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Uncertain about what to do (doesn't like to be handled)

Lee W

New Member
Messages
11
Hi everyone! It’s been about a year now since I got my gold tegu, Tengri, and while I’d love to celebrate, I’ve unfortunately been having some troubles. She has become very difficult to handle as she never sits still and hates to be held. I had been taking a pretty slow approach to handling her by always letting her come to me first, and letting her know where my hand is before scooping her up and such. She was flighty as a baby but she still trusted me enough to not be afraid of my hands and even sleep under a blanket with me often. Despite spending hours with her daily, I’m afraid this patient, more laid back approach might have hindered her tolerance to being handled. I’ve always scooped her up rather than pick her up from behind because I didn’t want to seem like a predator to her, but now she just jumps off my hand whenever I do. I’ve resorted to picking her up from behind, and while I still let her know I’m there when I do it, she squirms right out and runs away. She knows my scent, as I’ve done the shirt in enclosure trick and she doesn’t seem to want to bite my hands, she just wants nothing to do with me. The only way I can handle her is to tire her out to the point where she submits defeat, but this just doesn’t feel fair to her or like the right thing to do. I’m very conflicted because I’m not sure if this is tegu puberty, or standard gold attitude, or both. I’m really hoping to be able to tame her down, as I’d love to be able to put her on a harness to take her outside and just have a nice lizard buddy in general. I’m just uncertain if she ever will calm down, as this is a weird situation where I feel force handling is the only option, but I don’t know if that would just be counter productive. I just know I don’t want a defensive, full grown tegu in another year and I’m sure it will be even more difficult to give her to a good home if it comes to that, so I’m not sure if I should just keep trying or consider rehoming sooner rather than later. Thank you for reading, any advice is much appreciated!
 

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Debita

Well-Known Member
1,000+ Post Club
Messages
1,221
Location
Prescott, AZ
I totally think it's time for force. She will comply at some point - but the question is when? I wanted to respond to this post because I was just sure my B/W was just a...well ...jerk is a nice word for it. He put me through the ringer, but an old friend on this site named @Walter1 talked me through most of it...for 10 months. Skully was determined not to like me, but in the end we became good friends and snugglers. I am his person now. But it took him a very long time to trust.

I was committed to never allowing him to be abusive. Like, no rewarding bad behavior. So - it's not about being constantly passive when they're misbehaving, it's about not taking abuse from them. Back to the home if you're flailing, or doing your best death roll. Or worse, NO!! (loudly) You don't get to get down, and I'd hold him tight until he stopped the flailing. It wasn't easy, but its a respect thing. If you win every time, he'll know it and start treating you differently.

Force is the correct move when bad behavior is correctable. They don't get their way when they start acting up, and it's pretty obvious they want down, or back in their home, or they want to be left alone so they can escape....All that hissing and lunging has to be respected so you don't get injured, but if you can impose your will when they start their antics, you should. That said, there were def times when I didn't have the energy, or the time, and just getting him back into the tank was all I could do. It really does take time.

You are already well in to your situation with her and I would tell you to just hang on. Some are clearly more aggressive than others, but I've NEVER heard anyone on this forum say it isn't worth it. They all agree that the Tegus are very individual, and they require more patience than most of us are built with. But, then - one day they're devoted. I always feel a sense of responsibility to answer these types of posts, because if MY JERK Skully can turn into a very easy going character - actually showing a bond with me - exhales when I appear - lets me scrub and scratch whenever I want.....then ANYONE'S Tegu can. Don't re-home him. Hang in there is my advice. I'm so glad I did. I would never think of giving my buddy away now. You'll get there.
 

jrdr374

New Member
Messages
6
I totally think it's time for force. She will comply at some point - but the question is when? I wanted to respond to this post because I was just sure my B/W was just a...well ...jerk is a nice word for it. He put me through the ringer, but an old friend on this site named @Walter1 talked me through most of it...for 10 months. Skully was determined not to like me, but in the end we became good friends and snugglers. I am his person now. But it took him a very long time to trust.

I was committed to never allowing him to be abusive. Like, no rewarding bad behavior. So - it's not about being constantly passive when they're misbehaving, it's about not taking abuse from them. Back to the home if you're flailing, or doing your best death roll. Or worse, NO!! (loudly) You don't get to get down, and I'd hold him tight until he stopped the flailing. It wasn't easy, but its a respect thing. If you win every time, he'll know it and start treating you differently.

Force is the correct move when bad behavior is correctable. They don't get their way when they start acting up, and it's pretty obvious they want down, or back in their home, or they want to be left alone so they can escape....All that hissing and lunging has to be respected so you don't get injured, but if you can impose your will when they start their antics, you should. That said, there were def times when I didn't have the energy, or the time, and just getting him back into the tank was all I could do. It really does take time.

You are already well in to your situation with her and I would tell you to just hang on. Some are clearly more aggressive than others, but I've NEVER heard anyone on this forum say it isn't worth it. They all agree that the Tegus are very individual, and they require more patience than most of us are built with. But, then - one day they're devoted. I always feel a sense of responsibility to answer these types of posts, because if MY JERK Skully can turn into a very easy going character - actually showing a bond with me - exhales when I appear - lets me scrub and scratch whenever I want.....then ANYONE'S Tegu can. Don't re-home him. Hang in there is my advice. I'm so glad I did. I would never think of giving my buddy away now. You'll get there.
This is probably the best advice I've ever seen as an answer to this type of question. Kudos to Debita for being so helpful!

I've never worked with a gold, but when I started taking my girl (b&w) outside, she would do the classic flip from playful, adorable pet to an uncontrollable tornado. After the first time I tried it, her behavior shifted and she became more standoffish and grumpy than she ever had been. I started to feel pretty desperate too, and that's when I started looking into force handling.
When I started it, she was still willing to come to her cage door for food. I had her walk onto my arm for food, and then scooped her up, took her to the bathroom, and held her for around 3-4 hours straight. And she was NOT happy about it at all. I watched Youtube videos and a few documentaries, and for what felt like the entire time, she was thrashing in my arms. I got peed on and pooped on a few times throughout the process, and after I had put her back into her enclosure, I was extremely worries she would hate me so much that she wouldn't even be willing to tong feed anymore.
To make a long story short, she was still willing to tong feed, and even to walk into my arms with a little bit of food persuasion. I started that about 3 months ago, and now she's around 30 inches long. Working with her like this has given me a huge boost in confidence, too. She's not perfect yet, and she still squirms when I pick her up, but she's not using me as a toilet anymore, and the majority of the time, she will come up to the glass in her cage when she sees me, even if I don't have food. She's getting to explore my patio almost every single day, and while she's not a huge fan of the leash and harness, she's able to put them on with a bit of persuasion. I definitely have more work to do with her, but it definitely is worth it so far.
Still new to the forum, and I don't know if this helps, but you've done great so far! A year with a tegu is already a huge commitment! Keep believing that good things are going to happen with your pet. They will.

Edit: By the way, that is a gorgeous looking tegu.
 

Sean32817

Member
Messages
48
Location
Orlando
My "ice" tegu - half B+W and half blue - Rex is around that same age bracket and started rebelling against being picked up as well.

I agree on being firm and not rewarding negative behavior - I made that mistake with an iguana and as a result it got progressively worse.

When picking Rex up, I'll come in from the side, scooping one hand between the front legs and under the neck to both support and control him while using the other to either do the same with the rear legs or secure the base of his tail if he's being too rowdy.

If he starts death rolling and going full beast mode then he gets flipped on his back, with me giving him loud, firm NO REX and BAD REX.

He's beginning to begrudgingly accept "no" and "bad" and will obey "go home Rex" and return to his enclosure about a third of the time now.

If memory serves, around age one is when tegu - especially males - hit that "terrible twos" stage and start making you wonder if your former friend just went feral on you.

Other than Rex disagreeing with being picked up, he's still pretty social, pushing in when I'm scratching him and shifting his body so I can scratch just the right spot, plus, when something has him agitated, he still calms down and recognizes me as his daddy and protector.

So be firm, but don't do anything to hurt or scare your scaly friend and have faith that by this time next year he'll have mellowed out again and will once more be a scaly dog.
 

Lee W

New Member
Messages
11
I totally think it's time for force. She will comply at some point - but the question is when? I wanted to respond to this post because I was just sure my B/W was just a...well ...jerk is a nice word for it. He put me through the ringer, but an old friend on this site named @Walter1 talked me through most of it...for 10 months. Skully was determined not to like me, but in the end we became good friends and snugglers. I am his person now. But it took him a very long time to trust.

I was committed to never allowing him to be abusive. Like, no rewarding bad behavior. So - it's not about being constantly passive when they're misbehaving, it's about not taking abuse from them. Back to the home if you're flailing, or doing your best death roll. Or worse, NO!! (loudly) You don't get to get down, and I'd hold him tight until he stopped the flailing. It wasn't easy, but its a respect thing. If you win every time, he'll know it and start treating you differently.

Force is the correct move when bad behavior is correctable. They don't get their way when they start acting up, and it's pretty obvious they want down, or back in their home, or they want to be left alone so they can escape....All that hissing and lunging has to be respected so you don't get injured, but if you can impose your will when they start their antics, you should. That said, there were def times when I didn't have the energy, or the time, and just getting him back into the tank was all I could do. It really does take time.

You are already well in to your situation with her and I would tell you to just hang on. Some are clearly more aggressive than others, but I've NEVER heard anyone on this forum say it isn't worth it. They all agree that the Tegus are very individual, and they require more patience than most of us are built with. But, then - one day they're devoted. I always feel a sense of responsibility to answer these types of posts, because if MY JERK Skully can turn into a very easy going character - actually showing a bond with me - exhales when I appear - lets me scrub and scratch whenever I want.....then ANYONE'S Tegu can. Don't re-home him. Hang in there is my advice. I'm so glad I did. I would never think of giving my buddy away now. You'll get there.
Hi Debita! Thank you so much for such a thoughtful and insightful response, I truly appreciate it. I've definitely been keeping in mind not to reward bad behavior, as I haven't let her go back into the enclosure until she sits nicely on my hand. I believe a big issue right now is I only recently started using gloves and it's the thing giving me confidence to be able to handle her, but she hates them lol. I've left them in the enclosure so she would know the scent, but that didn't seem to work. Maybe she just hates the color red.

Regardless, as far as flailing goes, I was just a bit nervous because despite her being larger now, I still fear hurting her from holding too tight. But I'll try my best to improve on that for sure. I also felt a bit bad because anytime she's exploring and I try to inch toward her she gets scared and walks in the opposite direction. So it wasn't a matter of her lunging at me but more so me being the one coming off as intimidating. I was worried force might stress her out too much but if that's actually just the thing to do, I'll keep at it.

Again thank you for taking the time to respond, it means so much to me and honestly made me a bit emotional. I'll keep trying with her, she really has taught me so much and I would love nothing more than for her to get to a point where she feels comfortable with me.
 

Lee W

New Member
Messages
11
This is probably the best advice I've ever seen as an answer to this type of question. Kudos to Debita for being so helpful!

I've never worked with a gold, but when I started taking my girl (b&w) outside, she would do the classic flip from playful, adorable pet to an uncontrollable tornado. After the first time I tried it, her behavior shifted and she became more standoffish and grumpy than she ever had been. I started to feel pretty desperate too, and that's when I started looking into force handling.
When I started it, she was still willing to come to her cage door for food. I had her walk onto my arm for food, and then scooped her up, took her to the bathroom, and held her for around 3-4 hours straight. And she was NOT happy about it at all. I watched Youtube videos and a few documentaries, and for what felt like the entire time, she was thrashing in my arms. I got peed on and pooped on a few times throughout the process, and after I had put her back into her enclosure, I was extremely worries she would hate me so much that she wouldn't even be willing to tong feed anymore.
To make a long story short, she was still willing to tong feed, and even to walk into my arms with a little bit of food persuasion. I started that about 3 months ago, and now she's around 30 inches long. Working with her like this has given me a huge boost in confidence, too. She's not perfect yet, and she still squirms when I pick her up, but she's not using me as a toilet anymore, and the majority of the time, she will come up to the glass in her cage when she sees me, even if I don't have food. She's getting to explore my patio almost every single day, and while she's not a huge fan of the leash and harness, she's able to put them on with a bit of persuasion. I definitely have more work to do with her, but it definitely is worth it so far.
Still new to the forum, and I don't know if this helps, but you've done great so far! A year with a tegu is already a huge commitment! Keep believing that good things are going to happen with your pet. They will.

Edit: By the way, that is a gorgeous looking tegu.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I can for sure relate to sitting with them for hours watching videos to pass the time haha. I had recently expanded her range of exploring to about the size of a small room, though I'm wondering if I should revert back to a more confined space so there's not much to explore and it's just one on one time with each other.

That's relieving to hear that she always came back despite all of it though, so far mine has been the same thankfully. Your response was very helpful, it means a lot!

Thank you! I have to admit I think she is a particularly pretty gold. The pet store I got her from said she was captive bred, though I forgot to ask who the breeder was, so I'm wondering if someone is working with golds specifically.
 

Lee W

New Member
Messages
11
My "ice" tegu - half B+W and half blue - Rex is around that same age bracket and started rebelling against being picked up as well.

I agree on being firm and not rewarding negative behavior - I made that mistake with an iguana and as a result it got progressively worse.

When picking Rex up, I'll come in from the side, scooping one hand between the front legs and under the neck to both support and control him while using the other to either do the same with the rear legs or secure the base of his tail if he's being too rowdy.

If he starts death rolling and going full beast mode then he gets flipped on his back, with me giving him loud, firm NO REX and BAD REX.

He's beginning to begrudgingly accept "no" and "bad" and will obey "go home Rex" and return to his enclosure about a third of the time now.

If memory serves, around age one is when tegu - especially males - hit that "terrible twos" stage and start making you wonder if your former friend just went feral on you.

Other than Rex disagreeing with being picked up, he's still pretty social, pushing in when I'm scratching him and shifting his body so I can scratch just the right spot, plus, when something has him agitated, he still calms down and recognizes me as his daddy and protector.

So be firm, but don't do anything to hurt or scare your scaly friend and have faith that by this time next year he'll have mellowed out again and will once more be a scaly dog.
Thank you for explaining how you pick yours up, that's super helpful! I've been trying to firmly say "NO" when needed, and it even made her sit in place for a few minutes while I just pet her, though now I think she finds it more confusing than anything haha. Just takes more practice I assume.

Unfortunately mine has always been skittish since a baby and so far has never enjoyed being touched, so I haven't had a particularly nice experience to look back on and work towards again. I suppose in some ways that's a good thing so I don't feel as bad as she goes through tegu puberty. I'll keep trying though and hopefully be able to create good experiences for the both of us!
 

Debita

Well-Known Member
1,000+ Post Club
Messages
1,221
Location
Prescott, AZ
So great when others add their stories!! After reading all, I also was thinking that even though they all have similarities, they also have different characteristics that remind me of dogs. You can have 10 German Shepards and while they are all similar in their traits, they are very individual. That is a testament to their intelligence. Tegus obviously evolve and adapt to their environment. They try us in the process, but owners that hang on really come to feel that sense of achievement. Even though my Skully is passed the daily anger with me, I know he's a very proud male that still wants to assert his independence every once in awhile. I don't mind it - I think he's funny and interesting when you break down what's going on in his head.

Thanks for the kudos @jrdr374 !! ...and you're welcome @Lee W. Very cool that you responded. Oh yeah - @Sean32817 was right about how to secure them. I also do the left hand under the front legs/neck, and the right hand for me always secures the tail at the thickest part of the top. I get less welts on my backside. lol
 

srwmemphis

New Member
Messages
1
So glad to hear this! I am a new b&w owner and having the same issue. I was afraid if I tried to force handling him it would make things worse.

Thanks for sharing
 

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