walls a meter and a half above the ground. We began buying horses, miniature goats, chickens, roosters, ducks, geese and sheep. Later on I replaced the one male goat after a couple years fathering numerous kids because he became intolerable. I purchased a 6 month old Boer buck who has fathered some real beauties.
I've only just discovered this website by asking the question to Google, sudden changes in goat behavior and I saw your article. Excellent. Thanks much.
Welcome to the forum! Are you still in Israel?
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
So we have this goat which has been a really friendly goat but resently has now become aggressive taming his horse mate and now careers.
Any ideas what to do?
I think your auto-correct played havoc with your post, Thomo. It's a little hard to understand. Could you please clarify?

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