How To Get A Donkey To Trust You?

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.

Donkeys Build Strong Bonds

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:

  1. Establish a regular feeding time and always maintain it.
  2. Follow a routine whenever you work with your donkey.
  3. Handle your donkey regularly and talk with him while you groom him, bathe him, and train him.
  4. Always present a firm, calm, quiet demeanor. Avoid running around, shouting or waving your arms. Practice calm body language.
  5. 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?

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.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Farm & Animals since 2019. Farm animals have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.

2 thoughts on “How To Get A Donkey To Trust You?”

  1. We have had now three donkeys that we have rescued from going to slaughter, two who have settled in straight away however (Wonky) the Jack is possing to be a bit of a challenge, we have had them four weeks now and have followed the same routine daily however Wonky doesn’t seem to be improving. We have problems getting him out of his stable then once out issues catching him then putting him to bed. Please any ideas gratefully taken on board.

    • Hi Graham, thanks for your comment!

      There’s a reason why the term “jackass” is an insult. This is how they act. You’re fortunate he’s not also kicking, biting, knocking down fences when he gets a whiff of a nearby mare or jenny in season and otherwise making an ass of himself.

      If you haven’t already done so, have your vet out to examine him and give him his vaccinations. Find out about having him gelded. If you have already had him examined and brought up to date with his vaccines, call your vet out to geld him.

      Act on this quickly. It’s best to get it done before hot weather sets in because of fly problems. Once he is gelded, it will take at least 4-6 weeks before you’ll begin to see an improvement in his behavior.

      Having him gelded is the responsible thing to do. It will help prevent more unwanted donkeys being born and possibly ending up in kill pens. It’s also much safer to handle a gelding than a jack. You’re sure to be happier with Wonky as a pet once his hormones settle down.


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