Goat therapy is using goats to provide us with comfort and support so that we can destress and be happy and healthy. Goats can be used therapeutically to aid a variety of mental, emotional, and behavioural issues as well as to provide a general sense of well-being for anybody. Therapy goats can be used in a few ways.
Goat yoga is probably what most people think about, and goat therapy is quickly on the rise as more and more people are coming to see the emotional and mental benefits of owning or hanging out with goats. Goats can be used in children’s hospitals, with recovering addicts or rehabilitating prisoners, in assisted living communities, and they can be used as an alternative therapy to professional counselling and as an addendum to such services. Goats help promote prosocial behaviours and empathy, they can be used to help individuals and children along the autism spectrum, and goats can also be used to help children learn to read. Goats also help deepen and strengthen our mindfulness or meditation practices. Using goats to help heal us, other animals, and the planet is the mission for Faeryland’s farm.
Therapy animals are not the same as service animals used to assisted people. Service animals provide humans with limited mobility or other sense deprivation disability to perform daily tasks and help their humans function. Service animals are defined and protected under ADA laws and they are rigorously and loving trained to provide way more than comfort and support and help show the power of love animals give us.
Understanding goat therapy
Just like all dogs or equines cannot be animal-assisted service dogs or therapy animals, not all goats make good pets or therapy animals. Therapy goats are raised with human interaction from birth. Some people prefer to bottle feed their babies to help establish a bond (sometimes necessary to help relieve momma or if a baby will not take the teat) while others believe in letting the babies stay with their mothers and just having consistent and constant interaction, which is crucial in those first few months so that you establish trust. Establishing trust is easier when we have a good herd that you work with consistently and constantly so that the mothers are already used to humans because the doelings and bucklings will naturally and instinctually respond to you as their mothers do. Likewise, because of their herd mentality and sociable natures, goats get along with many other animals like equines, dogs, cats, yard birds, rabbits, and even turtles.
Just how clever are goats?
Goats are a delight to be around and their very presence is healing. Goats are one of the oldest domesticated species dating back to about 10,000 years ago and first utilized in the Middle Eastern part of the world. No doubt, they were domesticated for their delicious dairy, and I would surmise they were also domesticated for their vibrant, charming mischievous personalities. Goats just seem to have a sixth sense for attuning to us humans. Furthermore, goats are one of four mammals that understand human language and accents with humans, other primates, and dolphins and whales being the other three types. Yes, people, this means that goats not only understand human language, but they can understand tonal differences, accents, they are trilingual. I knew goats were amazing creatures, and they no doubt have a level of understanding we humans do not yet comprehend.
Goats love to play, and they give unconditional love and have no judgement. Goats can be trained to pee in a specific place like outside in the grass, but good luck with the poop. My best estimate is that they poop every 20 minutes, so if you time it right, you can make sure they relieve themselves outside if you prefer to keep your goat friend inside mostly. You must establish a routine and condition them to go outside or at least follow you out, and you can opt for baby diapers. Because goats like to play, I do recommend having some outside playpen for daily exercise and sunshine. Additionally, goats can be trained to pull carts, walk on leashes, and to understand basic command like “come here” and “load up.” They do respond to “stop” mostly, but “no” means nothing to them because they do what they want, which is just another reason they are such healing and wonderful animals.
Because of their sociable natures, they do much better with a companion, so I do recommend to always try to have at least two; two goats will integrate better into an established herd than one because they have their buddy as they get used to learning their position in the herd matriarchy. Goats do live in herds and follow a herd queen. If you talk to the bucks, they will disagree and believe them the leaders of the herd to which the girls respond with laughter and a long day of ignoring all boys. Do not feel sorry for the bucks though, as they get plenty of human attention and affection too.
Because most goats naturally have horns, many goat owners will opt to disbud them to avoid any unintentional injuries or pokes. Disbudding has advantages and is best practised with the supervision of a seasoned professional or with your vet. If you want to raise animals for therapeutic benefits or as pets, having a good relationship with your vet is essential to helping the animals be happy and healthy. If you elect for your goats to keep their horns, as we do on the farm, you can create horn coverings or horn muffs as I call them.
Pool noodles make good covering, and just make sure to clip them properly so that they fit snuggly without causing the animal discomfort. Here on the farm, we use horn muffs. I take old socks, fill them with lots of polyfill so that they are taut and firm. I then make a hole in the middle of the polyfill for the horn to fit into, and I then sew Velcro along the bottom side so that I can easily slip them over the horns and Velcro them to stay put; the picture is a mock-up.
Healing animals on Faeryland’s Farm
Here on Faeryland’s farm, most of the animals come to us as rescues or sickly, and we provide them with a safe space where they can heal and be happy. Not only do the goats and other animals help us heal, but they also seem to have a way of helping each other heal. Our donkey Sir Tennessee Sasquatch was a rescue that was not necessarily abused, but just left to pasture and not engaged much, so he was not used to human affection or attention and he was pretty skittish at first. Within a few days of hanging out with the goats, he relaxed and seemed comfortable around the goats, and we were a little worried that he and the goats might not get along. However, they have a beautiful relationship, and our herd queen Honey Bunny and Sir are the best of friends. They are always hanging out eating, sleeping, and playing together.
Two of our goat rescues are wethers that came all the way to Tennessee from Ohio sleep in the donkey stall, so we have much love and happiness around here. Goats are much like dogs in the sense of their sociability. Just like dogs like to socialize with other dogs, humans, and animals, goats too enjoy these interactions. Over the years, we have had abandoned dogs that we have rehomed and the goats have been good in helping them slow down and learn to be happier dogs.
Goats are such carefree and loving creatures that when we attune to their energy, we too learn to slow down and enjoy life. Their therapeutic value is great and their ability to provide us with love, happiness, and a better sense of well-being is endless. When we work with goats, we can learn to play with life’s energies so that we can focus on the present moment, face ourselves deep down in our unconscious mind, and learn to manifest the world in which we want to live: A world full of compassion, respect, understanding, and, of course, goat – lots and lots of goats!
Hi You guys! I am Cora Moore Bruffy and I am the owner of Faeryland’s Farm. I am working on my PhD in General Psychology. My PhD thesis focus is on mindfulness and animal therapy and I am certified in psychology, child psychology, pet psychology, pet nutrition, and pet first aid as well as animal disaster management with FEMA, so we work to heal animals, nature, and people with goat therapy, animal reiki, and animal education. I have worked with many Native Americans groups on social and environmental justice issues. I worked with the Oglala Lakota to help end the illegal flow of drugs and alcohol onto the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota as well as helping end the poverty on the reservation. Additionally, I have worked with many groups all over the world helping with preservation and cultural diversity issues. I work to preserve culture, nature, and animals because these things are the structural foundation of our cultures and behaviours. I live outside Nashville, Tennessee where we have a little goat farm with our Lab/Sheppard mix (Little Bear who is 18 years old), Lab pup (Max who is around 2), ducks, chickens, guineas, turtles, fish, cats, rabbits, donkey….and goats, of course! My animals are very spoiled. I also like to paint and draw when I get a chance to relax. Most of all, I like to learn, relax, and enjoy life hanging out with the animals.