Donkey Behavior (1)

Understanding Donkey Behavior: Affection, Body Language, etc


Donkey behavior can be puzzling to many new donkey owners. That’s because donkeys keep their feelings hidden and aren’t as naturally “affectionate” as other animals. Many of the signs of trust and respect we identify easily in other species are more difficult to identify in donkeys. 

Donkeys Body Language

Donkeys are brilliant animals, and there is no problem for them to understand our movements or emotions. For us, however, it can be challenging to see what emotion a donkey is trying to show or what he is trying to say to us. 

For example, the slight movement of the eyes of your donkey can indicate stress or fear. If your donkey stays still in front of a fearful object, it indicates a lowered flight response (which is often perceived as confidence). 

To learn the body language of your donkey, spend time with him daily and pay attention to every detail of his behavior. 

To communicate with each other, donkeys use their bray, movements, and poses. The bray of every donkey is unique and can be heard over very long distances. For communication, donkeys can use different movements of head, neck, ears, or tail. 

Be aware that the areas around the eyes and ears of a donkey are susceptible, and you should avoid touching them. Better rub the neck of the animal. It will help you to become friends and gain trust. 

Are Donkeys Affectionate?

By their nature, donkeys are highly affectionate animals, even though most people do not consider them as so. There are many reasons many people don’t consider donkeys affectionate.

The reason is that donkeys rarely take time to show affection. They do not trust easily, and to gain their trust. You may need to work pretty hard and build a relationship. If you want to gain the donkey’s trust and affection, you have to assure your donkey that he is safe with you and there is no threat from your side. 

Donkeys may show the signs of affection very lightly, and you may not even notice them at first sight. Here are a few clues that your donkey trusts you and feels affection:

  • They are making physical contact with you. The first sign of affection is physical contact, and if your donkey is trying to reach you physically, it means that you are important to him, and he trusts you. 
  • They stay close. Even if your donkey is not making physical contact yet, they can stay near you or go with you wherever you go. This sign also means that the it trusts you, and it is one more step for the donkeys’ affection. 
  • They are mimicking you. A lot of donkey owners note that donkeys show their affection by mimicking your movements. They will step forward if you do, or they will step back if you do. They may repeat your movements with your head or body. This sign of affection is not very common yet and mostly appears on trained donkeys. 

A Donkey’s Behavior Depends on Many Factors

Donkeys’ behavior and their character depend on many things. When you are trying to earn your donkey’s trust, understand that simply being donkey-friendly will not help you and your donkey to really bonding. 

First, remember that it might take a while until your donkey fully accepts you. Take it slow, do not stress the donkey, give him all the time and care he requires. 

Consider all the possible factors that can affect the behavior of your donkey, such as environment, relations with other animals, past experiences, health, etc. Donkeys show affection only if they feel safe. And the feeling of safety depends on many factors.

1. Environment Affects Donkey’s Feelings of Security

The first important thing that affects donkeys’ behavior is the environment. Be aware of all the details that are happening around your donkey. The place where he is staying has to be clean. There has to be enough space, food, and water. Be aware of the relationship of the donkey with other animals if they are treating each other well. What about relations with other animals or people? 

To make your donkey feel well with you, make small changes every day. If you see that your donkey is experiencing discomfort change your attitude, give him more space, treat him with more caring, and give more attention. Donkeys are smart and they will tell you if something is wrong. 

One more important point about the environment is the atmosphere. Be aware of the behavior of other animals and people that surround him. Their emotions and actions can affect your donkey the most, both in a good or bad way. 

Environmental Factors That Affect Donkeys

  • Suppose the corral is tiny or has trouble fighting for food, water, or personal space. This is very stressful for donkeys and can end in serious behavior problems for the whole group. 
  • The owner of the donkey is a direct influencer of his behavior. So, your behavior changes can easily affect the donkey’s behavior. 
  • Donkeys’ routine can be a reason for behavior changes. So make sure that your donkey is staying active and well treated throughout the day. 
  • Do not make sudden changes in the donkey’s life. Implement every change very carefully with no stress for your donkeys. 

2. Health of Your Donkey

The bad behavior of your donkey can point out health problems or pain. If you notice that the mood of your donkey is different from normal, take him to the vet. Donkeys are very good at hiding their pain. So you may not even notice that it is experiencing pain or feeling bad.

3. Past Experiences

If your donkey was treated badly in the past, there is a big probability that he will be defensive with you. This is normal. Your task is to assure him that you are safe and don’t represent any threat. The process will take time and a lot of force, but you have to be consistent and patient to see the results. 

Take small steps every day to make your donkeys feel safe and comfortable. First, he may reject your acts of compassion, but you will see how he becomes closer and closer to you with time. 

4. Your Skills as a Handler

Remember that to influence your donkey. You need to be confident and experienced enough to find the right approach to your donkey. Make sure to never lose your temper with your donkey. It will make dealing with your donkey much more difficult after you lose their trust. 

Make sure you’ve studied and know how to care for them. If it is possible, communicate with a professional about how to take care of donkeys. A person with experience will give you valuable information and tips. 

Visiting a farm will be a good idea, too. You will get a live experience of interactions with donkeys and will even try to become a friend with one!  Donkeys require special attention and approach, which not everybody can give them. 

The behavior of your donkey will directly depend on your behavior and emotional state. 

5. Training

Training is a great way to become closer with your donkey. It provides discipline and bonding. First, know if your donkey has any training and what training system he had in the past. 

Then, develop a personalized training system. It will give him more confidence and show better results. Plus, time together strengthens trust.

Changes in the Behavior of Your Donkey

If you notice changes in your donkey’s behavior, there are several steps you can take. 

  1. Take your donkey to the vet for a checkup. 
  2. If you are afraid that the donkey’s behavior is getting dangerous, seek out a professional trainer. 
  3. Revise your own behavior and observe how it affects it. 
  4. Develop personalized training for your donkey. Take it step by step, reaching small goals every day. 
  5. Provide a healthy environment. 
  6. Learn your donkey’s body language and how to recognize their emotions. 
  7. Reward your donkey for the achievement of small and big goals. Rewards are the best motivation!
  8. Be ready for challenges. The behavior of your pet will not change overnight or even in one week. Big results take time. 
  9. Be a friend for your donkey. Make your donkey feel safe with you and gain his trust. 
  10. Be consistent. 

Taking all the described steps will not just help you to gain the trust of your donkey. It will significantly improve its emotional and physical state. When your donkey feels that you hear and understand him, your relationship will go to another level. 


Being an owner of the donkey is a challenging process that requires a lot of time and consistency. You have to be strong and consistent to gain the donkey’s affection and make him fully trust you. 

You may also enjoy these related articles:

Pros and Cons of Owning Donkeys Given by 285 Donkey Owners

Donkey Breeding Ages: A Guide to Safe Reproduction

My Favorite Equine Resources For Horses and Donkeys

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