Advise on hand feeding/handling

jcarlsen

Avid Member
Hey guys. So I haven't had Jasper for too long, but I figured I'd ask a few questions about getting him more used to me and such.

I'm into a routine where I feed him crickets every morning by putting them in the enclosure using a red cup, so hopefully he'll start seeing that as a signal for food. I've not yet been able to hand feed him anything. I've tried both hornworms and super worms, but no takers yet. As soon as I open the door and get close enough to offer something he just rotates away on his branch. I sit as long as I can before my arm or hand gets tired.

I'm also on the chameleon subreddit, where the moderator (flip69) has told me that I need to get him over the rotating "shodowing" behavior because every time he does it, it'll just validate in his mind that I'm a threat and that he should hide from me that way :/. He suggested that I get Jasper on my hand close to his bedtime and get all the lights in the room off and sit with him till he falls asleep on my hand. Anyone have any experience/success with this? Do you guys think this guy is crazy for suggesting this?

I'm just feeling a little discouraged, but also impatient, because I'd love to offer him food by hand without him fearing me and get him on my hand to more easily put him on his free range in the sun. I guess I just have one of those really skittish panthers. I realize that they're not really cuddly handling every day type creatures, but it'll make future vet visits and cage cleaning less painful for sure.

Thoughts?
 

jajeanpierre

Chameleon Enthusiast
You need to find out exactly where his comfort zone is, the point where he is not stressed by your hand's presence. It might be 4 inches or 10 inches and could change from day to day. Find the point where he doesn't move away but is uncomfortable--look for body language that suggests he is about to move away. Find that point and then take your hand further away from him.

Don't put your hand into his space where he will be stressed. Set the training up so he moves from a place of comfort towards you rather than you forcing your big scary hand into his space and then expecting him to adapt.

A chameleon has a pretty long reach with his tongue. You don't need to be right in his face to hand feed him.

It helps if he is a motivated learner, i.e. hungry. You might offer all his food out of your hand for a few days. If he doesn't take it from your hand, he goes hungry.

I would try to not look directly at him. Predators look directly at their prey, so you want to try to try to act like less of a predator to him.

If after two or three days, he still isn't taking food, I would re-evaluate.

Hope that helps.
 

jcarlsen

Avid Member
You need to find out exactly where his comfort zone is, the point where he is not stressed by your hand's presence. It might be 4 inches or 10 inches and could change from day to day. Find the point where he doesn't move away but is uncomfortable--look for body language that suggests he is about to move away. Find that point and then take your hand further away from him.

Don't put your hand into his space where he will be stressed. Set the training up so he moves from a place of comfort towards you rather than you forcing your big scary hand into his space and then expecting him to adapt.

A chameleon has a pretty long reach with his tongue. You don't need to be right in his face to hand feed him.

It helps if he is a motivated learner, i.e. hungry. You might offer all his food out of your hand for a few days. If he doesn't take it from your hand, he goes hungry.

I would try to not look directly at him. Predators look directly at their prey, so you want to try to try to act like less of a predator to him.

If after two or three days, he still isn't taking food, I would re-evaluate.

Hope that helps.
Thanks! I will try offering his food from a distance that doesn't seem to bother him too much starting tomorrow. I guess part of the problem is I go to work in the mornings on weekdays, so I don't have a ton of time to offer him food by hand, but saturday I can be a little more patient...
 

jcarlsen

Avid Member

jcarlsen

Avid Member
Great blog! Why does he say that hand feeding should only be used for taming purposes and not as a primary feeding routine?



Jcarlsen, I haven't heard of the "falling asleep in hand" method but I can see my cham freaking out before falling asleep. If you try it please let me know how it goes!

I may or may not try the hand sleeping thing, but not without the endorsement of a more senior member here.

As for the hand feeding question, I think the blog means to say that hand feeding as a primary method of feeding will cause a lack of exercise and hunting abilities. At least that's my thinking.
 

Wowbango

Established Member
Well after almost a month, Nigel is no longer scared of my hand, but doesn't shoot off of it either. He wits until the precise moment when I put his feeder on the cage/branch and shoots immediately. So I think I'm making progress. While I can't comment on the whole "Make him fall asleep on your hand" bit, He did fall asleep once on my arm when I had him out pretty late one day. So that's got to be a good sign right? But I've been using a bright pink spoon to scoop up dubias/worms and I think this may be working the same way as the "Red cup." Be patient, they warm up :)
 

jajeanpierre

Chameleon Enthusiast
Thanks! I'll definitely try offering a super worm around the same time every day for the next few days and see what happens.

Anybody heard of the "fall asleep on your hand" method that I mentioned earlier? I've never heard of this before the chameleon moderator on reddit mentioned it to me.
Forcing an animal to submit to an aversive stimulus (you) has a lot of fall out for the animal. What this person is recommending is called "flooding." You flood the animal with the frightening stimuli until they give up and submit. Think of the damage to trust that might have on an animal truly afraid of you. Flooding has not proved to be a permanent fix to phobias as the fear often spontaneously returns.

There is also the problem of just exactly how do you get something that is truly afraid of you out of its cage and on to your arm. Think of that interaction from your chameleon's point of view. You will be giving him an experience where he is expecting to die. Is that how you want to build trust with your new chameleon?

Freezing in place and shutting down are both responses to extreme stress, so "falling asleep" might simply be an animal overwhelmed with stress.

It is always better (and more time consuming) to give the animal the choice of moving out of his comfort zone than it is to force him. You can encourage him by making him a more motivated learner. Basically work with a hungry animal. Hungry does not have to be depriving them of food. Time your training so you train before he eats and delay feeding for a half a day. An adult male chameleon does not need to be fed every day. You can also supply 100% of its food during training sessions, so he has to work for all his food or go hungry. The choice becomes his.

There are a few problems with only supplying food to him during training/desensitization. First, if he truly views you as a chameleon eating monster, you are putting him in a very stressful situation every time he eats, which isn't good. Long-term stress, even good stress, can turn into distress and there is a cascade of physiological events that can set the animal up to be more susceptible to disease. The second problem I see is that he will be less physically active and will not have an enriched environment if he is being deprived of one of his few natural behaviors, hunting.
 

leedragon

Avid Member
Hey guys. So I haven't had Jasper for too long, but I figured I'd ask a few questions about getting him more used to me and such.

I'm into a routine where I feed him crickets every morning by putting them in the enclosure using a red cup, so hopefully he'll start seeing that as a signal for food. I've not yet been able to hand feed him anything. I've tried both hornworms and super worms, but no takers yet. As soon as I open the door and get close enough to offer something he just rotates away on his branch. I sit as long as I can before my arm or hand gets tired.

I'm also on the chameleon subreddit, where the moderator (flip69) has told me that I need to get him over the rotating "shodowing" behavior because every time he does it, it'll just validate in his mind that I'm a threat and that he should hide from me that way :/. He suggested that I get Jasper on my hand close to his bedtime and get all the lights in the room off and sit with him till he falls asleep on my hand. Anyone have any experience/success with this? Do you guys think this guy is crazy for suggesting this?

I'm just feeling a little discouraged, but also impatient, because I'd love to offer him food by hand without him fearing me and get him on my hand to more easily put him on his free range in the sun. I guess I just have one of those really skittish panthers. I realize that they're not really cuddly handling every day type creatures, but it'll make future vet visits and cage cleaning less painful for sure.

Thoughts?
thumb rule with chameleons the less you handle the better, they don´t take any damage by not being handle, on the other hand they may die of stress by being handle, chameleons are like fish, a more observing than picking up animal
 
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jcarlsen

Avid Member
Forcing an animal to submit to an aversive stimulus (you) has a lot of fall out for the animal. What this person is recommending is called "flooding." You flood the animal with the frightening stimuli until they give up and submit. Think of the damage to trust that might have on an animal truly afraid of you. Flooding has not proved to be a permanent fix to phobias as the fear often spontaneously returns.

There is also the problem of just exactly how do you get something that is truly afraid of you out of its cage and on to your arm. Think of that interaction from your chameleon's point of view. You will be giving him an experience where he is expecting to die. Is that how you want to build trust with your new chameleon?

Freezing in place and shutting down are both responses to extreme stress, so "falling asleep" might simply be an animal overwhelmed with stress.

It is always better (and more time consuming) to give the animal the choice of moving out of his comfort zone than it is to force him. You can encourage him by making him a more motivated learner. Basically work with a hungry animal. Hungry does not have to be depriving them of food. Time your training so you train before he eats and delay feeding for a half a day. An adult male chameleon does not need to be fed every day. You can also supply 100% of its food during training sessions, so he has to work for all his food or go hungry. The choice becomes his.

There are a few problems with only supplying food to him during training/desensitization. First, if he truly views you as a chameleon eating monster, you are putting him in a very stressful situation every time he eats, which isn't good. Long-term stress, even good stress, can turn into distress and there is a cascade of physiological events that can set the animal up to be more susceptible to disease. The second problem I see is that he will be less physically active and will not have an enriched environment if he is being deprived of one of his few natural behaviors, hunting.

THANK YOU! That's all I needed to hear to decide against the "sleep training".

Here's a quick follow up question. I've got this live plant that gets direct unfiltered sunlight through a screen window. I've brought Jasper to it a few different ways. First, I've put the plant in front of his enclosure and let him onto it and then with him on it carried the plant to the window. Second, I've placed a stick in front of his enclosure, let him crawl on that, and from there let him get on my hand and carry him to the plant. He puffs up once he's on my hand, even though I hold him high. Do you think one of these ways is better than the other?

The other issue I have is when it's time to put him back, how can I do it in the least traumatizing way. Most recently I offered him a stick slowly, though he backed away from it and kept doing so until he wound up on my hand. Funny enough, when he first got on my hand, I don't think he realized it was me until he saw my face, then he flared up.

I'd love to let him go freely back into his enclosure, but I've sat for over an hour with the plant in front of his enclosure, and it seems pretty obvious that he'd stay there all day if he could, so I kind of have to get him back in somehow.
 

Wowbango

Established Member
THANK YOU! That's all I needed to hear to decide against the "sleep training".

Here's a quick follow up question. I've got this live plant that gets direct unfiltered sunlight through a screen window. I've brought Jasper to it a few different ways. First, I've put the plant in front of his enclosure and let him onto it and then with him on it carried the plant to the window. Second, I've placed a stick in front of his enclosure, let him crawl on that, and from there let him get on my hand and carry him to the plant. He puffs up once he's on my hand, even though I hold him high. Do you think one of these ways is better than the other?

The other issue I have is when it's time to put him back, how can I do it in the least traumatizing way. Most recently I offered him a stick slowly, though he backed away from it and kept doing so until he wound up on my hand. Funny enough, when he first got on my hand, I don't think he realized it was me until he saw my face, then he flared up.

I'd love to let him go freely back into his enclosure, but I've sat for over an hour with the plant in front of his enclosure, and it seems pretty obvious that he'd stay there all day if he could, so I kind of have to get him back in somehow.
Mine is not super eager to get back inside either. I usually place my hand in front of him for a few seconds. Sometimes he climbs on himself, other times I slowly lift my finger under his chin (always where he can see it) and as I get closer he reaches for my finger and climbs on. Of course, never pick him up or jerk him away from his plant/perch.
 

jcarlsen

Avid Member
Mine is not super eager to get back inside either. I usually place my hand in front of him for a few seconds. Sometimes he climbs on himself, other times I slowly lift my finger under his chin (always where he can see it) and as I get closer he reaches for my finger and climbs on. Of course, never pick him up or jerk him away from his plant/perch.
Yeah, that's my problem is that he's not really willing to go on my finger on his own yet. If I offer it, he'll freeze and if I start working it under his chin he'll start to run, so I usually have to reset and try later. The only success I'd had was to make him back away from the branch onto my hand, but I don't wanna traumatize the little guy :/. At the same time I want to give him that plant time in the sun because he clearly loves it. At the very least, I do it when I have a few hours to spare to carefully take him back.
 

ChiefRedman

Member
Yeah, that's my problem is that he's not really willing to go on my finger on his own yet. If I offer it, he'll freeze and if I start working it under his chin he'll start to run, so I usually have to reset and try later. The only success I'd had was to make him back away from the branch onto my hand, but I don't wanna traumatize the little guy :/. At the same time I want to give him that plant time in the sun because he clearly loves it. At the very least, I do it when I have a few hours to spare to carefully take him back.
My veiled Merlin he is a funny little man. He loves to come out of his cage and tolerates being handled under his terms . Like if I was to try and put a stick in front of him, he puffs up and bites at it. He isn't afraid of my hand and will gladly hand feed, but I cant lure him out on my hand. I set his fake tree in front of cage and attach a bendy vine to it and simply walk away. He either comes right out or just hangs out in his cage its always his choice. Now once he is out of his cage he is a sweet little man, he lets me carry him around , shower him , and just hangs out. That being said he is still a little skiddish of me when we make eye contact but thats okay. The only time he gets mad at me is in the morning after I've let him sleep on his free range tree and I go to put him up. He fires up at me and walks away strutting almost like a kid stomping away after being told no :rolleyes: Anyways its not something that happens over night, I suggest ditch the whole scare tactics and sleep on you idea , and just keep doing what you're doing. If you get him out try to lure him back in with food , coax him onto your hand , or simply take a bendy vine and attach it to your plant and make a walk way for the chameleon and watch him out of the corner of you eye. I've learned the less attention you make while they are trying to come out the better. Just make sure that your little man cant climb on top of his cage and burn him self:eek:



P.S. The guy on reddit doesn't seem to know what he is talking about , the whole 1990's thing he said is complete bologna. The members here on the forum will give you much better and caring advice I promise ;)
 

jcarlsen

Avid Member
My veiled Merlin he is a funny little man. He loves to come out of his cage and tolerates being handled under his terms . Like if I was to try and put a stick in front of him, he puffs up and bites at it. He isn't afraid of my hand and will gladly hand feed, but I cant lure him out on my hand. I set his fake tree in front of cage and attach a bendy vine to it and simply walk away. He either comes right out or just hangs out in his cage its always his choice. Now once he is out of his cage he is a sweet little man, he lets me carry him around , shower him , and just hangs out. That being said he is still a little skiddish of me when we make eye contact but thats okay. The only time he gets mad at me is in the morning after I've let him sleep on his free range tree and I go to put him up. He fires up at me and walks away strutting almost like a kid stomping away after being told no :rolleyes: Anyways its not something that happens over night, I suggest ditch the whole scare tactics and sleep on you idea , and just keep doing what you're doing. If you get him out try to lure him back in with food , coax him onto your hand , or simply take a bendy vine and attach it to your plant and make a walk way for the chameleon and watch him out of the corner of you eye. I've learned the less attention you make while they are trying to come out the better. Just make sure that your little man cant climb on top of his cage and burn him self:eek:



P.S. The guy on reddit doesn't seem to know what he is talking about , the whole 1990's thing he said is complete bologna. The members here on the forum will give you much better and caring advice I promise ;)
Thanks, and yeah, not gonna lie, his advice seemed pretty wacky. He seems to think chameleons are like dogs or something and their behavior patterns need to be altered. I couldn't help but think, 'These are reptiles, though. That's not how any of this works!"
 

ChiefRedman

Member
Yeah haha , I have learned that Reptiles much like everything else in the world, the more respect, time , and love you put into them the more you will receive. Just sit back , dont get discouraged , and enjoy you little man for everything he is :p
 

DeremensisBlue

Avid Member
Site Sponsor
Forcing an animal to submit to an aversive stimulus (you) has a lot of fall out for the animal. What this person is recommending is called "flooding." You flood the animal with the frightening stimuli until they give up and submit. Think of the damage to trust that might have on an animal truly afraid of you. Flooding has not proved to be a permanent fix to phobias as the fear often spontaneously returns.

There is also the problem of just exactly how do you get something that is truly afraid of you out of its cage and on to your arm. Think of that interaction from your chameleon's point of view. You will be giving him an experience where he is expecting to die. Is that how you want to build trust with your new chameleon?

Freezing in place and shutting down are both responses to extreme stress, so "falling asleep" might simply be an animal overwhelmed with stress.

It is always better (and more time consuming) to give the animal the choice of moving out of his comfort zone than it is to force him. You can encourage him by making him a more motivated learner. Basically work with a hungry animal. Hungry does not have to be depriving them of food. Time your training so you train before he eats and delay feeding for a half a day. An adult male chameleon does not need to be fed every day. You can also supply 100% of its food during training sessions, so he has to work for all his food or go hungry. The choice becomes his.

There are a few problems with only supplying food to him during training/desensitization. First, if he truly views you as a chameleon eating monster, you are putting him in a very stressful situation every time he eats, which isn't good. Long-term stress, even good stress, can turn into distress and there is a cascade of physiological events that can set the animal up to be more susceptible to disease. The second problem I see is that he will be less physically active and will not have an enriched environment if he is being deprived of one of his few natural behaviors, hunting.
Janet,
This is one of the best articulated responses to the whole "my chameleon loves and trusts me so much that he takes a nap on my arm" thought process. Very well said.
Bill
 

jcarlsen

Avid Member
Thanks again for the reassurances, guys :). I've got a lot of time ahead of me with Jasper and we're going to take it at his speed.

I just got especially freaked out when the guy on reddit was saying that every time the cham shadowed or ran away it only further verified the behavior and that needed to be rectified. Glad I always have everyone here to help me out!
 

jajeanpierre

Chameleon Enthusiast
Janet,
This is one of the best articulated responses to the whole "my chameleon loves and trusts me so much that he takes a nap on my arm" thought process. Very well said.
Bill
Thank you!

I absolutely cringe whenever I read that a chameleon likes to snuggle and the proof is that it closes its eyes and goes to sleep. If you put an animal on an electric grid where it can't escape the shock (an electric shock is probably the most aversive pain you can inflict on an animal), it will also shut down and appear calm. They give up.

I trained under some of the best professional animal trainers in the world who consult with zoos all over the world. They have chosen to train train animals without using aversives.
 

jajeanpierre

Chameleon Enthusiast
Thanks again for the reassurances, guys :). I've got a lot of time ahead of me with Jasper and we're going to take it at his speed.

I just got especially freaked out when the guy on reddit was saying that every time the cham shadowed or ran away it only further verified the behavior and that needed to be rectified. Glad I always have everyone here to help me out!
What do you mean by "shadowed"? Do you mean where they melt away from you on a branch and put the branch between you and them?

If that's what you mean, he is correct. You are training him to respond to your presence with a survival-strategy of avoidance behavior.

To try to put it simply, behavior is always triggered by a stimulus. If the consequence of the behavior is rewarded, the behavior is increased or maintained. If there is no reward to the behavior, it is extinguished. Behavior is never in a vacuum. There is the antecedent (the stimulus that triggers the behavior), the behavior, and the consequences. It is the consequences that determines if the behavior continues and at what intensity.

Any behavior that is learned and repeated has a perceived benefit for the animal doing the behaving. Keep that in mind. Even if you don't see the benefit, it is there or the behavior would not continue. Any behavior that is repeated and learned becomes harder to end.

To analyse your avoidance behavior, look at it like this, and this is a really rough analysis. You can get really scientific and analyse the behavior before the avoidance behavior by looking for tension or an almost imperceptible shift in body posture before they move around the branch.

Antecedant: You moving into close proximity (there will probably be an exact distance, and it will help in the long run if you know what that distance is).

Behavior: Chameleon "squirrels" around a perch.

Consequence: Chameleon escapes you.

If you first analyse the behavior and the triggers and consequences, you'll be a lot further ahead of solving the training problem. Bear in mind that two identical behaviors might have different stimuli and different rewards.

Bill, you should not have encouraged me!
 
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