Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland
Had a blast with Sputnik on the back patio this afternoon. He's such a fun, quick, eager learner! I've barely practiced having him stand on a mat, but after a few minutes of work today he "got it" and I had him standing and waiting on the mat while I walked all over the patio and even out of sight around the corner of the house. He started to leave the mat a couple of times, but when I pointed to it and said "mat" he backed up and stood on it again.

Walking while holding his collar continues to be a challenge, but I'm sure with practice we'll eventually get there. He very much prefers to be walked on a leash ("Don't touch me!" he says), but I know this is something he can get used to if we work at it consistently. It will make him much easier to handle in certain situations such as when he goes in the wrong pen and has to be escorted out. Usually I have to coax him out without touching and hope that the goats that belong in that pen won't get coaxed out with him. I'd like to be able to just grab his collar and walk him out like a normal goat. The situation occurs so seldom that it hasn't been enough of a nuisance to encourage me to train him past this idiosyncrasy, but any chance we have to work on accepting touch is a good thing for Sputnik. When he's in harness or wearing a packsaddle it doesn't seem to be an issue. Much like Cuzco, he goes into a "working mode" where he's very obedient and easy to handle because he knows what to expect and what is expected of him. But when he's loose in the field and I absent-mindedly reach out to pet him, or if I grab hold of his collar, it surprises him and he runs away because he doesn't think touching should be part of his leisure time. He's gotten much better over time and I can now reach out and pet him when he's loose and he rarely runs away now, but he's never really gotten past having his collar grabbed unexpectedly, nor being led around by my hand instead of a leash.

Last of all we played around with the target. He's got the moving target nailed. He followed that thing all over the porch, in circles, down by the ground, above his head, etc. He thought it was a very fun game, and he loves to chase the ball if I throw it or kick it. He's not sure what I want when I place the target high above his head and ask him to stand on his hind feet and follow it. I got him to take 2-3 steps, but then he would go back down before touching the target. It's more effort to follow a ball while walking on his hind legs, but I'm sure he'll get it within a few sessions if I make a point of working on it just a couple of steps at a time. I also worked on having him change from standing on a mat to following a target. He isn't great yet, but I actually had him stand and wait on the mat while I threw the ball. At first he wanted to chase right after the ball immediately before I said "target". But after a few tries he understood that he was to wait on the mat until I gave the "target" command, at which point he could then leave the mat and chase the ball. Then I would send him back to the mat.

Last of all, I want to introduce him to fetching things in his mouth. I started out with a small tennis ball, but that wasn't a nice shape or feel for a goat's mouth. I needed to start out with something easy to grab just with his lips and figure out how to make it inviting. I found a piece of fabric and taught him to target it with his nose. But he had no interest in grabbing it. So I put a treat inside and then offered it. He grabbed it out of my hand and threatened to eat the fabric! I clicked for the effort and he found the treat inside the fabric but he didn't want to let go. I managed to pull it out of his mouth and we tried again. After several repetitions I was able to get him to mouth the rag without eating it. This is definitely going to be a more difficult trick since goats don't usually hold things in their mouths unless they're eating it. Dogs mouth things naturally, and even horses do to some extent. But I've never seen a goat pick up something just to wave it around and play with it unless they were also interested in eating it. If they realize it's not food they either swallow it anyway or spit it out. And they don't like to chew things that have already been chewed on either, so that's another hurdle to overcome. But the rag should be easy to pick up and hold with just the lips so he doesn't have to taste old saliva, and I can also wrap treats inside to make it more interesting to put his mouth on. We'll see how this goes.

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RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - by Nanno - 04-18-2018, 02:41 PM

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