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Lizard Target Training

Snakes, Lizards, Salamanders, Turtles, Frogs, etc.

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Ash
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Lizard Target Training

Postby Ash » Mon Jan 18, 2016 12:51 am

I've started target training two of my lizards. Ice the iguana (c pectinata), and Anuket the nile monitor.

I made a target stick--pretty much a dowel with a red end. The red is brightly colored. When the red part of the stick is touched or tasted, I click with a clicker and say, "Yes!" And then I give a piece of food.

Ice is taking really well to it. I've only done a few sessions over the past couple of days. But already she is coming to the target. Whether or not she has learned she will be fed or not is a different story. At this point she is attracted to the bright red color.

Anuket is just starting. Right now I'm feeding her with tongs. This is more to gain her trust. So currently I just click when she takes food from the tongs. This will make her associate the click with getting food. It should not be long before she is eagerly taking food from the tongs. Right now it still makes her scared and nervous to do it since she does not trust me. Once she is flying at the tongs for food, I will introduce the target stick and begin teaching her. It should not be too long before I can get her to that point since monitors are very food motivated.

Monitors are smarter than iguanas. So Anuket will likely surpass Ice in training once she is not so afraid of me. I will probably begin training Steel too once he learns to like his greens and veggies more.

As they get further along, I want to test them and see how much they can learn. Reptiles are basic animals, but lizards are much more intelligent than most people believe. Crocodilians as well can learn their own names, when to come when called, and when to "load up" into vehicles. As well as tricks like "sit."
3 red fox, 4 pectinata iguanas, nile monitor, BW tegu, sailfin dragon, leachie gecko, 6 snakes, salamander, 3 tarantulas
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Re: Lizard Target Training

Postby Ash » Mon Jan 25, 2016 5:23 pm

Happened way faster than I thought it would, but Ice totally has made the correlation that the target gets her food. It was super cool yesterday--I made her climb where I wanted her to, made her come out and back in.

After a while though, when her tummy starts getting a little full, she totally doesn't want to work with the target stick. It's hilarious though because I can see the indecision working in her head. She wants to come get food, but the stick is just... too far away. lol. Plus I keep the rewards randomized--sometimes she'll get a collard green (regular food), sometimes a strawberry (treat), and sometimes a dubia roach (food, treat, and most desirable thing for her!). Lots of times she'll look and see what I've got in the tongs to feed her for going to the stick, and if it's "worth it" she'll go to the stick, lol.

It's great though. She totally understands the concept. I thought it would take way longer, but she's smart!
3 red fox, 4 pectinata iguanas, nile monitor, BW tegu, sailfin dragon, leachie gecko, 6 snakes, salamander, 3 tarantulas
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Re: Lizard Target Training

Postby GitaBooks » Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:30 am

That is so cool! Lizards can be so smart!

I've always wanted to see if I could train a young snake to learn something. I wondered if I could create a vibration with tapping on the glass that taught them when I was opening the cage to feed them and when I was opening the cage to give them water or handle them, so they would know which to expect. Its always kind of scary when a hungry snake thinks your hand is food. :lol:
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Re: Lizard Target Training

Postby Ash » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:36 pm

GitaBooks wrote:That is so cool! Lizards can be so smart!

I've always wanted to see if I could train a young snake to learn something. I wondered if I could create a vibration with tapping on the glass that taught them when I was opening the cage to feed them and when I was opening the cage to give them water or handle them, so they would know which to expect. Its always kind of scary when a hungry snake thinks your hand is food. :lol:


Supposedly it works. Some owners tried feeding from one side of the cage and handling from the other side. The results they got were good. For snakes, I wouldn't call it being "trained." It's more conditioning them to get food from one side.

You can use a snake hook as well to gently tap them on the head to let them know when they aren't going to get fed. They associate the tap on the head with not getting food, and it also "breaks the hunt."
3 red fox, 4 pectinata iguanas, nile monitor, BW tegu, sailfin dragon, leachie gecko, 6 snakes, salamander, 3 tarantulas
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Re: Lizard Target Training

Postby Ash » Tue Mar 22, 2016 3:20 pm

So something really cool happened the other day, and it makes me wonder how smart lizards are. We never give them enough credit.

So Ice is target-trained, and before I give her food, I make her work for it, and then eventually give her the plate. Her enclosure is next to Steel's enclosure.

Steel finally has become food-motivated enough that I decided I could start target training him too. I got my target stick, put it close to him, and he licked/bit it. So I clicked, "yes", and gave him a treat. What I then realized was he knew exactly what to do. He would go to the target stick knowing he was going to get the treat. I can say after one session that... he's target-trained--maybe even as well as Ice.

...Do you think it is possible he learned by watching me teach Ice? Is it possible that he taught himself how to do something by observing another iguana do it? It seems like it would take a higher level of intelligence for an animal to make a connection like that.

Would like to hear peoples' thoughts on this one. I also wanted to share this story because I thought it was crazy cool.
3 red fox, 4 pectinata iguanas, nile monitor, BW tegu, sailfin dragon, leachie gecko, 6 snakes, salamander, 3 tarantulas
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Re: Lizard Target Training

Postby minervasden » Tue Mar 22, 2016 4:47 pm

Well, I had a nice post typed out and as soon as I hit submit the computer decided to be stupid.
So to keep it brief now yes, I have always believed reptiles can and do imitate and see this in my turtles. Even science is starting to accept this for at least some species. http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/news/2014/09/970.asp

I think you should continue with Ice and Steel as informal research subjects.
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Re: Lizard Target Training

Postby Ash » Mon May 02, 2016 1:56 am

Thanks for the link. I read a really good article about reptiles learning through imitation. I need to find it. It was super good.

Steel is SO lazy lol... He looks at the target, then back at me. Then lays down until I bring the target a little closer. I need to stop "giving in." With Ice the other day, she was not cooperating, so I just stopped and closed her enclosure door. When I opened it about a minute later, it was hilarious. She was chasing the target from top to bottom! I guess I just have to put my foot down sometimes. :P I shouldn't be such a softie. But the iguanas have such pleading faces when they see the food.
3 red fox, 4 pectinata iguanas, nile monitor, BW tegu, sailfin dragon, leachie gecko, 6 snakes, salamander, 3 tarantulas

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