Table of Contents
Introduction – Working Goats
(Featured Image Credit: Lazarus000)
Working goats are simply goats that are trained to do work, and goats are amazingly helpful in all kinds of jobs.
You can use working goats to pull a wagon, or you can drive a cart pulled by a harness goat.
A pack goat can help you haul your gear on a hunting or camping trip through rugged terrain, and can be cheaper to feed and easier to train and care for than some other beasts of burden.
A therapy goat can even act as a service animal to assist people in need, due to a goat’s friendly termperament and easy relatability to humans.
No matter what type of working goat you may be interested in, if you study this guide, you will then be able to do the following:
- Explain what a Working Goat is and does;Understand basic working goat terminology;
- Identify the breeds that make the best working goats;
- Describe the basic steps required to train a working goat properly;
- Identify the basic equipment needed for a working goat;
- Explain where to buy a working goat and how much a goat costs.
What Is a Working Goat?
The term “Working Goat” basically describes any goat that has been trained to help with some sort of work, most commonly for carrying a load in a pack or for pulling cargo or people in a wagon or cart.
However, “Working Goat” is sometimes used to refer to a goat that does other work as well, such as acting as a therapy goat or service goat, performing tricks, completing obstacle courses, competing in goat shows, or providing products like meat, fiber or milk.
Working Goat Terminology
Before you get involved in the world of working goats, you’ll want to get familiar with some of the basic terminology involved. Some common terms you’ll need to understand are the following:
- Agility Goat – A goat trained to complete an agility course or obstacle course designed to teach the goat how to deal with obstacles that may be encountered in everyday work, without getting distracted
- Brace Box – A wood or metal box in which a goat is placed so it can learn how to stand properly (“brace”) in preparation for a goat show
- Goat Cart – A vehicle (usually 2-wheeled) designed to be pulled by one or more goats while being driven by a person who sits on the cart holding reins. Different than a “goat wagon” which is usually 4-wheeled and is designed to carry cargo while being pulled by goats.
- Crossbuck (aka Sawbuck) – A saddle designed to be strapped on the back of a goat to hold panniers, which are like saddle bags hanging on either side of the goat and designed to carry equipment, gear or other loads. Also see definition of “Tree”.
- Driving – Refers to the act of a person sitting on a cart pulled by a goat (“cart goat”), with the person using ropes or straps (“leash” or “reins”) connected to the goat’s collar, halter or harness to direct or “drive” the goat which has been trained to follow the driver’s directions.
- Halter – A device made of rope or straps that fits around a goat’s head so a lead, leash or reins can be attached for the purpose of leading or driving the goat. A halter is different than a collar which simply goes around the goat’s neck. It’s also different than a “harness” which goes around the goat’s body, rather than it’s head.
- Harness – A device made of rope or straps that is designed to fit around a goat’s body so that a lead, leash or reins can be attached to lead or drive the goat. A cart, wagon, saddle, pack and/or panniers can also be attached to the harness so the goat can pull a cart or wagon or can haul a pack containing equipment, supplies or other loads, especially during hikes, camping or hunting trips. A harness, which fits around the goat’s body, is different than a “halter” which fits around the goat’s head.
- Lead – A rope or strap designed to be attached to a goat’s collar or halter so you can walk in front of, or to the side of, the goat as you lead the goat forward. If you use it to direct the goat from behind the goat (“driving” the goat), then it’s referred to instead as a “leash” or “reins”, rather than a “lead”.
- Pack Goat (aka PackGoat) – A goat trained to carry a pack or panniers on its back for the purpose of hauling equipment, supplies or other loads, especially during hking, camping trips or hunting trips.
- Packing – The act of using a trained pack goat to carry a load, usually on camping trips, hunting trips or hikes, and usually through rough terrain.
- Pannier – A large container, like a bag, basket or pack, used to carry a load on the back of a beast of burden, like a goat, and which is usually situated in a pair with one container on each side of the animal so the load is balanced across the animal, supported by a sawbuck, crossbuck, saddle, pad and/or harness.
- Tree (or “Rigid Tree”)(aka “Sawbuck” or “Crossbuck”) – An X-shaped wooden device, used in pairs, which is placed on top of the saddle or pad on the back of a pack goat and which is used to support panniers (backpacks) on either side of the goat, and is designed to distribute the weight on either side of the goat’s spine so weight is not placed directly on the goat’s spine.
- Soft Pack – A light-weight backpack which is used on younger, smaller pack goats, usually as preparation or training to help the goat get ready to haul heavier loads later using a saddle (aka sawbuck or crossbuck) and panniers when the goat is stronger and more mature.
- Sawbuck (“Crossbuck” or “Tree”) – See definition of “Tree” and “Crossbuck”.
- Team Driving – Driving a team of more than one goat to pull a cart or wagon.
- Wether – A castrated goat, usually the preferred type of goat to be trained as a pack goat due to combination of strength, size and temperament
Are Goats Good Working Animals?
A goat can be an excellent working animal, depending on the breed, gender and size of the goat.
Horses, mules and llamas come to mind first when talking about beasts of burder, but goats can have many advantages over those other working animals.
Goats are much more affordable and easier to care for.
They require less food due to their smaller size.
And they can usually go a couple of days without extra water, as long as there is good browse/forage for them to eat along the way.
Also, goats can often get all the nutrition they need by simply eating from plants and trees along a trail.
Other pack animals usually need grass available for grazing, or they will need to be supplemented with hay.
A big advantage with goats is that they can navigate extremely rough terrain which may be more difficult for other pack animals.
They’re designed for climbing in rugged, rocky mountain areas, so it’s no problem for a goat to walk a trail that may have obstacles like rocks, logs and dense brush.
On the other hand, goats aren’t fast-moving.
They can’t be expected to cover the same distance in the same amount of time as larger animals, and they can’t carry as much weight.
Like any other animal, they need to be conditioned through training gradually to carry a load before they are actually put to work on the trail.
These differences need to be considered in deciding which type of animal to use for packing.
Whether a pack goat is the best choice will be determined by the environment and the requirements of the trip.
Best Working Goats
The best working goats tend to be the larger, standard-sized breeds, as opposed to miniature goats like Nigerian Dwarf goats or Pygmy goats.
Larger goats are going to be able to carry heavier loads and will be able to navigate larger obstacles on the trail.
Also, dairy goats are usually preferred over meat goats or other types of goats.
Dairy goats tend to have larger frames and longer legs and are less susceptible to parasites than some meat goats.
Meat goats tend to be stockier and heavier which interferes with their climbing or jumping ability.
Usually whethers (castrated males) from the larger dairy breeds like French Alpines, LaManchas, Nubians, Oberhaslis, Saanens or Toggenburgs, are used most often as pack goats.
An ideal size is 36″ tall at the shoulders, and an ideal weight is about 200 pounds.
A wether is going to be stronger and more muscular since it’s a male.
At the same time, the fact that a wether has been castrated means it will be less aggressive, easier to work with and won’t be as stinky.
Bucks that aren’t castrated tend to pee on themselves and put out odor during breeding season.
Basic Goat Care
Before you learn about the specifics of different working goats, it’s important to understand the basics of properly caring for your goats in general.
Many of the basics are the same for all goats, not just working goats.
Important considerations you need to take care of for your working goats include the following:
Space Requirements for Goats – Be sure to have a minimum of at least 250 square feet of outdoor living space per goat;
Fencing – Goat are well-known as escape artists, so you will want a pretty sturdy fence for them, such as cattle panels or woven wire. Plan for it to be at least 4 feet tall, with an extra strand of barbed wore or electice wire above it to prevent goats from jumping over.
Shelter – Goats stay outside most of the time. The only shelter they need is something simple to protect them from rain and cold winds. They prefer their shelter to be somewhat open to the outside, at least on one side, and to be well-ventilated. In Winter, they like a deep bed of straw where they can huddle and stay warm.
Feeding – Goats can’t eat everything as some people believe. The healthiest food for them is natural browse/forage and quality grass hay. You will also want to make sure they have plenty of fresh water and mineral supplements as needed. Be careful giving them store-bought grains, and limit the quantity, because grains increase the risk of urinary calculi and bloat if overfed.
Health Care – As with most goats, it’s important to keep your working goats up-to-date on disease testing, vaccinations, mineral supplements, parasite management and grooming. With working goats, it’s especially important to maintain proper hoof care, since a working goat is going to be using its feet a lot while working for you. Make sure hooves stay properly trimmed and free of debris, to avoid foot rot and other problems.
Breeding – You’ll want to plan a strategic breeding program for your working goats to produce the best offspring possibly for your working goat herd.
Which Breeds of Goat Make the Best Working Goats? (and Why)
Technically, any breed of goat can be used as a working goat.
Obviously, if you need working goats to carry or pull heavy loads, you’re going to want to pick some of the larger, stronger breeds, like some of the standard sized dairy goats.
Miniature goats, like the Nigerian Dwarf breed or Pygmy goats should not be used except to carry or pull very small items.
The gender of your working goats is also an important consideration.
Any gender can be used.
But many people consider a wether (neutered male) as one of the best working goats because they are usually larger and stronger (as a male), but at the same time, they have a calmer demeanor, due to being castrated.
Even so, fully intact bucks, as well as does (females) can still make excellent working goats, depending on the purposes you need them for.
Keep in mind that a doe that is in milk, and has a full udder, might have problems if you need a working goat to work in rough terrain, where an udder might get in the way and be subject to injury.
Also, with bucks, if they are neutered, they are going to be substantially more aggressive.
They will also stink a lot during breeding season when they’re in “rut”.
During this season they secrete a lot of hormones, and bucks have a nasty habit of peeing all over their face, mouth and legs constantly as part of a breeding ritual to attract the females.
You may not want such a nasty-smelling companion sleeping in camp with you as a working goat if you’re out on the trail.
In addition to the breed and gender of your working goats, another important factor is your relationship with your goats.
When selecting a goat to be a working goat, you will want to look carefully at how the goat behaves around you.
You will want a goat that walks up to you, rather than running away.
Make sure you can reach out and touch the goat, and that the goat doesn’t seem to mind being touched.
Also, check to see if the goat follows along when you try to lead it somewhere by the collar.
If a goat is comfortable with people, and will easily follow and be touched by people, then it will be a whole lot easier to train than a “skittish” goat.
One well-known type or working goat is known as the “Pack Goat”.
A pack goat is any goat this used to carry a load on its back.
Best Pack Goat Breed
Alpine Pack Goats
Among dairy goats the Alpine breeds are preferred when choosing pack goats, as opposed to the African breeds.
The Alpine breeds include French Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen and Toggenburg.
Some reasons the Alpine breeds are preferred as pack goats are:
- Good temperament (similar to a dog);
- Tend to be very loyal, friendly and social;
- They like to be around people;
- They want to stay near you during the day, and sleep near you at night;
- No rope is needed, because they want to be near you; they will just follow you;
- Males are usually 170 to 225 pounds; a good size for packing;
- They can usually carry a load of about 25% to 30% of their body weight;
Some things to keep in mind about each of the Alpine breeds are as follows:
- French Alpine – This breed originated from the French Alps, so they are built for working in steep mountain areas.
- LaMancha (aka Munchys, a slang term for them) – They have a reputation for exceptional bonding with humans and are extremely friendly and easy to train. This can also be a downside as they will constantly get near you and get their noses into things.
- Nubian – Nubians have a reputation for “talking” too much and making noise constantly, which could be really bad if you’re stalking prey on the hunting trail. They also don’t like to work as much.
- Oberhasli – They tend to have the advantage of “hockiness” (legs turned in) which makes them better adapted for climbing in steep mountain areas. They are also not as afraid of water as other goats.
- Saanen – They do best in high elevations with lower temperatures, and are prone to over-heating when it’s hot. They are one of the most lovable breeds and are laid back and quiet on the trail, so they make great pack goats.
- Toggenburg – Some people feel that Toggenburgs are too smart, which can interfere with their willingness to follow your lead if they decide they want to do something else.
- Pack Goat Cross – Alpine-Saanen – A cross-breed between the larger Alpine breeds can sometimes be the best pack goat. Goat breeders have found that cross-breeds tend to be healthier and stronger than pure-bred goats, and they tend to be larger than pure-breeds. For this reason, many pack goat keepers feel like cross-breeds make the best pack goats.
Goats to Avoid as Pack Goats
- Miniature Goats – These smaller goat breeds, which include Nigerian Dwarf goats, Pygmy goats and crosses of those breeds, are usually not used as pack goats due to their small size which makes it difficult for them to carry much or pass over large obstacles like boulders and logs.
- Does (Females) – Their udders tend to get scraped or injured in ruggen terrain and they are smaller and can’t carry as much or go as far.
- Myotinic (Fainting) Goats – If a fainting goat drops down unexpectedly on the trail it could be a real safety issue for everyone involved, not to mention slowing everyone down.
- Boer Goats as Pack Goats – Boer goats were primarily bred to be meat goats. Therefore, a pure-bred Boer goat doesn’t really make a good pack goat because it’s legs are too short and stocky. Because meat goats in general were bred for meat, this mean they’re going to be larger and heavier and, therefore, can’t jump and climb as easily on a hiking trail as other pack goats. However, many people have had success in using cross-breeds between Boer goats and larger dairy goats as pack goats. Even so, the Boer cross-breeds still tend to be more stubborn.
Goats as Backcountry Pack Animals
Goats can make excellent pack animals especially when navigating through rough back-country terrain.
If you’re hunting in a remote location, it’s tough coming back with a load of fresh meat plus your gear.
It’s a lot easier with a few goats to help carry the load.
For hunting, though, just be sure you pick one of the quieter breeds.
You don’t want them making a lot of noise when you’re stalking your prey.
When you pick your pack goats, select those that are alert and follow people around.
They will tend to follow your lead and stay with you.
Just don’t expect goats to move down the trail as fast as larger animals.
They tend to take their time.
And you can’t load them down as much, since they are smaller than horses and other large pack animals.
Horses, mules or other animals can work, but goats are going to be a lot more agile and versatile crossing rocky areas and passing through heavy brush.
Another “plus” with goats is that they’re a lot easier to care for on the trail.
You don’t have to carry along a lot of extra food for them because their favorite diet is the stuff you’re going to find along the trail anyway, such as leaves, bark, weeds and other browse.
Also, they need water, but not as much as larger animals.
If they get to drink at least every couple of days, they can do just fine.
As far as maintenance costs, you can keep a couple of goats going with only about $40 to $50 per month.
Goats are good for the environment, too.
They leave very little footprint and their poop, which resembles rabbit pellets, makes excellent fertilizer.
Goats are really easy to train for the backcountry trail, due to the fact that they are so smart.
How Much Do Pack Goats Cost?
A young pack goat, less than 6 months old, may cost anywhere from $250 to $500 from a pack goat breeder.
A trained pack goat may run you $800 to $1500 based on its age, size and training.
You can buy goats for less than that which are not bred or trained to be pack goats.
But if you’re serious about getting involved with pack goats, you will want to spend the extra amount to get goats that are specifically bred, raised and trained as pack goats.
In fact, it’s ideal to buy your goats when they are still kids. It’s important to bond with your goats and develop a relationship with them as they are being trained, so they will see you as part of their herd and will follow your lead and respect you.
Using Goats to Carry Backpacks
Pack-wearing goats have been used as beasts of burden for decades.
They’re perfect when you need pack animals to carry loads, like on a hunting trip, camping trip or while hiking.
Pack goats are sometimes referred to as backpacking goats.
Backpack goats are sometimes even better at load-hauling than other pack animals like horses, donkeys, mules or alpacas.
They can easily pack supplies into remote camps which may involve navigating rough trails with lots of rocky terrain and logs.
On a hunting trip, goats can pack in food, and pack meat out.
A goat backpack for these purposes is actually a pair of packs known as panniers which straddle both sides of the goat and are balanced.
Where are Pack Goats Allowed?
One problem with pack goats is that they are not allowed in all areas.
Therefore, if you plan to use pack goats on a hunting trip or campout, be sure to check the local rules to make sure pack goats are allowed wherever you’re going.
You may wonder why they wouldn’t be allowed in some areas.
Sometimes there are wild goats living in many wilderness areas.
If a pack goat was to come into contact with a wild goat, it’s possible that certain diseases could be transmitted between the animals, and the pack goat could spread the disease later to other animals when it returns home.
This seems logical, but many pack goat owners feel that it’s overkill and it could eventually threaten all use of pack goats if too many places prohibit them.
Even so, you’ll want to double-check the rules if you ever plan to use pack goats on a trip.
Even if they’re allowed where you’ll be going, there may also be requirements to apply in advance for permission to use them in certain state parks and other areas.
How to Train Pack Goats
When training pack goats, it’s important to start when they are young.
They will do much better if they grow up getting used to packing.
It also helps you bond with your goats from birth, which will be important when you need them to follow you on the trail.
Being a pack goat is physically demanding.
Conditioning is important for your pack goats.
When you get started, begin by taking your pack goats on practice hikes.
Do short hikes at first and increase the distance and difficulty as your goats get older and get in shape physically.
After you’ve done some initial practice hikes, then try adding packs to your goats.
With young goats you should start with a soft pack.
Regardless of age, begin with empty packs.
Let you goat get accustomed to the feeling of carrying packs on a hike.
Do this for awhile. Then, add just a little bit of weight and let your goats carry that for awhile. Keep adding weight every few hikes and gradually work up until your goats are comfortable carrying a full load.
When doing your practice hikes, it’s best to pass over the same type of terrain and conditions that your goats will encounter when you take them on “real” trips.
For example, if you’ll be taking your goats on hunting trips, you will want to practice by letting them hear you shoot your gun a few times.
By doing this, they won’t be freaked out by hearing a gunshot the first time they go with you on a hunting trip.
If you practice repeatedly with your goats, and let them experience the same circumstances they will experience on future hunting or camping trips with you, then it won’t be a big deal when you finally take them on a real trip.
They will see it as just another practice run, and they’ll do fine.
If you want to read more about pack goats, here are some good resources…
Books About Pack Goats
Magazines About Pack Goats:
Pack Goat Equipment
Goat Soft Packs
When you first start to train your pack goat to carry a pack, you’ll want to get your goat accustomed to having a pack on its back as a first step.
It’s best not to add any weight yet. Just start with an empty pack.
Gradually work up to having your goat carry about 10% of its body weight.
Eventually, with conditioning, your goat should be able to carry as much as 25% of its body weight.
It’s a good idea to start by using a goat soft pack.
It will be much lighter than a standard back pack.
This is especially important when you start training a young goat kid to be a pack goat.
As your goat gets used to the soft pack, and grows larger, you can gradually switch to a regular pack later.
With miniature goats, like a Pygmy or Nigerian Dwarf, the soft pack is all you will ever need.
Due to their smaller size, they can only carry a small amount of weight, and a soft pack is the best option.
You’ll find that it’s not easy finding goat soft packs to purchase, although there are plenty of them available for dogs.
Avoid using a dog soft pack on your goat.
Goats are built differently. A goat’s spine sticks up higher from it’s back.
A dog soft pack is designed to lay right across the back, so it will put excessive pressure on the goat’s spine.
When you use a soft pack designed specifically for a goat, you will see that it is built to be padded on both sides of the goat’s spine to keep the pack from laying directly on the spine.
Making Your Own Soft Goat Pack
If you have trouble finding a good goat soft pack to buy, you may want to consider making your own.
Here’s a good pattern you can follow…
DIY Goat Soft Pack Pattern
This particular pattern can be used to make a soft pack to be carried by a goat kid.
It includes two packs that can be balanced on either side of your goat, with straps that go over the goat’s back to hold them.
Goat Packing and Driving Equipment Lending Program
Pack goat equipment can get pretty expensive when you add everything together.
If you, or your 4-H kids, want to try working with pack goats, you may want to consider borrowing your pack goat equipment before you make the big investment in your own pack goat equipment.
If you search around, you may find programs that can help with this.
A great example is a lending program in New York state that lends out working goat equipment temporarily to kids in 4-H.
Pack Goat Saddle (aka Sawbuck Saddle or Crossbuck Saddle)
A necessary piece of pack goat gear you’ll need for working with pack goats is a pack goat saddle, sometimes referred to as a sawbuck saddle or crossbuck saddle.
It’s a device that goes on top of the goat’s back to support the packs (panniers) which will hold any loads the goat will be carrying for you.
A pack goat saddle has a special design to it that prevents the pressure from the weight of the packs from pressing down directly on the goat’s spine.
To understand it, picture in your mind a railroad crossing sign in the shape of an “X”.
An X-shaped railroad sign is known as a “crossbuck” sign.
On a pack goat saddle there are also two separate X-shaped supports, usually made of wood, at the front end and back end of the pack goat saddle.
These crossbucks (or rigid trees) hold the panniers (back packs) which will hang on either side of the goat, and the crossbucks also distribute the weight on either side of the goat’s spine, rather than directly on the spine itself.
A goat’s spine sticks up from the top of its back, unlike some other pack animals.
That’s why a pack goat saddle needs a special design.
The crossbucks usually connect on top of two sideboards, which are flat pieces of wood that will sit on both sides of the goat’s back.
Those sideboards then sit on top of a pack goat saddle pad to cushion them on the goat’s back.
The tops of the X-shaped crossbucks that stick up are referred to as the saddle horns.
When you have the saddle and pad on top of your goat, you can then attach the goat’s harness and side packs (panniers) to the supports on the saddle.
In addition to carrying loads on your goat in the panniers (side packs), you can also have the goat carry additional things on top of the saddle (the topload).
How to Make a Goat Pack Saddle
Goat sawbuck saddles are pretty expensive to buy.
If you decide to get into packing with your goats, you may decide to make your own goat saddles.
The first thing to remember is that goat pack saddles aren’t one-size-fits-all. Every goat is different.
So making your own goat saddle custom-made for your goat is a pretty good idea.
It’s virtually impossible to find a goat pack saddle pattern or goat pack saddle kit online to buy.
best bet is to simply look at pictures of saddles you like and imitate that.
Or, even better, invest in buying one goat pack saddle and then use that as a guide to make other goat pack saddles.
When putting a pack saddle together, the padding is a critical component.
That is what will cushion the saddle against your goat.
Remember, when you’re on the trail, you’re going to be out in the weather, including rain or snow at times.
Don’t use any kind of padding that retains water and gets mushy.
A closed-cell foam pad for backpacking is good for this purpose.
It stays firm to support the saddle and it won’t soak up moisture or bottom-out.
For the flat sideboards that will lay on top of the pad, most people use oak or pine to keep things light.
Be sure to make these with curved, smooth edges and stain or seal the wood so it won’t soak up moisture and rot over time.
When you make your X-shaped trees (sawbucks), you may want to take the extra time to make them adjustable from side-to-side.
You may need to use the saddle on more than one goat at different times.
The trees will attach on top of the sideboards.
Make sure you make the trees long enough.
You’ll need to strap multiple packs to these and you dont’ want to run out of room.
Next, you’ll pick out straps, buckles and panniers (packs) to use with your new goat pack saddle.
For these, choose straps that have some extra slack.
If you use the saddle on different goats, or use it with different sized packs and loads, you’ll need some room for adjustments.
Some people like to carve or stain their goat’s name or other things onto their pack saddles.
Or, you may not want to do that if there’s a chance you may want to sell the saddle one day.
Pack Goat Panniers
Goat panniers are soft packs that come in pairs and sit on either side of a pack goat to hold the load that the goat is carrying for you.
The panniers usually hang on a pack goat saddle that distributes the weight of the load evenly on both sides of the goat’s back.
How to Load Pack Goat Panniers
One problem with panniers on the trail is that the bottoms will scrape along rocks and logs, so you want to be sure to pack only soft items in the bottom of each pannier.
Hard items with sharp edges will tend to wear out the pannier quickly as it scrapes against rough objects on the trail.
If you have square-shaped items with hard edges, load those at the top of the pannier.
Make sure you also pack soft items on the sides of the panniers that are touching the goat.
It’s best to put all items in small pouches which are to go into your panniers.
This allows you to easily adjust the weight between panniers by moving pouches from one to the other.
You’ll want to pack your panniers off of the goat and then test each one with a hand-held spring scale, like a luggage scale, to test the weight.
Once you make sure both panniers in the pair weigh exactly the same amount, strap those two panniers together so you know they are matched.
Then, you’ll remember that they go together when you’re ready to strap them onto your goat.
Some people put a top load above the panniers to carry additional things. But you should avoid that.
A top load can move back and forth easily, throwing off the balance between both sides of the goat.
This will just cause problems and make things difficult and tiresome for your goats.
Always pack your panniers in advance so they’re ready to go beforehand.
Never wait until right before you’re about to hit the trail to start packing your panniers.
And don’t pack them on the goat.
Pack them off of the goat first and only load them onto the goat when they’re already packed.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you have a herd of pack goats with you on the trail, they will occasionally butt each other.
It’s their normal way of maintaining their “pecking order” and making sure all goats in the herd know which is the “alpha male”.
This is important to remember when you’re packing fragile items into your panniers.
Keep in mind that most goats in the herd won’t butt the alpha male.
So be sure to pack your fragile items in the panniers on your alpha male to lessen the risk of them getting broken.
Once your panniers are packed, be sure to cinch the straps down as tight as possible to keep your panniers compact.
Later, when you load them onto your goats, check to make sure that the panniers don’t ride down low below the goat’s belly.
This could cause the panniers to catch or drag when the goats are stepping over rocks or logs on the trail.
How Much Can a Pack Goat Carry?
When loading a pack goat pannier, you need to be careful that you don’t put too much weight on the goat.
A full sized goat can carry 25 to 35% of its body weight, with a maximum load of 50 pounds per goat.
Also, make sure the load is equally balanced on both sides of the goat.
Here’s a great video that goes into more detail about how to load your pack goat panniers:
Video: How to Load a Pack Goat Pannier
Where to Find Pack Goat Panniers for Sale
There are a number of different sources where you can buy pack goat panniers and other pack goat equipment.
A few of the more well-known sources are as follows:
- Quality Llama Products, Inc. and Alternate Livestock Supply
- Butt-Head Pack Goats
- Northwest Pack Goats & Supplies
- Wind River Pack Goats
How to Train a Working Goat – Goat Training Tips
Goats need to be trained a little differently than some other animals.
They are highly intelligent, independent thinkers and seek to be friendly with people for the most part.
So, they respond well to positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement (punishment) doesn’t really work with them.
In fact, good luck trying to bond with a goat and earn it’s trust after you treated the goat badly.
You need to use a lot of love when training your goats.
If you speak kindly to them, stroke them, offer treats and show them love, you will make great progress with their training.
Goats develop habits over time, so it’s best to start their training shortly after they are born.
It’s much harder to begin with an adult goat for the first time.
It’s do-above, but will take a lot longer, and will be a lot more difficult.
Goats tend to bond with people who take care of them.
You should seek to bond to your own goats if you intend to use them as effective working goats.
That’s why it’s so important to start when they’re young.
Then need to get into the habit of following your lead, responding to your commands and knowing that they can trust you.
Each goat is different and has it’s own unique personality, so there is not just one training method that works will all goats.
You need to experiment when training your goat and, through trial and error, you’ll find out which training techniques work best with your own goats.
Age for Training a Goat as a Pack Goat
Typically, you can effectively start training a goat as early as 3 months of age.
However, that doesn’t mean the goat can start carrying a fully loaded pack yet.
You usually should not have your goat carrying any load until it’s reached a reasonable size and is mature enough to breed. This will usually be when your goat is about 1 or 2 years old.
Any goats that wear goat harnesses and pull a cart or wagon are generally referred to as “Harness Goats”.
You may not realize it, but harness goats aren’t something new and unusual.
In the old days, before everything became more modernized, harness goats were all over the place, and people saw them everywhere they went.
Goat Video -Harness Goats
Nowadays, harness goats aren’t in everyday use on the streets around us, like they were when our society was more rural and agriculturally-focused.
But, if you look hard, you will find that there are still plenty of families who love carrying on the tradition of harness goats.
One entertaining example is “Team Snazzy Goat”.
It’s a team of two harness goats (Cashmere goat wethers) named “Harry T’ Happiness” and “David Delivers”.
The stated purpose of Team Snazzy Goat is that Harry and David are being trained to be driving goats, just like the many harness goats that were seen in public back in the 19th century.
Their owners aim to educate people about the history of harness goats.
Check them out here as Harry and David make an appearance at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival 2018.
Harness goats, pack goats and other types of working goats still serve an amazing place in our current-day world.
Harness Goat Equipment
In addition to the equipment needed for raising goats in general, if you raise working goats, you’re going to need certain specialized working goat equipment.
Equipment for Driving Goats
Halter and Harness
If you plan to be driving your goats from a cart or having them pull a wagon, you’re going to need a halter and a harness.
A halter is a set of straps and connectors that fits around the goat’s head.
It’s usually connected to a lead or reins that can be used to drive the goat in a certain direction.
A harness is a system of straps and rings that fit around the goat’s body.
It’s sometimes connected to a saddle and pack the goat carries, or it’s connected to a cart or wagon being pulled by the goat.
You can also use a goat harness for walking your goat.
The goat doesn’t necessarily need to be carrying or pulling anything to use a harness.
Goat Training Halter
A goat training halter is a simple halter you can use to initially train your goat so it can get comfortable with wearing a halter.
At first your goat is not going to be accustomed to the feel of something around its head, so it will take some time to get the goat comfortable with this new feeling.
How to Make a Halter for a Goat (DIY Goat Bridle)
As mentioned before, a goat halter (goat bridle) is the set of ropes or straps that fit around the goat’s head.
The purpose of the halter is so you can attach a lead (leash) to it to lead the goat around, or to attach reins to it so you can control the direction of the goat from behind the goat, such as when you have the goat pulling a cart of wagon.
As you begin to learn how to make a goat halter, it helps to visualize what it will look like.
To imagine the basic structure of a goat halter, visualize one loop of rope around the goat’s neck and a second loop of rope around the goat’s muzzle (nose, mouth and jaw).
Then, as the final part of a complete goat halter, imagine a piece of rope connecting those two loops on the left side of the goat’s face and another piece of rope connecting the two loops on the right side of the goat’s face.
All of that together makes a simple halter.
There are plenty of different halter designs using different materials.
But that is the basic way a halter or bridle is put together.
Here are some instructions for one way to make a simple goat halter.
This design is quick and easy. It will be fine to temporarily lead your goat around.
But a sturdier and more complicated design will be needed when you want a goat halter for pack goat or cart pulling.
How to Make a Goat Halter From a Rope
Materials Needed to Make a Simple Goat Halter From Rope:
- Rope (about 8 feet long)(1/4 inch Poly Rope is best)
- Metal rope clamps (optional)(for 1/4-inch rope)
- Scissors or knife
Directions to Make a Goat Halter from Rope:
To start making your goat halter you’ll first make the strap that is going to go over the top of the goat’s nose.
It will have a loop at each end.
The loop at one end of that strap will be on the left side of the goat’s head when you put it on the goat.
The loop at the other end of the strap will be on the right side of the goat’s head.
To make that strap, start with the 8-foot length of rope from the materials list.
Burn each end of the rope slightly with a flame to melt the tip of the rope at each end so the rope won’t become frayed.
Next, make a small 1-inch diameter loop at one end of the rope by folding the end of the rope back on itself in a U-shape.
You can secure the loop either by tying a knot there, or attaching a rope clamp with pliers.
For the next step, it’s easiest if you hold the rope against your goat to get the right measurements, rather than measuring the goat with a tape measure.
Take the end of the rope with the loop you just made and hold it against the left side of your goat’s head, about half-way between its ear and mouth. Let’s call this loop the “Left Loop”.
While holding the Left Loop in place there, take the rest of the rope and drape it over your goat’s nose and around to the right side of its head, about half-way between the goat’s ear and mouth.
Pinch the rope between your fingers at that point to remember where it is on the rope, and remove the rope from the goat.
At the point where you are pinching the rope with your fingers, fold the rope in a U-shape and make it into another 1-inch loop, either by tying a knot there or attaching a metal rope clamp with pliers.
Let’s call this loop the “Right Loop”.
Now, you’re ready to form the final halter.
Using the loops you just formed, place the Left Loop against the left side of the goat’s head and hold it there.
While holding it there with one hand, use your other hand to stretch the rest of the rope over the top of the goat’s nose and down the other side of its head until you are holding the Right Loop against the right side of the goat’s head.
From there, continue draping the rope under the goat’s jaw and back around to the Left Loop.
Run the loose end of the rope through the Left Loop which you are still holding in place.
At this point, you’ve formed a circle of rope that runs all the way around the goat’s muzzle (nose and jaws).
Next, take the loose end of the rope and run it from the Left Loop around the back of the goat’s head, and under its ears, until it reaches the Right Loop.
Then, run the loose end of the rope through the Right Loop and pull it tight.
At this point, your simple rope halter is finished. Now you know how to make a rope halter for a goat.
If you’ve done it right, there should be a length of rope that runs in a circle all the way around the goat’s muzzle from the Left Loop to the Right Loop.
There should also be a length of rope that runs around the back of the goat’s head from the Left Loop to the Right Loop.
Lastly, the loose end of the rope should be extending out of the Right Loop, and this loose rope is your lead (leash) that you will use to lead your goat.
With this design, as you pull (or the goat pulls) on the lead, this should cause the halter to tighten around the goat’s head.
Also, as the goat quits pulling and releases pressure, the halter will loosen up a little bit on the goat’s head.
The design of this halter makes it easy to adjust and to slip on and off of the goat’s head.
One thing I really like about this simple halter is that you can grab any piece of rope and, simply by tying a couple of knots, you can have a workable goat halter made in just a couple of minutes.
Once you have your halter made, you’ll want to practice with it to train your goat to get comfortable being led around with the halter.
Refer to the instructions elsewhere in this guide about how to train your goat.
How to Make a Goat Halter Out of Baling Twine, Nylon or Paracord
To make a halter out of baling twine you can simply follow the same directions above as for a rope halter.
But, because baling twine is thin, you’ll need to use several lengths of baling twine (3 or 4) and twist them together into one “rope”.
Then, when you tie the rope together at the location of the different loops, the knots at those point swill hold the baling twine “rope” together.
If a halter is made from a single piece of baling twine, it’s so thin that it can dig into your goat’s skin when pressure is applied and cause discomfort that can interfere with training your goat.
If you’re wondering how to make a paracord goat halter, just follow the same instructions as above, but with paracord.
The harness that fits around a working goat’s body consists of different parts.
Different Parts of a Goat Harness
- Reins – Straps that connect to the goat’s halter and run back to the driver. The driver uses the reins to “steer” or “drive” the goat in a certain direction.
- Breast Piece – Straps which are the part of the harness which crosses the goat’s chest area.
- Front Spider – This is the part of the harness that runs over the back of the goat at the withers (the highest part of the back near the neck) and connects to the breast piece below.
- Back Pad – This is a pad which is part of the harness and sits on the top middle of the goat’s back.
- Hold Down Strap – The strap which runs under the goat’s belly and connects up to the back pad above.
- Rear Spider – The portion of the harness which runs over the top of the goat’s rear end.
- Britching – This is the portion of the harness which runs around behind the goat’s rear end just above the legs.
- Tugs – These are the straps that run from the breast piece all the way back to the cart or wagon.
- Shaft Loop – This is a looping strap that runs from the back pad down to the britching. It also helps support the tugs that run along the side of the goat.
Different goats are different sizes and it’s extremely important to make sure any harness you use on your goats is properly fitted to the particular size of your goats, especially for safety reasons.
Some people try to adapt horse halters to use on a goat as a harness.
This can be workable if you’re very careful to make sure it’s fitted properly.
Also, it will probably need to be tweaked and modified to work right.
A good goat harness needs to fit well across the front of the goat as well as around the back of the goat.
It must fit in front of the goat for pulling a load, like a cart or wagon.
The harness must fit well behind the goat because that’s important for “braking”.
When a goat is slowing down or going downhill, the pressure of the harness will be on the goat’s rear-end.
Pygmy Goat Harness or Nigerian Dwarf Goat Harness
If you’re wanting a harness for a miniature goat like a Pygmy goat or Nigerian Dwarf goat, you’ll want to look for one that is customized for Pygmys or Nigerians due to their small size and build.
If you shop around online there are some available that are customized for these smaller sized goats.
Or, as an alternative, you might consider making your own miniature goat harness, which we discuss more below.
Dog harnesses will not really work for a goat. Dogs tend to have larger chests and smaller waists.
When buying a goat harness, you may notice that there are not many different sizes advertised.
This is because most goat harnesses are designed to be adjustable in multiple locations on the harness.
Therefore, it’s not too critical that you buy a harness that is custom made for your goat.
You can simply buy a standard sized harness, and then adjust it when you put it on your own goat.
The only exception is if you need a harness for a miniature goat, such as a Pygmy goat, Nigerian Dwarf goat or a cross-breeds from one of those breeds.
In this case, you will need to buy a Pygmy size harness for miniature goats.
One source for such a harness is Quality Llama Products, Inc.
How to Make a Goat Harness
A goat pulling harness can be somewhat expensive.
Also, it can sometimes be hard to find a goat driving harness for sale.
So some working goat enthusiasts will make their own diy goat harness.
The problem with learning how to make a goat harness is that all of the equipment and supplies you need for making your own goat harness can sometimes cost more than if you had simply purchased a harness that was already made for you.
Of course, if the equipment and materials you buy will be used to make multiple goat harnesses over time, then it may be easier to see some cost savings.
When learning how to make a goat harness, it’s not as simple as grabbing some straps, rings, thread and a sewing machine and stitching a harness together.
A goat harness is going to undergo a lot of physical abuse while being used. It may last longer if you make a leather goat harness.
The straps will need to be heavy duty, and you will need heavy thread to avoid having the stitching come apart too easily.
You will also need some heavy duty needles as well as a heavy duty sewing machine.
Sometimes, three of more layers of straps must be sewn on top of each other, which is too big of a job for a regular home sewing machine.
It’s also a good idea to follow a goat harness pattern if you decide to make your own goat harness.
A good harness must be designed to evenly distribute the load across the goat’s body in a balanced way, so designing the proper harness requires some skill.
You can create real problems for your working goat if you simply try to make a harness by looking at photos of other harnesses.
It’s hard to find patterns you can buy for making a goat harness.
However, there are goat harness plans available that show you how to make a basic goat harness yourself.
You can find a good example at hobbyfarms.com.
What is a Goat Cart?
A goat cart is a cart which is usually on two wheels and is designed to be attached behind a goat that pulls the cart, and it’s designed for a person to sit on.
There are usually reins which are attached to the goat so the person sitting in the cart can steer or “drive” the goat where the driver wants to go.
A cart goat must be specially trained so it is accustomed to being driven and it knows how to follow the directions of the driver according to how the driver operates the reins.
Antique Goat Carts
Nowadays goat carts are used mostly for fun, but in history many of the vintage goat carts we see today were used for a number of serious purposes.
According to the Harness Goat Society, in the U.K., there are one or more depictions of goats pulling chariots which date back at least 4000 years ago, or more.
In the early 1900’s, it was pretty common to see people using goat carts all over.
Some families back then had goat carts for their children to ride in.
Some people believe it was important because it taught children how to drive an animal pulling a cart, which was an important skill to learn for later when they might need to drive a larger animal, like a horse, in pulling a wagon.
Back then, goat carts were used for serious purposes too, including delivering milk, produce, water and beer.
Goat carts were also used when needed to transport people back and forth for short distances, like a taxi.
During various wars, when there was a shortage of horses and other animals needed to pull wagons, goat carts were often used instead to transport important goods.
Goat carts were sometimes also used by disabled war veterans who couldn’t walk, but who could transport themselves around by riding a goat cart.
A goat cart probably would have been a small, affordable predecessor to the electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters we have today.
More than one automobile manufacturer actually advertised goat carts for sale, back in their early days when they were first getting started.
Now that we have modern transportation available, today’s goat carts are mostly used for fun.
Goat Driving Cart With Seat
A goat pulling cart can be pretty expensive to buy.
It’s not unusual to see prices between $500 to $1,000 for a small cart that can carry one or two people.
The price depends on the materials used to build the cart and how fancy it is.
DIY Goat Cart
Due to the high cost of buying a goat cart, many people choose to make their own homemade goat cart to save money.
When you research how to build a goat cart, it’s not easy to find good goat cart designs.
However, if you search around there are some free goat cart plans available out there.
You can find a good example of free plans to build a goat cart at rockyrun-farm.com.
Video: Homemade Goat Cart
Credit: The Biegel Family
Wooden Goat Cart Plans
That last set of plans was for a goat cart made with metal pipe.
But if you’re not into working with metal, you can also make your goat cart out of wood.
Here’s a brief description of a goat driving cart made of wood instead.
You can even see the end result of that project in this video below, where you can also see the process of gradually training the goat to pull the cart…
Video: Homemade Goat Cart
One thing to note about that project is that when you’re building a goat cart out of wood, it will be a lot heavier than a goat cart made with hollow metal pipe.
So, with a wooden goat cart, be sure you use a fairly large goat, as opposed to a miniature goat, so the weight won’t be too much of a load for your animal to pull.
Goat Cart Harness
A goat harness designed for pulling a cart can sometimes be a little different than a goat harness for walking, packing or pulling a wagon.
One reason is that a goat cart, as opposed to a goat wagon, has two wheels rather than 4 wheels.
This means that some of the weight of the goat cart, is balanced across the goat.
The pressures on the goat will be a little different with a goat cart.
There are normally two “traces” attached to the goat from the cart.
The traces are the two long rails running from a cart to the goat which are attached to the goat cart harnss so the goat can pull the cart.
As the cart moves along, it’s weight can shift, especially on bumpy roads.
This will cause the two traces to move up and down on the goat.
Therefore, a goat cart harness needs a loin strap which holds the traces to the sides of the goat.
The traces are connected to the loin strap so they don’t move up and down on the goat,
This up-and-down pressure on the harness makes a goat cart harness a little different than other goat harnesses.
Goat Cart Racing
Some people make a goat-drawn cart just to have a little fun with their goat at home, or to use it in a local parade.
However, some people take their goat carts seriously and compete in annual goat cart races.
One famous goat cart race occurs annually in Australia, where they hold the Yeppoon Show Billy Goat Cart Derby in Central Queensland.
It’s an annual event that keeps growing in popularity each year. At one point, the prize money for the race was up to $1,500.
The goat carts are driven by children, who are all around ten or eleven years old.
Goats aren’t whipped and they’re treated very well.
The kids spend lots of time throughout the year working with and training their goats.
The goats even seem to look forward to the race.
They get really excited when it starts.
And, although goats typically aren’t known to move really fast, these goats run like crazy for the finish line.
Barcaldine Goat Races
Another even more popular goat cart race is held annually at Barcaldine in Australia during the Tree of Life Festival.
This race has been known to have as much as $10,000 in prizes for race winners.
This goat race has been part of the festival for many years.
Just like the race at the Yeppoon Show, cart drivers here are children at least 10 years old.
Adults are too heavy.
There’s even a race called “Old Goat No Glory” for older goats, and a race called the “Maiden Race” for goats that are new to racing.
The goat races are an example that working goats can be plenty of fun, and not just all work.
Video: Barcaldine Goat Races
Credit: Stephen Swayne
Goat Wagons (aka Goat-Pulling Wagon)
A goat wagon is different than a goat cart.
A goat wagon typically has 4 wheels which bear most of the weight, and it’s connected to a goat wagon harness on the goat.
For this reason, a goat wagon can sometimes hold a heavier load that a goat cart, which tends to rest some of the cart’s weight on the goat itself.
Goat wagons tend to be easier to work with, and less expensive too, compared to goat carts.
History of Goat Wagons
Long ago, goat wagons were used in lots of true heavy-duty work.
Back then, they didn’t have all of the technology and equipment we have now, so goats filled-in the gap when a working animal was needed but the job wasn’t big enough to require a horse.
For example, goats were actually used in the past to put carts in and out of underground mines.
Goats were probably the perfect size for small spaces where larger pack animals couldn’t fit.
Goats were also used in the old days to pull goat wagons around towns and farms by traveling salesman or delivery people who needed to make short trips, frequent stops and to pass through small spaces where there were lots of people.
Goats would have been perfect for this, especially since they are smaller and lower-maintenance.
Also, when it comes to poop, goats only leave some occasional small pellets behind, as compared to the large poop dropped by horses and other big animals.
Years ago, goat wagons were so popular that the Studebaker company built a promotional miniature Studebaker goat wagon which they sold or gave away as children’s goat wagons, under the name “Studebaker Junior”.
Nowadays, an antique child’s goat wagon is considered a real collector’s item.
One interesting tidbit of history is that goat carts kind of became a fad back around the 1930’s or so in the U.S. Researchers have learned that there were lots of traveling photographers back in that time, and they discovered that small goat carts were a huge attraction to young children and their parents.
It was pretty common for parents to have their child’s picture taken in a goat cart with the number of the year on the front of the cart.
Remember, there were no cell phone cameras back then, and no small hand-held cameras either.
Any camera at that time required film to be developed in a darkroom before you could see the pictures.
So plenty of people were willing to pay a photographer to take pictures of their kids.
This is why, if you research goat carts, you will see lots of antique pictures like this, and you will notice that many of those pictures show different children at different times, but they each seem to be sitting in the same cart with the same goat.
Apparently, a photographer with a goat cart would often use it to take pictures of lots of children over time.
They’ve been referred to as the Goat Men.
Goat carts and wagons were so popular in the old days, especially in European countries, that they have now become sought after by many collectors.
An antique goat wagon is highly desirable. Amish goat wagons and German goat wagon reproductions are used to decorate many homes and gardens.
In fact, when used for those purposes, goat wagons are sometimes referred to as a “garden coach” plant holder.
Because antique goat wagons are collectors items, they can get pretty expensive.
Where to Buy a Goat Wagon, Cart or Harness
Although it’s hard to find many sources where you can purchase a goat wagon, cart or harness, one available source is Caprine Supply.
There, you can buy a goat wagon, harnesses for pulling the wagon and also a seat, halter and even training instructions.
How to Build a Goat Wagon
Many people who want to have a decorative reproduction vintage goat wagon will sometimes build their own goat wagon to save money.
It’s a great hobby project also, especially for someone who likes woodworking.
If you’re wanting to learn how to make a goat wagon, you can find various goat wagon plans available, including amish goat wagon plans.
Amish-made goat wagons have an entirely different look and design than other types of goat wagons and are highly-sought-after for collecting and home decor.
They are more rustic-looking and often use rough-hewn wood.
Goat wagons have been an important part of history.
And although you don’t see too many antique goat wagons in actual use these days, there are plenty of examples of goat keepers using modern-day goat wagons, which are pulled behind a harness goat.
Training Goats to Pull a Cart or Wagon
In using goats to pull carts or wagons a common question is, “How do you teach a goat to pull a cart?”
Goats are smart and can be trained easily, but it’s a slow process that takes a lot of time, patience and love.
How to Train a Goat – Goat Training Tips
Goat Collar Training
Can goats be trained? Yes, they are extremely smart. But to train them you have to begin slowly and use lots of love.
Also, each goat has its own personality. If you patiently apply standard goat training strategies, you will see what works with your own goat and how to train your goat in particular.
Can you train a goat like a dog? Well, not really.
Goats are a lot more sensitive to negative reinforcement (scolding, etc.) than dogs are.
With goats, you need to use only positive reinforcement (rewards, praise and love).
Otherwise, with negative reinforcement, you will lose them.
One of the most critical aspects of training a goat is to start soon after the goat is born.
The easiest goats to train are those that get comfortable with human touch and presence from the day they’re born.
Bottle-fed goats are ideal. Work with your goat from an early age so the goat bonds with you and gets accustomed to being handled by you.
Training will be so much easier if you do this.
On the other hand, if you’re starting with a goat that is older, and which hasn’t bonded with you earlier, the training can be done but it will take longer.
Before training with a collar can start, you’ll need to work on being with the goat, showing it love, handling the goat, speaking nicely to it and gaining the goat’s trust on a daily basis.
After a long period of getting your goat comfortable with you, only then can you move to the next step.
If you’re training a goat to pull carts or wagons or carry loads, a goat is usually not ready for that until the goat has reached 1 or 2 years of age.
Start your goat training by using a goat training collar.
Put the collar on your goat and just let the goat get used to wearing a collar off-and-on for a day or two.
Next, start leading your goat around by the collar for a few minutes.
Repeat this a few times each day. Keep doing this until the goat seems to be somewhat comfortable being led around by the collar.
Then, add a lead (leash) attached to the collar.
How to Train a Goat to Walk on a Lead (Leash)
Training goats to walk on a leash (aka training goats to lead) also must be done slowly and in small steps.
If you plan to “drive” your goat eventually (ie, use your goat to pull a cart or wagon) it will be necessary to start teaching your goat different directions to follow.
Here’s how to train a goat to lead.
With your goat on the lead, you will need to start teaching the goat the following basic commands (or some other words you choose for these commands, as long as you’re consistent):
With each command, help move the goat physically through the command with your hands, while you give the goat a treat and some love at the same time.
By repeating this, your goat will begin to associate the targeted action with the word you say and the the awesome treat.
Soon, if you keep practicing, the goat will be conditioned to do the targeted action each time you say the related word. At that point, you can scale back a little on treats so you don’t have to give a treat for every single action the goat does properly.
Praise is also like a treat for a goat.
Example: Say “forward” as you start pulling the goat forward and giving the goat a treat at the same time.
Then, say “stop” and make the goat stop as you give a treat. Say “forward” again and do the same thing, followed by saying “stop” as you do the same thing.
Keep repeating this over and over, with breaks in-between, to gradually condition your goat to do the desired action at your command.
Remember, goats also crave love, so praise your goat constantly, give frequent breaks when they get tired and stroke them.
Only do a little bit of training each day.
Some goat keepers have been successful clicker training a goat.
This consists of using a clicker that makes a “click” sound each time the goat does the targeted action and you give a treat.
The goat becomes so conditioned to the clicker that it soon begins to understand that the click sound means the goat has just done the right thing and will be getting a treat. In this way, hearing the clicker is gratifying for the goat, like getting a treat.
It instantly “rewards” the goat without delay, compared to giving treats which are usually delayed by at least a few seconds.
You can reward your goats constantly with clicks from the clicker, and then you’ll only need to give them an occasional edible treat to back it up.
Leash training goats gets them accustomed to following commands.
This gets them ready for the next step that follows after leash training a goat – halter and harness training.
Goat Halter Training
After you’ve spent some time doing some collar training with your goat using a leash, now you’re ready to get your goat comfortable with a halter.
A goat halter is made of straps that fit around the goat’s entire head. It’s necessary for your goat to get accustomed to a halter so you can “drive” the goat later.
Driving refers to being able to control the goat’s direction using reins attached to the halter.
This is a necessary skill if you plan to use your working goat to pull a cart or wagon.
Just like with collar training, you’ll need to let your goat wear the halter a few minutes each day to get used to it while you watch.
Your goat my not like the feel of the halter at first.
Just reassure your goat. Reward the goat when they are calm while wearing the halter.
Give the goat praise both before, during and after wearing the halter.
Remove the halter after a short time. Repeat the process a few times each day for a number of days.
Keep repeating this until the goat seems to get accustomed to wearing the halter on a regular basis.
Harness Training a Goat
The steps for harness training are virtually identical to those for collar and halter training.
The idea at first is to simply get the goat comfortable with wearing the harness.
Put the harness on the goat and make sure the straps are adjusted so it’s about right all over, not too tight and not too loose.
Spend some time each day letting your goat simply walk with you so the goat can adjust to the feel of walking with a harness.
Walk around along trails and pathways with a lead attached to the goat’s halter.
Have treats ready and use them to reward your goat each step of the way as progress is made.
Keep repeating the process a little bit each day until the goat seems to be getting comfortable with wearing the harness. Then, you can go to the next step.
Training Your Goat to Use a Goat Harness with Halter and Reins
At this point, you’re ready to start adding reins, which are the two long straps you’ll use to “drive” your goat and make it follow your directions.
Put the halter and harness on your goat.
The goat should be comfortable with the halter and harness if you followed the earlier steps correctly.
At first, attach the reins directly to the halter on the goat’s head without running them through the harness.
After your goat has gradually gotten accustomed to this, then later in the process you’ll want to also run the reins through the harness before attaching them to the halter.
When you add the reins, it’s best to have another person helping.
One person can guide the goat with the reins.
The other person can be ready to help guide the goat manually if needed.
Don’t try to hard to steer the goat with the reins at this point.
Instead, walk next to the goat as you walk along. Don’t get behind the goat yet. Spend a lot of time walking like this.
The idea is to simply let the goat get used to the feel of reins on the halter.
Repeat this training a little bit each day. Use treats throughout the process.
After your goat seems to have accepted the reins, then you want to gradually work into walking behind the goat.
Here it’s a good idea to have the other person lead the goat with a leash while you walk behind the goat holding the reins.
As you walk along with the goat, start speaking the commands you taught the goat earlier (forward, stop, left, right, back).
For example, when there’s a right-hand turn in the trail, the person with the lead can lead the goat to the right.
At the same moment, clearly speak the work “right” and give a very slight pull to the right on the reins.
Do this same thing for the other commands, saying “stop” when you stop and pull back on the reins, etc.
Repeat that process a little bit every day.
As you do this, the idea is to gradually use the lead less and less and to gradually use the reins more and more.
If your goat has trouble, just go back to the start of the process and begin again with simpler steps.
After you practice this for awhile and your goat is responding well, then insert the reins through the loops in the harness and attach them to the halter from there.
Then, keep practicing with your goat.
Let the goat get used to the feel of walking with the reins running through the harness to the halter.
Keep using treats.Keep walking behind the goat and using your commands.
At some point, when it feels right, the extra person who has been assisting can gradually step back and let you drive the goat single-handedly from behind the goat.
Soon, your goat will get accustomed to having you walk behind it while guiding it with the reins.
Once you and your goat have mastered this process, you’re ready to have your goat start pulling something.
Cart Training (Training Goats to Pull a Cart)
How to Train a Goat to Pull a Cart
Just like training your goat to get used to a halter, harness and reins, the idea here is to get the goat accustomed to a cart before you have the goat actually start pulling it.
Usually a goat isn’t going to be fully ready to pull carts or wagons until the goat is about 1 or 2 years old.
At first, a cart is something unusual and noisy to the goat. A goat may get scared and jumpy just by having a cart nearby.
This means your first step is to get the goat desensitized around the cart.
Rather than attaching the cart to the goat’s harness right away, start your goat’s cart training just walking the goat as before, wearing the halter, harness and reins.
Have second person walk behind you and the goat pulling cart.
The idea is to get the goat comfortable with the presence of the cart. A moving cart will make noises, especially as it passes over bumps, gravel, etc.
Walking for awhile, followed by the cart, will let the goat get adjusted to the new noises of the cart.
Soon, with practice, the goat will be able to walk along calmly with the cart behind.
Throughout the process, try walking with the cart closer-and-closer to the goat.
You may even want to walk with the cart in front of the goat, next to the goat and behind the goat.
Let the goat see the cart and be around the cart until it becomes “no big deal” to your goat.
Once you reach that point, you’re ready for your goat to start pulling the cart.
To begin, attach the cart to the goat pulling harness which is on the goat.
Make sure the cart is empty for now.
One person should guid the goat with a lead, while the other person walks behind the goat holding the reins.
No one should be riding in the cart. Keep it empty during this firt phase of cart training.
Begin having the goat walk a few steps slowly pulling cart. Then, stop.
Praise and stroke your goat, and give some treats.
Now, do it again. Keep repeating this.
You want to make sure your goat begins to see that pulling the cart is a positive experience.
After a short time, remove the cart. Praise, stroke and reward the goat.
Then, take a break and go do other things.
Repeat that whole process each day, in short bursts.
Slowly work up to longer time periods of pulling the cart. After a few weeks, when your goat has gotten pretty comfortable pulling the cart around, then you can start putting some weight in the cart.
Goat Cart Weight Training
As you continue practicing with your goat pulling the cart each day, begin to add a little weight.
Start with small amounts of weight; no more than half the weight of your goat.
As your goat gets comfortable with that, then gradually add more weight.
If the goat seems to struggle, reduce the weight.
This process is the same as if you yourself had never exercised, and then you suddenly started doing weight lifting.
You would need to start with small amounts of weight each day until you built up your muscles enough to lift heavier weights.
In the same way, your goat will need regular practice and conditioning before the goat can pull heavier loads.
How Much Weight Can a Goat Pull in a Cart?
When talking about the weight a goat can pull, don’t forget to include the weight of the cart.
You will want to weigh your cart.
Then, add that to the amount of any other load you add to the cart, and that is the total weight you’re expecting your goat to pull.
If you reach a point later when you can ride in the cart, include your own weight as part of that load calculation.
Keep practicing with your goat until the goat can pull a load in the cart which is about the same weight as the goat.
How much can a goat pull?
The most a goat should be asked to pull is about 1-1/2 to 2 times the goat’s weight.
But that is assuming you’re using an experienced larger male goat that has a lot of physical conditioning and is in good shape.
It also assumes you’re on flat terrain. Avoid inclines that are too steep.
You can use a goat cart to carry more weight than that. You’ll just have to add more goats.
The bottom line is that the average weight being pulled divided by the number of goats, should be no more than 1-1/2 to 2 times the average weight of one goat.
Pygmy Goats Pulling Carts
It’s definitely possible to have a Pygmy goat pull a goat cart.
You’ll need to special order a smaller-sized halter and harness for your Pygmy goat.
The main thing is that you follow the usual guidelines about how much weight a goat should pull in relation to its own weight.
With all goats, regardless of size, never make a doe that is pregnant or lactating pull anything.
Otherwise, a doe that has had practice and is in shape can certainly be expected to pull a cart with a load that is about the same weight as the doe.
Always keep a close eye on your goat and stop if the goat is struggling or out of breath.
Be careful that your goat never gets over-heated, especially in warmer climates or Summer months.
Once you’ve practiced for awhile having your goat pull a weighted cart, and the goat is conditioned to it and comfortable, then you’re ready to have your goat pull a cart with other goats as a team.
This will allow your goats to pull larger loads including passengers.
Team Driving Goats
Once your goat is accustomed to pulling a cart alone with some weight, then you can add more than one goat together to work as a team.
When you add a second goat, make sure that goat has also been trained by itself under the process we covered above.
The main issue when adding a second goat is that you’ll need to get both goats accustomed to working side-by-side. You’ll want to choose two goats that can get along well.
Rather than just hooking up the two goats to a cart right away, you’ll want to start with the goats just wearing their halter and harness.
Like the earlier training, have one person lead the goats on leashes, while the other person drives the goats with reins from behind.
Initially, just do walking so the two goats get used to walking with each other.
As the goats get comfortable, arrange to connect their harnesses together so they learn to walk side-by-side and change directions together as you drive them with the reins and speak your commands.
As the goat’s learn to cooperate, have the person holding the leads disconnect the leads so you can practice driving the goats from behind only with the reins.
This whole process will need to be gradual.
Repeat this practice in short bursts of time over a couple of weeks.
Once your goats seem to be working pretty well together, then try connecting your cart to them.
Go through a gradual period of letting them get used to pulling the cart together empty.
Slowly work up to having them pull a normal load, based on the weights mentioned above.
Eventually, you or others will be able to take turns sitting in the cart and driving the goats.
If you plan on taking your goat team to a parade or other event, that involves some training also.
Spend some time first just walking your goats around other people or events.
Let them get used to different environments and noises.
Help them get comfortable in different situations before you try to involve them in an official parade.
Even after you’re able to do these things, you’ll still want to reinforce your goat’s training repeatedly to keep it fresh.
And remember, always continue to train your goats with praise, stroking, treat and love.
Make all of this an enjoyable experience for your goats and you’ll have a lot of fun with them.
Other Types of Working Goats
While most people picture a working goat as a goat that carries a backpack or pulls a wagon or cart, there are plenty of other jobs that goes do as well that would qualify them as “working goats”.
Goats as Therapy Animals
Therapy animals are used in therapy for people with certain disabilities or mental health issues.
Goats are a popular animal for this purpose.
Goat therapy includes the use of comfort goats in hospitals and retirement homes.
Therapy animals are often important for someone with autism and goats are a popular choice.
It’s amazing when you see the difference a therapy goat can make in an autistic person’s demeanor and mindset.
In goat therapy it’s common to use Nigerian Dwarf goats or Pygmy goats as therapy animals.
Not only are Nigerians and Pygmys smaller than many other goats, but they are also smart and can develop emotional relationships with humans.
Goat yoga animal therapy is also popular.
Many people feel that goat yoga is just a fad, but it has continued to grow.
Part of this may be due to the fact that goat therapy yoga has been found to increase a person’s oxytocin and dopamine, while decreasing cortisol, blood pressure and anxiety.
Therapy Goat Certification
Therapy goats are not required to be certified and should not be confused with a “service animal” which is protected under federal law and which is usually registered, although it’s not required.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) says that only dogs and miniature horses can be “service animals”.
So, if you’re wondering how to get a service goat, how to register your service goat or how to get a service goat vest – you can’t.
However, some other laws allow the use of other animals to be protected by law, such as the Air Carrier Access Act which applies to “dogs and other service animals”.
You may not be able to have a goat “service animal”, but your goat might be able to be classified as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) if you can get a properly formatted letter from a mental health professional confirming that you need your goat as an ESA.
If you see someone with a service goat on a plane, it’s actually an ESA, not a service animal.
If you try to fly with your own ESA goat, just don’t be surprised if the airline still insists that the goat ride in a crate.
They are exempted from the ESA rules if your animal is out of control or not housebroken.
You may wonder if a service goat vest is required for your emotional support goat.
Contrary to popular belief, a vest is not required for either service animals or emotional support animals.
Owners of service animals or emotional support animals put vests on their animals in some cases to avoid confusion and make it clear to the public that the animal is performing a specific function to assist the person with the animal.
If you use an emotional support goat, it might not be a bad idea to get a vest for your goat to wear, showing that it’s an emotional support animal.
How to Train a Therapy Goat
If you’re wondering about service goat training, keep in mind that a goat used for emotional therapy is different than a service animal.
Service animals require a lot of training because they are usually performing specific functions to help someone, such as opening doors, etc.
But a therapy animal isn’t doing any particular task other than simply being with a person, which is therapeutic in nature.
For this reason, a therapy goat doesn’t require extensive training.
Some minimal training is a good idea.
For example, if you plan to use a goat as a therapy goat, you may want to gradually teach the goat to wear a halter and leash and to walk with you calmly while passing through various environments with other people around.
You may also need to train your therapy goat to be housebroken, or at least to wear a diaper.
If you need a therapy goat, the main thing is to consult with your mental health professional to make sure it’s advisable and to get help on complying with the applicable laws and regulations.
Working goats that are trained to participate in competitive goat shows, especially those involving meat goats, are referred to as Show Goats.
If you’d like to explore the world of show goats, check out our guide…
Another type of work that working goats do involves fiber goats.
These goats produce fibers, like mohair and cashmere, that is used to produced lots of valuable, fine clothing.
Angora goats are the breed that is used to produce mohair fibers.
Cashmere fibers aren’t produced from a single breed.
Cashmere is more about the fine-ness of the fiber. Cashmere fibers can be produced from different breeds of goats.
Those goats which can produce fibers that meet the specifications for Cashmere fibers are referred to as Cashmere goats.
Dairy goats are another type of working goat. They do the job of producing goat milk, which can then be used to produce a whole list of goat dairy products.
For an in-depth look at dairy goats, check out our guide…
Trained Goats – Goat Training Made Easy
Goat Agility Training
Some working goats are trained to run through a goat obstacle course, also known as a goat agility course. These kinds of event are popular at county fairs or 4-H events.
Goat training begins with plans to build a goat obstacle course.
Your obstacle course can even be constructed to train certain types of working goats.
Examples would be a dairy goat obstacle course or a pack goat obstacle course.
Common goat training tips include advice to start slowly with your goat, walk the goat through one step of the obstacle course repeatedly and reward your got with goat training tips each time a target behavior is accomplished.
Dairy Goat Training
Sometimes goat training doesn’t necessarily involve an obstacle course.
For example, with dairy goat training, a prime objective is to get a young doe accustomed to a milking stand.
This involves have her stand on the milking stand without milking at first.
Offer some feed and then remove the doe from the stand after a few moments.
Keep repeating this, so she begins to associate the stand with a pleasant experience and is ready to jump on the stand for you when it’s time to milk.
With her first milking, start slow and ease into the process.
Goat Training Tricks
Goats can be taught lots of tricks they can perform, just like a dog.
This can include training them to sit, shake hands, jump and walk on back legs.
Baby Goat Training
To train your goats effectively, it’s important to start working with them when they are young kids.
It’s best if you can begin by bottle feeding them just after they are born so they will bond with you.
Also, spend daily time with your goats, showing them love, playing and stroking them.
They will get accustomed to your touch and trust you, which will make them much easier to train as time goes on.
Be patient with your goats as you train them, and never scold. Use their favorite treats as rewards when they accomplish a goal.
Use a treat to lead your goat through a trick and, when your goat does the target behavior, reward your goat with a treat.
After lots of practice, start giving the treat only some of the time, but keep praising and rubbing the goat each time.
Soon, the goat will do the tricks while only needing an occasional treat.
Pygmy Goat Training and Nigerian Dwarf Goat Training
Many people like to train miniature goats, like Pygmys and Nigerian Dwarfs, to be in-door pets which are house-broken.
Goats can be trained to wait and only urinate outdoors.
But they normally cannot be trained to only poop outside.
When a goat needs to poop, it is going to do so wherever it may be, and typically can’t be trained to do otherwise.
For the poop, simply have your goat wear a diaper when the goat is indoors, and change it every half hour or so.
Training a goat to urinate only outside can be done with lots of positive reinforcement.
You will want to observe the times at which your goat normally urinates, such as first thing in the morning or right after eating or drinking.
Be sure to put your goat outside at these times, righe before it urinates.
When your goat urinates outside, be sure to give the goat lots of praise, along with plenty of petting and scratching.
Soon your goat will begin to associate good feelings with urinating outdoors and will wait until it is outside to do it.
Goat Training Video – Litter Box Trained Baby Goats
Credit: Silly Sherri Productions
Working Goat Organizations
If you want to learn more about different types of working goats, here are some good sources of information through various working goat organizations…
- American Harness Goat Association
- British Harness Goat Society
- Canadian Pack and Harness Goat Association
- Harness Goat Society (Australia)
- North American Packgoat Association
4-H Harness Goat Project
Working Goats, NYS 4-H Youth Development Program
Where to Buy Day Packs
Pack Goat Essentials
4-H Packgoat project
Teaching Your Goat to Drive
4-H Harness Goat Project Manual
Good Goat! The Pack Animal You Likely Overlooked
Sew a Goat Harness for Pulling
Pack Goats: Are They the Best Pack Animal?
Pack Goats: Packing Quite a Kick
Goat Packing as a Use for Male Goats
Breeds of Livestock – Alpine Goats
High Uinta Pack Goats
Goat Cart Racing in Australia:
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