There can be Many Paths to Successful Donkey Training
Positive reinforcement donkey training (I’ll refer to it as r+ training also) is just one of the paths you can take. It’s the basic foundation I prefer to give all my donkeys because it’s been the most successful.
Different methods work for different things and with different donkeys personalities too!
Four Types of Reinforcement
There are four types of reinforcements used in training anything.
I’m going to talk about all four types here in this post and how or if they can be used in donkey training.
What is Positive Reinforcement Training?
R+ training is based on the science of animal learning and behavior training. It is based on reward rather than pressure or punishment.
This type of training gives your donkey something he wants when he produces the desired behavior. Such as treats, scratches or rest. This type of training can motivate your donkey to go above and beyond what he is asked with enthusiasm! Which is why it is so valuable in trick training and liberty training. Negative reinforcement typically only gets the minimum desired results.
However, this doesn’t mean that you are using bribing or luring to get the desired response. Nor does it mean you always have to use a clicker or that you will put up with bad behavior.
There are ways to teach a donkey with R+ and still have a well mannered non-dangerous companion. I have a video here starting a donkey in some R+ training. This donkey is well behaved around food and does not treat mug!
When incorporating R+ in the form of treats starting with treats manners is the best course of action! R+ training is really a lot of fun and also deepens the bond you are developing with your donkey.
This doesn’t mean you can never use other forms of training though. It can be one of the many tools in your training toolbox! Don’t forget to subscribe to my youtube channel for donkey training videos!
What is Negative Reinforcement?
Also known as Natural Horsemanship to equine trainers. This is working with horses based on their natural instincts and methods of communication. This method is used with the understanding that horses do not learn through fear or pain, but rather from pressure and the release of pressure.
This is the most popular method for training horses, and it’s very effective for horses. Horses learn to move away from pressure or something that makes them uncomfortable. This is negative to the horse, but when they move away from the pressure they get rewarded with the release from that uncomfortable pressure they dislike.
This is harder for donkeys because they do not give easily move off pressure or give in to pressure. Donkeys still need to move away when asked. Asking a donkey to move away is easier trained by offering a reward for doing so.
They need to survive in a humans world after all. Not moving when asked can result in injuries with larger donkeys sometimes. It’s a good skill for a donkey to know.
Punishment Reinforcement in Donkey Training
Punishment refers to adding something aversion in order to decrease a behavior. An example would be trying to pick up your donkeys’ feet and he kicks you so you whip him. Hoping he connects the kicking to getting whipped.
I don’t really use punishment as part of my training plans. Here is what TheHorse.com has to say about using punishment as part of horse training though:
“Punishment as a method of behavior modification is very difficult to do correctly. When I say correctly, I mean that it must be appropriate in type and intensity to the undesired behavior, and it must be very precisely timed. The timing is absolutely critical (generally it’s said within 1-2 seconds of the behavior occurring) because the punishment must be close enough in time to the misbehavior for the horse to make the correct association.
Not only is it difficult to do correctly, but some behaviorists take issue with it because it only tells the animal to stop doing something and does not provide a signal for some other desired or more appropriate behavior. Because the horse is not being trained to do a desired behavior, even if that unwanted behavior is thwarted, he’s got a variety of other equally undesirable behaviors to try out.
If done incorrectly, punishment can result in worsening of the undesired behavior. A horse might become habituated to ineffective punishment and might increase the frequency or intensity of the unwanted behavior. Or he could get better at avoiding the punishment—think of the biting horse that learns to bite and pull back very quickly to avoid getting smacked. All these can, in turn, cause the handler to up the ante and gradually increase the use of force, even to the point of abuse. Some believe that excessive use of punishment will increase fear or aggression in horses that already tend to show those characteristics.”
Extinction Reinforcement in Training
Extinction used in training would be when you remove something in order to decrease a behavior. You are taking something away so that a response is decreased. Example, I had a mare that made my pony extremely buddy sour and nervous. She wasn’t like this at her other owners or with any other horse. So I sold that mare. Problem solved. That pony wasn’t buddy sour or nervous anymore.
Will You Be Adding Positive Reinforcement Donkey Training to your Plans?
Research has found positive reinforcement is the most powerful of any of these. Adding a positive to increase a response not only works better but allows both parties to focus on the positive aspects of the situation.
Use what works best for you and your donkey ultimately. I have an online Donkey Training Membership group on patreon available now! Training videos, training plans, books and more. Click the picture or link to check it out!
You can be successful in training your own donkey!
When trying to deepen my connection and bond positive reinforcement donkey training has been one of the key factors in achieving that desired result.
It’s also given me the enthusiasm I wanted to see from them. No one wants their donkeys to turn away from them or act like they only tolerate your presence! Rewards with R+ can be the key to deepening your connection with your donkey.
For more donkey training tips check out Mindset for Training a Donkey
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