Creative Commons License
This page copyright 2012 Steve Ford and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Iguana Taming

My Perry was kept in my daughter's room for his first three months at our house. Unfortunately, my daughter never got comfortable with him, and he never became comfortable with people. Symptoms: tail whipping running from me when I reach for him, hissing (hard exhaling with mouth closed), biting, and extending dwlap (skin flap under chin).

I then began a 4-phase program to reverse the damage.

Week 1: New digs

Perry's enclosure (newly enlarged) was moved to the family room. For the first week, he just SAW a lot more people.

Week 2: Petting without picking up

Especially in the beginning, this required a certain sequence:

  1. Approach Perry from the side, not from above. (This involved bending my arm in ways that it didn't want to bend. What won't we do for our little scaled friends?)

  2. Perry "cocks" his tail for a whipping. (Can't you just hear the "shick-shuck" sound of a shotgun?)

  3. I freeze. Then I slowly move my fingers in a circular motion. This seemed to "hypnotise" (sp) Perry, and he closed his eyes.

  4. Now a full petting can begin. He has never liked being touched on the top of his head or the base of the tail. So I stay on the neck, back, sides, and legs.

This is the phase when Perry would sometimes bite. Fortunately, he was still small and his ferocious attacks accomplished nothing at all. If I were taming a fully grown iguana, I think I would start out with heavy leather gloves.

Week 3: Mini lifts

After a couple of weeks, Perry no longer "cocked" his tail when my hand approached and I didn't need to do the hypnosis thing. I started doing a "mini lift" sequence. This involves working one hand under his body while continuing to pet with the other. Fortunately, I have reasonably big hands and Perry was fairly small at the time. I could get all 4 feet on one hand. Once there, I would do VERY small lifts. Just barely bobbing up and down, not actually taking him out of the enclosure.

Sometimes, Perry would scamper away at this point. I would go back to hypnosis and then concentrate my petting on the head, sometimes even covering Perry's head with my cupped hand. This kept his eyes closed while I worked my hand underneath.

Week 4: Full lifts

It took about another week to get Perry comfortable with the mini-lifts. The final stage is to lift him out and place him on my chest. As before, constant petting helps at the beginning to keep him calm.

BTW, just in the past couple of months I've modified my method of picking him up. He's gotten way too big for a one-handed lift, so I had been putting one hand under the front legs and the other hand under his hind legs and lifting him with his body kept horizontal. My new technique is to put one hand under his front feet and slowly lift them until his body is vertical (but rear feet still touching floor). Then I put my other hand under his rear feet and lift him with his body vertically oriented and facing away from me. Then I bring him close to me so that his back is resting lightly against my chest.

Since adopting this new technique I don't think he has struggled even once (unless he was already agitated). For some reason he feels more secure this way.

For my main iguana guide, see:

Sfordsez: if you haven't seen my standard disclaimer and copyright at then check it out now.