How to Tame an Iguana? Train Your Iguana to Be Handled

Iguanas are fascinating creatures, each with their own unique personality. They’re known for their incredible climbing skills, sharp claws, and that iconic whip-like tail. But beneath this prehistoric exterior lies a complex creature with intricate behavior patterns that make them far more than just their physical traits.

Understanding your iguana’s behavior is the key to building a strong bond and making your taming efforts successful. For instance, did you know that an iguana’s tail whipping behavior is a sign of fear or stress, and not necessarily aggression? And those head bobs they often do? They’re actually a form of communication. Cool, right?

Taming an iguana isn’t just about training them to accept handling. It’s about understanding their nature, their needs, and their signals.

Iguana Tamming Essentials


1. Avoid Wild Caught Iguanas

One of the most important things to remember when choosing a pet iguana is to check where it comes from. Any reputable breeder should be able to tell you where it came from. Training and taming wild-caught iguanas are very difficult. Always find captive-bred iguanas or rescue one if possible.

2. Start Young

If possible, get a young iguana. Young iguanas are easy to train and tame. The more time they spend with humans as babies, the more likely they’ll tolerate people holding them later in life.

3. Give Your Pet Time To Adjust

The best thing you can do when you first bring your iguana home is to get it in the enclosure and leave it alone.

Your pet will feel shaken up initially by the new transportation and accommodations, even if it comes from the best pet shop. Your lizard may need days or weeks to adjust to its new surroundings.

I know you want to play with them, grab them, squeeze them, and love them but doing all this can actually make the taming process more difficult.

Make sure you change the water, food, and mist, and spot-clean the enclosure every day, without grabbing the iguana. Just let them run away to the other side of the enclosure when you are doing chores.

Preparing for the Taming Process

Before jumping into the taming process, there are a few crucial steps to take. Setting the stage is essential. Remember, you’re trying to win the trust of a creature from a completely different world. So, let’s make it as comfortable as possible!

Creating a Safe Environment

Your iguana’s safety comes first, always! An environment that feels safe and comfortable to your iguana is the foundation for successful taming. This involves their enclosure setup, feeding habits, and even the ambient temperature.

  1. Enclosure: Make sure the enclosure is large enough for your iguana to move freely, climb, and hide. Iguanas love climbing, and providing a vertical space can be an instant hit!
  2. Temperature: Iguanas thrive in temperatures around 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with a cooler area for them to retreat if needed. Keep the enclosure’s temperature and humidity regulated, as iguanas can get distressed if these aren’t suitable.
  3. Hideouts: Iguanas, like many other reptiles, appreciate a good hideout. It’s a little private corner where they can feel secure. Ensure you have a hiding spot in their enclosure where they can retreat when they feel like it.
  4. Keep Your Iguana in a Crowded Area: Let your iguana get used to seeing you around the house. Don’t put the iguana enclosure somewhere where he’s never gonna see you. If you put your iguana in an isolated area where it only sees you when you walk in that will scare the crap out of it. Put your iguana in an area of your house where there’s somewhat traffic like in the living room, dining room, and kitchen area so they can see movements.

Essential Taming Tools

Before you start taming your iguana, there are a few tools you should have on hand:

  1. Gloves: Iguanas have sharp claws that can potentially scratch you. Wearing gloves can protect your hands during the taming process.
  2. Treats: Food is a great way to win over your iguana. Discover their favorite treat and use it as a reward during the taming process. This could be anything from a piece of fresh fruit to a particular type of leafy green.
  3. Patience: The most important tool isn’t a physical one. Patience is key when taming an iguana. Remember, you’re building trust, and that takes time!

Ideal Conditions for Contact

When it comes to making the first contact, timing is everything. Here are a few tips:

  1. Feeding Time: Try to interact with your iguana around their feeding time when they’re likely to be more receptive to you.
  2. Quiet Environment: Ensure the environment is calm and quiet when you initiate contact. Loud noises or sudden movements could startle your iguana.
  3. Small Steps: Start with small steps. It could be as simple as placing your hand in the enclosure without attempting to touch the iguana.

Unlike dogs or cats, iguanas are not your typical domesticated pets. It may take a while before they become accustomed to a domestic environment and to calm down. Even if they may have been kept and raised in captivity, iguanas still have the protective instinct they naturally developed while living in the wild.

Step-by-Step Taming Process

Following the steps mentioned below with a friendly and gentle approach will surely help tame your iguana and build a bond between you two. Remember, every iguana is unique and may take its own time to get comfortable.

  1. Initial Contact: Now, this is where we start the taming process. Instead of reaching into the enclosure, which can be intimidating for our scaly friends, open the door and let your iguana approach you. Do this every day and eventually, they will get used to your presence. Trust me, this slow and steady approach works wonders!
  2. Feeding by Hand: Once your iguana is comfortable with your presence, try hand feeding them their favorite treat. For Spike, it was always a slice of ripe mango! Make sure your movements are slow and predictable. The goal is to associate your hand with something positive.
  3. Gentle Touching: After a few weeks of hand feeding, you can start to gently touch your iguana. Always approach from the side rather than from above, as a descending hand can remind them of a predator.
  4. Picking Up: When your iguana is comfortable with your touch, you can begin to pick them up gently. Support their entire body, especially the belly. Keep these sessions short at first, gradually increasing the time as your iguana becomes more accustomed to being handled.
  5. Regular Handling: Once you’ve reached this stage, it’s important to handle your iguana regularly. Consistency is key here! But remember, always respect your pet’s signals. If they seem stressed, give them some space and try again later.

Now, taming an iguana isn’t always a smooth journey. There were times when Spike would scamper off into a corner, not wanting to interact. It’s okay when this happens, and it’s crucial to give your pet the space they need. Patience is our best friend in this process.

What to Avoid When Taming an Iguana

As an experienced iguana keeper, I’ve navigated through a fair share of pitfalls while trying to tame these magnificent creatures. To save you some frustration, here are some common missteps to avoid and helpful alternatives to consider when taming your pet iguana.

1. Rushing the Process

The first mistake that many of us make is trying to hurry through the taming process. We sometimes forget that these are wild creatures, not domesticated pets like dogs or cats. They need time to adjust to their new environments and human companions.

The Consequences: Rushing can lead to stress and fear for your iguana, potentially damaging your relationship and making taming even more challenging.

The Alternative: Be patient and consistent. Approach your iguana gently and spend a few minutes each day interacting with them without trying to pick them up. This will help them to recognize and get used to your presence.

2. Ignoring Body Language

Iguanas communicate their emotions through their body language. Not paying attention to these signs can lead to unnecessary stress or even injury.

The Consequences: Ignoring your iguana’s body language can result in negative interactions. For example, a tail whip or an attempt to bite can mean your iguana is feeling threatened.

The Alternative: Learn and respect your iguana’s body language. If they show signs of stress or aggression, give them some space and try again later.

3. Neglecting Proper Handling

The way you handle your iguana significantly affects their level of trust in you. Incorrect handling can result in fear, stress, and physical harm.

The Consequences: Incorrect handling can cause your iguana to fear you, making the taming process more difficult. It can also result in injuries to the iguana or to you if they react defensively.

The Alternative: Learn the correct way to handle your iguana. Always approach them slowly, and when you pick them up, do so confidently but gently, supporting their belly and legs.

4. Inconsistent Interaction

It’s easy to let a busy life interfere with your interaction time with your iguana. However, inconsistency can lead to setbacks in the taming process.

The Consequences: Inconsistent interactions can confuse your iguana and slow down the taming process, as they require regular and predictable interaction to build trust.

The Alternative: Commit to a consistent interaction schedule. Even if it’s just a few minutes each day, consistent interaction can make a world of difference in taming your iguana.

Signs of Progress


As you’re working hard to tame your iguana, it’s important to recognize the signs of progress. This journey, like any other, is all about the small wins. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a pet-owner relationship with an iguana!

Recognizing Comfort in Handling

A significant sign that your iguana is becoming comfortable with handling is the reduction of resistance when you’re picking them up. In the early days, they may squirm or try to scamper away. But over time, as trust builds, they’ll start to remain calm and even relaxed in your hands.

You’ll notice this subtle shift in their behavior, much like I did with my own iguana, Izzy. Izzy would give me the run-around in the beginning, but now, she’s as cool as a cucumber when I scoop her up.

Interpreting Iguana’s Body Language

It’s also crucial to learn to ‘speak iguana’ to some extent. Understanding their body language can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling. A relaxed iguana will keep its dorsal spines down, and its body flat. Compare that to an iguana that’s feeling defensive or scared, who will raise those spines and puff up its body to appear bigger. My iguana, Izzy, does this when there’s a sudden, loud noise. So, keep an eye on those spines!

Sharing Personal Successes

Speaking from experience, it can feel like you’re not making much headway initially. But trust me, patience is key. I remember how thrilled I was when Izzy first took a snack from my hand without hesitation. It was a small but significant sign that she was starting to see me as a friend rather than a threat. So, even if it’s just a small sign like this, remember to celebrate it. It’s a clear indication of your iguana warming up to you.

Iguana Handling Etiquettes


I still remember the first time I handled my pet iguana, Ziggy. Ziggy was just a little thing then, and I, despite all my reading and preparations, was pretty nervous. There were a few slips, a couple of scared scampering away incidents, but hey, that’s part of the learning curve, right? Over time, I learned that patience and respect are the keys to handling iguanas correctly. And of course, Ziggy and I eventually got comfortable, creating a bond that’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.


When handling your iguana, always approach from the front and at eye level. This helps them see you and not get startled by a sudden ‘attack’ from above. I’ve found Ziggy responds best when he sees me approach him head-on. In fact, he even seems to appreciate a little head bob, a common social signal among iguanas. This lets him know it’s interaction time and not just a random hand invading his space.


Now, let’s talk about lifting your iguana. It’s important to support their belly and legs, making them feel secure. Remember, in their minds, anything lifting them off the ground could be a bird of prey, so let’s not add to their anxiety!

Handle your iguana gently, without squeezing or forcing them into positions. Respecting their boundaries is paramount. And remember, while iguanas might not be the cuddliest of pets, they do appreciate a gentle pat or a soothing stroke on their head and along their backs.

Individual Preferences

Iguanas also have their likes and dislikes when it comes to handling. For example, Ziggy doesn’t mind being held, but he’s not a big fan of being touched on the tail. It took me a couple of attempts (and a rather unhappy iguana) to figure that one out! So, take the time to learn what your iguana prefers, it’ll make the handling experience so much better for both of you.


Iguana taming isn’t just a process—it’s a journey. A journey filled with patience, understanding, and constant learning. From creating the right environment to practicing gentle handling, to setting up consistent routines, each step is pivotal in cultivating trust between you and your iguana.

As someone who has walked this path, I can tell you there is nothing quite like the bond that forms over time. The once aloof creature now comes to you willingly, acknowledging your presence not with fear, but with recognition and trust. That first time they clamber onto your hand without hesitation, the feeling is indescribable—a rush of accomplishment and a sense of unique friendship.

Taming your iguana isn’t just about making your life easier. It’s about enhancing the life of your reptilian friend, giving them a safe space to interact, and creating a mutual respect that goes beyond owner and pet—it’s about building a companionship.

Remember, patience isn’t about waiting, it’s about the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard. This journey with your iguana will teach you just that. And trust me, it’s worth every moment.

So, whether you’re at the start of this journey or somewhere in the middle, I encourage you to keep going. Every iguana is unique, each with their own personality and pace. Your journey may be different from mine, but the goal is the same—a tamed iguana, a fulfilling friendship, and a shared habitat of trust.

If you have any questions, need advice, or want to share your experiences, feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you and support you on this fantastic journey. After all, we’re in this iguana-loving community together!

To all my fellow iguana enthusiasts out there—keep going. You’re doing an amazing job. Here’s to you, and your scaly friend!

Filled under: Lizards

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