Note: At the moment, I do not have any crested geckos, but hope to within the next few years.
I had a late night idea for increasing handling response for these guys, and wanted to ask if it was already common practice, if there was a flaw in my reasoning, or if it would be unsafe for any reason.
I know cresties can be a bit jumpy, and their size and speed might make taming them down via handling tricky.
What if you used a mix of classical conditioning and reward training to make it easier?
My thought was honey, since this seems to be basically liquid gold for these dudes.
Allow your new/jumpy crestie the needed 2 week acclimation period, or longer quarentine with minimal contact and stress on the animal.
Begin to show yourself around the tank with no contact (1 week?).
Begin holding hand in the tank for a few moments at a time to gauge animal reaction. (2x a day/one week?)
If animal does not seem curious, or seems reluctant to be near your hand:
Add one small drop (SMALL) of honey or watered down honey to your (very clean and sanitary) hand, allow the animal to see/smell you add the honey.
If that animal is unfamiliar with honey, maybe add a drop to a plant leaf before adding to your hand?
Allow animal to approach and climb onto your hand for the honey, then leave your hand at their will.
Repeat until the animal seems more likely to approach your hand or show lessened stress around you, then begin alternating honey with a drop of water/pangea. Then eventually just a bare hand, the interaction is no longer stressful.
My reasoning is:
Create a positive reinforcement between the hand and the gecko (hand is safe, and even means honey)
Eventually wean off the honey, perhaps with honey as a rare handling reward (inconsistent reward increases behavior reinforcement more strongly than constant reward)
Honey seems like a safe (if raw, organic, and in VERY small amounts) reward that these geckos seem to enjoy
I would love to hear thoughts from more experienced crestie keepers like @ghoulishcresties and others.