Many horse people are baffled by donkey behavior because they start off with one big mistake. They expect donkeys to be like horses, but this just isn‘t the case. Donkeys are smarter than horses, and they tend to think things through. For this reason, even if you are dealing with a donkey who has never been abused and has no reason not to trust you, you may need to work a little bit to build trust.
In this article, we discuss donkey behavior and provide some good information to help you build a trusting relationship with your donkey. Read on to learn more on how to get a donkey to trust you.
What You'll Learn Today
Donkeys Build Strong Bonds
Donkeys are very sociable, and they like to have consistent companionship. You can use your donkey’s bonding tendency to build a strong and trusting relationship.
Just as with any relationship, building a good bond with your donkey is a two-way street. If you want your donkey to trust you, you must be trustworthy. This means being calm, quiet, consistent and dependable.
You can build a lot of trust with your donkey by simply doing the same things, in the same way, at the same time every day. Here are some examples:
- Establish a regular feeding time and always maintain it.
- Follow a routine whenever you work with your donkey.
- Handle your donkey regularly and talk with him while you groom him, bathe him, and train him.
- Always present a firm, calm, quiet demeanor. Avoid running around, shouting or waving your arms. Practice calm body language.
- Avoid spoiling your donkey with treats. Instead, reward desired behavior with pets and grooming and companionship.
This printable PDF document from Save Your Ass Rescue provides lots of great ideas for training and building trust.
Donkeys Are Smart And Curious
Even if you’re dealing with a donkey who has been abused, you can make a lot of progress in trust building with simple, quiet, consistent behavior.
It may take quite a while for your donkey to learn to trust you, but if you present yourself as nonthreatening and give your donkey plenty of space to decide to come to you, his curiosity and intelligence will eventually win out.
Here is a good video on approaching the nervous or unhandled donkey.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply take a lawn chair and a book into the pasture or barn and sit quietly allowing your donkey to get used to your presence.
This exercise will also give you an opportunity to study your donkey and learn his body language. If you can watch him interact with another donkey or other animal, this can really help you learn to read him and gauge his responses and reactions.
Why Might A Donkey Remain Aloof?
If you’ve been spending a great deal of time with your donkey and have been consistent, quiet and trustworthy, yet your donkey still avoids interacting with you, you may reasonably suspect a medical condition.
Problems such as:
- A hormonal condition
- Dietary deficiencies
- Skin conditions
- A hidden injury
- Loss of vision
- Hearing loss
… and more, can interfere with your donkey’s ability to bond with you and trust you.
Have your vet give your donkey a thorough examination to rule out any physical problems that may be preventing your donkey from becoming accustomed to you and trusting you.
You should also keep in mind that donkeys are just as subject to inheriting genetic traits as anybody else. Being aloof and reticent may simply be part of your donkey’s personality makeup.
If this is the case, don’t despair! Just continue to be dependable and trustworthy, and your donkey will eventually come to depend upon in trust you.
Enrichment And Stimulation Are Important
Be sure that your donkey always has free access to good hay and freshwater, as well as plenty of space to graze and exercise, and adequate shelter from the elements.
Keep your donkey’s environment is clean, comfortable, safe and enriching. A pleasant environment will contribute to your donkeys happiness and ability to trust and bond with you.
You can provide even more stimulation and interest in your donkey’s life by doing things like feeding hay in hay nets and providing toys that combat boredom.
Frequently Asked Questions
The top reason why a male donkey becomes aggressive is that he has become sexually mature. If he isn’t gelded, have him gelded. If he is gelded, his behaviors may be caused by an underlying medical problem. Either way, have your vet out to examine the donkey and make recommendations regarding his health and the status of his gender.
Be sure that you have a properly fitted halter and a good, strong lead rope that is comfortable for you to hold. Wear leather gloves if you need to protect your hands. Always walk your donkey from his or her left side. Hold the lead rope a foot or so from the halter in your right hand, and hold the remainder of it in loose loops in your left hand. Use your right hand to guide your donkey left or right and to pull back on the lead (and say “Whoa!“ firmly) to stop. Use the same voice commands consistently. If your donkey has a mind of its own and wants to set out in its own direction, redirect by turning in a circle and setting out in your own new direction. The way you go, your speed, your destination, etc., should always be your decision, not your donkey’s!
To gain trust with this kind of donkey, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of space the animal has to get around. If you can separate him or her into a private paddock with shelter where you can provide consistent daily care, you may have a chance of bonding with the animal and developing trust. You would do this by providing consistent care like clockwork. Feed, water and do stall and paddock cleaning in the same way, at the same time, every day. Create a vocabulary of words that you use with the donkey, and use them in the same way, to mean the same thing, every time. Spend time just hanging out with the animal (on the other side of the fence at first if need be). Talk, sing, read a book, just be there and available to for the donkey to approach. Never wheedle or try to convince the donkey to do anything at first. Just be there and be consistent to show that you are competent and can be trusted. Let the animal learn to trust you on its own terms. A donkey who is dangerously aggressive should never be hand fed anything, and should never be given treats. Your goal is for your presence and your attention to be the reward the animal eventually seeks. Don’t overfeed. A donkey that is receiving sweet feed will develop health and behavior problems. Remember that donkeys can do just fine on a steady diet of good quality hay, fresh clean water and a salt and mineral block.
Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to keep a jack at all. Unless you have a rare, pedigreed jack who is in demand as a stud, there is no reason for a male donkey to remain intact. Jacks are at the mercy of their hormones in terms of behavior. A gelding is much more predictable, much more settled and makes a much better pet and riding animal.