Tegus are not naturally inclined to trust humans, and their initial reactions to a new environment can include fear, hiding, and defensive behaviors.
This is entirely normal, as in the wild, young tegus are potential prey for various predators, so they have evolved to be cautious and secretive.
If you are a tegu lizard owner, you need to learn how to respect and work with their instincts to build trust gradually.
Below, some tips for handling your pet tegu and getting it accustomed to you.
Start taming your tegu from a young age.
Tegus are more easily tamed when they are young. This is because they are still learning and developing, and they are more likely to be open to new experiences.
If you have a baby tegu, start handling it gently and regularly as soon as possible.
This will help it to become comfortable with your presence and to learn that you are not a threat.
Create a safe handling environment.
Before attempting to handle your tegu, ensure you are in a safe environment. Tegus are quick and agile, and escaping into dangerous areas can lead to accidents or injuries.
It’s recommended to use a secure, controlled space, such as a bathtub or a designated reptile room, where you can easily retrieve your tegu if it attempts to escape.
Introduce yourself to your tegu gradually.
When you first introduce yourself to your tegu, expect that it may be fearful and try to hide or escape.
Instead of leaving it alone and waiting for it to come around, it’s advisable to start building trust from day one.
Interact with your tegu by gently touching its enclosure, rearranging its substrate, and demonstrating that you’re not a threat.
Acclimate your tegu to your scent.
Tegus have a strong sense of smell, and they can use it to identify individuals and environments.
Leaving a piece of used clothing in your tegu’s enclosure can help it to become familiar with your scent and to feel more comfortable with your presence.
To do this, simply place a recently worn shirt or towel in your tegu’s enclosure. Be sure to choose a piece of clothing that is not too heavily scented, as strong perfumes or detergents can irritate your tegu’s sensitive nose.
Leave the piece of clothing in your tegu’s enclosure for a few days or weeks, and then replace it with a new one.
Over time, your tegu will become accustomed to your scent and will associate it with positive experiences, such as food and handling.
This is a simple and effective way to help your tegu bond with you and become more comfortable with your presence.
Avoid reacting negatively to defensive behaviors.
Neutral handling is a technique used to tame and handle animals, such as tegu lizards, without reacting negatively to their defensive behaviors. This can include hissing, puffing up, arching the back, and even biting.
When an animal displays defensive behaviors, it is a sign that it feels threatened. Reacting negatively to these behaviors will only reinforce the animal’s fear and make it more likely to display them in the future.
Instead, neutral handling involves remaining calm and neutral when the animal displays defensive behaviors.
Stay calm, and with time, your tegu will learn that your handling doesn’t pose a threat.
Consistent, positive interactions will help your tegu grow accustomed to your presence.
Handle your tegu correctly.
Handling your tegu correctly is essential to building trust and ensuring a positive experience for both of you. Here are some essential tips:
- Be calm: Tegus can sense fear or anxiety, so it is important to maintain a calm demeanor when handling them. This will help to reduce their stress and make them more likely to be cooperative.
- Use neutral movements: When reaching for your tegu, make slow and deliberate movements to avoid startling it. Sudden movements can frighten your tegu and cause it to react defensively.
- Desensitize your tegu to touch: Gradually touch and pet your tegu all over its body to familiarize it with your touch. This will help to reduce its fear of being handled and make the experience more pleasurable for it. Start by petting your tegu in less sensitive areas, such as its back and sides, and then gradually work your way to more sensitive areas, such as its belly and paws.
- Be patient: Some tegus may take longer to become comfortable with handling than others. Be patient and consistent with your efforts, and eventually your tegu will learn to trust you and enjoy being handled.
- Start young: Taming a baby tegu is generally easier than working with an adult. However, even adult tegus can be tamed with patience and consistency. If you have an adult tegu, start by handling it for short periods of time each day and gradually increase the duration of the handling sessions as your tegu becomes more comfortable.
- Avoid sudden movements: Sudden movements can startle your tegu and cause it to react defensively. When handling your tegu, always approach it slowly and gently.
- Support your tegu’s body: When picking up your tegu, be sure to support its body weight with both hands. This will help to prevent your tegu from feeling insecure and struggling.
- Avoid grabbing your tegu by the tail: Tegus have sensitive tails, and grabbing them by the tail can cause pain and injury.
- Be aware of your tegu’s body language: If your tegu is hissing, puffing up, or arching its back, it is feeling threatened and it is best to back off.
- Offer your tegu treats: Rewarding your tegu with treats for good behavior will help to reinforce the positive association with being handled.
Tegu Handling FAQs
Are Argentine Tegus easy to handle?
Yes, Argentine tegus are generally easy to handle. They are intelligent and social animals that can be tamed with patience and consistency.
Argentine black and white tegus and Red tegus are known for being particularly docile and easy to handle, while golden tegus can be a bit more skittish.
However, with regular handling, both species of tegu lizards can be tamed and become affectionate pets.
Are Colombian Tegus easy to handle?
Colombian tegus can be more challenging to handle than Argentine tegus. They tend to be more wild and excitable, and they may require more time and effort to tame.
However, with patience and consistency, Colombian tegus can be tamed and handled successfully.
It is important to start handling Colombian tegus from a young age, and to be consistent with the handling process.
Do tegus get aggressive?
Yes, tegus can get aggressive, especially during tegu puberty (also known as “guberty”).
During puberty, tegus may experience mood swings and become more territorial. It is important to be patient and understanding during this time, and to avoid handling your tegu too much.
Once your tegu has passed through puberty, it should become more calm and docile.
How often should I handle my tegu?
You should handle your tegu for at least 15 minutes each day. This will help to build trust and desensitize your tegu to touch.
As your tegu becomes more comfortable with handling, you can gradually increase the duration of the handling sessions.
How to handle a baby tegu?
When handling a baby tegu, it is important to be gentle and supportive. Use both hands to support the tegu’s body weight, and avoid grabbing it by the tail.
Start by handling the tegu for short periods of time, and gradually increase the duration of the handling sessions as the tegu becomes more comfortable.
Do tegus get affectionate?
Yes, compared to other types of reptiles, tegus can be affectionate.
That said, they are still wild animals and will show their affection in different ways than dogs or cats.
For example, a tegu may show its affection by following you around, rubbing against you, or sitting on your lap.
However, tegus are also more independent than dogs or cats, and they may not always want to be cuddled or petted.
PetsWithScales.com is an informational website about big lizard pet care. We collect and provide information from different sources across the web on how to keep and care for reptiles as pets. The species we mainly deal with are tegus, monitor lizards, skinks and geckos. Our aim is to provide high quality information to help pet owners make better, more informed decisions about their animal’s diets, health and life.