Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sue Weaver: Raising Milo, Part Five

Due to a series of sad events at our farm, Milo's training hasn't progressed as fast as I'd planned, but what he's learning, he's learning quite well.

Kerla used the pee-pee pad. Milo said, "No way!"

We discovered early on that he didn't want to be house-trained to a pad in the house in the manner we trained our last bottle baby, Kerla. Milo wants to do his business outside. To our surprise, right from his first day home, he'd wait to go until one of us carried him out and set him down. Since we clicker train our animals, we tried to reinforce this response using a slurp of formula from his bottle as a reward, but Milo was so excited about the bottle he forgot what he was doing and stopped peeing. So until he's older and eats solid food treats, we're using a simple "Gooooood boy!" approach.

We have, however, used the clicker while feeding him — (click!) let him drink, take the bottle away, (click!) give it back — to link the clicker with food rewards. And by our dropping a few raisins, Cheerios, or pieces of corn chip in his hay bowl with each feeding, he's developing a taste for clicker reward foods.

Milo targets John's hand.

A slight setback occurred when Milo decided he didn't like being carried (sitting on someone's lap is fine; feet high up off the ground, no way, and he screamed like a banshee to let us know it), so we had to teach him to lead right from the get-go. Fortunately, he's a smart little scamp; he caught on in one short lesson and learned to walk to the door on a lead.

Steps proved a problem and necessitated our picking him up whether he liked it or not. Windmilling legs and high-pitched shrieks in the night got old in a hurry, so John sat down with Milo when he was 2 weeks old and taught him to navigate the steps.

We'd been told that, while it's easy to train goats not to pee in the house, they don't have strong bowel control, so “beans” happen wherever a goat may be. Not so. Milo not only keeps his house dry, he has never soiled it, either.

Milo waits to pee outdoors.

So at 6 weeks old he's fully house-trained, leads like a champ, knows the word "stay," and follows us over hill and holler in true packgoat fashion (“packgoat,” according to goat-packing enthusiasts is one word, not two), even across water, which, since goats hate to get their feet wet, is a true feather in his little cap.

John teaches Milo to stay.

I've cut out his middle-of-the-night feeding, but since I have to use the bathroom myself at least once a night, I still take him out to pee and make beans. He waits. It was infinitely easier than house-training a puppy.

Read the earlier posts:
Raising Milo, Part Four

Sue Weaver sold her first freelance article in 1969. Since then her work has appeared in major horse periodicals, including the Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Chronicle of the Horse, Flying Changes, Horseman’s Market, Arabian Horse Times, the Appaloosa News, the Quarter Horse Journal, Horse’N Around, and the Brayer. She has written, among other books, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, The Donkey Companion, and The Backyard Goat. Sue is based in the southern Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.

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