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Nero Egernia

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This is a topic that I have relatively little experience in, and as a result I've been scouring many sources to satiate my curiosity. From what I have found there appears to be two schools of thought, "complete and constant exposure" to humans and their environment such as regular handling, touching, and taking away the ability for a monitor to retreat and hide. Or the second school of thought, "let it come to you", where you refrain from handling and touching until the monitor eventually comes to you for some type of reward (such as food) and where you provide ample opportunities for the monitor to feel secure such as providing multiple hides and leaving it alone for a certain period of time.

Both appear to work, and I have provided links to videos of both schools of thought. I myself am using the technique "let it come to you", and while the progress is slow, there is progress nevertheless. I haven't had the time nor the animals to conduct a proper investigation. From what I have found, sometimes the "complete and constant exposure" technique can have drawbacks such as raising a monitor to become defensive, or having an attitude where the monitor resents human contact. However, the "let it come to you" technique may, in some instances, never teach a monitor to calm down in a human's presence.

Complete and Constant Exposure
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u51EuQkQbSc

Let It Come to You
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SJKlTXfOF0

To monitor keepers, thoughts? Opinions? Experiences?
 

Smittiferous

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Calming or "Taming" Monitor Lizards

I'll be watching this thread intently, I'm keen as mustard to learn... I have three monitors who regularly tell me on no uncertain terms that I should go die in a fire immediately, if I would be so kind. Like right now.

That's using the "let it come to you approach". I felt like I was making progress for a short while and then one had to go to the vet, has been iffy on me ever since.
 
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pinefamily

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We tend go more with the let them come to you approach, although letting them get used to you while cleaning feeding and changing water is good as well. Offering food either with tongs/tweezers or holding the bowl while they eat is a good way to gain their confidence. Our flavis will eat from tongs or from a bowl, and our timid red ackie will now eat from a bowl while I hold it.
Time and patience are the key.
 

Evil_Birdy

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I have one monitor and I have had him for just a month - so I am far from an expert on this - but this is just my two cents on the matter. I have found that a happy medium between those two methods works best for my lizard and I. Taking away all the hides sounds ridiculous and stressful, something I never considered, but at the same time, it is a good idea for them to be exposed to you. Keeping them in an area such as your bedroom or lounge room so they can watch you shows them that you were not put on this earth to eat them. I lure my ackie onto my hand with a cricket in tweezers, much like the guy in the second video so that I can get him out without seeming like a predator. Once he is out I just let him run through my hands, or sometimes he will just sit there and let me stroke his back gently with my finger. We have made progress in just a month, I can touch him now without him running off, flattening, or breathing heavy. I try not to force myself on him, but it didn't take me 212 days to start to gain his trust either, although I'm guessing that monitor was wild caught. But as I said, I have one months worth of experience, and it is highly likely that my opinion on monitor timing will change over time, but this is what has seemed to work so far.
 

CrazyNut

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Taking away the ability for any animal to retreat and hide is well fairly stupid and irresponsible in my opiuion. All you're doing is putting unecssary stress on the animal which can be a serious problem. The "let it come to you" approach is best. Once its gets used to you regulaly feeding, cleanng and supplying water it will build confidence. You can try and handle streight away but its best to let them settle in a little first (maybe avoid direct contact bia touch for a week or so). Just remeber you will never fully "tame" a monitor but rather increase there tolerance of you, these are still wild animals and haven't been through any domestication process like a dog or cat has. I might also like to add that like pinefamily said, tong feeding is a great way to help increase tolerance, it gets them closer to you with the promise of food and still keeps a yardstick away. What you could try is slowing moving your hand up the tongs so the distance is gradually closed.
 

Nero Egernia

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No breakthroughs, but a few interesting observations so I thought it may be worth sharing. It's generally accepted that most Black Headed Monitors (Varanus tristis tristis) are particularly flighty, and mine is no exception. At the time of this post, I've had her for just over a month.

It was perhaps a week before she decided to show herself while in my presence. There was plenty of evidence that she would waste no time emerging from her designated hide to explore, bask, and carry on with her regular business while I was not in the room. The first time she decided to show herself while I was there was a slow process. She would poke her head out of her hide while I was quietly reading, and it took over an hour for her to become confident enough to emerge and bask. I have stumbled in the room many times while she was carrying on with her business before, and, depending on whether she was basking or exploring, her reactions were different. If she was basking, she would freeze and rely on camouflage. If she was exploring at ground level, she would shoot into her hide or under the stack. A few weeks later she has slowly become more confident and generally has no problems basking and exploring while I'm around, provided that I'm quiet and make no sudden movements. Recently, however, she now carries on with her business even while the TV or radio are on. When I now stumble in the room she doesn't retreat into the hide or stack, she now just freezes. But sometimes on her "off" days she may retreat into the hide or stack. In general, she appears to be more confident while perched high, while on the base of the enclosure, however, she appears to feel more vulnerable.

On the topic of feeding, slow progress is also being made. At first she would point blank refuse to feed from the tongs and would often flinch her head sideways when food was offered. When this happened I would leave the food item in the food bowl and while I was away it would "disappear". Perhaps two weeks later from receiving her, when offered food via the tongs she would still refuse, but now she would tongue flick at the food item and no longer flinched. I would then leave the food item in the food bowl. This was also approximately the same time I had first observed her feed in my presence. Perhaps a week or two later after this, when offering food tongue flickering was prevalent, but still would not feed from the tongs, but now I left the food close to her (such as on the perch she was on) and then I would back away and quietly read or something of the such. If she was hungry, she would feed after she was convinced I was doing my own thing. It is also worth noting that I would only offer food while she was perched high where she was most comfortable. Just recently (about a week ago), however, she has begun feeding from the tongs, so you could only imagine my excitement when that happened. However, tong feeding is sporadic. I am going to try and slowly transition to only tong feeding.

Another observation that I have found interesting is that there is evidence that the monitor can quickly discern between different species and different people. My monitor now has no problem feeding in my presence, however, she will refuse to eat while other people are around, such as family members or friends. An example would be I tried to offer a food item to her while Nanna was watching, but the monitor did not feed, even though we both sat quietly for over 30 minutes. When Nanna left, however, the monitor accepted the food item within the span of perhaps 10 minutes. Another example was when a friend and I were watching a movie in the same room, the monitor remained hiding. When I watch movies or TV by myself, however, she tends to carry on with her business. On the topic of animals she tends to accept the presence of my cat (yes, I have a cat, cat haters get over it, this is about the monitors) even when he meows or runs around like a maniac. However, when family bring their dogs over (these are chihuahuas and are in fact smaller than my cat) and the dogs come in the room the monitor will retreat into the hide or under the stack.

I hope these observations will prove useful to other members and provide insight to the school of thought "let it come to you". I have not touched her since the time I have first received her. While the progress is slow, there is progress nevertheless. Hopefully things will continue to get better as I really do enjoy watching her carry on with her business and I really loved it when she tong fed. It is also worth noting that this particular specimen is a wild-caught adult, although she has been in captivity for a number of years. Apologies for the mini essay, was just trying to provide some amount of detail.
 
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CrazyNut

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Awesome! Haha if the lizards can accept domestic cats I can't see why lizard keepers can't lol
 

pinefamily

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I think people are either dog lovers or cat lovers
Occasionally they are both

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- - - Updated - - -

Sorry Oshkii, I didn't acknowledge your post. That is great news, and very good progress. One thing I've noticed with our tristis orientalis is he is more likely to come out if he's hungry. I have deliberately left feeding him for an extra day, just to see if he comes out of hiding, and he does. After feeding though he runs away again.
 

Nero Egernia

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Sorry Oshkii, I didn't acknowledge your post. That is great news, and very good progress. One thing I've noticed with our tristis orientalis is he is more likely to come out if he's hungry. I have deliberately left feeding him for an extra day, just to see if he comes out of hiding, and he does. After feeding though he runs away again.

No worries, pinefamily. My monitor comes out daily. Generally tends to poke her head out from her hide at around 10am and usually then emerges between 11am-12.30pm. Goes to bed between 4.30pm-6pm. When basking she seems to be very relaxed. Appears to be most tense when she first emerges from the hide - doesn't take much to get her to poke her head back in.
 

Smittiferous

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Calming or "Taming" Monitor Lizards

Progress is good [MENTION=41840]Oshkii[/MENTION]! I've hit a wall with all of mine, I'm hoping where they're individually at is not where they'll stay. My tristis is definitely the problem child of the five though. Contemptuous looks all round from him, completely comfortable with any human or feline observers (actively tries to taste the cats through the glass) but exceptionally cage defensive (even offensive) and a dangerously fierce (read: explosive) feeding response make me actively nervous while changing water/cleaning. I'm glad to see you're having luck!

Edit: twenty minutes after posting that, this happened:
1b73ba6a9a42ac09d2e2b9c7f469282a.jpg

13ff0d428ca7eac36e4415d051f717fe.jpg


Purely accidental, Jones (the grumpy gouldii) came rocketing out the front of his enclosure going for a pinky rat as he often does, realised he was leaping out into the abyss and caught the track with one hind talon, flopped out and landed in my hand... Small bit of hissing then he just sat and stared, then sat and sniffed, and finally just sat. No restraint on my part at all. Refused to eat though until returned home, and then allowed me to slowly reach in and give his back a small scratch before lumbering off back under his tile.
 
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pinefamily

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Is that your flavi, Smittiferous? Good catch by the way, lol. Our suspected female flavi does the same regularly, scratches at the glass, and then falls out when I open the door, not realizing the glass isn't there.
 

Nero Egernia

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Wow, Smittiferous, that's great news!

My monitor doesn't appear to have the notorious feeding response that most monitors seem to have. She needs a lot of encouragement to take from the tongs. She prefers to run and hide, or sit stark still while sometimes hissing and puffing out her throat, instead of attacking defensively when I do things in the enclosure. It's interesting how they have different personalities.
 
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Nero Egernia

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Off topic, but how many monitors do you guys own?

I have one Varanus tristis tristis, although soon I may be getting more.

Pinefamily, absolutely envious of your Merten's Water Monitors. It's a shame they can't be kept in WA.
 

Aussie_monitors

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Every animal is different and everyone has their own techniques and goals. But I go with the "let it come to you" method. I rarely handle my monitors and when I do they hate it, so I wouldn't recommend monitors as a pet to handle. Saying that, I only keep small sized monitors. The majority of mine tong feed with no problems and they all go crazy when feeding. They can be skittish but generally they are all fine as long as I don't make any sudden movements. They tend to be skittish when young but over time they grow and get use to your presence and don't mind just hanging out. If I dangle my fingers in front of the enclosures they'll run to the glass hoping there is food. I've recently been able to tong feed some hatchlings, so I'm pretty excited about that. I guess the point of my rambling is that it depends on how "tame" do you want your monitor to be? For me, tong feeding is the peak for me. I don't need them to do anything else and I'm just happy watching them and occasionally feeding them from the tongs :)
 

Nero Egernia

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I guess the point of my rambling is that it depends on how "tame" do you want your monitor to be? For me, tong feeding is the peak for me. I don't need them to do anything else and I'm just happy watching them and occasionally feeding them from the tongs :)

The type of "tame" I like is where they don't fear you and are comfortable enough to do their thing while people are around, and also tolerating handling with little fuss for quick inspections. I've been itching something bad to take my monitor out and measure/weigh her. :(
 

Smittiferous

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Calming or "Taming" Monitor Lizards

[MENTION=38465]pinefamily[/MENTION] Jonesy (pictured) is a regular sand monitor. His typical behaviour at feeding time is to propel himself up and out towards the front of his enclosure and snatch his dinner from the tongs whilst airborne. Sometimes he overshoots, so I was sort of ready for it. My flavi (George) behaves the same way you describe, but tends to retreat as soon as he hears the glass sliding now (oh no, now the pink thing can reach me!)
[MENTION=41799]BredliFreak[/MENTION] One gouldii, one flavi, one ackie, one itty bitty mangrove and a male tristis tristis with a female tristis tristis on the way.
[MENTION=41199]Aussie_monitors[/MENTION] personally, my goal with mine is simply to have animals that will accept my presence and occasional interaction without absolutely losing their marbles and me my fingers. My larger two (sandy and flavi) I would love to give a regular (controlled and supervised) wander outside their enclosures, which they already have had to an extent in my office a few times, and also be able to service their enclosures without a fuss on their behalf. I have cats and a python if I want to be relaxed upon. The majority of my attraction to monitors (and attachment I have to all my current ones) stems from their staunch, challenging demeanours and the sense that while I'm watching them and figuring them out, to an extent they look like they're returning the favour(well, they sure look like it anyway). American-style lapdog monitors don't really seem to do that.
[MENTION=41840]Oshkii[/MENTION] your beautiful little tristis is wild caught if I recall? Maybe has something to do with it? I remember somebody on here saying that progress with monitors' temperament isn't often linear, and well I guess a few hours ago I was worried about my own progress yet it seemed to make a big jump a bit later on...
 

Nero Egernia

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Yes, she is wild caught, according to the previous owner. I always seem to end up with the wild caught ones. :p
 
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