Dogs and leopard geckos may not be the first two species that come to mind when you think of animal best friends but this unusual pair can be great companions. Leopard geckos are one of the best reptiles for beginners, and their docile, friendly nature means that they are likely to get along with everyone in the family – including the resident canine! However, there is a right and wrong way to introduce the animals to one another, and there are a number of common mistakes that if made, can create a recipe for disaster.
Keep reading to learn the 5 necessary steps for introducing your gecko to a dog, and 3 reasons why the animals can make great friends!
1. TEACH YOUR DOG BASIC COMMANDS
Even if you’re not planning on introducing a new reptile, you should always train your dog in at least the standard commands. Your dog should reliably know Sit, Stay, and Leave it. Make sure that your dog is able to respond when distracted, and in a variety of contexts. The training will not be helpful if the dog is not able to apply it in new situations (like meeting a gecko for the first time)!
2. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DOG’S BEHAVIOR
You know your dog best, and are going to be the best judge of their body language and reaction to the new leopard gecko. If your dog tends to be aggressive, territorial over you or the home, or has a strong prey drive, there is a greater chance that introducing them to a lizard could be dangerous. Ask yourself, how does your dog react to small animals you see outside on walks? Are they protective over you and your family? Can you trust your dog to listen to you? These are all questions you need to ask yourself before introducing a dog and a gecko.
3. GIVE YOUR GECKO A DOG-FREE ROOM
You should set up your reptile’s enclosure in a secluded area of the house like a spare bedroom or office. It should be a room where your dog does not spend a lot of time, and there must be a door that you can close to keep them animals apart, if needed.
Place the tank on a surface such as a table or desk, high enough that the dog can’t reach it even if they get into the reptile’s room.
4. START SLOW
When you are making the initial introduction, both animals should be appropriately controlled. it is a good idea to have your dog on a leash and your gecko in its enclosure, which should be placed on the floor for the introduction. Ideally, both animals will seem relaxed and curious. If your dog starts to show any signs of aggression such as barking, lunging, or stalking the tank, remove the dog from the room and end the interaction.
You can repeat short, controlled interactions like this every day until the animals become acclimated. Praise your dog and offer treats to let them know that calm behavior around the gecko will be rewarded. If they show no signs of improvement, you may have to accept that a close friendship will not be possible.
5. INTERACTIONS IN THE OPEN
Once the initial introduction has been made and you are confident that the animals are comfortable around one another, you may set up similar short interactions with the gecko out of the tank, and then progressing to your dog off leash, until they are out in the open together. If at any point during this progression the gecko appears threatened or the dog becomes aggressive, take a break and go back to the basics. This process may take weeks, but it is much better to err on the side of caution than to force the animals into a situation that could be dangerous.
Even if both animals seem comfortable around one another while you are present, you should never leave them together unsupervised.
1. DOGS ARE EASILY TRAINABLE
Of all animals commonly kept as household pets, dogs are among the most trainable, which is good news for anyone looking to bring a new reptile into the home. Even if your dog doesn’t love the gecko at first, with positive reinforcement you can teach them to tolerate, if not love the reptile!
2. LEOPARD GECKOS ARE VERY CALM
Leopard geckos are calm, docile reptiles, and tend to be very easy-going. As long as your dog isn’t acting aggressive, your gecko is not likely to feel threatened.
3. BOTH ANIMALS ARE FRIENDLY
Dogs are known for being friendly by nature, and so it the little leopard gecko! With proper introduction, the two can be playful, even cuddly companions.
When introducing a dog and a leopard gecko, make sure you train your dog and know their temperament. Start off slow, and take the right steps to progress to less controlled interactions. Always supervise their play dates, and if all goes well, be ready for some adorable photo opportunities!
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