Goat Diaries: Clicker Training Begins

Day 1: Goats are Not Horses

IMG_1569 Fengur looking at the goats

I train horses. That’s the species that has captured my heart and my training focus. Hand me a horse, and I know how to start. I may not know right away how to unravel a particular training puzzle, but at least I know how to begin sorting out the pieces. Or to borrow another metaphor – with horses I have a road map. I don’t always know where I’m going to end up, but at least I know how to get started.

With goats I had no road map. I knew they were sort of like horses – only not really.

The “not really” parts were what I was most looking forward to discovering. One way to stretch yourself as a trainer is to step outside the comfort zone of the species you are most familiar with. What were these goats going to teach me about horse training? And what were they going to teach me about goats? I was finding out fast.

Clicker Training Day 1: 6 am – Session 1

IMG_2793 Goats on platform

Now What? I had a pair of goats living in the end stall – goats who wanted nothing to do with me. At 6:00 I cleaned their stall, gave them fresh hay and then went in to sit with them. While I worked on my computer, the goats stood opposite me on their platform. Hmm. First contact might take a while.






Session 2: 8:30

At 8:30 the peanuts and pretzels arrived. Party time! They weren’t at all shy about coming to me for peanuts. Suddenly, I had two goats eagerly pushing into my lap trying to get to the peanuts stashed in my pocket.

At this point it was just feed, feed, feed. I wasn’t trying to link getting a peanut to a specific behavior. The connection I needed was being made: I am a provider of things you like. They were clearly eager – really too eager for the treats. It was time to think about how best to proceed. This is when I tell people to go have a cup of tea. It was too hot for tea, but it was definitely time to withdraw and consider the next step.

tea cup.png

Coming Next: Begin By Breaking the Rules