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How to Correctly Handle Your Pet Reptile



General Advice


Reptiles are much different from other pets, and should be handled differently as well. Since reptiles are more exotic than cats or dogs, often people can be nervous or hesitant to handle them. It is true that reptiles are less domesticated than more common pets like cats and dogs. But this does not mean that they cannot be handled, it just takes knowledge about the safest way to handle them. As like most pets, though, reptiles like bearded dragons can often be perfectly tame if handled correctly.

When you first bring them home

When you get a new reptile, don’t try to handle him right away. As like with any pet it takes time for them to settle in and get used to their new environment. It could take your pet a few weeks to get fully accustomed to its new environment. As you feed him or clean his home, observe how he reacts to you as this is a good way to tell how comfortable he is with you without pushing the boundaries too much.

Handling them for the first time

Approach the your pet slowly until you are able to touch it. It is important that your actions around the reptile are calm and deliberate. If the beardie is stressed, it will not be comfortable being held. If the beardie is in a cage or enclosure, you will have to slowly reach in, but do not attempt to reach from above; bearded dragons have sensory nerves on top of their heads that will interpret your reach as an attack. Also be careful about when you approach them it is good to not interrupt them when they are eating and not to back them up into a corner as this will cause them to feel threatened.

Take notice of their body language

When handling your reptile, be sure to look out for signs of discomfort. Your pet will let you know if he does not like the way you are holding him. Some signs that your reptile is not comfortable are squirming, scrambling, clawing, thrashing, rolling or thrashing their legs around in the air. If your reptile displays these signs, he may not be comfortable with you yet. Be patient, and always be very gentle and calm. So as to not cause injury to yourself or your precious pet.

Understand the warning signs

When handling bearded dragons and other reptiles it is important to understand the defensive ‘language’ or body language. As this not only reduces the risk of being bitten it also allows you to understand when you are stressing out your pet. A bearded dragon will only bite as a last resort when feeling threatened. Some common signs that they are feeling threatened are an open mouth, puffed up ‘beard’, flattening of the body, whipping of the tail or hearing them hiss.

Wash your hands before and after handling reptiles

Reptiles are well known of their amazing sensory organs. If you introduce your warm hand to an enclosure with the sweet scent of a food or a prey item on it, you can be just asking for trouble. The easiest way to avoid this is by washing your hands before handling reptiles and between handling different species. This also helps to eliminate the risks of introducing foreign bacteria, germs or parasites to your animals.

When handling reptiles there is always a risk of salmonella. Most reptiles harbour salmonella bacteria in their digestive systems, and while it won’t make them sick, it can make you sick. The bacteria are found in their faeces, but you can easily get it on your hands when handling your reptile. So it is vital that you remember to wash your hands after handling your reptile and make sure not to touch your mouth when handling your pet.

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Written by The


Written by The Team

A team of specialists with backgrounds in animal nursing, animal care, and all things pet related.