Goal: to get Ringo to put his ears forward while gently touching my open hand with his muzzle. Looking for softening and relaxing of his face muscles and posture.
Positioning: I stood on one side of the barn paddock fence, he was in the barn paddock
Other donkeys: Deenah was eating hay nearby and Dorica was standing next to her.
Time: evening, 8:40 to 8:50 approx PM dusk
Situation: all 3 donkeys had just eaten hay (i.e. not too hungry)
The session: Ringo was initially agitated by the presence of the other donkeys, once they moved away he was calmer but I inadvertently created an aversive situation. He understood the game, used his muzzle gently and I was able to combine having him rest his muzzle under my hand with one or both ears forward.
Since he was readily doing this, he was getting rewarded frequently.
However he started pawing as soon as he finished chewing - this happened numerous times. As soon as he began to paw, I disappeared behind the open barn door, out of sight but I could see him through the crack.
As soon as I was gone, he stopped pawing and was attentive (ears forward). I re-appeared, praised him, clicked and treated.
Considerations: I set out to train one thing: ears forward while muzzle in hand. But ... AH! this is really TWO things! Two behaviours combined and Ringo threw in a behaviour I didn't want - pawing. I could have stood there and quietly waited for him to stop, but he was getting very worked up (he can throw his heart and soul into pawing!) so instead I chose to quietly leave. No words spoken - when he began to paw the ground, I disappeared.
Now I have added something ... I'm gone - and this gets a reaction from Ringo. He is curious and that brings his ears forward (which is what I want!) So I come back and reward ears forward AND the fact that he is not pawing!
But I have lost the thing I was after initially - ears forward WITH his muzzle resting under my hand. And maybe, just maybe I have created a loop or superstitious behaviour - he paws, I leave, he stops, I come back.
Plan: Try this again tomorrow. Move the other donkeys away first. Evaluate!