HANDLING

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How to handle and tame your gecko.

 Leo's are one of the better reptiles when it comes to handling. They should be handled as young as possible in order for them to learn that humans are not a threat. The younger an age they have been regularly handled from they will be much more easier to handle as an adult.

One method is to offer them treats such as a waxworm when they are sitting calmly in your hand - they will then come to associate handling with nice treats and look upon handling expectantly. However once you go down this route you should always back up the confidence trick every now and then with an actual waxworm or they'll soon learn the con!

 Leo's particularly like climbing all over people. Especially it seems the neck, shoulders and back! The most important consideration naturally to never grab the tail or the base of the tail - this will almost certainly result in an eventual loss of a tail for the gecko at some point. If they go to dart off simply quickly place your hand in front of their face or cup your hand over their head - this will usually quickly stop them in their tracks.

It is important to bear in mind that excessively handling your Leo can be end up being stressful for it - a good time for handling would be every time you clean out their Vivarium of say droppings or topping up water etc...

Don't handle your gecko off the ground. Sudden noise or movements can startle even the tamest of adults forcing them to possibly jump out of your hand and fall a great distance for them onto the floor with potentially fatal results.

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 Avoid the tail as much as possible but do not be scared of it to the point that you are not confidently holding the gecko because of a constant fear of damaging it's tail. With time you will learn to confidently handle the gecko and skillfully avoid the tail.

Handling the body is the best area. The greatest place to teach a gecko to be picked up is to form a cradle with your thumb and first or second finger combined, underneath their "armpits" and lift them up as if in a sling.

 Never forcefully pull them off clothing, their perch or such items as you could inadvertently break the claws or even fingers in the process! They will let go of their grip eventually. When returning to the Vivarium place it onto the substrate and gently tap it's hind quarters - this generally motivates them to leave your hand and go back onto the substrate.

My personal geckos all like the slide approach - I hold them gently above one of their hides at about a 45 degree angle and let them ever so gently slide out of my hand. They will stretch out the forearms to make contact with the hide roof and then slowly slide themselves off my hand - all the while gently gripping my hand with their hind limbs as they do so!

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 Handling youngsters

I handle my hatchlings from 1 week of age - but it is important to understand what handling refers to at this age. It's important for the young gecko to realise I am not a threat as early as possible - if only to stop them stressing out and to ensure nice tame adults later on.

My handling at this stage is simply putting my hand in the container they are in with my fingers flat on the floor palm facing upwards. At this age though the youngsters are full of fighting beans and will jump at you hissing and screeching. Once they realise it's you however they will soon chill out and calm down! It's important you don't over react and flinch away when they do this - there is no way on earth they are actually able to hurt you!

I then gently touch the gecko with my thumb which at this age usually results in a very fast short darting jump or little run. If well aimed you will get them to leap onto your fingers of their own accord.

When there they will tend to relax - us humans give off a lot of heat and the little gecko will immediately notice this and should quickly start to chill out so long as you keep your hand still. I will continue this practice at every cleansing until a month old at which stage I will advance to gently having the gecko rest on my thumb with a finger gently behind it's back.

At about 4 months of age they are large and chunky enough to easily handle more physical petting methods and by this stage will be quite tame from all the prior handling sessions.

 Hygiene.

Your hands must be cleaned before AND after handle your gecko. For this purpose I always use Purell in my house prior to and after handling to ensure I do not get anything from them - and crucially that they do not get anything from me either!

 Will Leo's bite me?

The will never bite unless they rarely mistake your finger for food. Even then the Leopard gecko has a fairly insignificant bite where humans are concerned.

They do have teeth but they are not significant enough to readily pierce human skin. The only sensation felt would be similar to another human giving you a very light pinch. However when educating children as to handling your Leo's you must explain to them about possible biting - as the instinctive human reaction to flinch could seriously injure the Gecko! They have weak - in comparison to us - jaws and bones and an ill thought flinch can easily snap these bones!

On the rare occasion where improper handling has hurt your gecko - they will respond with a survival bite. This type of bite is one with all the strength that they can muster - they are, in their own minds; now fighting for their life. This kind of bite will feel like quite a forceful pinch and if the gecko has some nicely developed teeth will feel like a little pin prick. It can - just like a pin prick - draw a little blood - this will usually only occur on very young human hands where the skin is more fragile than normal.

The gecko in this instance may not want to let go - calmly put it back in the Vivarium and let its feet touch the floor - then it will usually immediately let go and quickly make for the nearest hide.

You can avoid this from ever happening by always handling your gecko firmly but always gently - never ever squeeze your gecko or pinch it!


F.Passaro

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