First, you may be asking….
What’s a zonkey?!
A zonkey is a hybrid equine — half zebra and half donkey. A zonkey looks a lot like a donkey, but with stripes.
Hannah Dawnson, a clicker trainer from England, recently posted a video on her Facebook page of the latest additions to her barn, two zonkeys. The zonkeys actually belong to a rescue group. However, Hannah will be working with them some to teach them how to interact with people and to teach them some basic skills, such as picking up their feet for hoof care. Both animals are very shy and are skeptical about being approached or touched.
As you can see in the video below, Hannah is starting her training with these two using protected contact. This is a great way to start out with an animal new to clicker training. Protected contact is often used to keep the animal from pushing into you or invading your space. However, protected contact can also be a great confidence booster for shy animals because the animal knows he can walk away from the trainer (without being pursued) any time he feels uncomfortable.
You’ll also notice in the video that Hannah starts out with targeting. Most equines figure out targeting pretty fast, so this is a great way to “set the animal up for success.” Positive training experiences early on will help teach these zonkeys that training can be an enjoyable experience and that interacting with people is fun. Too many times, trainers try to jump immediately to the “problem” behavior, such as trying to touch a shy animal. Using clicker training to establish a set of foundation behaviors will help these zonkeys progress much faster later on.
I hope Hannah posts updates as she continues to work with these two cuties!
Watch on YouTube: Zonkey Clicker Training