Leopard geckos are known to be one of the tamest lizards sold today in today’s pet shops. However, there are a few customers that get stuck with a shy leopard gecko who squeals a lot and is a little snappy every once in a while. But do not worry, this isn’t a problem that isn’t fixable. Below are a few tips and ways on how to tame a leopard gecko.
Leopard Gecko Behavior
Knowing the behaviors of a leopard gecko and the meanings of each behavior will help you understand how your leopard gecko is feeling. Not knowing that your leopard gecko is trying to threaten you while you are trying to tame him can be the roadblock that you are encountering. Below are a few behaviors that leopard geckos might portray.
- Squealing –I have never encountered a baby leopard gecko that hasn’t squealed when trying to be picked up. This is a normal behavior and is very common for all baby leopard geckos. Squealing just indicates that your gecko is scared. The scream is to try and scare you off. When you hear your leopard gecko squeal, just remove your hand from the enclosure and let it be alone for a little. Trying to pick up your leopard gecko while he is squealing will only stress him out more and make him more afraid of you.
- Hiding – Leopard geckos are nocturnal, so they will hide the majority of the day. Do not think your leopard gecko is hiding because he is scared, it is most likely because he is sleeping. They are most active at night.
- Defensive Posture – You will know this posture when you see it. It will look as if your leopard gecko is getting ready to lunge at your hand. If your leopard gecko is unfamiliar with your hand, he will see it as a threat and will most likely be in this position when you reach your hand into the enclosure. Your leopard gecko will have its body pressed against the ground, with its tail straight up in the air. His head will be tilted up looking at you. If you see your leopard gecko doing this, it might be best to remove your hand from the enclosure.
- Tail Signaling – When your leopard gecko wags its tail in a slow ‘worm-like’ motion or a fast flicker motion, this is just a sign to other male and female leopard geckos that he is there. Sometimes, my leopard gecko will do this when I place my hand in the enclosure and then just keep moving on. It’s not really a threat to you.
- Tongue Flicking and Licking – If you see your leopard gecko’s tongue flicking in and out, it’s because he is getting a feel for the new environment. Leopard geckos have a special organ in their mouths called the vomeronasal organ. This organ has specialized sensors that help identify new items. Snakes also have this organ which is why you will see them flick their tongues in and out a lot.
- Tail Drop – If you leopard gecko drops it’s tail, he must have been very scared or mishandled. It is primarily a defensive mechanism that leopard geckos do to get away from predators. The tail will grow back, but it wont be as pretty as the old one. If you happen to have a leopard gecko who drops it’s tail, make sure to keep the enclosure clean and use paper towels as substrate until your leopard geckos tail heals.
Taming a Leopard Gecko
Taming a leopard gecko is fairly easy and is usually done within a few weeks. We use this method with both baby and adult leopard geckos without any issues.
- Week 1: Right when you get your leopard gecko, let him get accustom to his new surroundings and leave him alone. Do not try to handle or pet your leopard gecko at this time. Handling or messing with your gecko at this time will make him feel scared and might make him not eat for a few days. The first week, you just want your gecko to eat.
- Week 2: Your gecko should be eating by now. Now, you can start placing the feeders ‘with your hand’ into the enclosure. This will show your gecko that your hand doesn’t mean any arm and is not a threat. Do this for a full week. You can also spend a few minutes a day putting your hand into the enclosure and moving it around so that your gecko gets accustom to your hand movements.
- Week 3: Place a few insects on your hand and try to hand feed them to your gecko. Their bite will sometimes be fast so try not to be too startled. You jumping will cause your gecko to freak out too. The best way to hand feed your gecko is to get a few insects and put it on the palm of your hand and lay your hand directly on the ground. This will allow for you to hand feed your gecko and perhaps give him the ability to walk onto your hand. But do not pick him up if he does.
- Week 4: Remove the hides so that your leopard gecko can’t run into anything and start moving your hand around like you did in week 2. Then slowly start touching your leopard gecko softly. Stay away from touching the tail or the head. Stick to the body area. Do this for no more than 2 minutes every other day for a full week. He might squeal at times, but do not be startled. It is just a defense tactic as stated above. By the end of the week, you can start to slowly cup your gecko from underneath him and lift him up. Once you have him in your hands, stroke his back and just relax with him. Take things very slow. Keep the handling to a minimum until he stops squealing at you when you pick him up. Once the squealing stops, you’ll know that he is comfortable with you.
After all that, your leopard gecko should be tamed enough for you to handle him regularly. Yeah, 4 weeks of taming might sound like a lot, but it’s worth the time and patience, especially if you’re going to be stuck with him for another 10 – 20 years.
How Do You Tame a Leopard Gecko?
Do you know of any other ways to tame a leopard gecko that have worked for you? Share with us your thoughts and recommendations below in the comments section.
ClubFauna – How to Tame a Leopard Gecko