How to Tame a Blue Tongue Skink

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Fatal_S
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How to Tame a Blue Tongue Skink

Postby Fatal_S » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:27 pm

The following are some methods of taming. Different people like different approaches. Read and consider them all, then pick and choose which method(s) you prefer:

Method 1) Earn it's trust
This seems to be the most popular method lately. It involves taking the time to let your skink feel safe and get accustomed to you. This tends to work best with WC (scared/aggressive) skinks. This method can take a long, long time but the result is a strong bond with a happy skink.
To start with, don't bug your skink more than necessary. Introduce it to it's new home, then only go in to provide for it's needs (food/water/cleaning/medicine). Let it hide. The idea is to give it a long time to settle in and get used to the basics, then to build from there.
Spend time sitting near the tank and talking to it. Get it accustomed to your presence. The hope is that eventually it stops hiding and becomes curious about you.
Once the skink is no longer aggressive/scared of you being near you can start interacting a bit more. The idea is to go slowly and build up towards longer/more intense interactions. At first you may only be able to pet it, or hold it for a minute, or let it sit on your lap. Remember that every skink is different, some will have things they accept, things they like, and things they dislike. Every interaction that doesn't stress the skink out very much is a positive step forward.
Eventually you'll be able to have your skink out for longer periods of time, to indroduce it to new people, to take it outside, etc.
If at any point the skink seems gets stressed (fearful/aggressive) move back to a previous step.
Keep it at a level the skink can handle. Be patient. And enjoy this bonding time. It may feel like it's taking forever, but a skink can live for 15+ years, so consider it an investment in an awesome future with a fantastic pet.

Method 2) Follow the skink's lead
Every skink has things it tolerates, likes, and dislikes. If you base the majority of your interactions on things the skink likes and try to avoid what it dislikes the skink will enjoy spending time with you and will want to interact. Some examples:
- Many skinks like to explore new things/places. Make a skink-safe area and let your skink explore. Be sure to supervise, especially at first, even in safe areas.
- Tunnelling is similar to exploring, but instead of open spaces some skinks prefer to be hidden while exploring. In this case some towels/laundry/blankets/tubes can make a skink happy. Make sure everything is easy to clean though. Sometimes they'll peek out to see what you're up to, or sometimes they'll curl up and nap.
- Some skinks like to cuddle. You're warm, and a dark, warm space is usually appreciated by reptiles. Watch some TV or chill at the computer. Try not to move much while cuddling.
- Many skinks like to go outside and soak up the sun. Some skinks will explore outside, some will bask, and some will hide. Be sure there's a safe, dark area they can retreat to (under your legs, a teatowel, etc.). Keep the skink close and supervise constantly. Don't let the skink eat weird things outside.
- Treats are loved by most animals. See the below section for tips about treats.
Those are things that are generally liked. Things that are tolerated usually include being held, getting baths, being petted, etc. Things that are disliked are often things like medications, nail-trimming or being manhandled by strangers. Keep in mind every skink is an individual, so get to know your skinks likes/dislikes.
Part of following the skinks lead is doing what it wants when it wants to do it. This is most important when you notice your skink scratch at the edge of it's enclosure or trying to climb out. Take those times as an opportunity to take the skink out for some fun-time. If the skink likes this, he'll learn to scratch when he wants to be taken out. This is a great way to have a friendly, interactive pet.

Method 3) Treats
Most animals love treats. Great treats for BTS include worms, roaches, snails, and fruits. Instead of offering these things as part of a meal, offer them when you're interacting with the skink. This way the skink associates you, and coming out, with tasty fun.
In regards to hand-feeding opinions are often mixed. In some cases it leads to grabby skinks who'll chomp your fingers. In other cases it leads to a trusting friend who looks to you for a snack. If you hand-feed and your skink is gentle about it that's great. But if he starts to get bitey cut back (partially or completely) on hand-feeding. Having one specific area where treats can be expected (a plastic bin where they can chase bugs) can also help to keep skinks from getting grabby elsewhere.

Method 4) Add/remove hides
Opinion tends to be mixed in regards to the number of hiding-areas a skink should be allowed. The idea that removing most hides/substrate forces a skink to become accustomed to being out. The flip side is that this can be stressful for a reptile and lead to a more defensive animal. Having more hides & deep substrate makes your skink feel safer but may mean it's not out as much. I let people form their own opinion, but I will say that new, sick, and easily-stressed/WC skinks should be made to feel as safe as possible. A reptile should always have at least 2 safe, dark places to hide (one warm, one cold).

Method 5) Modify the enclosure
There are two real modifications you can make to a tank that tend to lead to changes in behaviour:
- Covering the back & sides of a glass tank can help a skink to feel more secure in it's home and can stop constant escape attempts. This can be a big help in calming a skink. Keep in mind though that a skink who has nothing to look at is probably pretty bored and won't be used to much when it's taken out.
- Moving a tank to a more active part of your house can help it get accustomed to movement, noise, and people. I use this method with my babies to help socialize them and prepare them for new homes. However you need to find a balance that works for the skink. If it's too much activity/noise the skink may be scared and spend all it's time hiding. Ideally you want your skink to come have a look at what's going on when a person is around.

Method 6) Tough love
The tough-love method involves simply interacting with the skink whether it wants it or not. This method is required for things like giving medications, but it can be stressful and isn't really a fun experience for anyone involved. Using tough love can also be helpful if, after a settling-in time, your healthy skink continues to hide constantly or is territorial inside it's enclosure.
Remember to be gentle but hold your skink securely. It may not have wanted to come out but try to make the experience as nice as possible for him/her.
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Re: How to Tame a Blue Tongue Skink

Postby critterguy » Sun Apr 01, 2012 6:24 pm

I use a combination of 1 and 6. Interaction but also in later stages some disregard on the occasion for any negative behavior(i.e if skink huffs it gets picked up). I started with what I'd consider a fairly fiesty male Northern(as a baby would bite fairly readily and would mistake fingers for food when excited) and he's now tame enough that he can be confidently handed off to people after a brief lesson on how to hold him. I frequently forget what he's actually capable of-it was a shocker to watch him breed this spring! I think it is important to make sure the skink knows the difference between fingers and food-they don't like biting fingers so if they make mistakes that helps to train them not to. When he was younger after a meal I would rub my fingers in food scent and wave them in his face until he refused to bite them.

I would discontinue the association with handling and food in the later stages just in case. I don't want them to be expecting food when they are being handled.
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Re: How to Tame a Blue Tongue Skink

Postby Richard.C » Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:29 pm

i do mostly option 1,but often pick them up to check out to ,so 6 to

i dont overly try to get them tame though,and i actually am fond of fiesty ones,but its only the odd one that holds fiestyness,most calm down pretty quick just leaving them be,letting them get used to the hand that feeds them so to speak

once they accustom you to food,they generally lose there fear and greet you when you enter the room ,in the hope of food,which makes handling easier,less having to chase timid ones around the cage as they try to avoid the hand,which to a stressed,timid one is similar to a bird of prey swooping for them,natural instinct is to run,hide,or if cornered defend its self

thats why i like to just leave them be,less stress on them and they lose there fear of me quicker

something to remember is that bluetongues are rarely aggressive,the hissing,huffing,displaying and bite attempts are a natural instinct,they are scared,so do what comes natural,defend them selves,some do it way better than others

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