Building Trust With Your Chameleon

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There are so many reasons why it is important for a Chameleon to trust their Keeper. As Humans we want them to love us the way we love them. But realistically this is not how your Chameleon is going to think of you. You are simply their Keeper. You are the provider of their needs. While I am a believer that some Chameleons develop more trust in their owner than others do, they are by no means a dog or a cat. Not something you are going to sit and cuddle up with while you watch TV.

But why do we need to gain their trust? Here are just a few of many reasons why it is important.

  • Cleaning their enclosure
  • Vet check ups
  • Visually look over the chameleon
  • Taking them from indoor enclosure to outdoor enclosure
All of these things can be very stressful on a Chameleon as well as the Keeper. If there is not a level of trust in the relationship it can feel impossible. We know that stress is never something we want for a Chameleon.

I read I ton when I first got Beman. Constantly reading through threads finding as much info as possible. A crash course in Husbandry.
Beman was an impulse buy from Petco. I was recommended all the wrong stuff including the dreaded Chameleon Kit. Improper lighting and all.
By the 3rd day of having him I finally found this forum. I became the ultimate lurker for months and I started correcting everything as fast as I could. I replaced fake plants with real ones and ordered new lighting from Light Your Reptiles within the first week. I started looking at enclosure options from Dragon Strand. This Forum saved my chameleons life and taught me how to be a good keeper.

My reason for posting this blog is to give back to others the way this forum gave to me. I never found a video showing how to build trust. I read many different posts on it. So this was how I interpreted what I read and how I went about my mission to build trust.

  1. Get a comfortable chair ready.
  2. Put it next to the door of your Chameleon's enclosure.
  3. Make sure your not sitting higher then your Chameleon so they feel safe.
  4. Use a feeder that they adore that won't jump off your hand.
  5. Don't make direct eye contact with your Chameleon.
  6. Don't plan on moving for at least 30 minutes.

I used waxworms. So I only did this exercise with him once each day. So only 1 waxworm each day. Please Note: You do not want to feed these as a staple feeder because they are high in fat. So treats only and this was the only time he got them during this process. Chameleons can't hear so go ahead and have a long conversation with them. This is what I did to pass the time and keep myself calm and steady.

Starting out you are only putting a feeder in the palm of your hand and offering it. I kept my hand on his level so he could see it and so it was not intruding in his enclosure but so that he could get to within 5 inches of it. This may take awhile so be prepared to hold your elbow with your other hand to keep it still.
I was basically a food dish. It took Beman 4 days before he took the first feeder from my hand. He was on a vine about 6 inches away.
Over the course of 2 weeks he got closer and closer to my hand.

I was still a food dish. I didn't move and I didn't make direct eye contact.

By the second week he was getting closer to my hand. The period of time that I sat there got shorter as the days passed.

After two weeks he started trusting to come up onto my hand. He would sit a little longer each time before getting off. I did this by presenting my hand palm up just as he was used to seeing it and with my other hand I had the feeder in my palm farther up my arm. So he would have to at first just put his front feet onto my hand to get to the feeder in the other hand. Remember this is at their pace not yours. So your not rushing them. Your Building Trust.

This video was done about 2 weeks and 4 days into the process. Beman is four and half months old in this video.


It took another 2-3 weeks for me to be able to slowly pull my hand out with him on it. By this time he was no longer fearful because I always reinforced with his special treat.
I would sit in the chair with him on my hand and slowly pull my hand closer to me. Watching his behavior for any indication that he was not ok with it. If he started backing up my hand went back toward the cage. His pace not mine.

It took approximately 6 weeks of working with him everyday at his pace only. By this point he let me remove him to clean his cage, take him to the vet for a check up, and would sit with me for about 15 minutes each day. Always reinforcing with his special treat.

Now Beman is almost 10 months old. He is a friendly boy that loves going outside in the sun each day that the weather allows. He comes out of his enclosure on his play area happily for me to fully clean his cage each weekend.

This is how I get him out of the enclosure now. No treat needed just my hand.



I do not know if it is just a fluke that I happened to get a Veiled Chameleon with a good temperament or if I happened to hit upon a way to build trust that works. But my hopes in sharing this is that others may find a way to build trust with their Chameleon, to be able to do the important things as a Keeper and a lover of these beautiful creatures.

UPDATE: Beman is now 14-15 months old... Even though he was always a sweet boy he is now displaying typical mature Male Veiled aggressive behavior. While he still will let me remove him from the cage. He is very cage aggressive. He has not bitten me in the last 2 months since showing his new attitude but I would not put it past him to try should I not pay close enough attention.


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Comments

I used a similar technique with my veileds. My male is extremely docile and eagerly comes onto my hand after just a few short hand feedings. My female, on the other hand, is just starting to walk onto our hand to eat after 3+ months of daily hand feeding. She is still quite reserved, but food will coax her out enough to easily remove her from the cage when needed.

I'd definitely recommend doing this while they are young, as my (new) panthers are older, and food is not a motivator for them.
 
Do you know if this will work with Pygmy Chameleons too? Im hoping in buying some this summer, and would love if they trusted me like yours trusts you.
 
Do you know if this will work with Pygmy Chameleons too? Im hoping in buying some this summer, and would love if they trusted me like yours trusts you.
Honestly I do not know. I have only done this with my Male Veiled. I have read a lot of variations on trust building but it has always been with a larger species. I know very little about Pigmy Chams.
 
Your welcome! :)
I have had 3 Veiled Chameleons my latest is 7 months old. In the last week, he had stopped eating & was lethargic & losing weight. I have tried to get him to eat but he was not interested. Over the last few days, I started to feed him water by a small spray onto his lips as well as misting him & he perked up but still would not eat. I founda post on youtube how to feed him by hand without forcing him & have now got him excepting waxworms. During this time I have sat with him on my chest stroking his head & back and he has become very tame & stays lovely colours of green,blue & yellow. He really appears to enjoy it & looks like he smiles sometimes & stays in position for over an hour. I have become so more attached to him & am trying to make sure he survives.
 
I have had 3 Veiled Chameleons my latest is 7 months old. In the last week, he had stopped eating & was lethargic & losing weight. I have tried to get him to eat but he was not interested. Over the last few days, I started to feed him water by a small spray onto his lips as well as misting him & he perked up but still would not eat. I founda post on youtube how to feed him by hand without forcing him & have now got him excepting waxworms. During this time I have sat with him on my chest stroking his head & back and he has become very tame & stays lovely colours of green,blue & yellow. He really appears to enjoy it & looks like he smiles sometimes & stays in position for over an hour. I have become so more attached to him & am trying to make sure he survives.
While this may feel like your chameleon is trusting you what you are describing are tell tell signs of a major health issue. When they are sick they will essentially shut down and not move when over stressed. 95% of the time this is due to something being off in their husbandry. With the attachment that you are having toward him I would hate to see something happen to him. Waxworms are also not a nutritional staple feeder so they should not be the nutrient source for your cham.
I would encourage you to post a thread in the health forum at this link https://www.chameleonforums.com/forums/health-clinic.7/
and copy paste this form on this link over and answer all the questions. https://www.chameleonforums.com/threads/how-to-ask-for-help.66/

We are more then willing to lend our knowledge so that you do not have a situation where your little buddy passes from health complications. I really hope you will start a thread and give the information from that form so that we can ensure that both of you have a good experience.
 
I have a male veiled that is 6 months old and have had him for about 2 months now.
Not going to be easy as he will retreat to a hiding place as soon as he sees someone approaching the cage and stay there until the coast is clear. What would suggest as a good starting point to at least have him remain in the area and not retreat so easily.
Thanks
 
I have a male veiled that is 6 months old and have had him for about 2 months now.
Not going to be easy as he will retreat to a hiding place as soon as he sees someone approaching the cage and stay there until the coast is clear. What would suggest as a good starting point to at least have him remain in the area and not retreat so easily.
Thanks
There is no 1 correct answer. They all have their own personality. I will say that for the first 2 weeks Beman's cage was next to my desk. He got to observe me just as I got to observe him. This may have helped me because he was used to seeing me sitting there.

What I would suggest you do to begin with is get a comfy chair and sit about 2 feet in front of his enclosure. Read a book get on your phone just be there where he can see you for an hour each day. Observe him without directly looking at him. So he is not seeing you watching him. Once he starts coming out of his hiding spot when you are sitting there then I would take that as a sign that he is becoming more comfortable with your presence. Keep doing this until he no longer runs and hides. Then try doing what I have in my blog following the steps. Your hand is a feeding dish. The chair is lower then him so he still feels safe. See if he will start coming to grab the feeder. Pick a high value feeder. For Beman it was 1 waxworm and that was the only time he got them. It was his cake. It requires a lot of patience. They view us as a larger predator and they are solitary shy animals.

Some never trust their keepers and some end up like my guy who happily comes to the door when I walk by. Hopefully your boy will get to the point where he does not fear you. It does make it so much easier and safer for both of you when you can have this trust. Then you can easily clean his cage, feed him, take him to the vet, and take him outside for real sun.

Good luck :)
 
Thanks for the reply and I'll give it a shot. This will be a good test of my patience as well as a bonding with Drake.
 
Thanks for the reply and I'll give it a shot. This will be a good test of my patience as well as a bonding with Drake.
Your welcome! Just don't get discouraged. It may take a while just sitting there for him to learn that your not going to attack him. Remember to do everything at his pace reading his body language. I hope it works out for you and Drake :)
 
Do you know if this will work with Pygmy Chameleons too? Im hoping in buying some this summer, and would love if they trusted me like yours trusts you.
What genus/species of pygmy chameleon? Bc most of them should not be held unless you actually have to. They get stressed very easily and are a chameleon which should not be held rather watched. They are a very difficult chameleon to work with since they are small and hard to buy. Madagascar is closed so I dont see anyone selling them right now unless from a personal seller where you live.
 
I posted a thread looking for how to build trust and handle a chameleon as I’m looking to purchase one later this year, and someone was kind enough to send me to this thread. This was awesome to read and gives a lot of good tips. Thank you for writing this! You have a pretty chameleon on your hands.
 
I posted a thread looking for how to build trust and handle a chameleon as I’m looking to purchase one later this year, and someone was kind enough to send me to this thread. This was awesome to read and gives a lot of good tips. Thank you for writing this! You have a pretty chameleon on your hands.
I am happy you enjoyed it. :)
 
Wow!! That first video gets me excited, excellent technique! I'll first have to be okay with the worm being on my hand :wideyed: Hopefully that won't take long.
 
Wow!! That first video gets me excited, excellent technique! I'll first have to be okay with the worm being on my hand :wideyed: Hopefully that won't take long.
Yeah lol that would be good. Pick a slow moving feeder lol. You will get used to the bugs. I hated them. I now feed roaches which I never thought I would be able to handle.
 
Yeah lol that would be good. Pick a slow moving feeder lol. You will get used to the bugs. I hated them. I now feed roaches which I never thought I would be able to handle.
For the time being I used a clear cricket lid :LOL: I managed to lure her out as far as one hand on the tip of my finger and stood there for a good 10 minutes without her coming any further but it was a lovely little hand hold and if that's the most trust building experience for her that works for me. Thank you :)
 
My Cham used to come out onto my hand about a month ago I was quite proud as I had only had him for about a month at that point he was naturally friendly but still took a bit of training which I did using the same tactic here but then I went to Ireland (my home country) for two weeks and now he does not come onto my hand without treat anymore so I am trying to train him again. Well done beautiful Cham.
 

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