Figuring Finn
Phil is out of town this weekend and the weather finally warmed up a bit so it was the perfect opportunity for me to take Finn out for our first one-on-on drive away from home. It went really well. First off, Finn did not run away and hide when he saw me loading the cart. In fact, he came over and stood by the truck with an interested expression on his face. When I approached him with the halter he did not turn and walk off. This is a massive improvement! He leaped eagerly into the truck and wagged his tail. His expression became worried, however, when he realized that his buddy Sputnik wouldn't be with us. He baa-aa-ed quite a bit as we went down the driveway, but he soon settled. It's been a long time since Finn has gone anywhere without Sputnik and he needs practice. Finn used to LOVE it when Phil would take him for a solo hike, but unfortunately Phil got out of the habit and Finn forgot how much fun it was.

Finn was very good for harnessing and hitching. I didn't tie him up but I dropped his lead on the ground and told him "whoa." He stood very still while I was fastening things, but every time I walked back to the cab to bring out another piece of harness Finn would take 2-3 steps forward and stand with his head by the truck bed. It took me a few minutes to realize what he was doing. He was going to his customary spot! We usually tie our goats while we harness, so Finn isn't used to standing so far from the truck. I backed him up to his original spot each time and told him "whoa" again. By the time I brought up the cart he was already improving. He never moved while I hitched him up. Good boy!

We were in our customary driving location, which is an almost perfectly level one-mile loop of paved, quiet road at the golf course. It's an excellent, spookum-free place to practice driving. It's also the place where Finn and Phil got into their big fight a few weeks ago. I decided we should confront that bad memory first thing. We went the same direction Phil had gone when he tried to take Finn away from Sputnik and the truck. But to start off on the right foot, I led Finn about 50 feet from the truck so we were out of the parking lot and onto the road before I dropped back and drove from beside the cart. Finn immediately tried to turn back around to the left, but I was ready for him and was able to keep his head straight and keep him moving forward with just a light whip tap on his left hip and a stern voice command to "walk on!" Shortly after that I was able to get in the cart. Finn tried one or two more feeble attempts at going back, but by then he knew who was in charge so there were no problems.

When I teach riding lessons I always say that preventing your horse from doing the wrong thing is ten times easier than correcting him after he already did it. Finn didn't stop and turn back for me because I could see the tiny hesitation before he actually stopped, and I gave the "walk on" command and a tap on the hip strap right that instant. While Finn was still thinking about changing his mind, I made it up for him with a light but confidently placed aid. I think what's been happening with Phil is that he's not yet sure of his own aids, and he doesn't want to cue Finn to move forward if Finn is already moving. So he misses that critical hesitation point where a bit of light encouragement is enough to keep the momentum. When Finn thinks about stopping and then gets away with it, his hesitation becomes self-rewarding. Once Finn stops, getting him to start again takes a much stronger voice command and whip cue, and there's a good chance Finn will resent it and rebel by turning around or backing up instead. Then there's a fight.

It didn't take us long to pass by all of Finn's "meltdown" spots from last time. He hesitated at them, but I didn't let him stop and work himself up over them, so he soon began going confidently. We walked, we trotted, and I got out and drove from beside the cart a few times to give him a break for being good. I can't say Finn was thrilled about this drive, but he wasn't upset about it either. He took cookies (not as enthusiastically as I'd like--he was pouting a bit), but he never outright sulked or got angry. The biggest issue we worked on was standing still while I got in and out of the cart. It's that old "whoa" problem again where Finn stops wonderfully, but then he wants to move off again as soon as he's had his treat. So we did a lot of starting and stopping while I got in and out of the cart. Finn was wearing a halter so there were a few tug-of-wars at first when he leaned all his weight into the halter and trotted off with me leaning back on the reins and pulling for all I was worth (he's a strong boy!). I fixed this by making him back up to his original spot each time. He didn't like backing up, so the lesson was quickly learned. Once stopped, I'd give him a cookie and make him wait. If he took off again, he had to back up again. After a few repetitions he stopped leaning on the halter, and shortly after that he began to wait while I got in and out of the cart several times. By the last 1/4 mile Finn was waiting patiently for my "walk on" command almost every time.

Toward the end of the drive, I took Finn up a little side road thinking it might be a challenge for him since we were almost back to the truck. But to my delight, he never hesitated. I drove him a short way up it, got out and rewarded him, then led him for a while as a reward. Once we were back at the parking lot, I had Finn turn off on another side road, and he was slightly more balky this time, but not bad at all. I drove him a short way, got out, rewarded, and led him back to the truck. Once we were at the truck I got back in the cart and drove him around it twice. He wasn't particularly pleased at first (he was convinced I wanted him to go round the golf course again), but even though he didn't feel like going out a second time, he was obedient about it. Once he realized we were only going around the truck his attitude improved considerably and he perked right up for a happy ending. One thing I found encouraging was that even though Finn didn't want to go round the golf course again (after all, it was almost suppertime!), he was better behaved about it and had a nicer attitude than he'd had when we started out the first time. This is a good indication that our drive was not nearly as miserable for him as he thought it would be. He was ready to go home, but he didn't dread the prospect of going out for a second jaunt. I'm very encouraged, and I think Finn is going to be happier and more confident on our next outing. It's supposed to be nice weather this week, so hopefully I'll have at least one day to follow up with another drive.
Awesome time working with Finn and Phil today! I was planning to start Phil out practicing with Sputnik, but Phil really wants to work with his buddy Finn, and he also wants to watch me work Finn so he can see the training process. 

Once again, Finn came right over to be haltered and he jumped happily into the truck. This time he did not cry for Sputnik on the way out. Finn stood nicely for harnessing and hitching without being tied. I only had to correct him for moving one time. He started out a little bit pouty, which means he was slightly reluctant to take treats. But I surprised him today. Not only did I have animal crackers and peanuts, I also brought some sweet feed as a special treat when he was being extra good.

I started out in the driver's seat so Phil could watch how I handled that initial "I don't want to leave the truck" phase. I always use a cheerful "walk on" voice and a light tap on the hip strap to get him moving, but when Finn hesitates or tries to turn back I follow up immediately with a sharp tap so he knows we're not playing the stubborn game. One sharp whip cue is better than a dozen nags. If a driver slowly increases the intensity, the goat will hold out to see how far you'll go, and by the end of it you've created a battle of wills. Finn really didn't need much encouragement today though. He struck out nicely and my biggest complaint was that he kept trying to go off the road. I decided that rather than keep nagging at him with my left rein, it might do him good to walk in the ditch and see how he liked it. The ground is mushy and the grass is deep there, so the cart doesn't roll very nicely. Finn got into the ditch twice before deciding for himself that it was easier to stay on the pavement. I really like it when they train themselves! 

Once Finn was going well, I turned the reins over to Phil and had him practice. Finn went nicely for Phil, but I was able to see some trouble spots. Rein length was one of them. Phil likes to hold his reins too long, so instead of feeling gentle guidance from the reins, Finn is subjected to sudden jerks and pulls as Phil takes up the slack to turn and stop. Keeping light but steady rein contact is important. Being able to shorten one or both reins quickly and then lengthen them again is also important and takes practice. However, with some instruction and after one or two failed attempts, Phil had Finn successfully executing loopty-loops in the road. They also practiced stopping and starting, which of course is Finn's weakest skill. I had Phil back Finn up every time he started without being asked. I even had them work on it while I walked ahead, which was difficult for both of them, but they eventually did well. We even had the opportunity to work through a "spookum". I was in the drivers's seat when a shiny new real estate sign flashed out of the bushes as we went by. Finn dodged left and skirted way around it (but didn't balk--good boy!). However, when I turned him around so he could get a closer look, he did balk. Rather than try to drive him toward something scary, I got out of the cart and we walked up together. I fed cookies and the sign suddenly became quite ordinary and I think Finn felt rather silly. 

The rest of the drive was uneventful, but I could tell Finn was enjoying himself. He'd started out ho-hum, but after a short time he was responding well to the aids, and he had a bright, cheerful, interested look in his eyes. I'd been sad to see Finn dragging his feet when pulling the cart because he's usually such a perky guy who picks his feet up high when he walks. Today Finn's feet were dancing, his ears and head were up, and his tail was bobbing nicely instead of tucked into his bottom like a sorry dog. By the end of the drive he was gobbling up treats and looking for more. We ended by driving past the truck and on down the road as if starting on second trip, and this time Finn did not try to stop or turn toward the truck. There was some wistful looking at first, but once we got going on our second loop, he chirked up and was ready to take another trip around and have a good attitude about it. I was very impressed, and of course I stopped him, got out, rewarded, and walked beside him on the way back. 

Oh, and as a final note, Finn jumped through the small hoop today and yesterday. He didn't do it very well, but the fact that he tried it and even succeeded a couple of times was good enough for me. This is the goat who wouldn't even attempt the big hoop for the past year, let alone look at the small one. It's a tight fit for a big goat with wide horns, and Finn really has to duck his head down and tuck his feet up to clear it, but he can make it if he puts in the effort. Good boy!!  Big Grin
Nanno, thanks for the great posts in this thread.  Explaining what you're doing and why is really helping me with my own training. When things don't go so well with Koby's ground driving, it's obviously me making mistakes that's confusing him.  So even though we are waaaaaaaaay behind you with respect to driving standard, we make small progress in each lesson and I can see light at the end of the tunnel Smile
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Finn is doing awesome lately! He's got that old spark back and he's definitely very engaged with us now! Today I worked with both boys at the same time. We have problems working with one at a time because the other comes over and mobs for attention. So today I got out the dressage whip and I parked Sputnik on one end of the patio and told him "whoa!" (a command he knows well but has never had to do with another goat sharing the patio). I took Finn away to the other side, and when Sputnik tried to follow I tapped the whip on the ground in front of him and made him back up. I repeated the "whoa" command. I had to do this several times before he stayed put, but eventually I was able to work with Finn without Sputnik coming over. I had to remind Sputnik several times throughout my session with Finn, but he was overall a very good boy for his first try.

Next I did the same thing with Finn. I made him wait while I worked with Sputnik. Finn was "naughtier" about it than Sputnik but that's mostly because he's not naturally scared of the whip. I ended up raising my hands in the air and clapping and hollering to get Finn back to his spot (and boy did he jump when I surprised him with that sudden move!). I only had to be dramatic twice before he stayed put. And once he realized he had to stay put, he did a better job than Sputnik had. There was less creeping forward one step at a time thinking I wouldn't notice. Finn is more patient than Sputnik in general.

For both boys, I made sure and went back to their spot and rewarded them frequently throughout their wait. If I can remember to practice this a few times a week I think they should come along nicely, and I can then start working on making them wait in different places.
It was horribly windy and cold last week and through the weekend, so I wasn't able to do any training or practice getting the boys to wait while I worked with the other one. However, the coming week is supposed to be warm so maybe I can get some more sessions in.

We haven't been able to drive recently, but Finn has definitely turned a corner in how responsive he is to both Phil and I. He actively engages with us now and genuinely wants to be with us and go where we go. Petunia was in heat over the weekend and Finn, while somewhat distracted, was able to tear himself away from her to do tricks with Phil. And this time Phil didn't have to clap his hands, tap Finn on the butt, or shout to get (and keep) his attention. Today for the first time in many months, Finn left the herd and raced by himself across a field when Phil called him. What a lovely moment! I think we have our Finn back!
A follow-up to this thread, Phil and I started driving Finn and Sputnik as a team again in late February and early March. Finn was fractious the first couple of times, but he soon settled and he never took up sulking. He's happy to do tricks, comes running when called, and hovers around the back patio when I milk in hopes that someone will invite him in for attention. Finn has the cutest "begging" style. He rests his chin on the top bar of the gate, puts the tippety-tip of his tongue out, perks his hears straight forward, and stares intently at the back door. He's overwhelmingly adorable when he does this, and I'm sure he knows it.

Phil and I spent all last week in Florida, and when we came home Finn decided he had a little attitude. We took the goats walking yesterday and Finn was hovering around Phil a bit too close, so Phil told him to get back. Instead, Finn stood his ground and flagged his tail at Phil. Phil pushed him off without much effort, but this was Finn's first time challenging. Later on he did something similar with me. I sat down on a log and Finn's nose made it's way uninvited toward my cookie pouch. When I told him to get back, he moved his head away but didn't actually get out of my space. When I raised my voice and waved my hand he still didn't move back, so I got up and clapped my hands at him. He stood there looking at me like "Yeah right--you'll have to do better than that!". So I hollered, waved my arms, and stomped toward him. He ran off but circled the log and came back. When he came back I pelted him with a pine cone. That time he turned tail and trotted off. When I tell a goat to step out of my space, I want him to actually step back. When I tell him to go away, he needs to turn his tail and walk the other direction. And no goat, even if he's technically moving away, should ever do so with a flagging tail and a hairy eyeball.

Finn gave way pretty easily yesterday and I hope that was the end of it. It would be nice if we never had to flip him. Spring seems to be the time when the boys are most likely to challenge us. They're having growth spurts, they have too much energy from the green grass and the cooped-up winter, and they don't have cycling girls to keep them occupied. Cuzco is definitely losing his superiority in the herd and Finn is quickly taking over. He's starting to act like a leader, and that may include challenging Phil and I at some point. However, I'm hoping that if we can keep these little mini-aggressions in check, he won't try taking things up a notch.
That can be a bit disconcerting can't it? Something that needs to be snuffed out at the earliest opportunity. Flipping my goats has always worked but I haven't had to do it in a while. And I would have no hope of flipping the biggest goats now. I hope Finn puts his attitude back in his pocket and keeps it there!
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
It was so minor as to not be disconcerting. I doubt Finn is going to escalate this. He doesn't seem to have a mean bone in his body, and he was completely well-behaved on our walk yesterday.
My goat Bacchus is like that bratty king on Game of Thrones. He never deserved to be the boss goat, but he has the horns like none other. He is actually a bit of a wimp at heart. He loves the finer things in life such as horn-bed massages and ear scritches. He not only loves them but he demands them and can throw a tantrum if he doesn't get them. Every couple months or so I am in a mood to take no shit and he gets flipped. He doesn't take it personally and is back to being a pest in short order, but it does embarrass him in front of the peasants.

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