Working Goats: What Now?

By Elyse Nicholson

PART 4 (Troubleshooting & Follow-up)

Team driving working goatsDuring this 4-part series, you have hopefully learned all the steps and instructions needed to successfully train your goat to pull a cart. Each post went through the information rather fast because of the small amount of space I’ve had to share it with you. This post will hopefully answer any remaining questions and will provide you with working goat troubleshooting tips follow-up.

What do I do when my goat just won’t respond to training?

One of the biggest keys to training a goat is patience — and a lot of it! Remember that this is a journey and that the instructions I’ve given are not one-size-fits-all. Some goats are going to take longer than others. The key is to be patient and positive throughout the experience.

Stubborn working goat tips

When you encounter a goat that is really stubborn and is just not getting it, try slowing things down for him/her and increasing the amount of praise you give. Go back a step perhaps. Or discover what it is that motivates this goat. While I warned against food motivations and reward, that may be just what your goat needs. I had one doe who just needed that incentive to walk forward. The only thing is you must be careful with it once you reach the cart stage. You don’t want your goat caring more about the food than its task.

Another suggestion is to train the goat with a buddy. Goats are herd animals and some just don’t want to be alone. Grab a friend (the goat and human kind) and do some duel training! Have one walk in front of the other or train them side-by-side. Figure out what works for your goat and keep going.

My goat is terrified of the cart. What do I do?

Having a goat that just loves something following them is not a given and you will encounter goats that are scared to death once they are hitched to a cart. Here are some ideas to help you along:

Walk the goat next to the cart while someone else pulls it. Let them see it and hear the sounds it makes when in motion. Encourage the goat to get up close. Remember to work slowly with fears and animals. Don’t overexpose the goat to the cart, but do short sessions of exposure and positive reward to let your goat know the cart is not to be feared.

Working goat cart training tips

Another suggestion is to have someone else drive the cart while you walk beside the goat, stopping frequently to praise its good behavior and performance.

My goats run with the cart instead of walking. How do I fix this?

This is a common problem with a semi-obvious answer. Usually when your goat is running with the cart, one of two things are happening: Either your goat is afraid of the cart or it isn’t a challenge for them. If its number 1, see the previous question.

To answer the second one, what your goats are probably telling you here is that the cart is too light and so running is quite easy. And it’s not entirely their fault. If the cart is too light, it easily rolls down a road or driveway, meaning its most likely pushing them forward. To solve this, add more weight to the back of your cart to help slow them down.

Working goat troubleshooting

If, on the other hand, they are simply running to be running, have a helper walk alongside the goats, pulling them back to instruct them that running is not desired at this moment. Also NEVER allow a goat to run back to its barn/pen. This only creates problems. Always walk your goat home.

Follow-up
As stated many times before, training your goat to drive is a journey, not a three step process. This journey requires a lot of patience, time, and energy on both parts to be successful. Don’t become discouraged if you are stuck on a skill for a long period of time. If my ideas don’t work, think of your own and discover what it is that makes your goat tick. Never give up – especially when you’ve already put a lot of time and effort into it. Like every good thing in life, this takes practice, practice, practice. Work hard, make it positive, and above all, have fun on this journey with your goats!

If you have a question that wasn’t answered in this post, please feel free to leave a comment and I’d be happy to help you out. To review any of the steps, see the list below.

Trained working goats

Missed any part of this “Training your goat to be the next great working goat” series? Catch up now: Part 1: Your Journey Begins HerePart 2: Beginning the Long HaulPart 3: Putting the Cart Before the Goat

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12 thoughts on “Working Goats: What Now?”

  1. Hi, my name is Jeremiah and I was wandering if you had any instructions for building a goat cart. My brother and I made one, but it is a kinda' bad. If you do, do you know where I can get the materials. Thanks for any help.

    Reply
    • Hi Jeremiah! Sadly, I don't actually have any instructions for cart building. My dad built the cart a couple of years back for me. But, I can tell you that the wooden cart you see is basically just two bicycle tires, a 2×4, and a sheet of plywood. That's really all that went into it. Its hard to tell from the picture, but the "box" part of the cart actually comes off the frame. The frame is just built from that 2×4, holding the bicycle tires into place. The box was made from plywood and has grooves on the edges that allow it to sit on top of the box.

      Hope that helps! I know its not much. I really ought to have my dad write out those plans and draw some pictures as people are always asking for it. 🙂

      Let me know you have any other questions!
      – Elyse

      Reply
  2. We are the proud new owners of couple of beautiful American Saanens. They are very sweet 3 month old boys. (Soon to be weathers) I would love to team drive them but know next to nothing about goats. I’m really happy to have found your site with a lot of useful info on the subject. I used to have a horse that I trained to drive so I do have some experience with horses anyway.
    I have been looking at teams of goats and notice that some are in a pony cart with the shafts on the outside while others are in a double tree. Which is better? Also if I get a pony cart I’m not sure what size to get. These are going to be big goats when grown. Is it reasonable since they are so big to have them pull two small adults?

    Reply
    • Hi Jean,

      I’ve had both the double tree and the poles, and tend to like the poles better than a double tree. The poles were better supported by the harness overall and kept the goats going straight in one direction. The double tree allowed them to pull away from each other. For a beginning team, I would recommend poles.

      As far as a pony cart — that would depend on how big they get. I had Nigerian Dwarf Goats, so a pony cart would not work for me. I know Saanens get pretty tall, but not sure how they compare to a short pony. I would do some research on heights before deciding.

      A general rule of thumb is that does should be able to pull their own weight, and males twice their own weight. So, it depends on the gender and their weight. Two adults sounds like a lot though. Goats in general can not pulls as much as a horse — they are not built the same.

      Reply
  3. Hi! I am soon going to adopt two miniature goats and train them to team drive. With lots of weight training, do you think they will be able to pull a 145 pound person? I’m pretty sure they will be does, but I can get bucks if I want them to pull more weight.

    Reply
    • A general rule of thumb is that does should be able to pull their own weight, and males twice their own weight. So, it depends on the gender and their weight. Do not get bucks as pets — get wethers, which are castrated males. A reputable breeder should castrate them for you at no additional charge. Actually wethers from reputable breeds cost far less than bucks, which are intact and should only be purchased by someone who wants to breed. (Bucks get stinky and pee on themselves.)

      Reply
        • The wooden cart was built. It’s just a wooden box with two bicycle wheels attached. The yellow metal wagon is a cart that you can buy at a garden supply store, farm supply store, or nursery. It’s just a garden cart.

          Reply
  4. I contacted you several months ago about a couple of young Saanen wethers that I would like to train to team drive. Everything seemed to be progressing fairly well until I hit a snag. They stop every few steps, it’s especially bad going away from the barn. They obviously know what “get up” means as they respond to it readily going home. The only way I can get them to move forward most of the time is to keep holding on their tail and lift it up when they stop. Very frustrating and next to impossible to do when holding the lines as one of them takes this opportunity to spin around. Let go of the tail the brakes go on. I’m at my wit’s end. Suggestions?

    Reply
    • Hi Jean,

      My apologies for the delay in response! I had a similar issue with a certain doe of mine. She’d refuse to move! What we ended up doing was having a second person with a lead rope pull/lead the goats while I was behind driving them. This eventually broke the bad habit they had started. It took a lot of consistency though. I’d also have someone put food in front of them while I drove them. Basically making them move while reinforcing that they are doing it while you are actually driving them. It did the trick for mine at least!

      Reply
  5. If the average weather weighs 100 lbs and can pull twice its’ weight, that should be 200 lbs. If I put a tandem team, does that mean they can pull 400 lbs? and If I put a two teams, does that equal 800 lbs. Does it ever top out? Meaning no matter haw many goats you put on, they can’t pull any more weight. Where can I get a pattern for the harness, and what material should it be made out of? I heard that it’s really difficult to make your own as finding the hardware is frustrating.

    Reply

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