All the animals at Kids’ Farm are trained using positive reinforcement, so each time the goats chose the bottle on cue, I offered them a treat from my training pouch. The goats have a set number of enrichment treats they can eat each day. Their favorites include beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, hay cubes and biscuits! Marla tends to be a bit pickier with her training treats, so she receives small bits of chopped up hay cubes as a reward.
As the goats became more familiar with the recycling behavior, I was able to place the objects along the fence in random order and ask them to recycle by selecting the plastic bottle. My next goal is to add more recyclable items to this training. It’s a fun way to educate our guests about the importance of recycling … even the goats can do it!
Do the goats enjoy training sessions?
Oh, yes! I store the training supplies in a large trunk just outside their exhibit. As soon as they see me getting training objects out of the trunk, they begin to bleat and come running up to the gate. All the training we do at Kids’ Farm is voluntary, so the animals can choose to participate if they want to. Because the goats are usually very excited to train, it can help indicate to keepers that a goat might not be feeling well if they don’t want to participate that day.
How long does it typically take for Fiesta, Fedora and Marla to learn new behaviors?
The pace at which the goats learn is one of the most fun things about working with them. They learn quickly and are so curious that they are always up for working through new behaviors. Some of the behaviors, like spinning and walking upright, they picked up in just one or two training sessions. Fiesta is very food motivated, so she tends to try new behaviors the quickest. But Fedora is usually first to perform a behavior to its fullest.