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Aggressive Adult BRB; Can It Be Retrained at This Age?

Discussion in 'Rainbow Boas' started by Eclectix, Aug 16, 2012.

  1. Eclectix

    Eclectix Member

    I asked this on another forum but I am dubious as to whether I'll get a reply there, so I thought I'd post it here as well. Since I'm pretty new here a bit of an intro; I'm familiar with ball pythons and have a very mellow one who has only bit me once (and that was my fault; I accidentally surprised him while he was getting ready for a shed). I've kept all sorts of other animals over the years, but never a boa.

    Yesterday I got a new Brazilian rainbow boa; he's full grown, about 5 years old and very beautiful. That's not the problem. The problem is that I tried handling him for the first time tonight and ended up getting bit repeatedly.

    So my question, essentially, is this; can an aggressive BRB be trained to be less nippy at this advanced age?

    I do not believe that the previous owner held mine much at all, except perhaps with a hook to take him out and feed him. When they went to place him into my transport container they grasped him behind the head, which I thought was odd unless one is worried about getting bit, but when I got him home I put him into his new tank by hand and he was really quite mellow so I thought little of it.

    However, as I stated above, I ran into problems when I attempted to handle him to give him a more thorough looking-over for the first time tonight. I was careful not to startle him and let him know I was there, but he bit me anyway on the palm of my left hand, drawing a small amount of blood. Not one to give up so easily, I told him, "Now that's not going to get you anywhere." (Yes, I speak fluent Parseltongue.)

    So I picked him up and placed him on my lap, and he struck again (again on my left hand, as he was coiled and grasping onto my right hand at this point.) This time he drew quite a bit more blood. I didn't want to put him back right after this and teach him that biting = no more hand, so I kept him on my lap- but he kept moving up towards my face. I was not eager to get bit on the face, so I adjusted the position of my left hand to gently pull him back away from my face and twice more he got me on the same hand, each time the bites came as I moved my hand to adjust my handle on him. The fifth time he struck at me I reflexively moved my hand out of the way. I managed to handle him for a good ten minutes or so despite all of this, and then I put him back in his container and cleaned up the blood/scrubbed with alcohol.

    I know that BRBs tend to be nippy at first, but from what I've read they usually get over that if they are handled enough; however, I've only ever read this as it applies to babies.

    Can a 5 year old adult be trained not to bite by simply handling him more often?

    What about wearing gardening gloves for a while so that he can bite to his heart's content? Or, will he simply learn not to bite the glove, and still strike the hand once the gloves come off? Or is he likely too set in his ways to change at this age?

    Also, do BRBs have two rows of teeth? Because one of the bites has two rows of tooth marks, so it's either that, or he bit me twice in the same spot so quickly so that I thought it was just one bite.

    Stats on his enclosure;
    40 gallon breeder
    mixed coconut fiber/cypress mulch bedding
    nicely sized hide seems custom made; he has spent every moment in it since I got him yesterday.
    big water container
    humidity fluctuates between 85%-99%
    temperature from 76F to 81F

    Thanks in advance.
  2. CentriRitanni

    CentriRitanni Elite Member

    There are very few animals in which age is a predictor of trainability. Humans are the only ones that really cannot be modified in behavior, due primarily to cognitive laziness. The saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," is not about dogs, it's about people. I've trained plenty of old dogs.

    That said, is it more difficult? Yep. Because they have set habits. I'm not overly familiar with brbs, but a snake hook would probably be a good start.
  3. mshrmheadcharge

    mshrmheadcharge Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

    The problem is that you need to leave him be to settle in. No handling for at least a week or you will never make any progress.
  4. Rainbowsrus

    Rainbowsrus Well-Known Member

    Well, I've had a lot of adult BRB's over the last 20 years. All have been tameable including a Wild caught adult female tht is now just as handleable as the rest. Key to training is to be consistent and use a leather glove.

    Most bites occur while getting them out of the enclosure or when they do not feel safe. I use a hook but backwards to touch them on/near the head and announce my presence. Then while out make sure to provide adequate support without grabbing them. You want to "be the tree" tree's do not grab/hold, they only support. Only predators grab and hold on.
  5. Snakesitter

    Snakesitter Member

    Eclectix, it's been about three months. How is the taming process going? I agree the animal should be trainable, given enough time and positive exposure. Another tactic you could try is leaving a used garment (shirt, etc.) in his cage to get him used to your scent.

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