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Both a little greyer and wiser

Is he still here? This was something that was playing in the back of my mind as I drove up the dusty Olive tree lined road approaching El Refugio del Burrito, the Spanish part of The Donkey Sanctuary in Malaga, after all, I hadn’t actually heard of him in a couple of years. It is not something that I relished discovering, the possibility that an animal I had previously worked with has been put to sleep. So I tend to wait and see if anybody remembers the previous work that I might have done with an animal.

Dante at El Refugio del Burrito

All things are one thing

Working with behaviour means that sometimes it seems that everything is about behaviour, as if all the concepts of learning, behaviour and working with donkeys can be found in every situation. That might be because of the famous Law of the Hammer which states "if the only tool you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail" so, my tool is the science of behaviour and learning. This law can often be applied to behaviour in all sorts of situations; at work and home and with donkeys too.

Donkeys at Il Rifugio degli Asinelli

The carrot and the stick

It is interesting in my travels around the UK that one of the most common things that people want to do when it comes to donkeys is feed them carrots.

It is an interesting concept and whether it is put into the psyche of us humans by the metaphor of the carrot and the stick or the donkeys' willingness to look miserable unless it is being fed, even donkeys that are overweight and need no additional nutrition are often supplied with copious amounts of carrots.

Extra feed for donkeys like Jimmi

What do you learn from working with wild burros?

As part of the 3rd Donkey Welfare Symposium in Davis California, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provided 20 wild burros from their adoption scheme for us to work with, with the idea of adopting out the burros at the end of the event. But before I get started on what it is like to work with a wild burro and what you can learn from them, I thought perhaps a brief clarification and history might be needed especially for those of you reading this who are not from the USA.

Wild burrow with student

Behaviour on so many levels

Working with behaviour often seems like an easy explanation of what I do, but there are so many levels to working with behaviour that is it can be difficult to see the thread of connection that runs through them all. I start work at 7am on a crisp dry California morning, with the student donkey trainers. These brave and intrepid souls have signed up to have the experience of working with an unhandled wild burro and where does this training start?

Ben Hart demonstrating clicker training at Donkey Welfare Symposium

Learning from wild burros

There are some days when you just know how lucky you are and today was one of them. I am in California for the 3rd Annual Donkey Welfare Symposium. The two previous years have presented different challenges to my donkey behaviour skills and knowledge but those have been well and truly surpassed by this year’s challenge.

Burros at Donkey Welfare Symposium


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