biting donkey
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So you have a biting donkey? Ouch! Donkey bites hurt… I know, because in the past I got bit plenty. Then I learned about donkey biting behavior. There is more than one reason you could have a biting donkey. I’ll go over some reasons and some solutions to help you extinguish this behavior.

Donkey Biting Behavior

Donkeys are not typically bite humans, but there are some things that can cause them to bite. Biting is a form of communication for the donkey. It’s how a mothers corrects her foals behavior, it’s part of how they play and its part of how jacks fight over territory in the wild.

Here are some reasons a donkey might bite a human, though.

  • Trying to play or get attention. Young donkeys will try to get your attention and play with you. Biting is a part of their play. Some people choose to hit foals for this, but I ask you please not take this advice. It’s cruel and unnecessary. Instead, block out the effort to bite with a lead rope or other object that keeps you from being bit but won’t hurt the young donkey. 
  • Trying to get a treat from you. If you have fed your donkey by hand but have not taught your donkey “treat manners” then you have actually trained your donkey to be a biter! Stop giving treats and block out biting attempts. Now teach the donkey “treat manners” using positive reinforcement. And tell everyone in you household they must not give treats freely.
  • A biting donkey may be in pain. Does your donkey only bit when you try to touch a certain area. Does he guard that area? 
  • A donkey may bite at you when he is fearful too. He may be uncomfortable with you touching him in certain places. If you have not earned your donkey’s trust to touch him and groom him all over he may try to communicate that with a bite. Please earn trust. My Level 1 Training course is all about gaining trust. You can check it out here: Donkey Training Level 1: The Foundation.
  • Your donkey is a jack. Jacks are walking balls of hormones. It’s in their nature to fight and play fight. A big part of how they communicate and win territory is with biting. This behavior is stronger when they first come into their hormones and when a jennet goes into heat. The solution is fairly simple. Get him GELDED! Or learn to properly handle a stud. The biting behavior can become very aggressive with jacks and also turn into rearing and kicking. 
  • Your donkey is a jennet in heat. I have never had a jennet go into heat and bite at me. They usually get grumpy and act uncooperative. I have heard of problems from other people have had with this, though. 

Teaching Treat Manners

If you want to give your donkey treats by hand, PLEASE teach treat manners. This is a +R technique and can lead to a whole another way of training for you and your donkey too. 

If you want to learn more about how to train your donkey with a base of +R that can lead to other skills please check out my Donkey Training Membership Group.

This article may also interest you: Training Donkeys (Gentling and Starting Positive Reinforcement)

Starting out using +R has allowed me to train my donkey for things I didn’t think possible!

How to stop a donkey from biting when giving treats

So you’ve taught your donkey treat manners and he uses his teeth to take the treat! Yikes!

Some donkeys naturally take treats very nice with their lips but some do not! This little method has helped me continue +R training with a donkey that likes to use his teeth and not get bit. 

Extinguishing Biting Behavior or Blocking Out

I never encourage people to smack their donkeys for trying to bite. If they are biting to communicate with you, play with you or because they have hormones, they are just being what the creator made them to be. A donkey. It’s up to us as their caregivers to understand why they would bite us and teach them more desired behaviors. If they are treat mugging, they have been essentially been trained to do this and punishing them will confuse them. 

I encourage you to block out the undesired behavior. This way your donkey will learn what not to do in a clear, fair way. 

Need more help training your donkey?

Biting donkey