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Donkey that isn't tame - next step

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  • Donkey that isn't tame - next step

    I have a jack that I got 3 years ago that isn't tame. He came off the stock trailer, down a shute, into the pasture like he was a steer. He had been born on a cattle ranch and used to guard calves. I have no idea how old he is. I have used him to guard my goats, and he is currently a companion to my old QH mare. After I got him, I spent some time initially trying to tame him with food but after a few months gave up, he was so skeptical and willing to forgo any kind of treats/grain if it meant getting close to me. He would come to the bucket after quite awhile, but when I moved(movement as little as wiggling my foot), he ran away. In the past 3 years, I have moved him between pastures by building panel shutes and it has worked well for both of us. I recently moved him to my small farm, right next to my house (he loaded very easily - again using a panel shute), so once again I am trying to tame him. At this point, I have trained him to go into a 12x12 panel area nightly when I feed him. I just have to lightly herd him, talk to him, and he goes into his feed area. I stand in the area about 3 feet off his shoulder until he starts eating, I tell him he is good, and then leave him. His reward for compiling is I leave him be. I also will randomly enter the area, he will leave the food and stand in the corner, I talk to him and once he settles and starts eating with me standing close by, I leave. He understands the drill now. He is so skeptical that the first time I put carrots into his bucket, he pawed the ground and took about 10 minutes to dip his head into the bucket. He's smart enough that sometimes he dips his head into the bucket but doesn't take a bite. He just looks at me to see if I will fall for the ruse. I have been standing progressively closer to him as he eats, but I know that it's now time to do something else. I want to touch him so bad, but he is still very nervous with me. If he thinks I'm moving too close, or he feels trapped, he will swing his rear end towards me. When this has happened, I say something like no, and then slightly lean into him so he knows he can't do this. He now accepts and likes the carrots, but if I extend one in my hand he hides in the corner like it's very scary. The last thing I added to the routine was I sit on a bucket instead of stand, this initially was once again scary, but he did come into the corner after 10 minutes. The reason I want to tame him is I would like to be able to love on him, of course, but more importantly, I haven't been able to do any care at all. No brushing, no trimming his feet, no shots. If he were to injure himself seriously at this point, of course we could treat him, but it would be tramatic. I'd have to pin him with panels and sedate him. It would be so nice to know that if he needed care I could give it without it being a huge problem - esp for a minor issue. Thankfully he appears to be very heathly. I only have him and my horse, who is vacinated, so it is a farily safe environment health wise. He is a jack, but my mare is so old that she doesn't cycle anymore. I thought about gelding him many times, but there is no reason. He exhibts no manly behavior at all. So, where do I go from here???

    Thanks for any ideas...
    Jill

  • #2
    Have you considered clicker training? It's what zookeepers use on wild animals and it works brilliantly on animals that are initially impossible to handle. You may have to start on a 'focus' exercise in the field.

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

    Comment


    • #3
      I assume since he is not especially excited about treats and touching you that clicker is not going to work, unless you have another year or so to try that approach. I would suggest you try and get him "cornered", as in put into a very small stall where he cannot move away from you, sort of a squeeze chute without the squeeze and just acclimate him to your touch until you can get him properly haltered, just like with a wildish foal, leave a catch strap and then just work on normal desensitization of your hands, find a scratching spot on him that he hopefully relax under, or try the T-touch spots on his face until you can move on from there. Blessings to you for loving this little wild thing and being committed to going the whole route now. He needs his vaccinations, feet trimming and of course, he needs some healthy grooming. What a project!

      Don't laugh but a good little crooning, sing song works wonders. My husband would sing arias from Mozarts' Magic Flute with the dancing animals but you don't have to get that fancy! It was amazing to watch the mare and foal come up out of a very nice lush field at night without having to wander about looking for them, it was like magic, first they were not there and just a few minutes after he started singing they would appear at the fence! They were not wild, but they would not come to the fence out of a lush summer night pasture either, unless they got their "lullaby".
      "We, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." JFK

      Comment


      • #4
        Clicker does require a high value item -it's a matter of finding it. Clicker does not require contact. Finally, clicker is quite fast as soon as you understand the concept. I mean, think about it, clicker started with animals that weren't cuddly and with trainers on a schedule. Read up on Karen Pryor if you are interested.

        Paula
        He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

        Comment


        • #5
          I worked with a little mule that had been abused and she was not able to be handled. She had been forced (and snubbed and beaten) and therefore would not allow anyone to touch her. She was only about 47 inches tall but she was very powerful.

          The key to this little mule was not to push her past her comfort zone. Everyone had done this and it only created a very hysterically afraid little animal. I had a small barn aisle and after a month when she was comfy with me walking past her in the paddock and pastures and barn I shut the door. Initially she freaked out but since I had not made a step in her direction since she arrived at my property she wasn't nearly as afraid as I thought she'd be. I should explain that when I get an animal that has been abused by people so much that they are watching your every move for what you are going to do - that I go about my daily routine and pretend that they are not there.

          I opened the door and wow, was she surprised. ha ha I did this for several days and then kept the door shut and got out a 6'cotton lead rope, which caused panic. You can see the routine here - small steps.

          I never approached her with the lead rope (she had a halter on which no one had been able to remove for about two years) but walked around the barn aisle dragging the rope, swinging it around a little and never once looking at her.

          She was so interested in what i was doing because I was acting so differently than what others had done in the past. If I turned my back I could hear her come up behind me to sniff. Very cute.

          I learned from a mule specialist to try a 'give and take' exercise. I would take a step towards the little mule, who would back off. I would step back and she would step towards me. She learned that I wasn't going to pressure her and our relationship progressed so much that within another month I could sit down and she would approach and I could pet her all over. Touching her halter took a lot longer as she knew from experience that once people had her by the halter that things didn't go well. Eventually though I could attach and remove a lead rope from her halter. I could ask for her to lift her feet and do a little grooming. You could tell she really loved the attention but was so fearful. Sigh.

          Unfortunately I couldn't keep this little gal. As her confidence grew she began to go after my goats. I had no way to separate everyone and I found a home for her where I was assured she would get the same slow, gradual training. She did lead to the trailer, however she did bolt away from me and I was able to get her again and lead her on. This poor little soul did not end up well. I never should have rehomed her. I didn't realize how deep the damage went. She started killing cats, dogs and started attacking the father at the new barn. The vets suspected brain trauma from an earlier injury. Unfortunately she was rehomed again and killed more dogs, was rehomed again and killed more dogs. She was euthanized at the final home. She was only five years old.

          Wow - sorry for the novel. I should have just said that you are doing well with small steps to develop trust.

          Comment


          • #6
            Excellent novel. I concur the idea is to work with the animal in its comfort zone in these situations because outside that zone they're often far too wound up to pay attention to you.

            Paula
            He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

            Comment


            • #7
              Our rescue has had over 600 donkeys come through so we've had all kinds of behavioral issues to handle

              Start by having the jack in a corral - large enough that you can let him walk away a bit but not so large that he can get far away from you. Now you'll want to walk him down. Follow him until he stops then step back. He should swing his head to look at you or possibly turn to face you. Wait a few seconds and approach him again. He'll walk off so continue to follow him until he stops again and step back. Rinse and repeat a few times and call it a day so he can think about it overnight.

              The next step is to get a touch. I usually go for the neck/withers but sometimes have to settle for the hip. Do the walk-down thing but extend your arm. Again when he stops, take a step back. Build on this (over several days is fine) until you can place a hand on him. Once you do that, call it good for the day.

              Donkeys that are not treat motivated (very rare!) will usually love a good wither or neck scratch, especially if he hasn't been able to do this with another equine.

              If you haven't tried these treats:

              http://www.ruralking.com/agriculture...ats-26076.html

              Please try them. I have yet to find a donkey that didn't do handstands for them. If they are afraid to take one from your hand, gently toss it in front of them. I have a terrified, formerly roped and terribly abused jennet who is now able to be pet a bit because I tossed her a cookie and she got a taste of it.

              And please reconsider neutering him once you tame him. If you can't keep him at some point, it will be so very difficult to find a home for an older jack. It's physically very hard for them to be gelded when they're older too. I can't tell you how many homeless older jacks end up in the kill pen. We have some grant funds available that can help offset some of the cost. I'll have to see how much is left in the fund as I think we were getting close to using it all. Be sure to find a vet that ligates. Do not use one that doesn't think it's necessary. Donkeys are more vascular than horses and can easily bleed out if not ligated.
              "Crazy is just another point of view" Sonia Dada

              Comment


              • #8
                I second the clicker approach. edit: I think the clicker will work best, and it's faster once the training subject understands.

                But, if you don't want to use that you will need a smaller area to work him in. Then think about this video and decide if he's too aggressive to work him like this.
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eezd-2uq4OM

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thank you guys so much for your replies. You have given me lots to think about. I have "tamed" more "wild" foals (the ones that love you the day they are born and think you are a space alien the next day), then I want to count - this guy is a different - obviously, old, unknown history, NOT food motivated, and heavy enough to cause damage.. but, maybe I need to start thinking of him as more horse than I have. Because he is a donkey, I have been very insure on how to proceed. Everything I heard and was told was that donkeys are very different than a horse, but not maybe as different as I have thought.

                  The story about the mule, what a heart breaker. One reason I still have this guy is that I know he would have a sketchy future if I gave him away. I had another jack up until a month ago, that was also wild when I got him, I used him as a guardian, but he tamed pretty quickly. I was able to place him in a pet home. I didn't ever have these jacks together BTW - I have lots of goats, so they shared the horse and had their own group up goats to guard. Down sized, didn't need two jacks, so the friendly one got a new home.

                  The video, I started to watch it - looked pretty interesting.

                  Lastly, gelding him. Well, I could do that, but the after care at this point would be hard. And I can't help think he would really really hate me if I loaded him on a trailer, took him to a strange place where he was tramitized, came home and was hurting. As a human, it seems to me, like his worst fears would be confirmed - did I mention this guy is stubborn!!!! His commitment to his herd of goats and how serious he takes his job is what makes me want him to trust me so bad. He will be so incredibly loyal. One night he stood watch over a goat that had gotten hung up in a tree. Missed dinner and breakfast to be with her. It wasn't unusual to have a goat miss a meal, which is why I didn't search the woods when they weren't there for dinner. But in the morning when they were still missing, the whole herd and I went searching. Found the doe in the tree trunk upside down, and saw the donkey about 20 feet away from her, watching. I fell deeply in love with him on the spot. Goat was sore, but unharmed BTW....

                  So, I'm going to enlarge his 12x12 area, and try out the walking thing with him. I would also like to try the step forward/step back.. And, if that fails, I can always squeeze him and desensitize him. That's my last choice, because he really is incredibly commited to his fear of me. I'd rather he release it on his terms with my help..

                  Jill

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Rosijet.. I just looked up where your rescue is, hoping you were close by.. You aren't, but what's cool is, I'm from Elizabeth, Co. Moved to Houston 3 yrs ago... Miss colorado horribly, but love the warm winter days here. I do not miss the land of frozen hoses and feeding in -3 degrees in January!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by f4leggin View Post
                      Rosijet.. I just looked up where your rescue is, hoping you were close by.. You aren't, but what's cool is, I'm from Elizabeth, Co. Moved to Houston 3 yrs ago... Miss colorado horribly, but love the warm winter days here. I do not miss the land of frozen hoses and feeding in -3 degrees in January!
                      Small world! Though we've had 50-60 degree weather the last week and a half, the cold weather will return at some point and I will be jealous of where you live.

                      Please try the technique that I described. I'm a lifelong horseperson and started working at this rescue part-time 4 and 1/2 years ago. I had to throw out everything I knew about horses. Every single donkey, some horribly abused and distrustful, worked through their issues. Some just take longer than others.

                      I forgot to mention to be confident in your approach. It seems if you approach with trepidation, they can get anxious at "what" you're anxious about.

                      And don't worry about castrating your guy now. I think that is something you might want to consider once he trusts you. He'll get over it, I promise. Not one jack has held it against us after hundreds of castrations.
                      "Crazy is just another point of view" Sonia Dada

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by rosijet View Post
                        I forgot to mention to be confident in your approach. It seems if you approach with trepidation, they can get anxious at "what" you're anxious about.
                        This is so true! My little mule girl was adept at reading human body language and she was always...always watching.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          So, heres a basic question about confidence. All things being equal (history, age, gender) should I react to him as if he was a horse when he shows aggression towards me? I've been around a lot of horses and have a good instinct on how to interpet and react to any move of aggression - or "push back" from the horse. This guy has not shown agression BTW - he only has threatned his back end a few times, and I have reacted as if he was a horse, but lack some confidence in this area. Not because of fear or because I don't know how to protect myself, but because I don't want to jepordize my trust built to this point with him. His first reaction when he was turned out with my horse (may have been the first horse he had been near) was very aggressive. Full on lunge for the shoulder w/o hesitation. This was so unhorse like that it has stuck in my mind. She proceeded to block the lunge and put him in his place btw - and they have co-existed fine since then. He gave no warning to her that he was going to attack. So, I keep thinking if he decided to attack me - not with his hind end, but his teeth, I may not see it coming... So, I guess there is a little fear there. If in three years he hasn't, I guess the chances are he won't.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Rosijet has great advice.

                            Please also look at this website (from Fort Collins, CO!). I found it very helpful in training my donkey. He carries a pack saddle and is almost green broke at this point (not his fault it's going so slow-we have a young child to take care of). His name is Donkeyotee and he is a real character. He is so loyal that he'll leave his feed to come say 'hi'.

                            http://luckythreeranch.com/website/

                            Oh, and whatever you do, don't corner him. Donkeys are more protective of their personal space than horses. They are more likely to stand and assess a situation (or stand and fight). They are also more challenging to halter train because they would rather follow behind (or be in your lap). They have some bovine tendencies. This one probably has more than usual cowness because he was raised around them. I halter train all our our calves at weaning time and I can't tell you how much training our donkey helped me understand cattle better. Training calves is easier, LOL!
                            “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

                            St. Padre Pio

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I do remember one time when little mule lady came at me, ears back in an aggressive manner. She wanted into the stall where I was cleaning (at that point she was obviously feeling a lot more comfy around me). I reacted instinctively and treated her just like any other of my pets and told her in body language and voice that this was not OK. The correction took only a second, she registered it instantly and never acted aggressively towards me again. That's why I was so surprised that she started going after people at her next home. She just read people so easily that if she saw any fragility or fear she took advantage of it.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by f4leggin View Post
                                So, heres a basic question about confidence. All things being equal (history, age, gender) should I react to him as if he was a horse when he shows aggression towards me? I've been around a lot of horses and have a good instinct on how to interpet and react to any move of aggression - or "push back" from the horse. This guy has not shown agression BTW - he only has threatned his back end a few times, and I have reacted as if he was a horse, but lack some confidence in this area. Not because of fear or because I don't know how to protect myself, but because I don't want to jepordize my trust built to this point with him. His first reaction when he was turned out with my horse (may have been the first horse he had been near) was very aggressive. Full on lunge for the shoulder w/o hesitation. This was so unhorse like that it has stuck in my mind. She proceeded to block the lunge and put him in his place btw - and they have co-existed fine since then. He gave no warning to her that he was going to attack. So, I keep thinking if he decided to attack me - not with his hind end, but his teeth, I may not see it coming... So, I guess there is a little fear there. If in three years he hasn't, I guess the chances are he won't.
                                Most definitely don't tolerate aggressive behavior. I don't care how bad their life was previously, if they lift a leg or flatten ears towards me, I will growl, chase, stomp my feet at them. When they stop, I go back to calm and confident. I don't believe you'll lose any trust at all but will establish good boundaries instead.

                                Jacks can be some of the most aggressive animals I've ever seen, especially towards other jacks. We had an older one come in recently. We castrated him but he retained that dominant behavior towards the other donkeys, including jennets, for quite some time. He's pretty good now but probably can never be placed with a mixed herd that includes another older, former jack.
                                "Crazy is just another point of view" Sonia Dada

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  So, I tried the walking him down approach - probably didn't do it right, because nothing good came of it. But, I did attach a brush to the end of a broom stick today and brush him. This is huge progress for us. Showed me that his response was not to kick (which is what I have been concerned about). He tolerated it for about 15 seconds before running off. After awhile, I did it once more, again, he tolerated it, although he sunk his rear quite a bit in response, but I'm so thrilled that he didn't kick out. Tomorrow, I'll do it some more. I brushed his hind end first and then worked towards his withers.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    This is great! He'll think on that and hopefully decide that it was OK and be back for more. One thing I love about donkeys and mules is that their curiosity of what you are doing helps the training process.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Scratched his withers today with my hand. Amazing!!!!! The brush on the pole was the ticket. Moved my hand up the pole so that it was on the brush, and then moved my hand off the pole and touched him. Thank you guys sooo much for the encouragement and information. you have no idea what this means to me, and what progress this is.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Well done!

                                        Paula
                                        He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                                        Comment

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