I bought these two sweet babies and they taught me this trick....well, kind of!
Arrow, my Paint Horse, and Dreamer, my Shetland Pony, were four and five months old when we bought them home. Dreamer was halter broke, Arrow was a wild squirrel.
So we put them in a small pen and worked with them, even for a few minutes if we did not have more time, daily.
I used to hold the bowl of grain for them to eat. Arrow was Leary so I stood on the outside of the fence. The bowl is the one described above. The bowl is pink and you can see it from a ways off.
I was in a hurry one day and set the bowl down for "the boys" and went on to feed the other horses, and animals. When I came back, a few minutes later, the bowl was not there. Gone. Then I saw it. Someone had picked it up and set it in the water troft.
I have trained animals since I was a kid. A light bulb went off when I saw that and I thought "If you can put it in there, you can put it in my hand." LOL I picked the bowl out of the water (it was floating mind you) with a big grin and big ideas.
My husband was not at all surprised when I came through the door saying "I need a book on training horses tricks."
The next day I took the grain out in a small bucket and carried the bowl in my other hand. I put a little grain in the bowl and set it down. Sure enough, when the grain was gone Arrow started moving the bowl. I COULD NOT BELIEVE THAT THIS HAPPENED ON THE FIRST DAY! I gave a very quick "GOOD BOY!" in a soft happy voice and picked up the bowl and put a little more grain in it. Again, he moved the bowl, again I praised and rewarded.
The following day I did the same, only this time when he moved the bowl he looked at me to pick it up, so I waited. He mouthed the bowl as if to move it, like a hand grasping it. I praised and rewarded and added the command "fetch it up" (that might tell you I worked with Labrador Retrievers for years LOL).
On the fourth day I just stood there when the mouthing the bowl was going on. He looked at me now and again as if "Put the treat in." Then it happened. I could not believe how easy this was going. He picked it up. I grabbed it. Luckily he knew my intentions and I did not scare him in my excitement! I praised, rewarded and tried again....nope, he did not pick it up again that day.
But I kept this up till he understood he had to pick it up. Then rather then taking it from him (that took a week or two) I made him hand it to me. Soon, I was tossing the bowl around the pen and telling him to "fetch it up".
By the time my Horse Trick Training book arrived Arrow was already on his way learning tricks.
Then I tried a rope, would he pick up a short rope? HE DID, how about a bandanna? YEP!! Then came the....I laid out the three, bowl, rope, bandanna and asked for one. Believe it or not, yes, he could play this game. I have not worked with him with this in quite some time....but am planning to start again. It will be interesting to see what he remembers.
I bought Arrow several large Frisbies. He can turn them over when they or the bowl lands convex (lip side down) but tends to go through several plastic frisbies splitting them with forse.
From there I taught Arrow to pick up my hat, if dropped on the trail, or other items and hand them to me in the saddle. But if you train this you need to have treats in a horn bag. Well worth it.....and really fun to show off on trail rides.
Now Dreamer, not as easy to train as Arrow. I had to move Arrow out of the pen or Dreamer would not get a turn to even try this game. Dreamer did catch on, but never with the enthusiasm that Arrow has. Dreamer would play twice and that was it.
Abby, our Donkey, I trained a bit different. I have this ball with a handle they sell for pets. I took the handle of the ball and put a bit of apple sauce on it. She licked it off. LOL So, then I took the handle, put it in her mouth like a bit, pulled it back out and said "GOOD GIRL!" and gave her a treat.
I did this over several days. Now donkeys are very smart, but they don't particularly want people to know that. After all, if she had learned that too quickly, she would not have received all the extra treats.
So since I am stubborn, I asked her for the ball and waited for her to respond. Of course she did know what to do....and handed me the ball. TREAT AND REWARD AND REPEAT.
I set her ball in a salt block holder so that it did not roll away and so that the handle was straight up when first training. It worked wonderfully!
Wearing Clothes, Glasses, Hats and more
Teaching your donkey to wear an item is relatively easy with a gentle, easy going pet donkey that you can handle well and is accustom to you touching about anywhere on it's body. Some items may spook the animal just a bit at first, so be sure to "show" the item to the donkey before attempting to put it on the donkey.
For the donkey that spooks at the item you are holding....wear the item yourself as you walk the animal about. Put it over your arm if you need to, as you would a saddle pad, or bareback pad, and act like it is not even there. Soon the animal will calm down about it and you can let it smell the item. Stop there for the day. Do the same for as many days as it takes before you can just put the item on the animal and the animal just wears it.
This trick can be taught in a few ways...the way I have taught it is to have treats in your hand. Let the donkey know you have them. BTW, make sure the donkey understands you want a smile not a nip!!
OK, you can teach the animal in one of two ways, I will tell you how I have done it first.
Stand on the outside of the fence with the animal on the inside of the fence (turn off electric fencing of course). Call the animal to the fence ad show it the treat. Now take the treat hand (that is with the treat in it) and as you give the treat, or I should say, just before you give the treat gently pull the top lip up and say "smiiiiiiiile". Praise and treat right away. Now do it again and again...stop for today.
Tomorrow, same thing. Now on the third day, hesitate just after you say smile and see what happens...even if it is the smallest bit of a lip raise, make a big deal and treat right away. Ask for the smiiiiiile again right away, but this time help make it a big smile with your hand. Continue on with this until the donkey is smiiiiiling on command. This is such a cute trick. I get a kick out of it when the animals smile on their own when they see you after learning this one!!
The other way I have heard to teach this trick is to use an onion or ammonia and hold it under the animals nose when you ask for the smile, treat as they lift their noses.
Shake Head for Yes
OK, this is another trick that can be taught several ways. The easiest way is to use an item like a little stick, not sharp. If you ask your animal something like "Don't you agree, Name?" for your cue, this is really cute!!
Work on the side of your donkey. Ask the donkey or tell the donkey your cue. Now take the little stick, Magic wand, and push it a bit into their neck below their head as a fly would tickle them. The animal will automatically shake it's head....the trick is repetition. Each time, ask or tell your cue to the donkey and soon the donkey will shake before you touch it with the stick....
What is a "magic wand" it is a small cue stick, think music concert baton. Something that looks better then just a whip. I have a plastic "magic wand" form a party supply store that looks like something a "ferry godmother" would carry. It is about the size of a small crop and looks cute for shows.
Shake head for No
Another really easy trick to teach an equine. You can teach this trick in several ways. Some folks actually put honey on their faces to let the animals lick it off...uuuummm? <sly grin> I will not recommend this. This is a good way to get bitten.
Most donkeys love to get close to you and when you love on them a bit you can move their heads around easily. While doing this, put your face, chin out that is, towards a friendly sweet dispositioned donkey or other equine and say the words "Give me a kiss." As you do this move their mouths close to your face where you want them to touch. Give verbal praise, treat and repeat. Repeat three or four times two or three times a day and you might be surprised how quick your animal learns.
This is a good starting trick to teach the donkey to learn to learn.
Stand on Pedestal
Do you have a Pedestal for your donkey to stand on? You could build one out of wood, it will be more quiet then a tin stand and probably more stable. You could start with a stout stump if you have one handy. What ever you use make sure it will hold the animals weight and will not spook the animal with noise as the animal steps up onto it.
This is a treat orientated trick. I recommend carrot slices.
Hee Haw On Command
Here's the problem with this trick......Donkeys love to bray and you may not be able to "turn this trick off". You may actually be teaching something to your donkey your will REALLY regret.
If you have decided to go ahead and teach this trick, have fun with it. You may want to use some fun commands like "Don't you agree with me Bess?" or "I hate when that happens don't you?" or "If you are happy and your know it give a bray."
To teach this trick you will need a small bowl of grain, sweet feed works well. Add only about 1/4 cup of grain in the bowl, and take it out to your donkey. For two days walk up to the donkey and give it to him/her. Just walk right up and let the donkey eat the grain.
One the third day stay outside the gate of your donkey pen and call the donkey to you for the grain. As you call the donkey shake the bowl so that the donkey can see and hear the bowl rattle. Let your donkey eat the grain. Do this for a couple of days.
Now, walk slowly out to the pen and see if your donkey does not meet you at the gate with a nice bray. If it does, scoot over, that means hurry and praise with the grain and by verbal praise a smile and petting as the donkey eats it's reward.
Next time out and several times after, give a command like "talk to me" or "Hey, want a treat?". Use this command only when you want the donkey to bray to you. Try to say it before the donkey brays to you for the grain.
So, now you can't shut your donkey up? Well, I did warn you. They do love room service and will call for it often.
Vaulting and Trick Riding
Can you do vaulting on/off a donkey? Could you trick ride on a donkey? Sure, why not? If you are small enough and the donkey is large enough, have a good time!! Send us photos, we would love to see this.
So? Your donkey does all or at least one or two of these KOOOL tricks, now how do you get a gig? Man, that's the easy part. If you can get your donkey to VBS (Vacation Bible Schools, done usually one week during the sumer) Old Folks Homes, Church Picnics, Outdoor Summer Scout programs...you are gonna be a star. Call the organization, better yet stop by in person and leave a business card. Offer your services. If you want to charge have a fee in mind before you visit. The groups may want to see your donkey and/or other animals perform before they ask you to come perform.
Another place you could show off your talented donkeys would be at Pet Stores that offer Pet Shows, usually they offer a "best trick" category.
You could certainly also make a video tape of your star donkey and show it off on the Internet.
After your donkey is rock solid on it's tricks you could add another animal, either another donkey or something else...like a bird or cat or dog or horse or whatever you have. Teach it a few tricks to add to the show including riding on the back of your donkey...just keep it safe!!
(more tricks and photos to come...you will love the photos!!)
I would like to invite you to join us on any or all of my animal trick training elists at the Yahoo Groups eList website. I have separate trick training elists for Small Animals, Cats, Goats, an Agility List for Fancy Ratties (pet rats), as well as Rabbits and Holistic Lists for Goats, Rabbits, and Donkeys. I also joined a great Donkey list called Donkey Click at the Yahoo Site, you may enjoy this list too, come join us for great donkey talk and donkey training talk.