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How to Handle an Aggressive Leopard Gecko?

Hove you got an aggressive Gecko and need some advice on how to deal with it? Well, you are in the right place, I will explain why this may be happening and how to deal with it.

How to Handle an Aggressive Leopard Gecko? You need gain their trust first and identify if they have any underlying issues to cause their aggression, such as sickness. Once that established, and you have trust they can be handled gently with an open hand.

There are a number of reasons for this aggression, and it is important to understand why this is happening, how to deal with it, and know when and when not to approach them. Read on and let me explain.

Usual Temperament of a Leopard Gecko

In this section I’m going to explain how leopard geckos temperament usually is so that you can understand what they usually are like before we can get into how to deal with an aggressive leopard gecko.

Usually leopard geckos are quite docile well behaved, well-mannered lizards. In fact, ideal for any beginner. However, as you will learn in this article there are some that may have an aggressive nature. While this is quite rare, it does happen on occasion.

What is the strategy to tame an aggressive leopard gecko?

The best way to tame an aggressive leopard gecko is to present yourself as not a threat. To them, you will find that leopard geckos, especially when they are new, have a natural fear towards human beings.

As you can imagine, they have a good reason to do so, because they are so low in the food chain and anything that moves and is bigger than them is obviously interpreted as a threat.

To gain their trust you can use a few different strategies, first being, using food as a way for them to identify you with a trusted person. Secondly, you can use tactics such as handling them and also even talking to them, which I will talk about later on in this article.

Clear signs that they do not want to be handled

Before I explain how you should correctly handle an aggressive leopard gecko it is important to understand the times and the signs that indicate that they do not want to be handled. This is important because you may find that you’ll get your hand bitten if you approach them at the wrong time.

This may have nothing to do with an aggressive nature, it may just be the wrong time of the day for them to be approached.

Disappearing Swiftly

Hiding away is a very common, especially for new leopard geckos or even hatchlings. The thing to look out for is how they behave whenever you approach them. If they are in their hide, this might just be because they are relaxing.

But the key thing to identify here is if they are playing and hiding only when you approach them. Then this is an indication that they perceive you as a threat.

Especially if they appear to be running for their lives, into a hiding spot, as soon as you approach the glass or attempt to move your hand towards them. This is a time when you should proceed with caution.

You will find that leopard geckos are more active during the night, this is because they are nocturnal animals and this is when they are most active. For this reason, it is best to approach them in the night, when they are more active.

Again, if you find that your Leo is almost running away from you and hiding, then this is a clear indication, especially at night-time, that they do definitely perceive you as a threat.

Screaming the House Down!

Weird noises such as Screams and hisses are another indication that it is the wrong time to try and handle your Leo. To be honest, this should almost be common sense and a natural reaction for a human to avoid proceeding, but unfortunately there are some people who will not heed to these obvious signs.

You may find that they do this if you try to approach them or if you try to touch the glass of their tank enclosure. They may even hiss or scream and posture themselve in a defensive kind of stance. If this is happening this is a clear indication that it is not a good idea to attempt to handle them.

This hissing and screaming behaviour does actually stress a Leo out quite a bit. It is something that they obviously would like to avoid.

You may also find that some of them open their mouth wide, while hissing and scream at you. This is the time that you need to leave them alone. It is clearly not an opportunity to try and handle them.

Aggressive Charging

Charging is another tactic used to display a sign that they do not want to be approached. You may find that your leopard gecko will aggressively charge with its mouth open directly at you, as you approach their glass tank enclosure. Again, this is an obvious sign that you need to leave him, and not approach him or even try and handle him at this time.

Shedding Irritation

During shedding is another time that you should definitely avoid trying to handle your Leo. This is because when they have shed their skin, the skin can be quite sensitive. They can get irritated easily during this time.

Another thing is, it takes a lot of their energy to shed the skin and to get rid of all the old one. So, this is not an ideal time to approach them. Just bear in mind that during this time there is a chance that they may bite you.

Things to avoid when you handle a leopard gecko you

So in this section I’m going to outline things that you should definitely not do when you eventually get to handling your leopard gecko.

This is important because once you have earned their trust you can completely lose this in a second if you go about things the wrong way. For that reason let me explain what you need to avoid.

Never Hold Them By Their Tail!

Never ever grab a leopard gecko by its tail even though they have quite fat tails you may be under the illusion that it is quite strong and therefore you can just grab it. This is not the case.

Although it is relatively strong they have a tendency to drop their tails if they feel that they are under attack. So, if you do this you will find that your leopard gecko is likely to have no tail. Although this will grow back, it is not ideal. Because it is never the same whenever it eventually grows back

No Grabbing At All!

You should not attempt to grab them. This will definitely stress them out. What you have to understand is, in the wild, birds will usually try to grab them from above and this will simulate this behaviour and stress out your leopard gecko.

No Squeezing!

Never squeeze them or hold them too tightly. They have quite fragile bodies and it is very easy to hurt them. Especially if you do not know your own strength. In fact the best way to handle them, which I will explain in more detail later, is to have an open hand, rather than trying to grab their body, are you with me?

Be Careful Where you handle New Leos

For a new leopard gecko it is advisable that you hold them over their new cage, just in case they escape from you. Unfortunately this may happen, so to avoid it and to save yourself some time scouring your house looking for it.

It is better to keep them held just above the cage so that they can fall back into the cage if need be.

The Best Way to handle a leopard gecko (In Stages)

Start Building Trust

When you first have a leopard gecko,  your first priority is to get it acclimatised to its new surroundings. More importantly, get it comfortable with you. In the beginning you are a Predator to them, who is trying to attack. So this needs some patience.

At this stage it is advisable not to attempt to pick them up at all. Leave them alone for at least the first week to 10 days, so that they can get used to their surroundings. Let them roam around in their tank and find out where everything is and get used to their surroundings.

Avoid going into their enclosure in the first week. Obviously there are things that you can not avoid, such as giving them fresh water, daily spot cleaning, etc. If you need to do these tasks make sure that you do them as swiftly as possible, to avoid the chance of frightening them.

However if you are feeding them or putting insects out for them. Do this slowly, so they start to associate you with the provider of food. This is quite a powerful trust builder. They will associate you with something positive rather than negative, are you with me?

Another thing that you can consider doing is leaving an article of clothing in the tank which has your natural sent on it. This may sound weird at first, and its not mandatory, but is a suggestion.

Using food to Strengthen the trust

As discussed earlier the more they associate you with the food provider, is the More the the trust will start to build. In time they will start to tolerate you and see you as a great thing and an important part of their day.

Is Hand Feeding a Good Idea for Leo’s?

Some people suggest hand feeding a leopard gecko is a good idea. You may find that this may not be such a good idea. Because there are other ways that you can do this that are more effective and less stressful for your Leo.

They’re also people that suggest that you should use metal items such as tongs to feed them. Again, I will explain why this is not such a good idea.

Metal tongs to feed a leopard gecko can actually injure it. Because there are times when they will attempt to feed from the tong and may bite down on it at a bad angle.

This can injure them. This can then lead to diseases such as mouth rot. Simply because of the open wounds that are generated when it does not bite down correctly.

Another issue with using these metal tongs is that it can actually cause teeth injuries if they bite down incorrectly on them.

The Ideal Solution

Instead of doing this, in my opinion it is better to place feeder worms or a feeder bowl into the actual tank itself. Then simply leave your hand in plain sight. The idea here is not to do any sudden movements with your hand.

Just literally make the leopard gecko feel comfortable with your hand and get used to it. And associate it with food, not food in a literal way as in they will start snacking on your hand, but they will get used to its presence whenever you provide great food for it to eat. Know what I mean?

When your hand is in the tank and you are feeding them, remember your hand is just there, it is not actually feeding them. The feeder bowl with the feeder insects inside is doing this.

So, do not be tempted to grab some insects and try to force the insect into the lizards mouth. This is not the objective here, the objective is to have your hand as a comfortable presence as they feed themselves.

To help make this process even easier, it is advisable to use fast-moving red runner roaches. This will put more emphasis on the food in the bowl rather than your hand being there. Also keep them focused.

Another thing to consider doing is placing the feeder bowl next to their hiding spot to coax them out. Gently, day by day, gradually move the feeder bowl further from the hiding spot, so they get used to being coaxed out of their hiding spot.

Handling tips

Handle them in the best time conditions. They are nocturnal, so the best time to handle them is in the night time. Or you can also consider doing this when it is low light. Wait for them to actually be awake and roaming around comfortably before you attempt to try and handle them.

Leave your hand open with your palm facing up near to the feeder bowl. Just leave your hand there and see if they will naturally walk on to your hand. If this doesn’t happen immediately you can also consider lightly tapping their tail, which may cause them to move forward onto your hand.

When they eventually do get on to your hand, allow them to set the pace and move around naturally. Although this may be an exciting time for you, try not get over excited and attempt to pet or pat them.

They are quite fragile and they will associate this with being an attack, so avoid that are all costs.

Things to consider if you wish to hand with them outside of their tank enclosure

Always make sure that you are with them and never leave them unattended. This is a recipe for disaster if you do not follow this.

Make sure you do not put them in an area where they are likely to fall. Keep them away from loud noises such as stereo hi-fi systems. Even things like you speaking loudly or groups of loud people.

Another thing that is very important, when you are taking them outside of their tank, make sure that there is no other family pets such as cats and dogs in the same room as them. Because they have a tendency to attack, or even eat them. This can happen a lot quicker than you can think!

Why would your leopard gecko turn aggressive?

So in this section I’m going to explain some reasons why you may have a leopard gecko that will suddenly turn aggressive.

New Leo with Bad History

You may get a new Leo, but it may have a history of living with a pet owner who never looked after them very well. Or completely avoided some of the tips I’ve given you in this article. Therefore, it could have started life happy, but then turned aggressive due to mistreatment from a previous owner.

Lack of Mating

Other things such as not having a mate can cause your leopard gecko to get frustrated and aggressive. Like most animals they need a mate and it nature’s way of multiplying.

Feeling Unwell

It could also happen when your leopard gecko is feeling unwell or has a disease. It may not clear to you that it has this is the case, but could be causing it to get frustrated and aggressive without you understanding why.

Related Questions:

Q: How do you keep your leopard gecko happy?

Speaking to your leopard gecko is a simple tactic that you can use to keep him happy. Softly speaking to him and getting him used to your voice will help you build a bond and keep your leopard gecko happy.

When you are speaking to your leopard gecko it is important that you keep eye contact so that it understands that you are the one that is making the sound and it gets used to you. In time it will become happy in your presence.

Let your gecko explore

Simple things like letting your Leo explore beyond the confines of their glass tank is important for their happiness. Letting it crawl up your arm, up your body or even crazy things like letting it crawl onto your hair.

Just allow it to see things that it is not seen before and mixing up his environment a bit rather than being stuck in a cage all the time.

Create an obstacle course for your leopard gecko

Consider making a simple obstacle course. Be creative you can get a bin or some kind of container and put obstacles in there such as use paper towels for them to borrow and roam around.

You can place smaller boxes in there that they can climb over. Anything you can think of that can allow them to explore and have fun.

Q: How can you tell if your Leo is stressed out?

There are obvious things that you can check, such as if they have some form of muscle injury. Check their limbs, etc. Just check to see if there is obvious signs that they are in some kind of pain or duress.

Another clear indication is, if they start to go off their food. If you noticed that the usual amount of food that you leave for them is starting to be left behind, this could be an indication that they have an issue or they’re stressed out and it is preventing them from keeping the usual appetite.


Hi, this is me with my daughter and my Lizard friend. I hope you enjoy my research. Please feel free to check out my "About Me" page to find out more about me.