Are Donkeys Stubborn? {Difficult Donkeys and Training}

Most of you know have had those times when you’ve felt like your donkey is being particularly difficult. I know I have! But are donkeys stubborn? Really? Lets take a look at donkey behavior and reasons you might not have a stubborn or difficult donkey after all!

When I started keeping donkeys most of my problems were coming from me, not being able to communicate well with them.

There are typically 3 reasons why a donkey may be acting ‘stubborn’ or ‘difficult’

  1. Pain
  2. Fear
  3. Doesn’t understand what you are asking

At any time your donkey has a behavioral change it’s always a good idea to get a vet out that understands donkeys to rule out pain as a factor.

Fear could be something your donkey just doesn’t understand. It’s hard to tell if donkeys are scared sometimes because of their stoic nature and ability to hide things. So once I rule out pain I ask myself

“Is there something scary here he doesn’t understand?”

Fear can be caused by past traumas and if he doesn’t’ trust you he may hesitate to move forward with what you are asking.

Donkeys have a fear threshold just like horses. Horses often want to run when their threshold is being approached, but a donkey may simply turn his head and ignore what’s scaring him. This can lead people to think he’s being stubborn or difficult. He’s not being bad, he’s just trying to survive the thing he doesn’t understand. Very common donkey behavior.

If you suspect fear is a cause in your donkeys behavior, try backing up to before he shuts down or turned away from you. Maybe switch and do something he does like if you are in a training session, then come back to what you think he may be fearful of. Be confident and calm with your donkey. If you are lacking confidence in what you are asking he will know it and it will affect his behavior.

If I know it’s not pain and I do not think my donkey is afraid of what I’m asking, I have to think maybe it’s my lack of being able to communicate what I’m asking.

This is where most of my problems were in the beginning. I wasn’t breaking things down small enough most of the time. I needed to break things down into the smallest steps and then reward the smallest effort.

are donkeys stubborn or is it you?

But are donkeys ever stubborn?

Sometimes maybe your donkey refuses to do as you ask even when it’s something he’s done time and time again.

I’m not one to put much into a donkey being disrespectful, but they do seem to see their caregivers as part of their herd.

So I do believe you have to set boundaries and not let your donkey blow you off and ignore you when you know the donkey is just refusing simply because he doesn’t want to do as you ask.

2 Most Used Training Methods:

1. +R

2 . -R

I choose to use a +R method first. Offer some motivation for what you are asking can be met with enthusiasm and hopefully problem solved.

However, I’m not strictly +R in my advanced training with driving and riding. If my well-trained riding donkey refuses to walk on at the voice command, I will add something annoying like bumping my legs or tapping the saddle with the reins until he moves out. 

Building the Relationship and moving forward

Are donkeys stubborn, is one of the most asked questions when I talk with someone interested in getting donkeys. It’s in a donkey’s nature to be compliant and adapt to a situation in the most comfortable way. Maybe he’s comfortable where he’s at so he’s not motivated to do as you ask.

Once motivated with +R or -R he will probably decide its more comfortable to do as you ask. Either by avoidance or motivation.

Donkeys always take the ‘path of least resistance’ but they do need time to decide for themselves. It’s up to you to make sure your communication skills are good and you are asking the right way.

Below is a video of me in a first time +R training (clicker training donkeys!) session with a donkey that typically does not like to move! I’m sure she’s been called stubborn!

She was comfortable not doing as I asked so I gave her a reason to want to move and you know, I believe she liked it! She’s always at the gate now when I have a halter!

So now what will you say when someone asks you, are donkeys stubborn?

Donkeys do have their own way of thinking and responding. Spending time with your donkeys can give you insight into how that individual donkey reacts, which will also help you address any ‘difficult’ behaviors if they come up.

You might also like these articles if you are interested in getting started training donkeys and clicker training donkeys:

Donkey Training Information {My Top 5 Training Aids}

 Training Donkeys (Gentling and Starting Positive Reinforcement)

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