There are two important and key factors when handling or trying to tame any type of reptile, patience and understanding. First is patience, many elements fall into this factor s such as, knowing what to look for when first selecting a pet, research, and ultimately being able to take the time to spend handling your pet. The second key factor is understanding how your reptile is feeling, the methods in which to first start handling your reptile in order to tame it and Ultimately your reptile’s wants and needs to keep it healthy and tame.
Patience plays a number of roles in both handling and taming. When you first begin to look for a reptile as a pet, be patient! This is key to starting a good relationship between a reptile and its owner. There are many thousands of species of reptiles, amphibians, turtles and snakes on the planet. Some, if not most of these species are kept in captivity as pets. This plays a role when buying your first reptile; buy one that already seems calm and friendly. This can at times be challenging to some people, not knowing what to expect from various species of reptiles. Keep in mind, buying a reptile is an investment in time and effort, without the guarantee or promise of a successful relationship.
Because reptiles have not been bred for gentle temperament, natural instincts always play a dominating role in a reptiles’ personality. Some common species of reptiles and snakes, like the bearded dragon, leopard gecko, green iguana and ball python are naturally much more calm and thus good pets for the beginning owner. Keep in mind some individual reptiles adapt and tame easier than others. Some will be calm, relaxed, and even eat right out of your hand or rest on your shoulder throughout the day. However others of the same species can be temperamental, run and bite. Some species usually start out friendly and over time and age develop tempers. This is often due to the lack of handling as they mature and grow greatly in size. This is more commonly seen in larger reptiles and snakes.
One of the most common mistakes made by a beginning reptile owner is not knowing how and when to handle your pet reptile. New reptiles should be left alone for the first couple of days, if not weeks. This ensures comfort and greatly reduces stress. Do this until your reptile has established a good feeding rhythm. Once your reptile has tolerated you walking by or near the cage, changing it’s water, cleaning the substrate and has adapted to a good eating habit, you can try touching or gently catching and holding it.
Always keep in mind this is a new and untamed animal. They can hurt you if they get scared, angry, or mistake your arm or fingers as food. No matter how tame your reptile gets or seems to be, always expect to be scratched or possibly bitten. Whether it is intentional of not, it will happen on occasion.
When first beginning to hold or handle your reptile, handle only for short periods of times during the day, usually two or three times daily. Always pay attention to your reptile at all times! While doing this you will learn when it’s stressed or uncomfortable and when it’s relaxed. If it gets too stressed reduce the amount of time you spend handling. With any new reptile, to tame them, you do have to expose them to some stress. Always make sure before you begin to handle them, they are well fed and adapted to the new enclosure. Just as a precaution, always avoid handling any reptile during its shedding cycle, for they are irritable and angered easily.
Start slowly, this is important in forming a good stable relationship; you do not want to frighten your new pet from the very beginning. Start by holding it only a few minutes at a time, gently and not restraining it. Reptiles as a species do not like being physically restrained in any way and many of them do not tolerate it. Being restrained usually means being dominated, or even eaten. Most reptiles will lash out violently and unexpectedly. Never approach your reptile from above. In doing this act, it could insinuate a predator and cause your reptile to run or even attack. To reduce the stress on a reptile, always approach your reptile gently, but firmly enough so it will not jump and injure itself.
Unfortunately, with any reptile big or small, there will be times when handling your reptile is unavoidable. These times are particularly important when you treat for disease or injuries, or when you have to trim its claws. With this in mind, here’s some proper ways in which to handle all reptiles safely.
All small to medium sized reptiles, as a majority will fit in a classification of 24 inches or less. The smaller of the species, like anoles and most geckos, are very quick and agile. At times these can be very difficult to catch. Never grab the tail of any reptile! An adapted defense mechanism, the tails can release and break away from the body. This can cause damage and internal infection. Also, keep in mind the size of these tiny reptiles; the skeleton is easily fractured and breakable. The best and easiest way to capture these specific types of reptiles is with a small fish net.
Once it’s safely captures within the net, use your dominant hand and place the thumb on the top of the head, at the base of the neck. Next, use your index finger and wrap it gently but firmly under the neck of the reptile. Slightly lift the reptile enough to slide you passive hand under the small net and gently wrap around the base of the lizard, keeping your thumb and index finger free. Using the remaining two fingers, gently switch spots with the two fingers from your dominant hand. With your dominant hand now free, gently remove the net from around its body, leaving the reptile completely grasped within the palm of your hand. This method is possible with the medium-sized reptiles as well; barring the net is big and strong enough to handle an impossibly twisting and thrashing reptile. However, unlike the smaller reptiles, mediums will also need more stability with their back legs and larger tails. Thus, now using your free hand as support for these limbs.
Reptiles over 24 inches can and will prove to be difficult to handle at times. With these particular reptiles, not only for size, but species and personality will also play a role in how to handle these reptiles. Reptiles like the bearded dragon, uromastix, and blue-tongued skink tame easily and are naturally docile, thus presenting no real difficulty. However, they do have powerful jaws and sharp teeth that can inflict real injury if not handled properly. With large lizards such as the green iguana, Nile and Savannah monitors, a second person to help support and stabilize an untamed reptile is always helpful. It’s important that you wear protective clothing when handling these large reptiles. Clothing such as leather gloves that cover both wrists and the forearm. Also, strong long sleeve shirts that won’t rip or tear easy and can endure the grasp of a clawed foot.
The easiest and most gentle way of handling a larger reptile is to grip the head with the entire hand. By using your secondary or non-dominate hand; place your thumb on top of the head at the base of the spine where the head and neck meet. Then wrap the remaining fingers around the entire neck, stabilizing it. Using your dominant hand, slide under the body of the reptile just behind its front legs. Your thumb should rest on top of the body while the four fingers grip around as much of the reptile as possible. As the body of the reptile is lifted off the ground, you need pull the entire body of the reptile to your dominate side. With your elbow and the side of your body, grip the back legs and as much of the tail as you can. This will ensure support for head, legs, and body, and tail. If your reptile were not tamed, it would be best to grasp both front legs and clench them to the sides of the reptile before trying to lift it up. With time and trust, your reptile will begin to grasp its feet around your hand and not be forceful with you. As a second precaution, it’s
instinctual for tail whipping and forceful body thrashing; this is common, even with the tamest of all lizards.
Handling snakes can prove difficult to anyone, novice to expert. Snakes for the most part are unpredictable and should always be approached with caution. The most important key element when handling a snake is cleanliness. Snakes hunt by scent and the smell of mice or rodent on the hands can excite and stimulate the snake into feeding. Thus, provoking it to strike or bite. Keep in mind, most snakes have a porous skin and having traces of lotion and cleaners can cause physical harm to your snake. Make sure your hands and arms and cleaned and rinsed very well from the tips of your fingers to your elbow, before and after handling.
When handling small or younger snakes, grasp them gently but firmly. Always be particularly cautious when handling young and smaller snakes, for their bodies fragile. Gripping too tight can result in internal damages, like broken bones or internal bruising, both of which can be fatal or the snake will forever suffer the long-term effects.
One of the best methods to holding a small snake is to hold the neck between both thumb and index fingers. This will allow the remainder of the body to rest in the palm of your opposite hand.
Medium snakes usually fall in the range of three to five feet. These types typically present a few difficulties; using your dominant hand grasp the snake behind the head, with the thumb resting on top of the base of the neck. The other four fingers should wrap gently around the snake, stabilizing the head. The remainder of the body should sit on the secondary arm, rested on your body. This will provide full support for the entire snake.
Larger snakes are in another classification of their own. These snakes start at about six feet and can grow up to and over 20 feet in length. These pose the greatest threat of any reptile. Due to their size and power, some of these snakes have been known to kill dogs, cats and some cases people. It is with the greatest of caution that these snakes ever be handled in any way and never from beginning owners. As a precaution, always wear leather gloves and always work in teams of two. Even if the snake is seemingly harmless, they still can produce an empowering and very painful bite.
Control of the head is the greatest and important key to handling a large snake. Typically, a pet snake is of the constricting type, and generally bites and locks on to its prey before they begin to constrict it. If you happen to release the head, it could bite and begin constricting around your arms, legs or neck. If alone, this is a very dangerous and potentially deadly scenario. However, all large snakes will wrap themselves around your body for their own natural support. When doing this, be sure the snake does not wrap itself around or near your neck. This can cause accidental suffocation and you potentially releasing the snakes’ head.
Always remain calm in any scenario, screaming, wiggling and forcing the snake may not only frighten, but also excite the snake into feeding as well, only to cause it to squeeze harder. In this case, if able, apply forceful pressure to the bottom of the jaw, under the snake, near the end of the tail. These are the softest and weakest parts of a snake. With the intense discomfort, a snake will generally release its grip slightly. This could be the opportunity you need to escape the snakes grasp. Always keep in mind, no matter how tame all reptiles and snakes are, they are still wild animals and should always be treated as so.