A pygmy goat is a bounding bundle of fun, a personable animal with the uncanny ability to clear a patch of poison ivy before you reach for the herbicide. A longtime farm favorite, pygmy goats are gaining popularity in suburbs and urban areas, with leashed pygmies trotting sidewalks coast to coast. Adding a goat to your yard is a big decision, however, with consideration needed for issues such as the animal's compatibility with dogs.
Goats Are Prey Animals
It's important to understand that a goat is a prey animal situated toward the bottom of the food chain. As a ruminant, her body is adapted to collect and store a lot of food quickly, even saving the act of chewing, when she's found a safe place to rest. Survival is encoded into her genes and a pygmy goat faced with a predator always will choose “flight” over “fight.” In the wild, canines are a goat's primary danger, and the feral predator/prey relationship can resurface in the most domesticated pairing of dogs and goats.
Dogs As Predators
As a rule, the pygmy goat keeper's primary concern for the animal should be protection from neighboring dogs. More so than disease or any other health concern, domestic dogs pose the greatest threat to the little ruminant's well-being. A goat needs to be kept secure from neighboring dogs, with sturdy fencing installed and checked regularly. While wild dogs and coyotes spell danger for a pygmy goat, she's most likely to die at the jaws of the dog next door.
The Family Dog
But what about your best friend, the family dog that sleeps at your feet and romps with your children? In his genes, Fido is the descendant of wolves and will never completely shake that primal taste for chevron. While there are stories of goats and dogs raised in amicable harmony, even the most well-behaved dog needs constant supervision in the presence of a goat, especially one as morsel-sized as the pygmy. The equation is simple: Dog scares goat, goat runs like prey, dog reacts like a predator. Even a playful dog can kill a goat, as a goat will run herself to death before facing her pursuer.
Despite the blanket danger that dogs pose to goats, an exception does exist: A properly-trained guardian dog such as a Great Pyrenees or Anatolian shepherd can serve as a protector rather than threat to pygmy goats. These breeds have had the predator-prey connection bred out of them, replaced with an instinct to protect the animal nature made their prey. These breeds will fight off most anything and are suggested for pygmy goat owners.
Rodney Wilson is owner and manager of Goldfinch Farm in central Kentucky, where he oversees veterinary and management practices for a diverse group of animals, from dogs and cats to pigs and chickens. He's written professionally since 2001, with articles appearing in such publications as The Cincinnati Enquirer, CiN Weekly, Baby Guide and Akron Life.