Cutting Switch-Backs
My two yr olds have finally gotten fairly good about following behind me while hiking and not pushing ahead (once they blow off their initial energy that is). But when it comes to Switchbacks they see it as a good opportunity to run ahead of me by taking the easy route straight up. 
 Right now I'm hiking them without any packs or weight so maybe that behavior  will change once they are loaded down a bit?  What sort of training methods have you used to keep your goats on the trail?  I plan to start taking my boys out one or two at a time to train them in a more structured environment and cutting switchbacks is a big problem for me on a few of my local trails so it's number one on my list of things to work on. Thanks!
Works every time.
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Great question! Are your trails wooded or open? This can make a huge difference in how easy it is to train. We did a lot of switch-back training last summer with our two-year-olds. I prefer to start them on wooded trails where the trees make it harder to pass. It helps to keep in mind that it isn't actually about the switchbacks. It's about people walking in front and goats walking behind on all parts of the trail (except when specifically told otherwise). It's almost impossible to keep babies in line so we aren't overly strict with the little guys, but once our goats get to about a year, they're tall enough that it's possible to grab collars as they trot past, and that's when we can start enforcing.

When training the walking order, I usually plop my hat over any goat's face that tries to scoot past me. They stop because they can't see. Then I push them back where they belong. If a goat is creeping up too close, I flap the hat in front of his nose or swat him with it to move him back from my heels. If I have a particularly insistent goat, I'll pick up a green leafy branch or evergreen bough and use that instead. The fact that they can't see through it makes it a good physical barrier, and it's soft and whippy so it won't hurt them or poke their eyes when you swish it in their face. A lot of folks carry a walking stick or trekking poles and use them to keep goats behind. A longer stick is very useful when you encounter switchbacks because you can often use it to block the goat just as he starts to cut off the trail. And in the event that the goat scoots past you despite these measures, try to reach out and grab him as he goes by and put him back where he belongs. If he successfully gets in front of you, don't try to chase him. It will only turn into a game (which you might lose!). Just keep walking and wait until the goat stops on his own to browse. Then calmly take his collar and put him back in line. Feed him a treat if you have one.

I always use a verbal reprimand when a goat passes me. Eventually the verbal cue is enough to make them rethink their plans if they start to sneak by. It lets them know I'm paying attention. Use it when you get to a switchback. If your goat starts to get off-trail, use your verbal cue to let him know he's out of line. He probably won't listen to you the first ten times, but when you meet him at the top, grab his collar and put him back where he belongs. Even though he got away with it, you've at least let him know that he did the wrong thing and you've corrected him. Once he's behind you, give him a treat. There's always a lot of stopping, reshuffling, and restarting with youngsters learning the ways of the trail, especially if you don't have an older, experienced goat to show them how it's done. It takes patience, but be consistent and they will learn.

If your trails are not wooded the training is more difficult because your goats can skirt way around you and out of reach. In these situations it helps to put them on a pack string with your lead goat on a leash until they are used to staying in a line. A goat on a leash will still want to pass, so you can use the same verbal commands to keep him behind you.

I found that teaching my boys to "whoa" was really helpful for training trail manners. If the boys run ahead, we tell them "whoa" and they stop and wait for us to put them back in line instead of playing catch-me-if-you-can. Loading them down can definitely put a damper on some of the switchback-cutting behavior going up, but coming back down is a different story. We had to occasionally put our lead goat, Finn, on a leash coming down because he loves to cut switchbacks and he gets worse when he's going downhill with a pack on. And of course Sputnik follows Finn, so both our goats were learning bad habits. Once we had Finn on a leash, Sputnik quit cutting. By late fall both goats were doing very well on switchbacks except for Finn's downhill-with-a-pack problem. We just had to be vigilant and call him back before he started to cut. If I called him to me and offered him a treat just before the switchback he would usually stay with me all the way around.

Good luck! Hopefully other hikers with more experience will also chime in.
HA! IdahoNancy cuts straight to the point! A picture worth a thousand words. I should sit back and shut up. Big Grin
(01-26-2017, 03:13 PM)Nanno Wrote: HA! IdahoNancy cuts straight to the point! A picture worth a thousand words. I should sit back and shut up. Big Grin

My cell booster blew down in a storm last week and I've been  having a heck of a time replying to this.  Both replies are good advice!  I separated my goats the other day and only took two of my boys out on a hike. They've never been separated from the rest and we're both nervous and perplexed.  Both of them immediately ran ahead of me and seemed afraid to end up in the rear.  What's funny is even though they were both in front of me and wouldn't let me catch up they both stayed perfectly in the trail.  The only times they would let me pass were the spots where the trail was hard to discern and they would both stop and wait for me so I could tell them which way to go and then they'd run ahead as soon as I'd show them.  I took it all as progress.

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