Anderson: When a goat outsmarts your golden retriever
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Anderson: When a goat outsmarts your golden retriever

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Susan Anderson

Susan Anderson

There’s a goat in Natrona County (and I don’t mean Tom Brady) who is trained to do tricks. His name is Cole and he will shake hands on command. I have a video of this, recorded when he casually lifted his long front right leg on command for a shake with his devoted owner. Not the left, but the right. He repeated the trick three times in a row and got a treat each time.

Previously I thought goats were only good for being on the losing end in goat-tying events, fated to be staked down in an arena until a rider jumps off her horse and ties up three of the goat’s legs in 7-10 seconds. Goat rodeo, after all, is a term used to describe utter chaos. But Cole the goat taught me something.

I’ve shown the video to my golden retriever Luci in hopes of inspiring her, but she still hasn’t put together the idea of raising her paw and receiving a reward. She just wants the reward for being cute, thank you very much.

Watching Cole’s trick sent me into research mode. I found dozens of videos of goats attempting obstacle courses, standing on their hind legs and then twirling or obediently using an indoor litter box. I advise against going down the rabbit hole of online animal videos because after an hour of watching home videos of goats I remembered I was supposed to be researching for a column. Twenty minutes watching the Pygmy Goat Obstacle Course at the Nevada County Fair was enough for one day.

It turns out that goats can be trained to follow on a lead so they can work as pack animals or compete in shows. But the advice for teaching a goat to follow on a lead is fairly comical. According to a handy website called dummies.com, “A jumping, fighting or recalcitrant goat doesn’t fare well in the show ring.” So, this site advises to train a goat by pushing from behind, rather than pulling and reinforcing natural stubbornness. There are plenty of videos of people trying to drag baby goats around an arena by a rope and failing to get beyond the recalcitrant stage. A stubborn, bleating goat with hooves dug into the dirt is a funny sight.

During the online goat search I discovered that specifically designed goat playgrounds are a thing. Videos show goats climbing up ramps to stand on top of structures and even gliding down slides built just for them. They land and climb back up a ladder for another slide.

I estimate that we could easily handle six goats and a playground on our land, but my husband has put a limit on the number of animals we should have. He drew a line in the dirt shortly before his 10,000 bees arrived and I cried foul. But apparently 10,000 bees only count as one new animal addition in some quarters.

If 10,000 bees are one hive, are six goats one rodeo? I’ll keep working on this goat project to find out.

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