D O N K E Y   T R A I N I N G   e - C L I N I C
      first touch (2a)

      introduction to donkeys and people ----  communication

        part 1a --   groundwork (1a)                                 part 1b --  groundwork (1b)

        part 2a --   first touch (2a)                                     part 2b --   first touch (2b)

        part 3 --    hand leading

        part 4 --    training attitude                                    part 5 --   leading

        part 6 --   step by step training checklist          part 7 --   lunging


Part 2 a --  First Touch: When, Where and How

Donkeys communicate with each other by body posture, sound,
and touch.  We can communicate with them by using their

The first four to six months of a foal's life his mother
teaches him manners.  She can comfort him by pressing her
body against his or by putting her neck over his back.  She
can correct him with a low rumble or stomp of her foot. If
he ignores her warning she will grab him with her mouth and
give him a shake.

A donkey uses their mouth the same way we use our hands.  We
may not think of the movement of our hands as an aggressive
motion but to a donkey a hand reaching for his face is a
threat.  When play fighting they use their mouth to grab the
cheek of the other donkey.  This is an aggressive action and
one we should avoid when making first physical contact with
a young or untrained donkey.

When approaching a donkey keep your hands and arms close to
your sides.  Do not approach him straight-on.  Move to where
you will be walking toward him at his shoulder.  Read his
body posture and pause if he becomes anxious.  When you are
close enough use your body to nudge the donkey at the
shoulder.  Press against him to calm him.  Move your hands
very slowly to rub his shoulder or the crest of his neck.
When you touch, touch firmly.  Don't pat and don't pet.

Observing donkeys I have noticed they are very protective of
their heads and their legs.  Avoid trying to restrain their
head. This makes them feel trapped and they will panic.  It
is important too to remember in the wild, a donkey with an
injured leg would quickly become a predator's lunch.  It is
this instinct to protect their legs that makes them resist
having their feet handled.  Donkeys bump into each other,
lean, nudge, and rub.  We can do the same things without
using our hands.  Once the donkey is relaxed and accustomed
to our taller height and our funky smell, then we can begin
using our hands to imitate their methods of grooming each
other.  If you had access to a gentled donkey, you could
press your ear to his barrel and hear him humming while you
groom him with your hands.  They use a variety of verbal
communications, most we can not hear because the pitch is
beyond our hearing.  When you groom him, hum quietly.  The
day he falls asleep while you rub him is a day to celebrate
because it means you have finally gained his trust.

click here to see the following illustrations:

Photo One:  Identifying donkey postures

Photo Two:  A donkey's reaction to someone reaching toward
his head.

Photo Three: How a donkey's posture changes when I move from
a threatening position to a non-threatening position.

Photo Four: Where to touch.



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 © 2001 Vicki Abbott

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