How to Pick up a Leopard Gecko


Leopard geckos are popular pets for their easy going nature and ease of care.  As with any pet, it’s essential to build trust through consistent interaction and proper handling.

When first starting out, it’s important to know how to properly pick up a leopard gecko so you don’t scare or injure it. We’ll review two methods to pick up your leopard gecko safely.

How to Pick Up a Leopard Gecko

While holding your leopard gecko, it is important to provide a quiet environment and avoid sudden movements.  Be confident and calm, and your pet will follow your lead.

Open Handed Hold

One technique for picking up a leopard gecko involves using an open hand as a holding method. To perform this technique, begin by placing one hand palm up on the floor of your gecko’s enclosure.

Gently slide it under your gecko so it steps up onto your hand.  Slow and steady, you don’t want to startle it, especially if it’s new.  Once you have your hand firmly underneath the gecko’s body, you can slowly lift and use the other hand to provide additional support. 

  1. Place your hand palm up in front of your gecko
  2. Slide your hand under your gecko and encourage it to climb up
  3. Once the gecko climbs on your hand, slowly pick it up
  4. You can provide support with your free hand if needed

Your gecko should be perched on your hand more so than being held.  Practice holding it while still in the tank until it feels secure being in your hand.  This way if it jumps or tries to scurry, it’s only dropping a few inches into the tank and not a few feet onto the floor.

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The open hand hold technique is useful for gecko owners who want to build trust with their pet. By allowing the gecko to climb onto your hand, you allow it to feel in control and less defensive. This technique can be used to let the gecko move around and explore its surroundings while sitting on your hand. It’s less about holding the gecko and more about letting it sit comfortably. 

You can place your other hand in front of it and let it step from hand to hand, or let it explore a bit and climb up your arm or shirt.

Using the open hand hold technique is especially helpful for newer or skittish geckos who are not yet comfortable being held. As your gecko becomes more comfortable with your presence and touch, you can gradually progress to more traditional holding methods. 

Scoop Method

The scoop method is another gentle way of picking up your leopard gecko. To perform this technique, use a flat hand to scoop the gecko’s body from below and rest it on your palm. Close your fingers around the gecko in a loose grip, taking care to avoid putting pressure on its legs or body. It’s important to be gentle and swift in your motion to avoid startling or upsetting your gecko.

This method is particularly useful when you need to move your gecko to another location or clean its enclosure. 

  1. Slide your hand under your gecko from the side
  2. Close your fingers around your gecko gently
  3. Lift your gecko
  4. You can provide support with your free hand if needed

When using the scoop method, keep in mind that leopard geckos are sensitive creatures and can feel uneasy if handled improperly.  Approach your gecko slowly from the front or the side.  Try to avoid motions that swoop down on it from above or behind – this is how predators would grab a gecko for a snack, and it may spook your pet.

It’s important to avoid picking up a gecko that is showing defensive behavior. Give it some time to cool off before attempting to pick it up again. (People sometimes wonder if leopard geckos bite. Picking up a stressed gecko is one of those instances that may get it riled up enough to bite.)

Do Leopard Geckos Like Being Held?

Leopard geckos, like many reptiles, do not typically enjoy being held. They prefer to spend their time in the comfort of their enclosure, where they have everything they need for survival. However, as pet gecko owner, it is important to handle them for various reasons such as cleaning their enclosure or taking them to the vet.

When first attempting to handle a leopard gecko, it is common for them to become stressed or even show defensive behavior. However, over time and with consistent gentle handling, trust can be built between the owner and the gecko. It is important to approach the gecko slowly, using a calm demeanor and allowing them to approach you on their terms.

Being cold-blooded creatures, leopard geckos will enjoy the warmth of your hands. Providing them with a comfortable and warm environment during handling can make the experience more enjoyable for both the gecko and owner. It is also important to remember that handling should not be done excessively, as it can cause stress to the gecko.

Pet Pens for Safe Handling

If you want a safe place to handle your gecko, but are concerned about it getting loose check out these pet pens. There’s enough room for you to sit inside or next to the pen with your pet and hang out together. 

GABraden Small Animals Tent,Reptiles Cage,Breathable Transparent Pet Playpen Pop Open Outdoor/Indoor Exercise Fence,Portable Yard Fence (Cool Green)
Small Animals Tent,Reptiles Cage,Breathable Transparent Pet Playpen Pop Open Outdoor/Indoor Exercise Fence,Portable Yard Fence

This is great for when you first bring your lizard home and want to spend some time with it, but are not sure how it will react.  It’s a help for training and bonding safely, especially when first learning how to pick up and hold your new lizard.

These pet pens are collapsible and portable, so you can move from room to room or take it with you.  It folds down flat for easy storage, and folds up into a small handbag.  There are a variety of colors to choose from, so you can match your decor and style.

How often should you handle your leopard gecko?

While handling your leopard gecko can help build trust and socialize it, it is important to not handle them too frequently. Excessive handling can cause stress and lead to negative feelings towards its owner.

It’s natural to want to play with a new pet all the time, though that may not be preferable for reptiles.  We usually handle baby leopard geckos no more than once per day for a very short period of time to get them used to human interaction (and usually around feeding time.)  If the gecko doesn’t tolerate being picked up well, back off to only handling it every few days.  

We usually make sure to handle adult leopard geckos every few days for short periods of time, so the gecko has some space and security, though is still comfortable being handled.

It is important to be considerate of their behavior and body language; if they show any signs of stress or defensive behavior, it may be best to give them some space and try again at a later time. Proper care and handling are key for a happy and healthy leopard gecko.

When Not to Handle Your Gecko

When it comes to handling your leopard gecko, it’s important to recognize signs of stress and discomfort to avoid causing harm. Some scenarios in which handling is not advisable to include when your gecko is shedding, has just eaten, is showing defensive behavior, or is not yet accustomed to human interaction. Signs of stress can include darting movements, freezing in place, gaping mouth, and tail wagging.

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Before attempting to handle your gecko,  assess its environment, diet, and health to rule out any potential causes of stress. Ensure that the temperature and humidity levels are suitable for their species, that they have fresh water and a proper substrate to rest on, and that their tank is free of any aggressive geckos or other pets that may be causing fear. Feeding your gecko an appropriate diet and getting them regular check-ups with a reptile veterinarian can also rule out any health issues that may be causing stress.

If any potential causes of stress have been ruled out, introducing your gecko to handling gradually and in short periods of time can help ease them into the process. Always wash your hands before handling them and be gentle with their fragile bodies. Remember, a healthy and happy gecko makes for a loving and interactive pet.

Wrap Up – How to Pick up a Leopard Gecko

The leopard gecko species is a pretty tolerant lizard.  They’re usually fairly calm and docile, which is why they make such a great pet reptile, especially for beginners. 

Picking up a leopard gecko requires a gentle approach to avoid causing stress or harm to the animal. and positive reinforcement. Start with the open hand hold and let it crawl up onto your hand. Once you have established a positive relationship with your leopard gecko, you can use the scoop technique to safely pick it up.

Now that you know how to safely pick up a leopard gecko, you can start bonding with it.  Also, check out our handling tips.

If you haven’t checked out our starter page, give it a look.  It has the vital information you need to get started with a leopard gecko.

hevanmiller

H. Evan Miller is the founder of the Leopard Gecko Habitat. Like many young boys, he developed an early fascination with dinosaurs, and by extension, reptiles. He’s been keeping reptiles as pets since he was a kid (we won’t count the decades) and enjoys sharing his enthusiasm, experience, and knowledge on the topic. You can read more about his ongoing adventures with science, technology, and a couple of curious kids over at https://STEMtropolis.com.

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