Once you’ve brought your gecko home, it’s tempting to start playing with him or her right away. But wait 2 weeks after buying before beginning handling — your gecko needs time to settle into their new home, and handling on top of that can cause additional stress. If your leopard gecko hasn’t eaten by the time the 2 weeks are over, do not handle and make an appointment with a certified reptile vet.
After the 2 week waiting period is over, introduce yourself to your gecko by putting your hand in its enclosure every night for a few minutes so it can get used to your scent and presence. They should already be relatively familiar with you, since you’ve been in their space replacing water, offering food, cleaning up, etc. Avoid applying lotion or other fragranced products before introducing yourself.
When you begin handling, start with 5 minute sessions every other day, gradually increasing the length of the sessions and escalating to daily. Support the feet, body, and tail. Never grab the tail, as it is detachable. Consistency is key to successful taming.
Stay close to the ground in case the gecko jumps. You want handling to be a positive experience, and injury is not a positive experience. You can also talk to your gecko and offer it treats. It doesn’t matter whether you handle during the day or night, although the gecko might be less skittish during the day.
Leopard geckos use a range of vocalizations to communicate, as well as some body language.
Clicking — Used to communicate with other geckos.
Chirping/Squeaking — Means that the gecko is unhappy with their current situation. That situation is usually handling.
Barking — Leos often bark at their keepers when they are hungry, which is pretty amusing.
Screaming —Juveniles are more likely to scream than adult. This is a defensive behavior intended to startle away a predator. It’s fairly effective.
Rapid tail flicks —Rapid tail flicks signal excitement, usually while hunting or interested in mating.
Slow tail swishing — Usually accompanied by an arched back and walking/standing on tiptoe. This is a pretty clear “Leave me alone!”