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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What can you do when a male donkey suddenly starts exhibiting aggressive behavior?

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.

2. How can you keep a donkey under control when walking on a lead?

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!

3. What can you do with a rebellious or dangerously aggressive donkey?

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.

4. Is it a good idea to keep a jack as a pet?

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.

8 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.

  2. My husband is the Manager of an RV park, and his duties include the care of the owners donkey. The Jack is around 12-14 years old. I try to work with him, but I’ve been given varying advice, from “you must get him fixed first” to ” he’s too old now, don’t bother fixing him, it’ll be useless trying to change his behavior now”. Is he too old to try to calm his behavior?

    • It’s hard to say without knowing what his behaviors are and what you’re trying to do with him. If he’s not aggressive or difficult and you don’t plan to have him around mares or jennies, you may not need to have him gelded. Likewise, if you’re just trying to lead him around, brush him and pet him, and he’s not giving you any trouble, you may not need to have him gelded.

      On the other hand, if he is difficult to handle and potentially dangerous, you should have him gelded. Likewise, even if he’s not very difficult, if you plan to ride him – especially if you will be around mares and jennies – you need to get him gelded.

      If you do have him gelded, do it when the weather is cool. Flies will be fewer and recovery will be easier. Give him a month to six weeks for his hormones to settle down, and you’ll see an improvement in his personality.

  3. we have a donkey at our work he used to be very friendly and loved a cuddle he share a field with another donkey and two shetland ponies for a few weeks now now he has started biting, chasing and charging at his friend’s and also people

  4. My donkey is starting to get to big headed and will basically take me for a walk but am not sure how to stop this please could you help.

  5. I have a Jenny that a friend of mine bought for 60$ at a cattle auction in Roanoke AL. When she first got here I couldn’t get within a mile of her. After about 5 or 6 months I can pet on her when she’s in her stall but not in the pasture and, with time, get a halter on her and “lead” her, but now she has started trying to kick me. A few weeks ago she came inches away from nailing me in my face, and there have been about 5 other times since then. She’s not a mini by no means, she strands at around 13.4 hands tall, weighs around 500-600 lbs and doesn’t like me at all. It has made me very angry at her when she tries to kick me but I have never once hit her, yell at her yes, but not hit her. She hasn’t tried to bite me but she has nipped at my goats, which means that she’s mostly alone. And I know people say that they need a buddy but as of right now I couldn’t afford another donkey. Her feet are split and need trimming, but there are very few ferriers in my area and having one come out the amount of times it would take to fix them would break me. I have tried to trim her feet myself, my dad being an exferrier has tried to help as well, but I can only handle her front feet, and only for a few seconds. Neither me nor my dad can do anything with her back feet, the last time I tried she cow kicked me in my thigh and I had a hoof shaped bruise for about a week. I just can’t connect with her, so my plan was to have her spend a week with a stud mammoth jack I found and after she foals I would sell her to someone who maybe could connect with her better, someone who might would be able to get her to where she needs to be.


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