Donkey Training Basics with Lottie and Buttons

Donkey Training Basics with Lottie and Buttons

donkey training
Lottie and Buttons

Catching a reluctant donkey and lifting uncooperative feet can be done. Donkey Welfare Adviser Mark Kerr shows us how, with help from Lottie and Buttons…

Catching Your Donkey

Patience is key when working with donkeys. If you can allow your donkeys to be donkeys and give them the time they need to think, you will often see results quicker than you might expect.

To begin with, Buttons is reluctant to be caught, preferring to scamper in the other direction. This may be because he is not used to Mark or not used to being caught. It could be because he’s in a playful mood or it could just be his personality.

Mark waits patiently and approaches Buttons slowly and carefully. He doesn’t chase after him or try to grab him and he stays calm even when Buttons repeatedly runs off. He enjoys the process, which helps to reassure Buttons. If you’re fretting and feeling pressure to get the job done quickly, your donkey will sense it a mile off.

By touching Buttons on the nose, Mark is preparing him ahead of attaching the halter. This is known as shaping. He also uses positive reinforcement, rewarding Buttons with strokes when he lets him touch his nose and plenty of scratches when he catches him.

Lifting Your Donkey’s Feet

Lottie has a history of showing resistance when having her feet lifted. It’s possible that she’s not used to it or is fearful. The way to prevent her pulling away is to keep hold of the foot rather than letting go.

If every time Lottie moves away her foot is dropped, she learns that moving away works. Keeping hold of the foot as she tries to move away teaches her that it doesn’t work. Once she stays put, she learns that nothing bad happens. In time, she should be happier allowing her feet to be lifted.

Start with the front legs. It helps to have someone else holding the donkey steady at the front. You should also rule out any hoof conditions or other medical issues that might make it hard for your donkey to lift his or her feet. If in doubt, consult a vet.

Please note: Only attempt this is you feel physically strong enough. If your donkey is extremely reluctant to have his feet lifted and is liable to move a great deal and kick out, you may need to sedate him. Otherwise you (or your farrier) may be at risk of injury.


For training info and resources, see my Donkey Training page.

Thank you to Mark Kerr of The Donkey Sanctuary.

Please note: Donkey Training should be undertaken with the help of an experienced person and the age, health, breed and temperament of your donkey need to be taken into account. 

Copyright 2017 Amy Swift

2 thoughts on “Donkey Training Basics with Lottie and Buttons

    1. Thanks! Your nearest donkey places are probably Lockwood Centre for Donkeys and Horses in Godalming, Bucklebury Farm Park in Reading, Berkshire and Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary in Wallingford (looks like they’ve got a craft fair on 16th April). You can find their events page here: You can find a list of donkey places in the UK here: Hope that helps.


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