We all have that ONE animal in our collection. They are super reactive, hate our guts, and never seem to show any improvement despite years of love, spoiling, and careful attention. Is there hope for them? Maybe, maybe not. But how does the specific way that we interact with our animals influence that? I’ve found that there are many different kinds of the so called ‘problem reptile.’ and have hope that there is a way to get past their hatred, and eventually earn their trust. With the right environment and technique (and possibly person.)
I have two of them right now myself. First off is Monty, my Jungle Carpet Python. Our first interaction resulted in more than 25 consecutive bites in the mere 5 minutes that i first held him. It was like i had adopted a slingshot and not a snake. This became our regular relationship in the first year of owning him. How i dealt with it is every time he bit me i a) did not shy away from the bites and b) i wouldn’t put him down until he stopped. Then, when he stopped i immediately put him away. Nowadays he’s long since learned that biting doesn’t work on me but he’s still extremely distrustful and reactive and freaks out whenever i touch him. He no longer bites, but now he bluffs.
I’ve had a lot of trouble since trying to get him to progress further. He’s easily the most spoiled snake i have. I recently decided to switch tactics with him since he’s so reactive to touch. I’ve backed off entirely and now my ‘taming’ looks more like acclimating him to me being in his space and challenging him to come and sniff me. By essentially sitting in front of his enclosure with an arm in it for like an hour. The consistency is difficult for me, with my unstable work life. But i have faith that this approach is a much better fit for him considering his specific nervousness to touch and being held.
My second on the other hand is a El Salvador x Nicaraguan dwarf boa named Alister. He doesn’t seem to have much of an issue with being touched in general. He has more of an issue with the fact that I’m big and i see him.
If i bundle him up and he feels secure he turns into a baby. He’ll sleep in my lap, let me pet him, and generally be wonderful. (He’s quite a fan of the snake-swaddle.) If he’s exposed tho, he starts to feel super vulnerable and freaks out.
My approach with him is to run him through my hands until he calms down, then immediately put him away. It’s a little difficult tho because unlike Monty, Alister will bite. And he can go from being calm to being cracked out in a matter of seconds. He is more of a ‘stand your ground’ kind of snake than a ‘run away!’ kind. In order for the technique to work i have to manipulate him into flight mode instead of his default defense mode when he starts to wig out. That’s probably the hardest part. But then after i jump that hurdle it’s just a matter of patience and human-treadmilling before he relaxes. it has had promising results so far.
I think it’s fascinating how different those two approaches are for two snakes with similar behavioral issues. How one approach might be appropriate for one snake and not for the other due to why those issues occur. I want to learn more about other approaches to dealing with defensive snakes to broaden my ‘toolbox’ for future animals. (Especially since i have my heart set on a chondro next.)
So what have you all learned in your time keeping reptiles as it pertains to socialization? Which taming tricks that you’ve picked up or invented have been the most effective? If you had my two snakes, what would you do to tame them out?
How can we all be better at understanding and interacting with the herps we keep?