Taming a Leopard Gecko takes about four weeks, depending on their personality and age. Though these lizards are known to be one of friendliest pet reptiles, they are not born tame. You need to teach them that you are safe to be around and not a predator.
Having tame Leopard Geckos that don’t mind being held is very helpful! Especially when it comes to cleaning their tank, handling and taking them to the vet.
In this article, I share my six-step taming process that I’ve used throughout 14 years of keeping these wonderful lizards.
- Leopard Geckos are one of the easiest pet lizards to tame. With the right technique it usually takes between 3 and 4 weeks, depending on their personality and age.
- Babies are easier to tame than rescued adults because they haven’t been handled incorrectly in the past, or conditioned to be fearful.
- To get your Leopard Gecko to trust you, make your interactions positive. Recognize and respect their personality and socialize them to your scent and voice first.
- Adults are tamed in the same way as hatchlings, but may take longer to learn to trust.
5 Steps to Tame a Leopard Gecko
Taming Leopard Geckos is a six-step process that requires patience and dedication.
You will need to set aside 15 minutes each day to work on socializing over a three to four week period. In general, the process I have developed over the past 14 years is based on these simple steps:
- Let them acclimate to their enclosure and habitat.
- Get them socialized to your voice.
- Start to leave your hand in the tank during feeding for a minute or two.
- Begin handling inside the enclosure for short periods of 5 minutes or less.
- Gradually increase the handling time to 10 minutes.
- Start to hold them outside the tank too.
Author Tip: Make handling a positive experience, especially during the taming process! Avoid potentially stressful situations like vet visits or new environments.
Hatchlings are born skittish and wary of people. This inborn nervousness helps them avoid predators, other lizards, and dangerous situations in the wild. We must first learn that our larger size and louder noises can seem threatening to a young gecko.
By taming your Leopard Gecko, you are teaching them that you are not a threat, quite the opposite!
Tame lizards are much easier and safer to handle than untamed ones. I have also found that vet visits are less stressful for both myself and my hatchlings when they are accustomed to being held.
1. Let Them Adjust To Their Tank (2-3 Days)
Your lizard will need an initial few days to adjust to its new surroundings. It is normal at this point for them to be easily frightened and skittish. They may run and hide at the slightest noise or movement, squeak, or slowly wave their tail.
Once your Leopard Gecko is happy and has gotten used to its tank, you can start taming; this is usually after about 3 days.
2. Talk To Your Gecko (7 Days)
Talking to your Leopard Gecko is a great first step to get them used to your presence, especially during feeding time. This helps them learn to associate your voice and movement with positive things like food.
In the past, after just a week of talking during meals, my hatchlings would start to come out of their hides when they heard me near their tank!
Try to talk with them whenever you are around the tank, but especially during feeding and spot-cleaning.
After they are used to your voice, move to the next step.
3. Hand-Feed Treats (3 Days)
Start putting your hand in their tank and letting them investigate at their own pace. They might come up to your hand and lick it right away, or they might not. I have noticed these lizards have unique personalities, and some are naturally more shy than others.
Hand-feeding treats is one of my favorite methods for getting them socialized to my smell and presence.
Offering treats like freeze-dried mealworms is a great reward for coming up to you.
4. Start Handling (7 Days)
The next step is to start handling in the tank for short intervals of about five minutes.
Author Tip: I have found the best way to pick up a baby is to either let it crawl onto your hand, or to use a gentle, scooping motion.
Let your lizard sit on or explore your hand for about five minutes, then let it go and give it a 2-hour break. You can repeat this process two to three times each day. Leave two days between handling.
I always start to handle inside the enclosures for the first week or so. That way, you don’t have to worry about them becoming spooked and running away. If they want to get away, they can crawl right into their hides.
5. Increase Handling Time (2+ Days)
Once your hatchling is comfortable with short 5-minute handling sessions, start to gradually increase the time. As you increase the duration, you can also start to handle them outside of the tank. Just make sure that you are close to the ground and in a safe, quiet environment.
Author Tip: Don’t hold your Leopard Gecko every day, aim for every 2-3 days.
You will be able to tell when your lizard is becoming tame by its body language. It won’t spook as easily, and may even approach you! Other signs of happiness include:
- Basking in the open
- Moving with confidence
Some hatchlings are more skittish than others. For these, I recommend handling during the evening and trying not to make much noise around their tanks. Their enclosure should also be in a calm, quiet room that is away from other pets and heavy foot traffic.
As you work on taming a Leopard Gecko, remember that they will find you scary.
Don’t try to rush the taming process!
Interactions should be a positive thing; otherwise, you can lose progress. If you notice your lizard acting stressed (e.g. squeaking, biting, puffing up its body, slowly waving its tail), stop and try again in two hours or so.
If this continues to happen, take a break and start from the previous step. You may need to strengthen the previous taming benchmark before moving on to the next.
During a positive interaction, your Leopard Gecko will remain calm, relaxed and inquisitive. When you put it back in its tank, it won’t run away and hide immediately.
The process of taming an adult is very similar to the steps described above for hatchlings, though it may take longer.
In some cases, rescued pets may have been treated poorly or handled incorrectly in the past and may never become truly tame. One of mine was a rescue, and she always stayed much more skittish than those I’d raised from babies.
Many adults can become tame with dedication and time.
If you want to try taming a fully-grown adult, here are the best steps to take:
- Let Them Aclimate
Adults will need about two weeks to adjust to their new habitat. Don’t try to handle your lizard during this transition; simply let them explore at their own pace.
You will be able to tell that they comfortable once they start basking or sleeping out in the open.
At this point, you should start to socialize them to your voice.
- Spend Time With Your Gecko
This step helps your lizard learn that your voice is not a scary thing.
Leopard Geckos, along with many other gecko species, have sensitive hearing. They are easily spooked by loud noises or unfamiliar voices. To help an adult get used to your own voice, start talking to it.
You can talk directly to them, or just talk in their presence, throughout the taming process. I’ve found the best times are during feeding and spot-cleaning.
- Start With Your Hand
Before you start actually holding your Leopard Gecko, let them get used to being around your hand.
After feeding, rest your hand in their tank (I usually do this when they are out basking after dark), and let them approach, smell, and lick. They often explore objects by licking them. If your adult is especially docile, they may even start climbing your arm!
Spend 2-3 days on this step of the taming process.
You want your lizard to be relaxed and comfortable around your hand.
- Handle In 5-minute Intervals
Start handling in short five-minute intervals while keeping your hand in the tank.
When you first start picking up an adult, keep it inside the tank. Adults are slower than babies, but you should still be careful in case they get spooked in these early sessions and try to run. You are also giving them an opportunity to leave whenever they want.
As your Leopard Gecko gets more comfortable being held, increase the handling time.
It is important to learn the personality of your lizard to know when to start gradually increasing handling.
I never held my rescue for more than five minutes at a time simply because she never became comfortable with longer sessions. However, some of my more laid-back geckos are just fine with being held for 20 minutes!
Author Tip: My best advice for more skittish individuals is that you shouldn’t push their comfort zone. These harder-to-tame individuals need extra time and care to build trust. Take as long as your lizard needs for each step of the process.
You will be able to tell when the taming process is going well because your lizard will become noticeably calmer and more approachable. When you walk past or reach into their tank, they also won’t run for cover and hide!