Shy turtles are short on entertainment value, although you can use several easy strategies to get your pet turtle to come out of his shell. The key to building a friendly relationship with your turtle is regular interactions and patience. Turtles are naturally shy, but they will eventually let some of their guard down when you are present.
Regular observation is important when attempting to make positive associations with your turtle. Determine where the turtle is most comfortable in his cage, when he's most active and what scares him. Sudden movements and noise are common ways of scaring a turtle. Stand near the cage and make slow movements while you watch the turtle. This allows you to make observations as the turtle becomes accustomed to your presence.
Food is the key to developing a routine and relationship with your turtle. Feed at the same time each day to build a routine. Begin by placing food in the cage and watching while the turtle eats. Make slow movements to let the turtle know of your presence without disturbing the feeding. Gradually begin attempting to feed by hand. Hold a piece of lettuce or other vegetable 6 inches from the turtle and wait patiently until he eats from your hand. If the turtle remains in a shy state of mind, try feeding crickets and other live food to really engage and distract him.
Many turtles enjoy physical petting but they will not accept the action without acclimation to humans. Work on the hand-feeding process until the turtle is comfortable with your presence. After the turtle accepts regular feeding, lightly pet his neck and head while he eats. If the turtle retracts, stop and wait until a nice level of comfort is regained. Petting the turtle on a regular basis will establish a positive action and reduce shyness around humans.
Build a Safe Zone
Always provide a safe zone for your turtle to hide, and do not enter the safe zone. Half logs and commercially sold houses for turtles are abundant, and they provide a comfort zone for your shell-bearing pal. Providing the hiding place reduces stress in the turtle. When you feed and interact with the animal, he knows a safe area exists in case of a threat. The hiding place is calming -- not entering the zone demonstrates that you are not a threat.
Turtles are not overly social by nature, and you should limit your interactions. If the turtle is resting or hiding, do not harass the animal. Wait until he voluntarily enters and open space to feed and socialize.
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Zach Lazzari is a Montana based freelance outdoor writer and photographer. You can follow his work at bustedoarlock.com.