Research into the ethological needs and cognitive abilities of companion animals like dogs has increased exponentially in recent years, leading to a greater understanding of what they need to have good welfare and how we can meet those needs. There is still a great lack of knowledge and understanding of the needs of the reptiles we keep in our homes and zoos, however; they are too often dismissed as more like objects than animals. I’m trying to change that viewpoint. I’ve been working with reptiles and creating resources for their caregivers, focusing on the concepts of choice and control.
In this article, I’ll talk about how we can improve the lives of reptiles by thinking about what matters to them: giving them opportunity and motivation to perform natural behaviors, helping them feel safe around human caregivers, and reducing their stress by training them to cooperate in their own care.
The one thing I’d like to be able to communicate to every reptile owner and keeper is that reptiles can learn; they have preferences, make decisions, and can be trained! Even if that isn’t enough to inspire all of us to start a training program, maybe there is some small change you can make as a pet guardian to give the animal under your care a little more choice and control in their life.