Welcome to my blog - a diary about living with donkeys, notes about care, my training sessions and the absolute pleasure of donkey companionship.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hiking adventures & how Clicker training helped!

Dorrie and I set off this morning on a hike which I predicted would take close to two hours.  It's been so foggy (I used to love fog?) and gloomy that I figured we needed some air and exercise.  Up the road we went, me chattering away to Dorrie who was doing her cute "almost" trot with a nice flexion of her neck towards me.

At a property at the top of the road, we cut through a trail which would lead us to another road when low and below, we found ourselves about 10 feet away from three VERY startled horses!  I didn't know they were there.

Dorrie has met horses before, no big deal but these three became completely unhinged at the sight of us - stampeding, snorting, blowing and charging the fence line.  Dorrie, in her steadfast donkey way, simply stopped to take it all in and figure out what to do - we in no danger (Dorrie was not so sure!) I doubted very much that any of the horses would try to jump the fence, but they were truly FREAKED OUT!

In order to continue our walk, we would have had to turn our backs on the horses and no way was Dorrie doing that, so I figured out a way we could cut through another little trail that would eventually take us out
to the next road.  That way, Dorrie could keep her peripheral vision on those horses.
Dorrie, who is normally pretty bomb-proof was very tense and didn't want to move at all.  I did have my clicker with me and that acted as a great target to help change her focus.

I asked her trust me, I asked her to soften and relax a little and I asked her follow the "target."  It worked and we got to the next path, which actually was a long and winding driveway.  She was still tense and listening to the thundering hooves and snorting (which had not abated!) but at least willing to move.

Then ... oh no - the property owners had put cement sculptures all the way along their drive.  Dorica HATES cement sculptures - I had found this out once before!  Poor donkey had to negotiate the long driveway with these sculptures looming through the murky fog and it was like walking through the house of horrors for her.  Her eyes were like pizza pans each time she saw another one!

I actually found it funny (sort of) but also felt sorry for her!  There was no way I wanted to put any pressure on this already tense little donkey - I didn't want to pull, prod or drive her forward.  I was VERY grateful to have my clicker training problem-solving skills at the ready.  It's not so much about "getting behaviour" as it is about attitude.  With positive reinforcement training, attitude is everything.  And because it builds such a bond of trust, that trust is there when you most need it (hopefully!)

I wish I had remembered my camera - you would have been able to see the changes in attitude (sigh) - maybe next time I'll remember to take it along!


  1. This post demonstrates so much the importance of training and trust, thank goodness for your hard work clicker training and what a wonderful donkey Dorrie is to follow your lead. It's times like this when the knowledge that you have put in the time and effort to train helps us to relax as well as our equines. Glad you both got home safe!

    1. Thanks FH - what I want with my animals is relationship, not obedience and I really feel that clicker training helps to develop this and teaches us a new way to think about our animal friends too.