Thursday, October 6, 2016

5 Training Tips for Donkey Owners

1. Donkeys evolved in arid, mountainous regions. If they spooked and ran, they may end up off a cliff and out of the gene pool. Therefore, they think differently than horses and are very different to train. When frightened, a donkey will usually go a short distance and turn around to face the offending object/animal/person. Many times, a donkey will "baulk" and asses the situation before moving again. If more urgency is applied to the situation, or more stimulus, they often times will shut down entirely. 

2. Donkeys dislike repetition. Horses can be lunged in circles endlessly it seems. Donkeys usually go once around and then stop, as if asking "why do that again if I did it the way you wanted the first time?" Asking a donkey to repeat something they just did well is, in the donkey's mind, akin to telling them you weren't satisfied, and eventually they will get frustrated or try something different in an attempt to please you. You can see in the photo above, I am asking a donkey to "send" over an obstacle. I can only do this once or twice before changing up what I am sending her over, to keep it interesting and also to let her know she did it correctly. Donkeys prefer mental warmups to pure physical warmups for exercise. While they may need to stretch and warm up muscles, circling endlessly is supremely boring and irritating to a donkey. 

3. Donkeys can sense haste, and do not respond well to it. Act like you have all day, and it'll take you a minute. Act like you need it done NOW, it'll take forever. 

4. Donkeys, even well trained ones, can "loose" their training if a new person works with them. The reason for this seems to be that donkeys need the time to get to know a new handler, and trust them. Donkeys need to develop a bond and trust with any person who wishes to work with them. Some take months, some take minutes. They also may interpret what we see as the "same" cues differently if they are from a  new handler, and until they understand all over again that this new way of asking is OK,  they may shut down or try to respond in a different way. Many donkeys can get "one mannish" and only will respond to one handler  they trust if that's all they have ever known. if you get a donkey who is already trained, don't assume they will act at all the same in a new situation with new humans. Some will, some won't. 

5. Use treats sparingly. We ONLY use low sugar, low carb treats for a few things in training. If you use treats all the time, you may get a mouthy, grabby donkey as well as an obese one. The few situations we use treats for are as follows: Trailer loading (because if you have an emergency they MUST LOAD NOW), Sometimes for haltering (if they are frightened of being caught), and sometimes for crossing scary things like tarps or water. We use them mainly for association--associating something previously scary with something yummy. There are training methods that use feed as the primary motivator, and  a lot of people like those methods. I'm not knocking those methods, just saying we don't use them here at Foghorn Farm for specific reasons. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rachael, I have to RESPECTFULLY!!! disagree with your treat comment We train ALL of the animals at Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue, cickens, yes chickens!, pigs, donkeys, mules, hinnies dogs, with positive reinforcement training. We use treats in abundance! If done correctly food based training does NOT create grabby animals. I highly recommend the Empowered Equestrians FB page for tips on positive reinforcement training and the FB page Positively Donkeys and Mules. This type of training is win/win for trainer and subject. The science of it is fascinating and works so well, especially with "damaged" animals who have lost their trust in humans. Keep up your good work!!!!