There is a good chance that if you have a leopard gecko you’re going to at some point pick them up and handle them. You don’t want them to be scared of you every time you clean their cage either. I have briefly touched on how to tame a leopard gecko in previous articles I have written at leopardgeckoland.com. Truth be told, it’s just a good idea to tame your leopard gecko so it’s used to you.
In this article, you I am going to provide you with some step by step ways in which you can tame your leo.
1. Leave Your Hand In The Tank
Make sure you take all of their hides out of their tank when you’re going to be taming your gecko. This gives them no place to hide. They are forced to see your hand. Don’t be surprised if they shy away or even run in the other direction the first time you do this. The first step you should be taking when taming a leopard gecko is just put your hand in the tank for about 5 to 15 minutes at a time.
They may or may not walk up to your hand within the first couple days of doing this. Eventually, they will walk up to you. They might try to lick you. That is how they smell their surroundings. Don’t worry leopard geckos generally don’t bite. Once they walk up to your hand you can eventually pick them up. I typically do this for up to 2 weeks before handling my leopard gecko.
IMPORTANT: Go Slow
Go very slow with this step. I know you’re nice and not scary, but think about how big and scary you look (at first) to your leo! Think like a gecko 🙂
So start by just putting your hand in, but not low enough that they can reach it. Give them time to get used to the idea. Move slowly and quietly. Don’t have other people coming in and out of the room and being noisy during this early stage. And don’t be scared yourself, you’re both getting to know each other 🙂
Don’t move on to the next step if your gecko is still scared, let them learn that this step is nothing to be afraid of first.
Just take your time and it will happen.
It’s also important to note that not all leopard geckos become tame at the same rate. I have had leopard geckos that took 1 or 2 days before they were comfortable with me. On the other hand I have had geckos that have taken 4 to 6 weeks before they become comfortable with me. And that’s doing it the right way!
2. Pick Up Your Leopard Gecko
The next step is picking them up. Remember that you should never pick them up by their tails. They might drop their tail if they become very frightened. Generally, I try to let them crawl on my hand when picking up my leopard gecko. The reason for this is because in the wild a bird would pick them up from the top to snatch them up.
If you do decide to pick them up don’t squeeze them very hard at all. They have very fragile bodies and you could end up harming them.
Remember that the first 1 to 2 weeks that you pick them up you’re going to want to hold them over their cage. The reason being is because if you drop them you don’t want be searching the house for a leopard gecko. The second reason is because they will be a lot less skittish when they are handled near their natural habitat.
3. Hand Taming Leopard Gecko’s
Once you leopard gecko is comfortable with you picking him/her up you’re ready to start getting them more comfortable with you. The best way to do this is to let your leopard gecko walk from hand to hand. I tend to this for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. At first, you will start to notice that your gecko will move fairly quickly from hand to hand.
I would let your gecko walk from your hand to hand for 5 to 10 minutes a day, and keep this up for a week or so.
4. Take Them Out of Their Habitat
Lastly, it’s time to take your gecko out of their cage. Meaning, that the above steps should be done above their habitat. Now, you can bring them in the living room, on your bed, or anywhere else where they can’t quickly crawl under something where you won’t be able to get them back.
Make sure you follow these guidelines when you have your gecko out:
- Don’t leave them out by themselves. Always make sure you are present.
- Don’t put them somewhere they could fall. Leopard geckos have no fear of heights – but really should!
- Keep them away from stereo systems. Speak quietly to them.
- Keep other pets like cats and dogs out of the room when you have your gecko out.
How long does it take to tame a leopard gecko?
It is going to take time to tame your leo. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to get your leopard gecko used to you. But don’t worry if it takes longer than that. Some geckos take a lot longer to get used to humans. Naturally, they are very low on the food chain so they are very timid around people. Once they realize that you are not a predator they really won’t mind you handling them whenever you want. You onlu have to tame them once, so just be patient 🙂
We lost my poor little Lewes for 4 days. I have two labs but after reading your article we found him right where you said! Behind the washer and dryer where it is nice and warm. It took a bunch of work to take the laundry closing doors off and pulling out the washer. Then we threw towels over him and gently picked him up and put him in his nice warm tank. He was hungry. First night he had 4 crickets. Second night I gave him 3. Will not feed him tonight but now he is very skittish about me handling him. I will let him rest for a few days. Also, my husband is installing a guard under my bedroom door so he cant escape again. I love my Lewes. Still do not know if he is a male or female. Does not matter to me.
I recently got a 13 year old leopard gecko from a guy I know who had to move far away and had to rehome it. Apparently he was abused by his first owners and was very untrusting. He trusted the young man I got him from but now I find myself at a point that his cage really needs to be cleaned. I’ve been doing the hand thing for about two weeks but nothing yet. I’m worried about his cage getting bad. I spot clean his poop and anything I can pick up but it really needs a wash. Any suggestions on how I should get him out without losing the trust I’m starting to build with him?
So if my leopard gecko does what it’s goal is like crawl onto my hand, can I give it a treat? And if so, what type of treats besides it’s usual mealworms that aren’t fattening or too bad for it?
Sure you can 🙂
Wax worms make a great treat – there’s more info on what to feed here.
Hi, I got my gecko nearly 2 months ago. And he’s very untame I guess, because he always runs away from my hand and when I try to pick him up he runs very quickly away. I tried to get him used to my hand (I lay my hand near him and touch him a little) but I think he doesn’t like my hand 🙁
I don’t know what to do. I tried also to feed him with my hand but he doesn’t like it. Please help me that would be very nice ^^
All you need to do is be more patient 🙂
Don’t try to pick him up, he’s just not ready for that, not yet. One step at a time.
Read this bit about how to hand tame a leopard gecko by going slowly.
I have a female and she is very aggressive towards me. She bites and hisses and won’t let anyone pick her up. I have no idea what to do?
Mine hisses – they don’t really bite you, they pinch. If they do they are just scared because they have never been around people. Mine is only 7 weeks old.
My leopard gecko, Stitch, hisses at me every time I try to pick him up, his tail goes up. Once, I tried to pick him up he hissed and jumped at my hand😔, so I don’t know if my gecko likes me or not – can someone please help me 🙏.
You need to give him more time – he’s just scared. At the moment your hand looks big and scary, so you need to give Stitch time to learn that you’re not really scary at all, and you’re actually going to be great friends :-). Check the bit here about taking it slowly.
I’ve had a second gecko for about 4 months now and we’ve gone slow and followed a bunch of videos and tutorials on what to do with him. And when we tamed his ‘sister’ she was a lot easier. But he still bites and screams at us any time we try to show him any sort of attention and I hate the idea of leaving him in his 20 gallon tank all the time. But the only time he likes us is when we’re handling him with fabric between our fingers and him. Is there something I’m doing wrong or can change?
How old should the gecko be before taming them? Is 2 months old okay?
Hi, I have had this gecko since February, he is mostly full grown but I still can not touch him. He’s evil, but I got another one (separated from him obviously) and today he almost got loose and I feel the whole thing startled him. Now he is hissing, how do I let him know it’s okay?
My son wants to get a gecko for his birthday, so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about letting your gecko out of their cage to crawl around. I’ll be sure that he doesn’t leave it out or let the other pets near it.
Help! I have a 3 yr old male Leo and it is his fifth night with me not eating.
I have three hides. My temps are good with an UTH and CHE for air temp on thermostats.
Not only is he not eating but the first night he came out to explore, and I got so happy and came by to try and feed him a cricket and (then tried a waxwork to no avail) he got really stiff before he ran and hid. It’s been hell since then! He will run EVERY TIME I get near his tank.
The second night I dropped a cricket in his cave but he was deadly still and didn’t even smell it as it crawled over him. So I got scared to leave the cricket in the cave with him and lifted it and removed the cricket.
My gecko freaked out and tail wagged until I backed off and he ran to the other side of the tank and hid.
Everyone I spoke to tells me not to take all the hides out to tame him and that it will only stress him out more. But I honestly don’t know how else to tame him if he ALWAYS runs and hides from me when I enter the room?
Should I wait till he starts eating or starts removing the hides for taming now?
The breeder I got him from fed him mealworms only, he lived in a rack and was checked on only once a week to change mealworms out.
Tonight I decided to get a clear bowl and fill it with dusted crickets (without back legs)… Hopefully I will see him eat at least one by morning..?
All advice is welcome!
It sounds like he is very shy. If he is getting this stressed then it’s not surprising that he’s not eating. How many days did you give him completely alone to settle in? For some geckos it can take longer than others, particularly if they are this stressed. With my geckos, when I first got them one was very scared at first and would run into her hides alot. I left her 3 days with no contact or even speaking to her, only sneaky glances to check she was ok. She was in my bedroom so she was starting to get used to me walking around my room in the evenings as I went by my normal routine, completely ignoring her. She hid a lot at first but then I got her curiosity and sometimes I saw a little face watch me as I cleaned my bedroom. It was about a week of this with me walking around my bedroom, saying “hey Tango” every time I walked past and of course, feeding and changing water before she no longer ran when I came up to her viv. I then removed all hides and began taming her and now she is my most enthusiastic gecko! She perks up everytime I enter my room and I can’t put my hand in her viv without her trying to climb on.
I’m still in the process of trying to tame my leopard gecko baby. When I got him he was in a rack system and only fed on mealworms. I left him for 3 days to settle in. On the 4th day I calcium dusted some mealworms (6-7) and dropped them in front of him and he ate them all. I’d say try to do what the breeder did and leave a bowl of mealworms in his cage/viv and see if he feeds when you’re not around as he’s used to mealworms and them being left in a bowl then slowly try and get him on what you wanna feed. But I’d say just leave him on mealworms as that’s what he’s used to 🙃.
Don’t worry – you should only be feeding them every 4 or 5 days at that age. Check vids on YouTube for advice as often the amount of food they eat changes every season.
I’ve found that with new reptiles, as they are getting used to their new habitat and home, they might not eat. When I got my gecko, he didn’t eat for about 4 days as he explored his home and got used to me. I still tried to feed him every day though and then eventually he just started eating.
Another thing to note is if they came from a breeder or pet shop, what they were eating there and how they were fed. They might be used to a certain way of eating.
I got a gecko from Petco (don’t get a gecko from Petco get it from a breeder they are usually already hand held and Petco take terrible care of them) and she is terrified of my hand. Any other tips? Also she also isn’t eating any mealworms but will eat crickets, is she just a picky eater or should I be worried?
Will I get bitten by my gecko’s when putting my hand in the tank during the first step? I am asking because I just got 2 leopard geckos from a friend – they were in a rather smaller terrarium, one that is taller than it is wide. I went and bought a 10gal. tank (which I know is still probably too small for 2 of them). But now that these two geckos have more space to roam they have become a little aggressive and territorial I think and it don’t help I think they are both males. There was actually 3 geckos but they bullied that one so much once they were in a bigger space that he dropped his tail so I got rid of that gecko.
If you’re nervous of getting bitten, just go very slowly. Start by just putting your hand in but not low enough that they can reach. Let them get used to the idea that your hand is OK and not a threat – you don’t want to be waving your hand around and flinching away making it look scary :-). So take your time.
It is important to find out if they are male or female, but this will be very difficult until you can handle them (then it’s easy). You really don’t want two males in the same tank though, and if they turn out to be a male and female then you need to read up on breeding. So it may be best to separate them.
Okay, Thank You. So it has remained near impossible for me to work up the courage to interact with my geckos and I have remained worried and guilty about the wellbeing of my geckos. BUT now both geckos have there own 10gal home. Since then I have been able to handle them. They are the most interesting little dudes, I could sit and observe them all day if I could. I have gave them names finally, “Rango” and “Rico”.
Separate the 2 males at once – they are reaching sexual maturity and will eventually fight to the death if not separated.
YOU CANNOT HOUSE 2 MALES TOGETHER.
I read that you can’t house males together only females. And if you handle one make sure you wash your hands because if they smell the other one on you it might try to bite you thinking it’s the other male.
Hi! I have 2 leopard geckos that are breeding and one of their eggs finally hatched! It hatched about 4 weeks ago (March 22nd) and I’m wondering if I should start to try to tame it now? It’s very skittish around me but will eat out of my hand. It wouldn’t eat any other way for some reason.
I have had my leopard gecko for almost 2 years now, and he still seems to dislike me. He barely lets me touch him and then he goes and hides. He always tries to escape his habitat and climb up the walls. I feed him waxworks and crickets like supposed to, but he doesn’t eat when I’m around. Do you think he still doesn’t feel comfortable where he is now?
I have 2 leopard geckos. One I can handle some but the other one is purely evil lol. Jk. But seriously only my nephew can pick it up. Everytime I put my hand in there it either runs, tries to bite me or looks at me crazy and hisses. Why does it like my nephew and not me. How can I get it used to me. I’ve tried the hand in the tank thing now for over a month with no progress, please help.
Should I leave him at home on my trip this summer – he is already mostly tamed or should I take him with me?
I’ve been placing my hand in my Leopard Geckos tank everyday for a week now, it would just stare and move very slowly. Yesterday it started to slowly move towards me and seemed much calmer then the other days. But still didn’t move onto my hand. Then today I did the same thing, it slowly came towards my hand, I thought it was going to lick me but instead bit my thumb :/ Will I ever be able to bond with my gecko?
I got my first leo and he was a year old and handled briefly once a week by the breeder. He adjusted well and became used to me rather quickly. I couldn’t get him to walk from hand to hand as he would make a dash up my arm. I really think he thought of me as a means of escape. I bought a new enclosure and forgot to lock the doors and he escaped! I did find him three weeks later and he seems fine, just very dehydrated. Anyway he is back to normal. My question is how do I stop him from going up my arm? I would love him to be hand trained and enjoy being with me instead of seeing me as a huge tree branch! I tried petting him but it scared him. Much thanks
I have two leapords and both hate me. One of them after a couple weeks of putting my hand in the tank I attempted to pick him up and he screamed. This has really scared me since. I am also afraid that they will think my hand is food and bite me considering they do that even when they see my hand out of the tanks. I just want to be able to hold them please help.
A good way to bond with your gecko is handfeeding them. Also, talk to them and look at them so they get used to your voice and looks. Leave your hand in the tank amd speak to them quietly, it makes them feel a lot less nervous. Let them lick your hand if they start to. Lift them very slowly, as sudden sounds or movement startle them. Do not try to pet them while in your hands. Let them walk around and explore you, do not be nervous. Put them down a few minutes later, and if they have one good experience with being held, over time they will get used to it and get accustomed to the feel of your hands, so let them crawl around a lot. Practice holding them every day. Only do it when they are awake though, as it will bother them if you wake them up.
I’m going on a trip this weekend and should I get one this Friday or should I wait till next week?
Definitely wait until you know you will be around – I wouldn’t leave any new pet on their own to start with.
I rescued a leopard gecko 2 weeks ago. She was just walking around in my house! The tail was missing so she had clearly got in a bit of a pickle. Will she become tame or will she stay scared after such an ordeal? If I put my hand inside she will sniff and lick it. She’s a bit skittish if I try to touch her but will allow a little touching and won’t run off to hide straight away. She is eating well and comfortable with me feeding her. I’d like to be able to hold her so my children can see.
Losing their tail is very stressful for them. It’s a defensive mechanism and when they feel like their life is in danger they drop it and run.
Over time your newly found leopard gecko will get used to you. It just takes time for them to get used to you.
Hi I have a Leopard Gecko and she is always afraid and hide away from us, the previous owner never gave her attention we give a lot of attention to her, yesterday I cleaned her cage and my son that always gave her attention she opened her mouth and ran to him and bit him why did she do that did she feel threaten or what was the case here now I am very worried of taking her out and worried she will bite again what should I do
What do I do if he keeps biting me?
Don’t hold him that much. Let him get used to his surroundings. Some leopard geckos just don’t like to be handled at all.
Only pick him up if he climbs onto your hand, and do it really slowly. He probably bit because he was startled or nervous. Speak quietly to him while attempting to lift him up, as it calms them down and makes them feel a lot less nervous.
How young is too young to tame a baby leo? Mine hatched approx mid May according to the pet store. I have two females. Neither of them are anywhere near tame. When I place my hand in the tank, they run. One will attempt to bite regularly (even when I’m just laying my hand flat of the floor of the terrarium). My intentions were for them to be classroom pets. Purchasing them at the beginning of June, I anticipated them being tame by the time I go back August 8. It’s not looking like it’ll happen now. Any suggestions?
After 6 months you should be able to tame your leopard geckos. Slowly, just keep putting your hand in there. Try getting some superworms and putting it in your hand. Your leopard gecko will start to associate your hand with food. It does take some time, but eventually, your leopard gecko will get used to you.
How long should I wait from the time I bring them home to start hand taming my leopard gecko. I want to hold him but I don’t want to freak him out.
I would wait a 2 weeks just so he can get used to his new home. It stresses leopard geckos out to move from one location to another. This is why I like to give them 2 weeks before I hold them. I really don’t want to stress the gecko out. They could possibly drop their tail if they get alarmed.
It took me 3 weeks to hand train Maxy my tangerine leopard gecko. She was so insanely jumping when I got her. I would put my hand in her cage and she would make a mad dash for her hide. However, I did use waxworms to slowly gain her trust. I would put one in my hand. The first couple days she didn’t come up to me with the worm in my hand. However, on the 3rd day she came up to me and started to associate me with food that she liked.
Maxy is 6 years old now, but she is extremely tame now. I can put her on my hand and she just sits there. I can even rub under her mouth and she closes her eyes, and sometime cuddles up to my thumb. It’s very cute and I am so glad that I got her used to me. It took forever, but was well worth it!
Glad that you got Maxy hand tamed. It can be a long process, but one that is truly rewarding. I remember the day I finally got Sly to become used to me. It took about 8 weeks before she finally got used to me.
Good idea to buy their love with waxworms. It’s their favorite food. They love them! However, do make sure you don’t feed them to many waxworms because they can get addicted to them. 2 or 3 a week should be fine.