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Handling and Taming

This is a very different process for every Iguana. Remember that what you are now the proud owner of what is basically a very wild animal. They can be dangerous. Unlike other pets, however, reptiles have not been domesticated. There are a few things that you need to think of when you go at taming and handling your Iguana. However you start, though, you need to continue. If you handle them a lot in the first few years, you will need to maintain that level of attention throughout the Iguana’s entire life for best results. When dealing with a new or young Iguana, remember that they need time to adjust to you and your home. Take it slowly. Spend more time in the proximity of the enclosure rather than grabbing at the Iguana. Talk to it or sing to it. It takes about 2 weeks for Iguanas to adjust to the new surrounding. When picking up a young Iguana, try to scoop it from the bottom rather than grab from above. Grabbing from above will be more stressful since the Iguana will see you as the big bad evil bird that is coming to eat it. Try to slide your hand underneath the body and lift it. Always support the body. It will be safer and more comfortable for your Iguana to do this. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LIFT AN IGUANA BY THEIR TAIL. Iguanas have tails that CAN break off to free them from predators. You could lose the tail and, depending on how well things heal, possibly the Iguana. When starting with a new Iguana, remember one thing above all else: If an Iguana learns that the more it acts up, the less it will be handled, it will act up. This is call Pavlov’s Law. Wait until it has stopped thrashing, biting, whipping and struggling before returning the animal to the enclosure. This teaches the Iguana that you are in fact “The Boss”. Make sure that while training, you hold a superior position to the Iguana. If it fights or bites, do NOT pull away. Adult Iguanas can produce one hell of a wallop with their bites and pulling away can cause more damage to you. After time, most (but not all) Iguanas will become extremely tame and friendly.

Posturing and Head Bobs

Iguanas have no vocal cords so they use body language to communicate. Head bobs and posturing is how they do this. Wild shakey head bobs while the body is puffed is a big warning sign. Often my adult female will do this when she sees me because we are still, and always will be, in a struggle for dominant female Iguana. When she does this, I will position my head at a higher point than hers and head bob right back at her. Slow gentle bobs are usually a “Hi, How ya doing” type of greeting. Each Iguana is different. However, it will not take you long to recognize what they are saying. Take the time to just watch how it reacts when you come in the room, when you come in with food, when you pay attention to someone else, etc… Their body language will become distinguishable, and this is how they will communicate with you. Take the time to learn what they are saying.

Back to Care Main
Chapter 2: Choosing an Iguana
Explains how to choose a healthy iguana and where to go instead of a pet store.
Chapter 3: Getting Started
Covers Supply Shopping, short cuts, and setting up the home
Basic Husbandry
Vet care, Diet, Heat, Humidity and Lighting
Behavior and Taming
Sexuality and Reproduction
Basic concerns dealing with the needs of male and female iguanas
Health concerns
Addresses health concerns for both human and Iguana