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Handling a Tarantula (aka chat room grenade!)

Discussion in 'Tarantula Chat' started by TeddyBearTarantula, Jun 11, 2018.

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    I have a question regarding the handling of docile tarantulas.

    I do not handle my tarantulas, being a newbie and not wanting to risk an injury to the T or a bite to myself, it’s just something I’ve never attempted.

    I did once ask the question in here if handling does in fact help to tame the T in the sense that the T becomes used to it, becomes more accepting of being handled etc, needless to say I was met with a resounding ‘No, tarantulas do not get used to handling.’

    Last night I was reading ‘The Tarantula Keepers Guide’ by Shultze, Stanley A & Marguerite J, and I came across the following paragraph.

    ‘Handling of the many, more mellow species of tarantulas is not only possible, but to some extent is to be encouraged. Perhaps the most important reason for this is that frequent handling will keep a pet tarantula quite docile for those times when it must be handled. In such circumstances both the handler and the handled will know what to expect and how to act, and the undertaking will proceed much more smoothly. One of the most stated reasons for keeping a tarantula is to be able to show it to guests and friends. If the keeper is accustomed to handling a pet and the pet is accustomed to being handled, a performance will be carried off much more smoothly in front of the uninitiated.

    The better we are at convincing our audiences that we know what we are doing, and that the tarantulas are nowhere near as dangerous as they’ve been advertised to be, the better the chances of acceptance and appreciation of tarantulas and other ‘crawlies’ by that audience in the future. Stripped of its euphemisms, it’s propaganda pure and simple. Tarantulas need all the public relations help they can get.’
    ‘If they are handled or manipulated regularly, perhaps once a week thereafter, they tame down quite nicely. (pg 185/186)

    Now I’m confused. I have always believed this book to be pretty much the authority/bible on Tarantula Care.

    The book is referring to docile species only, with several caveats as in not to handle something that clearly isn’t docile even if described as, don’t handle premolt T’s, obviously never handle an old world, and take extra care when handling the giants such as Theraphosa and Lasiodora.

    Does anybody have any thoughts on this? Please no hate. It’s not my opinion I’m quoting a book perceived to be a valued and respected source in the hobby.
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  2. starnaito

    starnaito Arachnosquire

    While I don't purposely handle my tarantulas and prefer to leave them be, I have one in particular (Euathlus sp. red/fire) that likes to come out during cage maintenance and take a little calm stroll on my hand. I think if you are going to handle tarantulas, you should do it on their terms and you should do so calmly and gently. They are not going to perceive you as anything more than a surface to walk on if you do it right, and you will avoid causing them any stress. If you can't remain calm or have any hesitation about having a tarantula on you, I suggest you leave them be as an observation only pet.
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  3. Yes I agree completely. I have a few like that, but I only collect New Worlds and some of them are rather fond of walking over me whilst I do cage maintenance, that said I’m always sat on the floor when I do it anyway.
  4. boina

    boina Lady of the mites Arachnosupporter

    Uh - no. That's the problem right there. The tarantula keeping guide was written years ago and things and knowledge evolve. A lot of things in the TKG are very, very wrong (don't get me started about the mite section...) and this is one of them. PLEASE don't take the TKG as a kind of bible! The authors are very human beings and every human makes mistakes.
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  5. Yeah I totally get that, it is the 2009 revised edition and it did say that no other topic divides hobbyists like this one. If it worked then though and the T’s did appear to tame on regular handling as surely they printed this based on empirical evidence, there’s no reason that this wouldn’t still be the case, obviously what has come more apparent and a focus point is the risks associated with handling. I think promoting handling isn’t a good idea as such because already there are hobbyists who feel the need to handle every species regardless of its venom potency and attitude and that is just a disaster waiting to happen for spider and keeper.
  6. nicodimus22

    nicodimus22 Arachnomancer Arachnosupporter

    See, that's the problem right there. There is never a time that they MUST be handled. Even during rehouses, you can simply use a catch cup to transfer them.
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  7. boina

    boina Lady of the mites Arachnosupporter

    But did it work? What are the criteria? How did they measure it? "I feel it became tame" is not an argument. This is actually the point that, as a scientist, made me turn away from studying animal behaviour because too many people just state something without the slightest bit of evidence to back it up, because "I just know my reptile loves me" or "I just know I tamed my tarantula". How the hell DID they know they tamed them? I don't see any evidence backing that up anywhere in the book and I absolutely refuse to believe something just because someone says so.

    Yes, or course tarantulas can be habituated to certain stimuli and if you handle always the same way the tarantula will finally become used to those stimuli - just don't change your approach, meaning never do anything differently, no different soap to wash your hands, don't approach the tarantula from a differnt point, etc., etc.... Habituation in invertebrates is actually very well studied.
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  8. Yeah I get that completely. I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. You cant allow for variable change, other things going on in the property, sudden noises, movements etc. I don’t want a bite nor do I want to stress my T’s. I always hope on some level maybe they come to trust my intrusion to a degree and don’t want to jeopardise them in any way.
    They look so sturdy but are just like little feathers really.

    Yeah I never Had to handle a T. There’s always been a means to do what I need safely and without contact. I’ve never felt compelled to showcase my T’s outside of their enclosure either in order to convince others of their nature. I got into T’s without having ever handled one and so have many others.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 11, 2018
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  9. Scarabyte

    Scarabyte Arachnosquire

    I have no issue with those who choose to handle as long as it's done safely and the T isn't at risk, keeping the T safe is my top priority. I do not handle myself though, would rather let my T's be. :p
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  10. Venom1080

    Venom1080 Arachnoemperor Active Member

    The authors have done alot for the hobby, but I do believe that is incorrect. Or at least, not proven anywhere.
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  11. Campi95

    Campi95 Arachnosquire

    I also read that book and to be honest, I’m not sure about how much of a habituation a tarantula is capable of.

    If you were to ask me, I’d say 80% of the habituation is for the owner and 20% for the spider. I can’t discount how much a spider can learn and adapt to, but here’s my personal experience:

    When I first started handling my curly hair, I was sorta terrified. I wanted not to be but I guess some human instincts never go away. I noticed that she would walk a lot in my hand, up my arm, etc. As the months went by, I got much more used to it and then also noticed that my curly hair was getting calmer. It got to the point where she would just sit in my palm with her legs spread comfortably, and not move for well over 20 minutes. She seemed indifferent, and an indifferent T is a happy T.

    So obviously I started to think “I tamed her, she now knows handling is okay”. Then my GF wanted to handle her as well, and I noticed that she would crawl up her arm and around her hand. That’s when I realized that they don’t really learn to be comfortable. I think that as I handled her I became more confident and my muscles stopped being all shakey and trembly, which in turn made the T calmer and more docile.

    I think that handling is a hot topic, and one that is better discouraged for newcomers into the hobby at least while they gain more experience. But if you do want to handle, handling constantly in a safe way will make you better at it, which in turn will make your T more comfortable and thus safer for both parties involved.
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  12. cold blood

    cold blood Moderator Staff Member

    If we want to convince our audience we know what we are dong, handling them like small mammals is not the way to go about it.
    I see handling as propaganda and I see handling as doing a dis-service to those public relations as it basically teaches what not to do.

    Yeah...just face palm that statement.

    The book is old and geared toward a time even earlier than when it was written...lots of good stuff, lots of not good stuff as well though. And not a bible of tarantula keeping.

    There are no such times, period.
    And how does handling accomplish this better?

    When you see fish in an aquarium, do you need to hold them to get a look or to show them off? When you go to the zoo, do you need to touch the lions, bears and rhinos to get a good look or for the zoo to effectively show them? Certainly not, why would the same thing that applies to all other animals, not apply to tarantulas? Handling or seeing someone handle a t or anything, isn't giving a better view, just a skewed one. Not handling nowadays versus handling 20 years ago is an indicator of the evolution of the hobby...an evolution based on....education. The more educated you are on ts, the less likely you will probably be to want to handle them.
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  13. Nightshady

    Nightshady Dislike Harvester

    Handling even under perfect conditions still poses some amount of risk to the T. Not something I’m willing to do. Not to mention that even though I only have NW’s, I wouldn’t even remotely call any of them docile. Disaster waiting to happen... no thanks.
  14. Venom1080

    Venom1080 Arachnoemperor Active Member

    What do you think of handling to show a arachnophobe spiders aren't out to kill them?
  15. cold blood

    cold blood Moderator Staff Member

    I think it gives a false impression.

    I was one of those people, I over came my phobia through observation, so I know from experience that is enough and a better way. Making an arachnophobe squeamish by showing them a t out of a cage isn't the direction one should take to lesson their irrational fears. JMO

    To me its like taking someone who is afraid of cars, to a drag race...seated in the drag car.
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  16. Nightshady

    Nightshady Dislike Harvester

    Hey friend, I know your deathly afraid of spiders, but here... hold my OBT!
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  17. Tim Benzedrine

    Tim Benzedrine Prankster Possum Old Timer

    There have been only a couple times I've handled. Both cases were during escapes where the spiders were in a place that I did not want to take my eyes off of them to retrieve a catch cup and considered coaxing them on my hand a calculated risk for both myself and the spiders. Let's face it, they may not always move fast, but they can when they want to, and given the choice of risking picking one up and having it scuttle to someplace inaccessible, I'd prefer the risk.
    This of course only applies to my more docile spiders. No way would I make the attempt with my LP, for example. Though she was one of the two I mentioned above, she was a lot smaller at at arou, maybe 3 inches at the time.

    Handling recreationally? Never. My most tractable tarantula, the G. pulchripes, has been known to be cranky on occasion, so I don't risk deciding to play with in case it would be one of those occasions.
  18. MrsHaas

    MrsHaas Arachnodemon

    @viper69 i think i may have for a worthy adversary when in terms of stirring the pot ... @TeddyBearTarantula how big is YOUR spoon, cuz I basically have a paddle lol!
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
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  19. StampFan

    StampFan Arachnobaron Active Member

    It is an interesting question, especially considering I talked to Stan Schultz here a couple of weeks ago at our local expo while he was allowing folks to briefly hold a tarantula. People were lined up 5 or 6 deep to see what he was doing with a rather bald-abdomen-looking B vagans.

    I get the public outreach and education piece of it, as many people have fear, are intrigued, etc.

    The flip side is I have an acquaintance that constantly talks about coming over to "hold one of your tarantulas"..."I've done it before"...."why can't I" and this annoys the piss outta me. This individual just does not understand that these are not furry puppies.

    So a lot of people then get the impression that these are easy to handle hamster-like creatures and don't get the fact that NW hairs could blind them if they make a mistake, or their fangs can cause physical damage...

    This is a side note to the original question, and certainly the habituation discussion is much more interesting.
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  20. Venom1080

    Venom1080 Arachnoemperor Active Member

    Well put :)