Leopard geckos are among the most docile and easy going choices for a pet reptile. Still, it may take some time (and effort) to earn their trust and form a bond.
With a little patience and persistence, you can bond with your leopard gecko. You’ll need to provide a proper environment and learn proper handling to build trust between you and your pet.
Start with your environment
Make sure you have your enclosure set up properly. Check out our post on essential things your leopard gecko needs or our Gear and Setup guide to help you get started.
If you’ve just brought your leopard gecko home, let your leopard gecko get used to its environment. You can read our post about getting your leopard gecko settled in for more tips.
Make sure there aren’t any loud noises when you’re trying to form that initial bond with your gecko. You’re building trust, and want to make your pet feel safe and secure. Dogs barking, loud music, or televisions can be a distraction and spook your gecko.
Make sure other animals are not in the room with you if you’re taking your gecko out of the enclosure. Your little leopard gecko may be a curiosity to a cat, dog, or other pets. Should your gecko drop onto the floor or get spooked and run, the other pets may chase it, or worse, catch it.
Once we have our space set up, consider when you’re handling your gecko. They generally sleep most of the day, so respect this and let them sleep. Most of us wouldn’t enjoy being prodded awake at 3AM and your gecko doesn’t like its natural sleep cycle disturbed either, especially if you are trying to make it comfortable. Handle primarily in the evening, when they are naturally awake.
Announce your presence
Some people talk to their pets or make a particular sound to call their pets. This lets them get used to you and associate a particular sound, or just the sound and tone of your voice. Be consistent. Use the same tone and the same word if you’re talking, or the same sounds.
Consistency is key. A little handling every day works best. Small doses as to not stress the animal too much, but every day so it gets used to it.
Reward your Leopard Gecko with Food
Nothing makes a pet feel safe and secure like a full belly. You can combine feeding time with handling to get your gecko to start to associate your presence with food. Your gecko will start to associate the sound of the enclosure opening, your voice, and other sounds you make with mealtime. Be sure to follow a proper feeding schedule; you may not want to feed your gecko every time you handle it if this leads to overfeeding.
You can try hand feeding your leopard gecko. If offering insects by hand, you need to be very steady. Leopard geckos are not the most graceful of hunters, and sometimes miss – so there is a chance they may nip you instead of the insect. Leopard gecko bites usually are more of a surprise than anything else, and usually not cause for alarm.
If the thought of handling insects freaks you out, or if you’re concerned you may get bitten, you can use tongs or tweezers made for this purpose. Aquarium tweezers (affiliate link) are great for this purpose.
Otherwise, you can drop insects on the ground in front of your leopard gecko. Just don’t disturb it while it’s stalking its prey or chomping it down. Wait until after it’s swallowed and then try touching or picking up your leopard gecko.
Practice proper leopard gecko handling
When starting out, we did handling directly after feeding. The leopard gecko has some food so you know it’s comfortable enough to eat. It will begin to associate handling with feeding time.
Place your hand flat in the tank and let them explore, sniff, and lick your hand. They may climb into your palm, or they may show no interest at all. Either way is fine. Just leave your hand there and let them get used to you and understand that you’re not a threat. If you can get your gecko to climb into your hand, that’s perfect.
If not, you can scoop your gecko up. With your palm up, position your hand to the side of your gecko. With your fingers pointing towards your gecko, gently work your fingers under its body. As you move underneath, slowly curl your fingers and cup your gecko in your hand. Make sure you’re positioned to support its full body weight evenly before lifting up.
If your gecko sprints forward, let it go and try again. Don’t close your hand and try to grab it – you risk grabbing the tail as your gecko tries to run away. If it is scared enough, it may decide to drop its tail!
Related Post: All About Leopard Gecko Tails
Be confident. If YOU get spooked and suddenly pull your hand away, there is virtually no way your gecko will not also be spooked. Animals can pick up on your state, and in some cases can literally smell fear. Worst that will happen? It may bite you, which causes more surprise than physical pain.
Wrap Up: How to Bond with your Leopard Gecko
Bonding with your leopard gecko is all about building trust. Your gecko needs to feel safe and secure. Once it gets used to its environment, (its enclosure, sounds, routines, etc.) and learns this big human hand dangling over it is not a threat, it will learn to enjoy your company.
Common Leopard Gecko Questions: New Owner Leopard Gecko Guide
You’re bound to have some “new owner” leopard gecko questions as you’re learning how to care for yours. We’ve compiled some common leopard gecko questions into a new owner leopard gecko guide.
5 Leopard Gecko Handling Tips & 1 Thing to Never Do!
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