Intelligence, Taming, Training &
I don't think there is any doubt among long term Iguana keepers that this particular species of reptile has an incredible intelligence compared to similar reptiles, my own Iguana learned at an early age to take himself back into his habitat from outside the house, which involved going through three doors (they had to be open of
course) up a flight of stairs, across a landing area, up a further flight of stairs and through a fourth door, then across that room and up a trellis into his habitat, and if any doors were closed then he would scratch at them until we opened them.
He has also learned how to get his claws behind a sliding habitat door to open
Also, he has also learned to use one corner as a potty area, which he does daily, undoubtedly they can also
recognise faces and voices of people they either like or dislike, and if you have ever observed their faces particularly the eyes, when trying to fathom out the way up to a shelf or top of the curtains then you will obviously agree on the intelligence.
but can they be tamed, trained,
It is generally accepted that if you are to have success in taming an Iguana, then it does help the earlier you start, earlier in both the Iguanas life and also your relationship with it, therefore if you have stuck the Iguana away in a tank for years and hardly interacted with it, then you really have no complaint later on when you try to lift it out and are on the receiving end of tail whips, scratches and bites!
If however you have
rescued / re-homed an Iguana, or taken one in from someone else and do not know how it has been treated, then this can make things a little harder, but not impossible.
Iguanas do like to try to dominate, this can be other Iguanas, other pets, or humans including yourself, and is the main reason why
it is usually advisable for them to be kept on their own.
Sometimes females will get along ok together, occasionally a male and female would be ok, but not advisable due to breeding season, but males will usually fight.
The trick is to try and ensure the dominance does not work, once they establish that, then you have a problem. If you have a particularly badly behaved Iguana and you are afraid of what it could do with its teeth and claws (which is very understandable) then get prepared. Before trying to interact make sure your arms are covered and ensure you are wearing thick gloves, I like the chrome leather gardening type of gloves myself, that I still put on as a precaution when handling during
The Iguana's intelligence and memory are assets when it comes to training, I'll give you an example, using my own experience with potty training my Iguana.
Most of you will
recognise the scenario where the Iguana comes out of its habitat has a walk around and leaves a deposit somewhere where you certainly didn't want it! maybe a cushion, sofa, carpet, etc, then no matter how much you clean or disinfect the area, the next time out he does the exact same thing in the exact same place. This is because Iguanas are creatures of habit, they get into a routine and most definitely do not like change and this is why they tend to sulk for days when moved into a new home or habitat.
What I did, was to make sure that the carpeted corner of the room where Spike had chosen as his toilet was always covered in newspaper or had newspaper down before his walkabout, this has now worked for years....he comes out, goes to that corner, poops on the newspaper which I roll up and bin and he never goes anywhere else, of course if he had chosen a cushion or sofa then this would be a little more difficult, but I believe putting the poop on a newspaper in your chosen area would train him to go there the next time.
Training against aggression has to be achieved by letting him know he is not the boss but you are, if you think this might be dangerous in the early stages (and only you can judge that) then as said before, make sure you are prepared...arms covered....gloves on...leave nothing to chance. Once they know you are going to touch them or pick them up whether they like it or
not, and whether they try to bite or not, then they do get to accept it, plus the taste of a leather gardening glove is revolting.
If they are on the floor and doing the back arched up, crab walk, stink eye, full on dominance thing....just go over to them put your hand (gloved) on their head and press it down lower, this shows them that you are the alpha dominant male and not them, and due to their intelligence and memory they will eventually learn that this action of theirs does not send you running
Iguanas are not really what I would call a social pet, they are not something to pick up and cuddle and kiss, not something to take with you down the shops, but they can be
socialised to some extent. As you can read in 'Intelligence' above and also on the page titled 'Spike's story'...my own Iguana will sit outside on a sunny day with us, he will be basking while we are reading or gardening, then when he is ready, he will go by himself up to the house, through the door, up the stairs and into his habitat.
Spike also enjoys sitting on a windowsill looking out at the world going by, watching cars birds or other people, following them with his eyes with distinct interest and I have also heard the same of many other Iguanas, some people also have a TV or fish tank in their Iguanas field of view, to give them something to stimulate the brain, hence also relieving boredom, some say a radio works in the same way but by giving the Iguana sounds for a stimulus.
Great care should be taken when trying to train an Iguana, even adults with many years experience can find this a difficult task in some cases, also be aware an Iguana can inflict a painful wound with either its teeth, claws or tail and an adult Iguana in breeding season can be even worse.
Only you can judge your particular Iguanas mood and probable response and I strongly recommend wearing protective clothing.
One final point, no matter how tame or nice your particular Iguana seems, they will always have wild animal in them and can therefore produce an unexpected reaction, always be on your guard just in case, and needless to say keep them well away from your facial area and anyone else's too!