It’s common for skinks just brought to their new homes to be a bit skittish, defensive and scared, especially during the first few days and weeks.
Often times, they will immediately hide under boxes, behind stones or even burrow into the substrate for long periods of time, only venturing out when no one is around.
So how do you tame these animals?
Generally, the two best things you can do are to 1) be patient and give them time, they will become braver as the days pass and 2) to hand-feed them.
Now, before I get into the nitty-gritty specifics here, I first have to point out the obvious; a Blue-Tongue Skink will never be tame in the same manner and fashion as a dog, or even a cat.
Rather, what I mean by tame here is a skink that behaves normally and will not be scared or defensive in your presence.
Moreover, it also needs to be said that, although blueys are quite personable and friendly around humans, every skink is different. Some are shy, some are bold, some grow to love being petted, and others will forever hate it. Skinks are different, so try not to expect your skink to do anythig based on your friend’s Blue-Tongue, or even from what you’ve read.
That’s not all however, because although Blue-Tongues are very individualistic, certain species and types tend to be more aggressive than others.
For instance, Australians tend to be a bit calmer and less aggressive compared with Indonesians, especially Tanimbars.
A wild-caught skink is going to be a lot more difficult to tame than a captive-bred. This is a huge reason why I strongly suggest only purchasing captive-bred skinks from reputable breeders.
Taming works much better while the bluey is still young. In fact, the younger the better. An animal that grew up in the wild, especially an older animal, is going to take a lot, lot longer to tame.
Now, let’s get to some actionable steps you can take.
1. Leave Them Alone for the First Few Days and Weeks
Like I noted up above, most Blue-Tongue Skinks when brought to their home will be quite scared and defensive. If you have any hiding spots or areas in their enclosure, they will most likely immediately make their way over to them as soon as possible.
Now, a lot of new skink owners will often times force themselves onto their new pets, sticking their arms into their cages, gawking at them, tapping on the glass, etc.
Don’t do this.
The best thing you can do right off the bat is to just leave them alone, and give them time to adjust.
This may take a few weeks, so be patient.
One thing you can do to help speed this process along is to cover the back and/or sides of the terrarium. This will help make the environment feel a bit more natural as well as safer. It will also probably help reduce escape attempts.
2. Make Sure They Have at Least 1 Good Hiding Spot
A lot of humans are introverts and need a “re-charge” period where they are alone for at least a little bit of time. Just about every bluey is the same. They need alone time.
This is the time when they can decompress, be totally relaxed and feel safe simultaneously.
Ideally, a skink should have at least 2 different hideouts in their terrarium, but 1 is still a lot better than none!
Even if you have only 1, try to make sure that it is enclosed. What this means is that when the skink is inside or under it, he or she cannot be seen by anyone at all. They are hidden away from everyone and everything.
Mind you this hideout spot should be in addition to your substrate (which should allow the skink to burrow).
Now, some people believe that if all the hiding spots are removed, your skink will become accustomed to humans much faster.
This is false!
This will only serve to stress your skink out! If anything, this will produce a more defensive skink that is constantly on edge.
3. Put your Blue-Tongue in a Low-Traffic Area
Note, this doesn’t mean putting it an area of the house that has ZERO traffic!
If a skink is never, or rarely, around you or your family member, it will never learn how to socialise (or at the very least take a lot longer to learn how to interact with humans).
Best case scenario, this is an area of the house where people occasionally enter and traverse. You want just enough traffic where when you enter, your skink will be curious and want to see what’s up, but not too much where it becomes oblivious to humans.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hang around your skink’s terrarium when you can! The more time you can spend with your lizard, just in its vicinity, the better!
And this all leads up to one of the absolute best things you can do to tame your pet quicker…
4. Hand-feed your Blue-Tongue!
This will speed up the taming process seemingly exponentially.
Don’t just drop food into your skink’s bowl, hand-feed it.
Hand-feeding is a fantastic method to tame aggressive skinks. It may take a bit of time, but it works. Some skinks may need a bit more time than others, but eventually it will.
A great way to do this is through treats. Skinks, like all animals, just love treats. Some good things to give to your bluey as treats are:
- dried roaches
This way, your skink will come to associate you with tasty, scrumptious fun!
It’s normal for skinks to sometimes bite and nip at your fingers the first few times. It’s expected. A good pair of rawhide gloves can both keep you confident and it safe. Eventually, when the biting stops, you can transition to your bare hand.
After a while, your skink should become tamer. This may take a couple of weeks or even a couple of months, but it will start to happen.
You should notice that your skink’s behavior will begin to change when this occurs. Look for:
- your skink seems calm and cool in your presence
- your skink doesn’t bite at your hand and fingers when you hand-feed it
If your little guy passes this test, you can move on to picking it up and handling it.
A few words however.
A. You need to be gentle, but confident. If you are nervous, your skink will also be nervous.
B. Never, ever grab them from their head or their tail. When picking them up, grab them from underneath, right in the middle of their body, and make sure all of their limbs are supported. This will make them feel safe and secure.
C. If a skink pees on you, don’t freak out! It’s normal! When skinks are out and about, naturally their activity starts to pick up. Unfortunately for you and I, this means they are more likely to pee! Be not afraid however, as a skink’s pee is odourless and won’t stain anything. If it happens, brush it off and act like it’s no big thing.
To sum up:
- the 2 best things you can do to tame a blue-tongue skink are to leave it alone and hand-feed it
- make sure that your skink has at least 1 good hiding spot where it can completely retreat from visibility
- put your skink’s terrarium in a low-traffic area
- be patient as every skink is different and some will take a longer time adjusting than others