The myth that turtles cannot do tricks is false. Turtles are intelligent and can follow simple instructions. They might not be as social as cats and dogs, but you can still train them.
Can you train a turtle? Yes, you can. Many pet turtles can learn how to perform tricks. You just need to be patient and consistent. Turtles require weeks or even months to master tricks. Reception to training depends on the turtle’s personality, age and teaching method.
Also, how you relate with your turtle determines how easy it will be to train the turtle. This article will discuss whether you can teach a turtle and how to train a turtle, among other related topics.
Can You Train A Turtle?
Yes, you can train a turtle. Despite what people think, turtles and tortoises can master specific skills. Some turtles respond to instructions very well and can even learn more complex tricks but others seem uninterested. A lot of factors determine how easily a turtle can learn.
These factors include; the age of the turtle, its breed, level of human interaction, and methods you use to train. According to research, turtles and tortoises can master skills and remember them even after more than ten years.
How Do You Train A Turtle?
Turtles rarely show affection towards their owners. So as a turtle owner, you would think that there is no need to interact with your turtle. So you will just spend time with it during feeding time and leave afterward.
However, turtles do show affection to their owners. They just do it differently from dogs and cats. Observative turtle parents can learn their turtles’ habits and utilize that to train them.
Here are some ways you can train a turtle:
Food is the most excellent motivator for any animal. You can use your turtle’s favorite treats to train it to perform tricks. This is also called positive reinforcement. For example, you could teach the turtle to come to you whenever you say its name.
At first, the turtle will respond to the food rather than you calling its name. But, over time, it will learn to get a reward whenever it hears you call out a specific term.
A turtle that has been captive for some time will respond to its owner’s affection. It is not typical turtle behavior, but research shows that some turtles enjoy being held or getting their shells rubbed. So every time you approach the tank, it will gladly come up to you.
What Tricks Can You Teach A Turtle?
As we previously stated, the age and species of the turtle determine how receptive it is to learning tricks. Therefore, it is impossible to tell what tricks your turtle can do beforehand.
So it is essential to learn about your turtle to know what its behavioral tendencies are. Here are some of the tricks a turtle can learn:
Responding to calls
Turtles can learn their names. It takes time to establish this type of bond, but if you are patient and consistent, the turtle will be able to recognize its name after a couple of months.
Also, use treats every time you call the turtle’s name and reward it if it responds. If your turtle likes being held or having its shell rubbed, do that while still calling its name. This trick is the foundation of all other tricks. So if your turtle masters its name, other tricks will be easier to learn.
Turtles do well in performing simple tricks, especially if there is a reward to be won. Navigating a maze remains the most impeccable trick a turtle can learn. Start with a simple maze that the turtle can complete quickly and then reward it if it navigates the maze.
Ensure the maze has plenty of space to walk through. After time you can add more obstacles and turns and teach the turtle to navigate through them. After several months, your turtle will excel in navigating even a much more complex maze. You can try this with puzzles too.
A turtle usually cannot climb up to very high heights, but it can learn with the right motivation. Just hold up a treat over the surface you want the turtle to climb on and call the turtle towards the treat.
It is also possible to teach the turtle to climb on command. It is not as effective as treats, but it can still work. Commands work when the turtle knows its name and has strong bonds with you.
Also read: How Can You Tell If A Turtle Is Dead?
Surprisingly, turtles understand the concept of being in and being out. This trick is much more complex than the others, but they grasp it so fast with training. If your turtle goes outdoors, you can train it to knock when it wants to come back inside.
Here’s how you do it;
- Every time your turtle’s outside, let it see you knock once or twice on the door before opening the door for it.
- Do this repeatedly so that the turtle gets used to it.
- When the turtle learns the trick, open the door as quickly as possible. This is to ensure that the turtle’s efforts are not in vain.
- Depending on preference, you can also reward the turtle with a treat or a shell rub.
Hand feeding your turtle
Turtles typically eat from bowls, but you can teach them to eat from your hands. Turtles may bite your finger if you are not careful. During the first few days of practice, try not to move your hands too much so that the turtle doesn’t confuse them for food.
If you give the turtle enough time, it will happily eat from your hand without biting you.
What Are The Disadvantages of Training A Turtle?
Although training your turtle is an exciting thing to do, it may come with some drawbacks, such as:
It takes a lot of time to train a turtle. If you are not patient enough, the turtle might be unable to master the trick. The turtle requires several weeks for it to learn, so do not try to force the turtle to learn a trick in a day. Some turtles even take up to a year.
Training can be very exhausting for turtles. Usually, turtles do very little, so training can make them use up most of their calories. So ensure you train only for a limited time a day. It is best to be slow and steady if you have an aggressive turtle. If it seems not up to training, skip a day and try the next day again.
The training process can also be tiresome for you because, unlike other pets, turtles do not convey their emotions. So you will be unable to decipher positive feedback from negative one.
If your turtle is food motivated, it may end up malnutrition because of eating too many treats. For example, if you spend the whole day training the turtle, you might feed it more treats rather than the required diet.
Malnutrition can lead to obesity and diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Do not expect the turtle to stop eating on its own because it will not. Turtles eat whatever you offer them.
Also, turtles are very smart. They will refuse to eat their regular diet because they look forward to your sweet-tasting treats. This only contributes more to their malnutrition.
Here are other frequently asked questions.
Yes, turtles are smart enough to learn simple cognitive tasks. Some turtles even perform complex tasks such as navigating complicated mazes and knocking on doors.
Yes, you can train a turtle not to bite you. Snapping turtles are most challenging to train because they are aggressive by nature. However, box turtles are calm, and you can train them.
Most times, turtles bite when feeling threatened or scared. So if you own a new turtle, just give it time to get used to its new surroundings. Then work on building a bond with the turtle.
Related: Can You Overfeed a Turtle?
So, can you train a turtle? Yes, you can. Turtles are smart despite what many people think. As we have seen, a turtle can know its name, navigate a maze and even learn how to knock on doors. Start by establishing a bond with the turtle, and everything else will fall into place.
Teaching turtle tricks has disadvantages, but it is still an exciting process. We hope this article answers all your questions about training turtles.