How To Stop A Goat From Head Butting?

Goats are notorious for head butting, but why do they do it? The simple answer is that head butting is a natural behavior in goats. You’ll see kids butting heads and play, does butting heads in competition for food and other desirable items in situations and bucks butting heads as a show of dominance.

In this article, we share tips to help you prevent the start of head butting in goats. We also share some tips to help you put a quick end to this bad habit if/when it begins. If you have any specific question to ask, please leave a comment at the end of this article. Read on to learn more about how to stop a goat from head butting.

Is Head Butting Dangerous?

is head butting dangerous

Head butting can be harmless, or it can be quite harmful and damaging. While kids at play will seldom hurt each other, pregnant does competing in earnest can hurt one another and even cause miscarriages. Mature bucks fighting can do a great deal of harm to one another.

Additionally, sometimes mature bucks will simply butt inanimate objects (such as wooden walls) for the sheer joy of destroying them.

The real trouble begins when your goat decides to butt you. This is entirely inappropriate no matter why it happens. It is not all right for your goat to play with you in this manner, and it is certainly not all right for your goat to try to hurt you.

How To Prevent Head Butting From Starting

how to prevent head butting from starting

1. Have All Kids Dehorned When They Are Young

While this will not stop the behavior of head butting, it will greatly reduce the potential damage. There is absolutely no reason to have a goat with horns. They are dangerous and destructive.

2. Be Confident And In Charge

If you are afraid or tentative around goats, you have no business having them. Learn how to handle goats and always present yourself with calm confidence.

3. Introduce New Goats Carefully

It’s a good idea to let goats get to know each other through the fence for a week or so before allowing them to come into direct contact with one another. It’s also wise to always introduce two or more new goats at a time to a herd rather than introducing a single new goat. A goat alone is bound to be picked on, perhaps by the entire herd.

4. Understand Goat Herd Pecking Order

Anytime new goats are introduced to a herd, a tussle is bound to ensue. Goats need to establish their hierarchy or pecking order. A little bit of head butting (especially by dehorned goats) is fairly harmless. Nonetheless, keep a close eye on newly introduced goats and separate them as needed.

5. Use A Trough For Feeding Rather Than A Single Round Pan

If you put all the goat feed into a single round pan and expect the goats to gather around it and eat peacefully, you’re dreaming. This is just setting up a situation that will cause them to head butt in competition over the feed. The end result will be lots of chaos and feed trampled into the ground.

Instead, use a long trough that is elevated off the ground so that goats must approach it and eat with their heads raised to shoulder level. There should be plenty of room for all of your goats to find a place at the trough without having to push anyone out of the way.

6. Don’t Use Feeders That Require Your Goat To Put Its Head Inside To Eat

This obscures the goat’s line of vision and makes it vulnerable to being butted by jealous rivals.

7. Use Good Behavior Management

Always reward the behavior that you desire by giving your goats a pat and speaking with kind words in a pleasant tone of voice. Respond quickly to unwanted behavior with a sharp, stern “NO!” Begin this when your goats are very young, and they will learn which behaviors are acceptable and desired and which are forbidden.

Don’t rely on rigged solutions as shown in this video.

How To Keep Your Goat From Butting You

While it may seem cute and possibly effective to do things like putting sections of pool noodles on your goats’ horns to mitigate potential damage, this sort of thing is actually ineffective. Even without horns, a head butting goat can inflict quite a bit of damage and injury.

Additionally, any strange thing you put on one goat is bound to be pulled off and chewed to pieces by another goat.

How To Stop Head Butting In Goats

how to stop head butting in goats

Kids At Play

For kids at play, there’s no need to stop head butting. This is a natural and harmless behavior. Kids who grow up together head butting will continue harmlessly head butting each other as they mature. Just be aware that this behavior may escalate into damaging behavior if and when they are separated into new herds.

Your Bucks

Don’t keep your buck with your herd or with other bucks. Intact bucks are well known for head butting for all sorts of ornery, dominance seeking, destructive reasons. Your dehorned buck should be kept in his own pen with a strong fence and a sturdy metal house that he cannot butt to pieces. He should only be allowed in with the does at breeding time.

Your Does

If your does are head butting each other, it’s an indication that something is wrong. Evaluate the situation and make changes to your feeding set up or any other circumstance that may trigger does to compete with each other. If larger does are picking on a smaller doe, separate her.

What About Pet Goats?

If your pet goat develops the horrible habit of butting you, you’ll need to nip it in the bud by responding quickly and decisively. You can do this with a loud, stern shout of “NO!”

You may wish to accompany this with a sharp whack on top of the head using a sturdy stick or a riding crop. Don’t worry that you’ll hurt the goat. Remember that they have extremely hard heads that are just made for butting.

If the head butting is very aggressive and dangerous, you may need to use a cattle prod to shock the offending goat, but only do this in very severe cases.

Some goat keepers have had very good luck stopping head butting by using a high-powered water gun as shown in this video.

Solution For Aggressive Goats

Remember That Goats Are Not Lap Dogs

Even if you are keeping a pygmy or dwarf goat as a pet, remember that it is essentially a farm animal and should not be treated like a lap dog.

Don’t let it jump up on you, sit in your lap or butt you with its head as kid. This may seem cute when the goat is tiny, but even a miniature goat can hurt you with these behaviors when it is grown.

If you have a farm, whether you have your goats for milk or are raising them for meat, teach them to walk well on a lead, have good ground manners and respect your space from a very early age. By doing so you will not have problems with head butting when they grow up.

If you are looking for more tips to help you with your goats, check this advice on trimming their hooves.

19 thoughts on “How To Stop A Goat From Head Butting?”

  1. i have 2 male fixed dehorned goats they seem to like to butt heads most of the time they are not doing it enough to make there heads bleed but today they did . i put sav on them but i want to know how to get them when iam not with them to not be doing it . they are like peas in a pod love each other they are lost with out each other so seperating them wont work the one will cry all day and night
    hope u can come up with something

    Reply
    • Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for your question! If you’re lucky, your goats may have learned a lesson from hurting each other, and the solution may be in the problem. Even so, you might try installing a surveillance camera for a few days to determine exactly what causes the more aggressive butting. Maybe they are fighting over feed or hay, or maybe some event is triggering them.

      Otherwise, try these tips:

      1. Be sure they have plenty of space so they can get away from each other if things get too rough.
      2. Make sure they are getting enough to eat.
      3. Avoid feeding sweet feeds. Check sugar content on the feed you use. Too much sugar causes behavior problems in everyone!
      4. Try feeding them in separate dishes on separate sides of the pen, or completely separate them at feeding time.
      5. Put hay in two or three separate places so they never have to fight over it.
      6. Give them open pasture time, if possible, or take them on walks to work off extra energy and add interest to their lives. You may want to take them on leash like dogs. I have found that goats will pretty much stay close by when taken for a walk off-leash, but you’ll need to experiment with that in your circumstance to know what works best for you.

      Remember that head-butting is a normal behavior for goats, and they may hurt each other occasionally. Giving them first aid was the right thing to do. If the injuries become serious, consult your veterinarian for care and recommendations.

      Best of luck to you!

      Reply
  2. I have a male goat named, “Donkey”. He was raised with a mini pony and his old owners said he did perfectly fine. I adopted him when he was 2 years old and he was in our backyard for a really long time with my dogs. This year we finally decided to get him a friend. We bought a female baby Nigerien dwarf goat. We put her outside with him and he is ramming her, he has no horns but I still don’t want him to hurt her. I don’t know how to stop it, and I don’t have room to separate her. What should I do? Is there anyway I can teach him to not do that? Should I get another baby goat and let them meet him together?

    Reply
    • It sounds as if your goat is set in his ways. You don’t mention whether he is intact or wethered (castrated) but it is not unusual for intact male goats to be very territorial. Giving him a smaller, younger goat as a companion was the perfect recipe to start him bullying. Sadly, I think it would be best if you found a new home for the smaller goat and let your mature male goat go back to being a companion for your dogs. It sounds as if he grew up without goat companionship, and he will probably be fine continuing without it.

      Reply
  3. I have two male goats that have found sport in ramming the dogs. Head butted and ran over our 10wk old puppy yesterday. They wait for a chance to strike and aggressively go after the dogs. Any hope at stopping this behavior. Don’t want to get rid of them, but my dogs come first. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your question, Curtis.

      You are really best off keeping your goats in a separate pen that the dogs cannot access. It’s especially important to keep baby animals (e.g. a ten week old puppy) away from livestock. It’s far to easy for accidents to happen.

      Goats are notoriously full of mischief, especially intact males. If your two males are not already castrated, you should take care of that ASAP. Intact male goats are aggressive and smelly, and it won’t be long before they begin fighting each other and aggressing toward people.

      Reply
  4. Hi! We recently had a goat “move-in” to our horse farm. We have lots of small children around and a few dogs as well. The goat is usually a companion goat to her horse. However, sometime they let her out (or she lets herself out) of her pasture to play with a dog or just to roam around. Lately she has gotten very needy(?) towards people though. Pawing, pushing against, and sometimes head butting. I don’t know if she thinks we are playing like she does with the dog, or if she’s being aggressive. My concern is that she’s going to do this to a small child and really hurt them. What do you suggest we do to nip this behavior in the bud? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thank you for your question, Leigh.

      Just as with people, with goats, good fences make good neighbors. If the goat is supposed to be a companion to a horse, steps should be taken to improve fencing so the goat cannot get out and stays with the horse. This is as much for the goat’s safety as the safety of others.

      It’s not a good idea to let goats play with dogs. All sorts of mayhem can ensue for both.

      When handling any goat take care not to be overindulgent. Don’t hand feed treats, and don’t let her encroach on your space. When the animal does not respect your boundaries, stand firm and tall and say NO! Be sure to use a firm, loud voice. Being screechy or panicking will only make matters worse.

      Handle the goat regularly with a halter and lead. Teach her to stand tied, be groomed and have her hooves trimmed. Regular, consistent, firm handling will help her understand and respect boundaries and learn who’s in charge.

      Reply
  5. We just got a goat. He rears up at my 5 year old son and he tries to separate my son and his dad when they go in the pen. He also head butts him. We use a spray bottle but not totally working. He is fixed but still has his horns. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Thanks for your question, Tricia. In part, I agree with Fred! That’s a potentially dangerous situation, so at least for the time being, you are best off keeping your 5 year old out of the goat pen. Let him become acquainted with the goat through the fence for now.

      You mention that this is a new goat, so he may be trying to sort out the pecking order in his new situation. The spray bottle is a good training device. Be sure to pair it with a firm “NO!” or other consistent command.

      Here is a good video on the use of the spray bottle as a disciplining tool. Notice that the presenter has several consistent verbal cues he uses with his goats.

      https://youtu.be/r_Ph5d58hFU

      Never push or hit a goat. It’s just in their nature to push back, so that only makes matters worse. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  6. Hi, we are new to goats and just adopted 6. 4 are related, “queen grandma”, her 2 kids, and grandkid. The other 2 are brother and sister. Grandma picks on the smaller sister goat, and her kids follow suit. I’ve been reading about and understand goat dominance. I’m just wondering if this is going to stop overtime or if my poor doe will continue to be ganged up on

    Reply
    • Hi Krista,

      Chances are, with the configuration of animals you have, the behavior will continue. You are probably best off to separate the doe who is being picked on.

      Reply
  7. I have purchased 3 Nigerian dwarfs from the same herd. One male is 14 weeks and the other male and female siblings are 6 weeks old. I have recently wethered the two males. All have their horns. The older wether has butted both smaller goats, resulting in wounds on both goats rib area. What should I do?

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle,

      Because of the difference in age and size, this behavior will probably continue. If you can separate the larger male from the siblings, you should do so. If you are able to keep them in adjacent pens so that they can continue to build relationship, you may be able to put them together again in the future when they are all fully mature and equal in size and strength.

      Reply
  8. Hi,
    I have two male brother Pygmy goats the breeder said they were castrated but one of them, he’s called Gilbert is really aggressive towards his brother Frankie and to people. Frankie however loves people and wants to sit on you all day (I try to not let him do that though) when Gilbert head butts anything I stand up real straight and shout NO! But he just looks at me like “really? I’m the boss here” and just goes for me instead. I really want to be able to sit out in hot weather and enjoy watching my two goats instead of shouting at Gilbert all the time. I can’t separate them because Gilbert will scream like he’s being murdered 24/7
    Can you help me?

    Reply
    • Hi Amber, Thanks for your question. It sounds as if you need to separate your goats from your sitting area. They will tussle with each other, no matter what, but they shouldn’t even be given the opportunity to run all over you in your own space, and you should not let a goat sit on your lap, no matter how cute and small he is.

      As far as teaching Gilbert boundaries goes, don’t sit down around him. Stay physically bigger than he is at all times. Continue to verbally correct him when he misbehaves, and add a water bottle to your response.

      Incorporate halter training, walking on leash and grooming in your goat care routine as a way of taking control and instilling respect for your authority.

      Reply
  9. I really, really hate to be *that* person, but I disagree with a passage here…

    “1. HAVE ALL KIDS DEHORNED WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG
    While this will not stop the behavior of head butting, it will greatly reduce the potential damage. There is absolutely no reason to have a goat with horns. They are dangerous and destructive.”

    First, dehorning is unethical. It involves hacking off horns that have already attached to the skull, leaving gaping holes in the head. It causes extreme pain and often leads to the goat bleeding out. Please don’t recommend it.

    Disbudding is the proper, more ethical process, involving cauterizing the buds before the tissue grows into the skull. It still causes pain, but it’s by far the quickest and safest method. These are NOT interchangeable terms.

    Second, “there’s absolutely no reason to have a goat with horns”? Is keeping a legitimate body part that serves a very legitimate purpose a reason, or are we just manipulating an animal’s natural body to suit our own personal preferences and to win a ribbon here? Horns can absolutely be a problem, but they’re also a very natural part of the body. I’ve had goats with horns who were completely fine. Not saying there couldn’t ever be a problem; one goat had suicide horns. I think it’s a debatable point, though.

    Other than that, this was an excellent, thorough guide.

    As to all these people commenting here, has common sense been completely abandoned? Don’t put a young goat in with an adult goat. Don’t keep dogs and goats together. Don’t let your young children around your livestock without supervision. If there isn’t enough space for multiple goats, don’t get goats. If a goat seems to be bent on butting a smaller, younger, more helpless, or ill animal…separate them. Always introduce new animals together slowly.

    Good grief. I get so annoyed with all the people who fail to do basic research BEFORE getting animals, and then scratch their heads wondering why they’ve run into such basic problems with basic solutions that don’t seem to even occur to them. Case in point: a few years ago, a family acquaintance brought home an LGD puppy. Apparently she didn’t realize that she had to keep the puppy separate from the livestock until it was older. The next morning, the puppy was dead, trampled by the livestock. THIS is what bugs me. Due to the human’s inability to ask simple questions, the animals often end up paying the price. Then, and sometimes not even then, it finally dawns on people. It shouldn’t be that way.

    Please, please, please, to anyone reading this, DO THOROUGH RESEARCH. Preferably BEFORE you bring home an animal. So many problems and headaches could be completely avoided with some knowledge (and common sense).

    I hate to leave “negative” comments (although I do believe in healthy disagreement), because as a writer I know what it’s like to read one, and because I know how much effort goes into articles. But this is an issue I have no patience or tolerance for (and it’s just toward the other commenters).

    Thanks for hearing me out. I genuinely mean no offense to the writer.

    Reply

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