Training Techniques beyond Clicker Training Donkeys

Clicker training donkeys is Positive reinforcement training or +R. This training technique has allowed my donkeys to learn faster and has been much easier on me too.

I definitely consider myself a +R based donkey trainer. I start them all out with a foundation of +R techniques. This builds trust and a bond. However, I do not limit myself to only using +R. 

What happens when you need to get your donkey to move over out of your way or maybe you need to add some pressure to the halter because your donkey is ignoring you? But what happens when you need to use pressure/release? Say for riding or driving?

It’s ok to use -R for these things. In fact, donkeys need to know how to move away from pressure when asked. 

This doesn’t mean you are being mean or harsh. A little pressure will not hurt your donkey nor will it poison your relationship. The key is balance and kindness. 

Donkeys are smart and they know you mean them no harm once you’ve built that relationship foundation. Clicker training donkeys has been the fastest way to establish a good relationship with my donkeys.

Case Study: Jasper

When I got my saddle donkey, Jasper, he was ‘green’. He takes the saddle and tack well, but he’s just not had a lot of experience under saddle. 

Since I’ve got Jasper, he’s become my #1 hiking partner, which he loves! He’s learned treat manners and liberty play games. He’s even started learning some foundation movements for tricks. Not that I care to teach him tricks but its’ good enrichment for him.

Recently we had a photo shoot here on the farm with my family and the donkeys. Before the family arrived, I took Jasper out for a ride. Then he had to stand around while the family got on and off him. Then I took him back out for a second longer ride.

The previous day we had also gone trail riding. The day before we had gone on a short ride that morning, then a hike that afternoon.

All my saddle donkeys have a base of clicker training

The only activity he had at liberty these 3 days was the hike. When riding I use pressure to cue him to move. Sometimes this is leg pressure for a turn or a tapping of the reins on the saddle to let him know I want him to move out. Sometimes a voice cue from the ground takes a while to transfer to the saddle. So these are cues I use to communicate with him.

This was the most non-liberty, non +R I had ever done with him at this point. I wondered if the morning after all this work, if he would still come to me, with his same enthusiasm.

You know what? He did! I walked into his field where he was sharing some fresh hay with his favorite buddy, held out my arm and said “step” which is my vocal and visual signal for a donkey to join me. He didn’t hesitate, he walked right to me!

All I’ve done to build trust and give him a positive foundation hadn’t been phased a bit by all the work I’ve had him do the last 3 days.

In fact, the more we work the more he seems to enjoy riding himself.

Work is not a bad thing. It can be enjoyable for donkeys, just as it is for humans. The right kind of work is rewarding and interesting. I’ve found that donkeys seem to really enjoy having things to do, even work!

+R and -R Training together

I write this article for 2 reasons. First, I want my fellow donkey lovers to understand I’m not 100% +R. Especially when it comes to advanced training, like driving or riding. I often combine them. 

And second, I believe there are reasons to use pressure/release (-R) but I don’t believe it’s necessary to use excessive pressure to get a response from your donkey. Both have their place in training depending on what behavior you want your donkey to learn.

⭐⭐In both techniques, it’s important to be kind, clear and have empathy.

Clicker Training Donkeys and the Training Group

Check out the videos on youtube of my saddle donkey Jasper. From a biter to a liberty donkey! I gave him a solid foundation in +R training and he has advanced rapidly into a confident donkey that enjoys training sessions of all kinds. He’s my do it all donkey! I like to call him my *Dream Donkey*. This is Jasper’s very first training video.

Now he’s driving, hiking anywhere, learning tricks, loading. learning to jump and starting to trail ride off the farm! 

A foundation of +R was the first step and the gateway to him becoming my do it all donkey! 


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