A good way to prepare for show season, or just to have a tame, gentle, easy-to-work dairy goat, is to train them for the show ring, even if they never actually show before a licensed judge. When training yearlings and younger doelings, it’s a good idea to work with each goat at least once or twice a week. This makes them easier to handle later in their lives, plus it helps them to become used to people and trusting, no matter what future situation they may get into.
When going out to work with the dairy goats, it sometimes helps to bring a treat to make it more fun for the goat. My goats really enjoy: peanuts, animal crackers, sunflower seeds, a little handful of grain or sometimes a carrot or apple slice.
To start with, put the show collar on and touch all over the goat’s body. Touching their body helps desensitize them from human hands, like when the judge feels their ribs (when checking for spring of rib, bone structure, or condition). It is also a good idea to touch the udder, or in bucks, the scrotal sack. (In the show ring the judge will touch the udder or scrotal sack looking for double teats or deformed testicles). It is also important to pick up each foot. This helps get them ready for hoof trimming, and/or positioning in the show ring when they need to stand square or in a rectangle stance.
Even if the goats are not show goats, it is good to practice a "mini goat show." Practice with someone else that needs help too, or get family members to help. Someone can be the "judge" and decide what kind of class (for example a conformation or showmanship class) will take place. In addition to leading the goat in a circle, make sure to practice switching from side to side by moving across in front of the goat. When finished, it’s important to praise the goat. Soon they will learn that when the show chain goes on their neck, it’s time to go out and be the best. Never over work or have long practices with any goat because they could sour (not have fun, wiggle and pull back on the chain a lot). If a goat sours, then shorter training periods should be used, with more treats and praise offered for good behavior. A treat at the beginning and end of training will help the goat look forward to working and practicing show ring maneuvers and stances. In the middle of the little training class it’s okay to take a little time to pat the goat and maybe offer some water. Then do a little more practice and stop for the day, ending with lots of praise and a treat for the goat.
For the first couple days of training, the goat should have on a flat collar (these can be found in pet or farm stores). Baby goats especially like to pull on their collars and a chain can hurt their neck and make them uncomfortable the first couple of days. To keep from dragging a goat when trying to teach them to lead, put one hand on the collar and one hand on the rump of the goat. Sometimes it works to lift the tail gently when a goat is being stubborn. They usually do not like their tail being messed with and take off. Just be ready and keep the other hand on the collar.
When training show goats, or even just goats that will be family milkers, never yell, hit, get angry, or even use a raised voice. It’s better to just take a deep breath, love the goat, and go on patiently with the process.
The best thing anyone can do to improve show ring performance is to spend time with the goat to be shown! Proper handling and show conditioning reduces stress for both handler and goat. The thing to remember in the show ring is to have fun and give the best performance possible. Time spent handling and practicing show ring manners will benefit every goat and lead to a much happier life, no matter if the goat becomes a family milker, backyard pet, commercial producer, or show ring champion.