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Everything starts with behaviour

So often when I work with behaviour it is such a brief connection in the life of an animal or person and then I hear no more. It might be an email enquiry about a kicking donkey from the USA, a phone call about a nervous donkey in France, advice to a member of The Donkey Sanctuary welfare team or a visit to one of our farms to help with a problem, or may be spending time with a participant on a behaviour course who has a problem with their donkey. I always presume no news is good news, but I often don’t know how things turned out or if I made a difference.

A pair of donkeys

Sharing the load

In the 1960s two shoe salesmen are sent to a pacific island to see about the possibility of selling shoes to the locals. After a week the first salesman sends back a telegram to the boss, “Bad news boss, the locals don’t wear shoes”. A couple of days later the second salesman sends a telegram to his boss, “Great news boss, the locals don’t wear shoes”. It’s a story of uncertainty, optimism, potential and perspective, and that’s pretty much how I felt when I boarded the plane for Kenya on Sunday evening.

Car and donkey travelling on road

From Ethiopia to the Emerald Isle… who are the best teachers?

As a trainer passionate about helping people understand more about behaviour of the animals they interact with, I work wherever people will sit still long enough to listen. From the dry heat of Ethiopia to the mild wet weather of Ireland today, I deliver my message about the true nature of donkeys, the importance of small steps and thinking with the donkey’s brain.

A nervous start for Olsen

It’s all about the donkeys

My final day arrives and some of The Donkey Sanctuary staff prepare for their journey home but I am fortunate enough to have one more session with the donkeys this afternoon, so, just like yesterday, I spend the morning mucking out all the stalls and spending time around these donkeys that have been such a big part of my life for the last three days.

Abner the mule relaxing in the sunshine

Quiet reinforcement leads the way

Learning takes place all the time and as a result of yesterday’s experience in the clinic at the Donkey Welfare Symposium I am better organised today. We start out with a demonstration of working with behaviour and timing and the importance of shaping behaviour using Abner the mule who have become one of my favourites – not that you’re allowed favourites of course, they are all amazing.

Donkeys at donkey welfare symposium


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