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Would a black and white Argentine tegu would make a good classroom pet?

kingghidorah

New Member
Messages
4
Location
Saskatchewan
Hi everyone! I'm new here and this is my first post: nice to meet you!

For people who've owned and interacted with their black and white tegus daily for a few years now, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. In a nutshell, my question is: do you think a black and white Argentine tegu would make a good classroom pet?

Please allow me give you some context. I’m a schoolteacher; I teach grade 5 and I have about 25 students every year, who are all 10 years old. We currently have other pets in the classroom: a corn snake, a Honduran milk snake, a blue-tongue skink, and a crested gecko.

The pets have been absolutely wonderful for my students, especially this year, as they helped alleviate so much of the stress around the pandemic. One student in class this year suffered a death in the family and it was amazing seeing how she would calm when holding the pets. The students wrote stories about them and I usually find drawings of them of the pets on my desk by the end of the day. Truth be told, I love the reptiles we have in the classroom too. They add tremendous charm and help us be better people, like teaching us to take care of our animals. My students have been so interested in fact that they’re motivated to learn about the animals on their own, like where the animals are from, and their diets. We have summer vacation now and I saw a former student at our local exotics shop: she was perusing the reptiles as I was buying feeder crickets!

So, I’d love to surprise my students with a “large lizard,” and my classroom is big enough to accommodate a 8x4’ enclosure, but I have my doubts. From my research, the black and white Argentine tegu seems like the friendliest and most docile of the large lizards, but I understand the there’s still the chance the tegu might bite, even if I spend months socializing him on my own. However, that can be said of any pet: any pet can bite, including corn snakes, geckos, and cats and dogs.

My students are exceedingly gentle with the pets we have so we have never been bitten, but the tegus have stronger jaws, so a bite would be serious. I know my students would love if the tegu walked around the room while they worked, but perhaps it’d be best if I’d only allow the students to stroke the tegu’s back while I’m holding him… or perhaps not at all. That’s why I’m writing you; I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts, if you have the time.

I prefer playing it safe with things like this, so I’m personally leaning “no” to having one as a classroom pet, but at the same time the interest is there, and I (and my students!) would love to have one, so I would appreciate your insight!

Thank you for your time in reading this.

Thanks again!
 

Alexander arendt

New Member
Messages
3
Maybe it could scare the students and plus the students may scare the tegu, plus you will have students that will be watching the tegu, but on the other hand it could be helpful for students to remove stress, so I would say yes if you don’t want to stress your students but no if you have students that fear lizards/ reptiles plus if the tegu bites one of the students hands
 

Sean32817

Member
Messages
48
Location
Orlando
I'm inclined to recommend against it.

My boy Rex is a friendly tegu but I've come to discover that he doesn't like noisy crowds - just having three boys in the age 6-10 range over at the pool and carrying on frightened him to the point that he hid in the corner under the couch and he was only in the room next to the pool - he had zero direct interactions with the kids.

Now maybe that's just Rex and maybe he'll get used to the noise eventually.

Another issue - when tegu use the bathroom, you'll know it and if you can't train the tegu to not use the floor then that'll be a serious and unpleasant disruption to your class should it have an accident.

In addition to tegu having a powerful bite they also have sharp claws and a thick, heavy tail AND they are hands down the most muscular lizard I've ever dealt with - Rex is even stronger than alligators of similar size I've handled. As such, the tegu's ability to injure a student with its claws or a tail bash (it's not a whip like an iguana - that tail is a club) also needs to be considered.

Watch the video on Clint's Reptiles asking if the tegu is the best pet lizard - Gus "death rolls" several times and he's a tegu that's social and likes to be handled.

So as much as I love my Rex, like our ball pythons, I wouldn't trust him to be handled by kids - yes, they can pet his back when I have full control over him but the risk is too great.

What's a good alternative large lizard then?

Bearded dragons can get pretty big - compared to what you've already got - and they are the most child friendly and over all social lizards out there. They have a ton of personality, are fun feeders to watch and for the most part, you have to go out of your way to get one to bite you.

You may also want to consider Chinese Water Dragons as the males are beautiful reptiles while the females are easily mistaken for iguanas.

Unlike iguanas, the dragons are more easily tamed, plus, you definitely have the space to give them a nice, tall, vertical cage so the kids can watch them climb and jump off of branches into their pond as they love to swim and soak

After I fully socialized my male and female they were kid friendly and quite safe, with the only issue being the male, who can be quite hyper at times, jumping off someone and running around.

They'll grow to up to 2-3 feet, with much of that being tail, so they're still bigger than what you have.

Clint has a number of other "best pet lizard" videos so browse through them and see if there are other larger lizards you might like but personally, I don't consider a tegu to be a good lizard to have free roaming a classroom and being mobbed by 5th graders as you're just asking for an accident which will likely end up in the tegu being destroyed by animal control, you possibly losing your job and potentially being sued by the parents of the child if the accident is severe enough.
 

kingghidorah

New Member
Messages
4
Location
Saskatchewan
I'm inclined to recommend against it.

My boy Rex is a friendly tegu but I've come to discover that he doesn't like noisy crowds - just having three boys in the age 6-10 range over at the pool and carrying on frightened him to the point that he hid in the corner under the couch and he was only in the room next to the pool - he had zero direct interactions with the kids.

Now maybe that's just Rex and maybe he'll get used to the noise eventually.

Another issue - when tegu use the bathroom, you'll know it and if you can't train the tegu to not use the floor then that'll be a serious and unpleasant disruption to your class should it have an accident.

In addition to tegu having a powerful bite they also have sharp claws and a thick, heavy tail AND they are hands down the most muscular lizard I've ever dealt with - Rex is even stronger than alligators of similar size I've handled. As such, the tegu's ability to injure a student with its claws or a tail bash (it's not a whip like an iguana - that tail is a club) also needs to be considered.

Watch the video on Clint's Reptiles asking if the tegu is the best pet lizard - Gus "death rolls" several times and he's a tegu that's social and likes to be handled.

So as much as I love my Rex, like our ball pythons, I wouldn't trust him to be handled by kids - yes, they can pet his back when I have full control over him but the risk is too great.

What's a good alternative large lizard then?

Bearded dragons can get pretty big - compared to what you've already got - and they are the most child friendly and over all social lizards out there. They have a ton of personality, are fun feeders to watch and for the most part, you have to go out of your way to get one to bite you.

You may also want to consider Chinese Water Dragons as the males are beautiful reptiles while the females are easily mistaken for iguanas.

Unlike iguanas, the dragons are more easily tamed, plus, you definitely have the space to give them a nice, tall, vertical cage so the kids can watch them climb and jump off of branches into their pond as they love to swim and soak

After I fully socialized my male and female they were kid friendly and quite safe, with the only issue being the male, who can be quite hyper at times, jumping off someone and running around.

They'll grow to up to 2-3 feet, with much of that being tail, so they're still bigger than what you have.

Clint has a number of other "best pet lizard" videos so browse through them and see if there are other larger lizards you might like but personally, I don't consider a tegu to be a good lizard to have free roaming a classroom and being mobbed by 5th graders as you're just asking for an accident which will likely end up in the tegu being destroyed by animal control, you possibly losing your job and potentially being sued by the parents of the child if the accident is severe enough.
Thanks, I appreciate the thoughtful reply. I've been reading about housetraining tegus, and apparently a routine can be established where you place them in a pan of warm water in the morning, before students arrive, to encourage them to pass into, which can then be dumped.

Noise is also definitely an issue but I think he could acclimate over the course of a year... and they're indeed strong, so I'd be the only one to handle him (students would only be allowed to touch him so long as he's in my arms) but yes, all in all, maybe not the best animal for the classroom... disappointing but best to play it safe! Thanks again.
 

Cookie

New Member
Messages
15
Maybe it could scare the students and plus the students may scare the tegu, plus you will have students that will be watching the tegu, but on the other hand it could be helpful for students to remove stress, so I would say yes if you don’t want to stress your students but no if you have students that fear lizards/ reptiles plus if the tegu bites one of the students hands
I would advise you not to get a tegu for your classroom! My guy is 4 yrs old and so loveable and sweet, but recently as I was going to pet him he lunged at my hand and wouldn't let go and I ended up minus my finger to the knuckle. I still haven't figured out why, as he is still my sweet guy, but something set him off. I would hate it if one of your kids lost a finger or two. They have very strong jaws and little kids hands would not be a problem for them.
 
Messages
39
I agree with ‘Sean that a tegu is not a good idea as a classroom pet. My tegu is a mellow easy guy but he can not be controlled they do not like being picked up it’s uncomfortable for them and they are to big and strong to be controlled in a classroom of children you said you would only let the kids pet him when you are holding him but if he does not want you to hold him or is stressed by the kids You are in trouble as Sean said they are strong with long sharp claws . My tegu has an open habitat in my bedroom I pet him feed and take care of him but I know not to pick him up or annoy him and we get along fine
 
Last edited:

Sean32817

Member
Messages
48
Location
Orlando
Thanks, I appreciate the thoughtful reply. I've been reading about housetraining tegus, and apparently a routine can be established where you place them in a pan of warm water in the morning, before students arrive, to encourage them to pass into, which can then be dumped.

Noise is also definitely an issue but I think he could acclimate over the course of a year... and they're indeed strong, so I'd be the only one to handle him (students would only be allowed to touch him so long as he's in my arms) but yes, all in all, maybe not the best animal for the classroom... disappointing but best to play it safe! Thanks again.
You're welcome.

Update - Rex got outside and when I was recovering him I got bit on the wrist - not real tooth damage but LOTS of pressure and painful pressure - I thought he had bruised/sprained my wrist for a time.

Further research confirmed they have a bite force of 1000 N and a human bite is around 1100-1300 N so that's some serious damage to a child.

I love Rex and would have happily suffered a dozen of those bites to get him back and safe but you can't risk an eleven year old child's hand getting subjected to that kind of bite, so definitely go with a beardy and keep the tegu at home if you want one.
 

AtlasInSd

New Member
Messages
10
I would also recommend against a tegu as a classroom pet. I run a reptile rescue and have a lot of exposure to these and many other types of otherwise docile or friendly reptiles. Most of the time these reptiles can be very happy, friendly, and on the surface can seem quite safe to handle. But anyone that has had one of these for a long time knows that just like people, sometimes tegus have a bad day, and they can lash out somewhat suddenly and with very little warning. When they lash out it can result in some serious bodily damage even if you're an experienced handler. We have a large tegu that acts as one of our ambassador animals which we bring to events to help with awareness of these animals and I need to be very careful the entire time to monitor and watch for the little signs but I have learned over the animal's lifetime that might lead to a problem and remove him from the situation before any of that happens. I don't think I would want the liability of a student getting stitches or some permanent damage that could easily happen in a classroom situation even if you're being very careful and are an experienced handler.
 

BusyTeguTeacher

New Member
Messages
3
Hi everyone! I'm new here and this is my first post: nice to meet you!

For people who've owned and interacted with their black and white tegus daily for a few years now, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. In a nutshell, my question is: do you think a black and white Argentine tegu would make a good classroom pet?

Please allow me give you some context. I’m a schoolteacher; I teach grade 5 and I have about 25 students every year, who are all 10 years old. We currently have other pets in the classroom: a corn snake, a Honduran milk snake, a blue-tongue skink, and a crested gecko.

The pets have been absolutely wonderful for my students, especially this year, as they helped alleviate so much of the stress around the pandemic. One student in class this year suffered a death in the family and it was amazing seeing how she would calm when holding the pets. The students wrote stories about them and I usually find drawings of them of the pets on my desk by the end of the day. Truth be told, I love the reptiles we have in the classroom too. They add tremendous charm and help us be better people, like teaching us to take care of our animals. My students have been so interested in fact that they’re motivated to learn about the animals on their own, like where the animals are from, and their diets. We have summer vacation now and I saw a former student at our local exotics shop: she was perusing the reptiles as I was buying feeder crickets!

So, I’d love to surprise my students with a “large lizard,” and my classroom is big enough to accommodate a 8x4’ enclosure, but I have my doubts. From my research, the black and white Argentine tegu seems like the friendliest and most docile of the large lizards, but I understand the there’s still the chance the tegu might bite, even if I spend months socializing him on my own. However, that can be said of any pet: any pet can bite, including corn snakes, geckos, and cats and dogs.

My students are exceedingly gentle with the pets we have so we have never been bitten, but the tegus have stronger jaws, so a bite would be serious. I know my students would love if the tegu walked around the room while they worked, but perhaps it’d be best if I’d only allow the students to stroke the tegu’s back while I’m holding him… or perhaps not at all. That’s why I’m writing you; I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts, if you have the time.

I prefer playing it safe with things like this, so I’m personally leaning “no” to having one as a classroom pet, but at the same time the interest is there, and I (and my students!) would love to have one, so I would appreciate your insight!

Thank you for your time in reading this.

Thanks again!
My tegu is my class pet and my students (7th graders) absolutely loved her.
 

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