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Advice on Stubborn Tegu? Suggestions Needed


So, the issue I have is that my tegu gets annoyed if I hold him for more than a few seconds. I pick him up and he just wants to be put down so that he can explore the house. He almost never wants to sit still. Where this starts to be a problem is that he starts using his hind feet to claw and scratch and escape... and if that isn't enough he'll just start death rolling repeatedly every time I pick him back up. Hes about a year and a half old and 40 ish inches, so it isnt super easy to hold a deathrolling lizard.

Im just at a loss. Do I put him down because he hates being picked up? Do I upset him by continuing to stress him? I just tried not letting him back down and he ended up completely exhausting himself, lost of heavy breathing... mouth kinda limping something. And I ended up with a dozen deep scratches on my arm.

My Tegu also doesnt seem to like interacting with me unless I have food... otherwise hes super anti social and very independent, very content on doing his own thing.


Well-Known Member
My advise is to push on through ...... coming up to a year old is that time of coming into adult hood and pushing boundaries to try getting things his way.


Active Member
Invest in a pair of those cut-resistant sleeves. Maybe some thin gloves too if you need it. helped me a lot. Don't reward by putting them down until they can be calm and still for a few moments... heavy breathing, mouth gaping, hissing and death rolls are all part of the tegu tantrum arsenal... you're not hurting them, they're just being grumpy and uncivilized :p
My tegu is about 4 years old so full grown and I know he does not like being picked up our held it is uncomfortable for him and he feels imbalanced they are not arboreal so I except he is not a pet to be held out of respect to him I can lay on the floor with him and pet him so he is comfortable with me and trusts me.


Well-Known Member
Very common behavior of Tegus, and getting over that behavior is very individual. Some lucky owners don't go through it at all, and some (like myself) thought it would never end. 10 months later after my male started these tantrums (which started on the day I got him) he gave it up. Don't put him down when he acts up and starts the death roll business. Hang on to the bucking bronco, and yell "no" at him. He won't like that, and sooner or later he'll get the point. It's a trust issue, and it helps if you limit the amount of seconds that his feet aren't touching some surface, even your body.

It's a difficult one to overcome for some Tegus, but they all seem to get there in the end. Once it starts, I think it's extremely important that you win the battle of enduring the snit-fit, and that you don't throw him down in frustration. If you do that, he wins, and will do it more to get that reaction. Hold him firmly with one hand at the top of his tail, to prevent the rolling action, as the other hand pulls him in close (under his neck). I have never seen him bite at me when he's doing the rolling action. The biting seems to be a part of the lunging that you have to learn their body language to protect yourself from. My male hasn't tried to bite me for about a year now, but the death rolls continue right before I put him back in his enclosure. He just HAS to show me that it's his decision. It's a very short fit, compared to what he used to do. He's 3 now and seems to be calming down. Good luck! You can do it....