Socializing defensive snakes rant. What's your method?

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?


I went with the “tap” training method. It’s still the only way I can interact with my carpet python (2+ y.o.) and my dwarf retic (also 2+ y.o.). I just gently and from behind take the smooth side of the snake hook to lightly tap / pet the snake with it for a few times and then they’re usually good to get them out of the enclosure for some “extra stretchy time” as I call it, lol. Only time that I always keep as off limits for handling, is when they’re in shed which applies to all my snakes. I’ve been fortunate to not have a fear/defense bite from the dwarf, but the carpet python was quite the rapid-fire pistol when I first got her (now a total sweetie once she’s snaps out of feed mode). My only other “problem children” I have are a few of my “kind-of” flighty female ball pythons I’ve purchased as adults, I use either a hook or roll of paper towels in the same manner and they calm right down. I’m thankful that none of my collection are “un-handleable” or bite-happy (anymore), but at some point I’m sure I’ll come across one. Love all my noodles regardless


Of all my snakes, the only one I have had to cajole is my boy Nod, BRB. He’s not what I would consider a problem child but as he grew from a tiny noodle into a strong adult beauty, I improvised with a large towel to remove him from his enclosure a few times because he went through an unpredictable stage. I would sit with him on my lap with him wrapped in his towel. He would remain very calm in the towel until he decided to nose his way out.

Then he would just hang out for awhile but when he was done he was ready to go back to his enclosure. Now when I open his enclosure I don’t have to use a towel to remove him but I do give him space. He has only bitten me once but that was my fault. My hand got in the way of the rat. Ouch! Lol! :blush::wink::lizard::frog::snake::+1:


This would be almost impossible answer, as not having access to them and all are completely different, just like people are.

What I like to do is distracted them when removing them. This allows me to get a hold of them. Then when out, I do make to many movements and allow them too decided when to move and where to go. If striking a lot, I keep their heads facing away from me. Also placing them on the floor and keep moving them back towards you. This allows them to get use to your touch. It also teaches them that you are not always going to “grab” them and that touch is not a bad thing.


I think you are doing quite well, especially utilizing totally different methods (because of the snakes actions) for both your snakes! I have had all kinds of wild caught snakes when I was younger. I do most the things we all do, handle frequently, hook method ect. A couple other tips I have used is I would put a sweaty shirt of mine in the cage for a few days, it really seemed to help with a few wc bullsnakes I had. Also when the snakes are smaller when you handle them, keep moving or rotating your hands back and forth if you think they may strike, some won’t strike if they can’t track you well. This is probably only good for wc who are thirsty, but give them water in a small dish with your hands, or if you can’t get that close wait till they are drinking, usually when drinking you can lightly touch them on their bodies and who knows they may think you aren’t so bad bringing them water. Either way you get very close to them. I have been fortunate in captive born snakes, even my most cage and food aggressive retic calms down and is handleable with tap training. My 2 most aggressive pythons were both pieds that I produced. One would just constantly be tensed up and strike repeatedly if he even saw me getting close. I just handled him but kept my hands moving back and forth slightly so he couldn’t lock on me well, and after a few weeks he was less tense although if he had a good shot at me he would try still. Then after some months, along with some size he tamed down to puppy dog tame. The other is not tense and doesn’t strike anymore, but hisses constantly for the first minute or so if I pick her up. Sometimes winning the small battles is as good as it gets. Wish you luck, but honestly you seemed to have made some good progress so far!


I reccomend NERD they have some awesome videos on socializing snakes and other animals