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Do Leopard Geckos Like to Be Handled?




A curious leopard gecko being held by a woman, exploring her hands. Wondering, "Do leopard geckos like to be handled?"

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Leopard geckos are timid and docile reptiles. Their harsh ancestral background (native to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, N.W. India) has taught them to engage in defensive mode constantly. 

Pet leopard geckos are generally intolerant to handling, and they lack the sense of emotional bond like other pets such as dogs. It is upon you to create a bond over time and make your pet tolerate handling and are not particularly good at it.

If you are planning to buy a gecko pet, it is highly recommended you go for a young one. You will have an easier time taming a young gecko than taming an adult. This article will take you through everything you need to know about making your pet enjoy your handling.

How to Introduce Your Leopard Gecko to Handling

You may have bought your pet, received it as a gift, or you hatched your pet eggs, and you are wondering where to start. Earning your pet’s trust may take time, which calls for patience. 

Here are a few ways to get your gecko comfortable around you.

Make Your Leopard Gecko Feel at Home

Once you have brought your pet home, your first focus should not be holding and playing around with it. Leopard geckos are tender and fragile to handle, especially the young ones.

Focus on making your pet feel comfortable in its new environment. You may want to allow a few days or weeks to pass before attempting to handle it. Making your pet feel at home will make it trust you.

Here are a few tips you may want to take note of in seeing that your pet feels at home:

  • See that your pet’s enclosure setting is in recommended standards. That will make your leopard gecko feel at ease and step down from a state of anxiety.
  •  Avoid rushing to handle your gecko pet. Just leave it alone. Your pet must be tired and anxious from transportation and change of environment. Attempting to handle it at this stage will make it rebellious and give you a hard time creating a bond with it.
  • Ensure you get rid of loud noises around the pet as much as possible. Loud noises will make your pet uneasy, making it very difficult to adapt to the new environment.
  •  See that you keep other pets like cats and dogs very far away from your new pet. Your pet gecko will perceive them as predators. That will make it refuse to relate with you.
  • Beware that Leopard geckos mostly sleep during the day. You want to make sure you don’t disturb them from sleep. Consider handling it in the evenings when awake if you must handle it.

Let Your Pet Trust You

You should be patient and let your pet adjust to the new environment. Once your pet trusts you, it will feel comfortable around you and make it easy for you to handle it.

Geckos love playing and enjoy gentle touch. The gentle touch gives it a feeling of ease and comfort, and it also gives you fulfillment to have your pet enjoy your touch.

Getting your leopard geckos’ trust is a skill you must master. Here are a few tips for applying and creating a solid bond between you and your lovely pet.

1. Let Your Pet Get Used to You Gradually

You are a stranger to your pet. Every time you approach, it will shy away or become defensive. If your pet switches to the defensive mode, it will become aggressive and rebellious, and that will make it impossible for you to handle it comfortably.

The first time you are trying to bond with your pet, you should treat it the way you would treat a stranger. You want to be slow and cautious not to upset your new pet friend.

Try the following techniques to help you make your pet feel at ease:

  • Don’t be in a hurry to hold your pet. First, allow it to master your presence so that it doesn’t see you as a threat. Let the gecko get used to seeing you around, and that will make it treat you as a part of its new environment.
  • Try and make your pet associate you with food. Food is a good motivator in triggering behavioral adaptation. When giving food to your gecko, make it a routine to touch it. That will make it love your touch since you are its food source.
  •  Make your leopard pet attracted to you once you notice it has successfully associated you with food. Do that by placing your hand on the cage floor. Then see if the pet will come to you.
  • If the gecko comfortably comes to you and allows you to touch it, you can make the next move by holding it. Ensure that your attempt to touch it does not show any signs of aggravation.

2. Let the Gecko Associate You With Food

Your pet loves food just like you do, and once it knows you are its source of food, you two will make great friends.

See that every time you move to feed your pet, you accustom it to your regular touches. That will eliminate any tension that your pet may be harboring. You can further make this technique more effective by hand feeding your pet.

Hand-feeding your pet will make it adjust its sense of touch and smell, and that will help it get familiarized with your hand. That way, your pet will start enjoying your advances towards it.

3. Give Your Leopard Gecko Space to Explore

Leopard geckos are good explorers who want to taste new experiences. Don’t be frightened when your gecko crawls on you. Allow it to move and enjoy the unique experience.

You can try moving the pet to a new environment. A new environment will excite the pet and motivate it to explore new experiences. You should ensure the new environment is safe not to startle the pet.

Encouraging your pet to explore will associate you with fun, making it want to be around you more and enjoy your handling.

4. Challenge Your Pet to Explore New Experiences

Your leopard gecko will earn a significant benefit through overcoming a few challenges. Getting through the challenges strengthens your pet’s character and makes it feel more entitled to its new setting.

To make this trick efficient, you may try to place obstacles inside the enclosure. You can do that by rearranging or putting new items in the chamber.

If you want to create the challenge outside the enclosure, you can place an obstacle on which the pet can crawl.

The new experiences excite your leopard gecko, helping strengthen the bond between you two. That is because once the pet associates the new experiences with you, it will start yearning for your attention.

How to Handle Your Leopard Gecko Safely

Your success in handling your leopard gecko depends on how well you bond with your pet. However, picking up and holding your pet is also a skill you have to master.

You can use a scooping technique to safely pick up and hold your leopard gecko. Any mistakes will risk injuring your pet and breach any trust it has in you.

Safe handling of your leopard gecko will make it yearn for more of your attention. It would be best if you made every effort to see that your timid gecko does not dread your attempt to hold it.

Here are a few tips you may want to try and ensure your pet is safe in your hands.

Let Your Hand Rest on the Floor of the Tank and Observe

Let your hand rest on the floor of the chamber a distance away from your leopard gecko. Ensure the gecko can see it. Then observe how your pet will react.

The pet will either remain at ease or show signs of anxiety. If the presence of your hand triggers anxiety, you should withdraw and try picking it up later. You should avoid picking it up if it is stressed as you may injure it as it attempts to escape.

Here are the signs of stress that you may want to be keen on:

  • Your gecko may try to hide.
  • Your pet may open its mouth.
  • Your gecko may start chirping.
  • Your pet may start running away.
  • You may notice your pet focusing on your hand without moving.
  • Your pet may drop the tail.

If your leopard gecko shows no signs of stress and remains at ease, you should move ahead to touch it.

Advance Your Hand Slowly Towards the Pet

Once the gecko is at ease, advance your hand slowly towards the pet. Do not approach from above or behind the pet, and get defensive. It would help if you reached out from the front.

Ensure your hand is steady and not jerky. If your hand is jerky or your fingers moving, the pet may perceive it as a worm and switch to hunting mode, and that will make it challenging to handle.

Once your hand comfortably touches the pet, you can move ahead to scoop it.

Scoop the Gecko From the Underside

Place your hand in a flat position on the ground. Then smoothly and softly, scoop the pet’s body and let it fit in your palm. Ensure that you scoop it in a fast motion but take care not to be rough.

It would be best if you were careful not to bump or push your pet’s body or legs, and that will startle it, and it may escape.

Once you have the gecko comfortable in your palm, move ahead to lift it.

Lift Your Leopard Gecko Supporting the Whole Body

As you lift your gecko, ensure you are not squeezing it. You may injure it or make it feel insecure and attempt to escape. Have your other hand close so that you can trap the pet if it tries to jump off.

Not that even a gecko pet that you have been handling for a long time may attempt to wriggle off your palm when picked up. If it is trying to wriggle off, hold it patiently until it calms down.

It would be best if you did not hold the tail under any circumstance. Leopard geckos have an adaptive mechanism of dropping the tail when threatened.

Putting Your Leopard Gecko Down

Putting your gecko down applies the same rules as those of picking it up. Note that interacting with your pet should take up to fifteen minutes at most.

Lower your hand slowly, taking care not to startle your pet. Then flatten your hand on the floor of the enclosure. Lift your wrist gently and let your gecko slide off your palm.

Precautions to Take When Handling Your Leopard Gecko

Leopard geckos generally dislike being handled, regardless of the strong bond you have created with them.

You should always take precautions and adhere to the handling rules of your gecko. Any mishandling may reverse all the gains you have made.

Always observe the following precautions when handling your leopard gecko.

  •  Avoid handling your leopard gecko during the day. Handle it in the evenings.
  •  Handle your gecko at regular intervals to create expectations.
  • You should never bump into your pet without notice. You will stress it.
  • You should never pick your leopard gecko by the tail.
  • You should never grab your pet if it runs away. Wait for it to calm down first.
  •  Avoid holding your pet all the time. Give it space to explore new experiences on its own.
  • You should avoid putting one of your hands above the gecko when holding it. It will perceive it as a threat.
  • You should avoid approaching your pet from above. It will perceive your hand as a predator.

FAQ’s about Leopard Gecko

Conclusion on Do Leopard Geckos Like to Be Handled?

Leopard geckos are timid, and they dislike you holding them. However, if you are patient, you can tame and create a strong bond with them. Once they familiarize themselves with you, leopard geckos are docile and friendly pets with which you will enjoy spending time.

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