September 26, 2008
He Won't Lead!
So how do you teach a donkey to let you lead it?
Here are a few things that I do to teach mine to lead nicely. When I am leading them (or asking them to lead), I put pressure on the lead rope, and then as soon as they start walking I release that pressure. The release is their reward.
Another thing that I do is try to break the objective down into little baby steps, and achieve it one baby step at a time. So for leading, I'd start by asking for one step at a time. Sometimes it helps if you ask them to step turning of to the side toward you. This kind of pulls them off their balance just enough that they have to take that step, instead of bracing against you (like they might if you were just pulling straight forward). As soon as they take that step (even if you had to pull them off balance to the side to get that step), release all pressure on the lead and praise them - their reward. Soon they will start figuring out that if they step toward the direction you put pressure, that the pressure will release, and soon they'll be leading along beside you like pros. Just start by asking for and rewarding one step at a time, and then build up to several steps in between stops, and eventually leading where ever you want without having to stop.
Just remember when they are following along nicely, make sure that you give them a loose lead rope. If you are constantly pulling on the lead even when they are walking nicely, then they'll decide to just slow down or stop because they aren't getting rewarded for trying. Depending on the individual, they may walk slower than your normal walking speed. The key is to be award of them and whether they are at least trying (maybe timidly) or are actually resisting. Reward even just a try, and that try will get better and better as they build confidence.
It also sometimes helps (once they are starting to get the idea), if you step forward with confidence (even if it's just slowly at their speed, with confidence), instead of walking turned around looking at them. If they see you turned around facing them, they'll wonder why you are not looking the way you are asking them to go.
Just keep at it, rewarding the little tries, and pushing for a little more each time.
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