I am a huge promoter of including environmental enrichment in the everyday care of your reptile. Whether that be through a natural substrate, real climbing branches, hiding their food, etc. it is a fact that enrichment leads to a healthier animal. Many reptile owners feel that bringing their animal outside is an appropriate form of enrichment, and it’s true! It is perfectly fine to do so provided you are aware of the risks and ready to handle the responsibility. Here are a few tips on how to do it.
Make sure the weather is suitable
We spend a lot of time and money controlling the environment and temperature inside our animal’s enclosures and it is important to remember that when taking an animal outside. The weather outside can be volatile and unsafe for your animal. Things to keep in mind: avoid areas (or seasons) with cool drafts or wind, avoid direct sunlight, humidity level. Some species can tolerate more than others, so know your species! For example, a desert species like a bearded dragon might tolerate being in direct sunlight for longer than a tropical species, like a boa.
Stay in control
You may be used to believing that your reptile is lazy and slow, especially if you have a larger animal. However, when you take them outdoors, you will soon see that’s not the case. The change in conditions cause them to become a lot more exploratory and it’s easy to lose your reptile if you’re not prepared. Finding a harness or some other means of staying in control is essential if you don’t want them to disappear.
Beware of strange animals
To some animals, your reptiles may look like pray waiting to be scooped up. Wild birds are a particular menace, and you should keep your eyes on the sky and be ready to pick up your animal and move them to safety if necessary. Domestic animals can be just as dangerous. Beware of dogs! At best, a dog will approach your animal, investigate it, and stress out your reptile. At worst, they can injure or kill your reptile. If your reptile is assaulted by a dog, dog bite laws may be able to help you pay for their treatments. Even a well-known dog might seem calm, but if they see a small unfamiliar creature, terriers and other hunting dogs might go after it on instinct alone so it’s worth avoiding them.
Help them acclimate
Reptiles will get stressed in unfamiliar situations. If you want them to enjoy being outside, you should keep the time outside short and reduce stimulation as much as possible. Let them explore, but keep the noise level low and avoid over-handling them. You could also provide a hide or shelter outside to allow them to become more comfortable. If they are starting to get a little more active, then allowing them to explore can help them get the most out of the experience. Take them back inside if they don’t seem too stressed.
The truth is that taking your pet reptile, whether it’s a bearded dragon, snake, or gecko, is not be essential. So long as their needs are well cared for, they may not need any time outside their home at all. If you do decide to take them outside for some additional enrichment, however, ensure you’re being as responsible as you can be.
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