Tips for Leash Training Your Reptile
Start early: “Ideally, one would start with a young animal,” said Abbo. She recommends handling the animal for a short time every day and carefully observing behavior to determine if the animal appears stressed. Generally, stress stems from situations where a reptile feels afraid and which may be manifested as aggression.
Get adjusted: “I would recommend doing any handling or training in a room with an ambient temperature close to what the reptile prefers—usually in the 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit range for most commonly kept reptiles,” Abbo said. During this time, you can also get your scaly friend habituated to wearing a harness, too, said Wissman.
Start slow, and keep it positive: Once you have carefully considered whether your reptile will be able to handle the great outdoors, start slow, said Abbo, and make sure interactions are always positive. “If the animal becomes difficult to handle or aggressive, stop the session—but try to end on a positive note.” One negative experience with a harness or leash can derail weeks of work.
Maintain a preferred environment: As mentioned above, most reptiles are comfortable in a warm climate. If they are out in hot sunlight, said Wissman, it may add stress and change their temperament to one that is more aggressive or active than when in a controlled environment. So, it’s important to ensure reptiles are maintained within their mean optimal temperature range which can vary from species to species.
Offer rewards: “Offering a favorite piece of food each time the animal is handled may also increase the chances that it will be amenable to social interaction with the owner,” Abbo said. While offering food when reptiles are being handled or trained may be beneficial, be sure that they aren’t too hungry, she said, as they may be more aggressive. Insects, such as worms, may be good treats for your reptile, depending upon the species. Turtles may also enjoy chopped, leafy greens.
Be conscious of your surroundings: While your bearded dragon may be the apple of your eye, it’s important to remember that to some, reptiles can be scary. Be a good pet parent by strategically deciding when to go for a walk—and when to hold off, notes Wissman. In addition to being a good neighbor, you should try to minimize the stress and tension you cause your pet reptile to increase the chances that he or she will take to the whole leash-walking process. This means not parading your pet near local schools or dog parks, where others may fear your reptile—or it, them!
A private backyard or outdoor space is the ideal place to begin walking your reptile, since you can exercise more control over the noise and potential stress in this type of environment. If you do not have a private area, use your best judgement about when and where to walk your pet. Choose the quietest, least-trafficked time of day with the fewest distractions. Also, be sure that the time of day is conducive to the reptile’s ideal temperature for training (as mentioned above).
Are There Benefits to Leash Training a Reptile?
Sure! First, the obvious: leash walking allows reptiles to be taken outside safely. “Being outside provides the reptile with the required natural sunlight and also is mentally stimulating for the animal, thereby decreasing stress,” said Abbo.
Wissman agrees that while sunlight from the great outdoors is certainly beneficial, pet parents shouldn’t rely upon it entirely. She recommends that natural sunlight is always provided in tandem with a good UVB bulb. She suggests either a fluorescent tube light or a compact fluorescent bulb with a UVB index of 0.5-1.0, placed 12 to 18 inches from the the animal and not filtered through glass or plastic, which takes away the UV rays.
“Even though the bulb will still be emitting light, the UVB portion will diminish after about six months, so bulbs should all be changed every six months,” said Wissman. UV bulbs should be on as part of the normal lighting, with a normal day to night cycle. which can vary in length depending on the species, she added (unfortunately, many people just use the twelve hours on and twelve hours off cycle which isn’t appropriate for all reptiles).
Spending time with a pet reptile in the outdoors also increases the bond an owner has with his or her pet, said Abbo, and makes for a better quality of life for both the lizard and the owner.
A type of system that is used to compare animals within a given group to one another
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Term used to indicate something that involves birds.
A hormone produced by the adrenal glands, also often referred to as epinephrine. Adrenaline is used in the body's response to traumatic situations or emergencies.