Goats are typically friendly, social, and energetic with a playful, mischievous side. So when behavioral problems appear -- especially from a goat who has not exhibited biting, kicking or other forms of aggression toward fellow goats or humans before -- the underlying source of the problem needs to be found.
Look for a possible stressor in your goat's environment first. Goats are easily stressed by a variety of factors; a ride to the vet, a new dog, small children approaching the pen, a change in habitat or the presence of a predator. Goats become fearful and apprehensive when stressed, and often retreat or hide. But if the stressor is not removed, the previously gentle goat can begin to exhibit health problems -- such as dehydration or diarrhea -- and start acting mean with other goats or humans.
Examine your goat for a potential illness. A goat that is feeling poorly may become aggressive or ill-tempered to anyone bothering him when he is in physical discomfort. Sick goats often avoid eating and drinking, and stand apart from the rest of the flock. Look for signs of diarrhea or constipation, bleating in pain or discomfort, loss of weight or a goat lying on its side. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your goat is exhibiting any signs of illness; some common goat illnesses can travel through the flock or cause death.
Give your older goats both extra attention and affection -- and space. The average lifespan of a goat is 12 to 14 years; this varies based on whether they are used for breeding, and for how long. As they age, a goat's immunity can lower and health problems often creep in, affecting your goat's formerly sweet temperament. If sight and hearing is affected, your goat may be tentative or startled when people, especially children, approach. Keep up on his yearly vaccinations and exams, which allows your veterinarian to head off any beginning problems. If possible, keep children away to avoid unnecessary confrontations. If he exhibits signs of aggression and meanness, consider placing him in his own pen until he chooses to rejoin the flock.
Do not allow your goat to think he is above you in the herd's pecking order. Goats that head-butt, bite or kick are attempting to show dominance, even with humans. Goats with horns -- especially adults -- have learned these can do harm, and a severe injury can occur, such as to an unsuspecting child, if the goat is not put back in his place. This can include sequestering the goat, placing him in a subservient position or using pepper spray to halt the behavior.
Lori Lapierre holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in public relations/communications. For 17 years, she worked for a Fortune 500 company before purchasing a business and starting a family. She is a regular freelancer for "Living Light News," an award-winning national publication. Her past writing experience includes school news reporting, church drama, in-house business articles and a self-published mystery, "Duty Free Murder."