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Can a tarantula get used to being handled?

Discussion in 'Tarantula Chat' started by UralOwl, May 15, 2012.

  1. UralOwl

    UralOwl Arachnosquire

    It's a subject that seems to divide a lot of people: Some strongly advise AGAINST handling tarantulas, whereas others ENCOURAGE frequent handling

    By handling a tarantula, you're putting both yourself and the spider at risk. Most accidental T deaths are a result of people dropping them while handling. And the tarantula doesn't get anything out of the handling, it would probably much rather be left alone then be forced to crawl over your hands and arms. Some also argue that it puts Ts under unnecessary stress.

    However, on the other hand, I am pretty sure I remember reading a section in 'The Tarantula Keeper's Guide' on how to and how not to handle a T, and encouraging frequent handling/manipulating so the T can become accustomed to it. Some people claim that Ts do get used to handling if done often enough. And there are definitely times when we need to 'handle' our tarantulas, even if it isn't direct contact with them. Moving a sling or juvenile into a larger enclosure as they get bigger is just one example.

    Personally I don't handle any of my spiders, mainly because I just don't see the point. Plus, I really don't think a tarantula can get used to being handled. They aren't mammals that exhibit learning behaviour, nor do they have complex emotions.

    I'm just wondering what other people's opinions are on this matter.
    Can a tarantula really get used to be being handled or are they unable to adapt to unnatural situations and simply go by primitive instinct?
  2. bchbum11

    bchbum11 Arachnosquire

    Lol, will check in on this thread in 2 weeks when it is 15 pages long and full of flames. As for the original question... I don't really handle, but it seems reasonable that some Ts could get used to it on some level. I have several that appear to know food is coming when their cages are moved, which indicates at least a partial capability of conditioned behavior. Part of the appeal of this hobby is that nobody honestly has a clue as to what the correct answer to your question is. Ts are so understudied and foreign to most animals people keep that any answer given is likely to be more based in opinion than actual fact.
    Last edited: May 15, 2012
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  3. Chris_Skeleton

    Chris_Skeleton Arachnoprince

    Apparently you already know...

    This topic's been covered plenty of times, no reason for another thread. It appears you've read the other threads to come to the conclusion in that second quote, so what is the point of this one?
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  4. jbm150

    jbm150 Arachnoprince

    I've never experienced anything like this. I even have feeding ports on my enclosures where food consistently comes in. When there is a T that happens to be near it, I myself have become conditioned to feed it because it's pretty cool to have the Ts take the cricket/worm from my fingers. But I've yet to observe them hanging around the ports any more often than randomly to show some conditioned behavior. Granted, I don't share the same time scale as a tarantula; their metabolisms work on a whole other level. But I would still think that there should be some observation of an inordinate amount of time spent near the ports if this were true with them.

    My guess would be the shaking of the enclosure is just their coming to investigate, try to ascertain where and what threat may be comin' a knockin'.

    Just my opinion on it
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  5. natebugman

    natebugman Arachnoknight Old Timer

    I don't know, Chris...what's the point of having continuing discussions on these boards? There are a few people on here that seem to think that a repeated question or a similar post is a waste of time and space. If that's the case, why not do away with everything else and just have a search box? People come here for discussions, to hear other people's opinions, and if they are having problems or new to the hobby, to have their questions answered. I don't know how many threads I've read where someone asks an honest question only to be reprimanded by "the search police" and told that has already been answered try using the "Search" function. Usually it's something that could be easily answered or maybe the search police could even point them in the appropriate direction with a link. I don't know, maybe I'm the only one that comes here looking for new discussions and not browsing and searching the archives. Besides, who's to say that the next discussion of that same old topic might not have someone in it that has a new thought, a new idea, or a new point of view on things?

    Ok, climbing down from my lofty soap box! LOL

    As for the original topic, I don't handle my tarantulas often. Some seem to occasionally seek it out, accidentally or otherwise, I can't say. I believe that they do have the capacity to become accustomed to being held. I have seen a marked difference in behavior between a spider that has never been picked up and one that has been picked up frequently. The first seeming to be on edge, ready to bolt, the other seeming to accept what is happening, not to "enjoy" it, but more like "oh, this again". As for the stress that this puts on the spider, if you pick up the same spider multiple times, and it acts freaked out every time, then I'm going to say that particular spider shouldn't be a hand pet. It's going to be stressed, you're going to be stressed, and one of you are more likely to do something stupid to get the spider injured and/or you bit. On the other hand, if you handle a spider, pick it up, hold it, and it seems to relax, maybe even start to explore your hands/arms, etc, then I don't think that occasionally picking it up is going to cause a significant amount of stress. As I posted on another thread, I think that people are worrying about stress way too much. LOL. Of course, any handling should be done with the spiders safety in mind, near the floor, over something soft, no sudden movements, etc, etc.
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  6. maxxxieee

    maxxxieee Arachnopeon

    I do "play" with my LD who is told not really one to be handled. It loves back rubs... we hold "paws".. except it does not let me touch whatsoever his back legs. I can respect that. I have only had to "handle" it while getting it into it's new enclosure and all went very calmly and he was like Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz when he stepped off my hand! He looked around and loved it doing that spidey slow Hollywood walk cruse about! It was very cool... He's young, about 6" now as he's filling out into his Lassie shape. Fuzzy and all... a wonderful bud!
  7. Low

    Low Arachnoknight

    +1 on this...

    However, I do, not necessarily frequently, but I do handle my spiders....for me its all personal preferance, if your comfortable and confident go for it, if not, dont.

    Its the same with all my animals, in addition to this hobby im also huge into marine aquariums, I currently own and operate a design/installation/maintance business and have a personal system thats about 3000 gal. TWV. And I hand feed the majority of my marine life, lionfish, stonefish, soapfish, nems...etc...for me the bottom line is, their your pets...not anyone elses...if u want to do it than do it....but u need to be prepared to live with the consequences.

    And the comment about handling them stress them....what DOESNT stress our exotics etc...?
    We keep them in plastic boxes, everytime u move said box it stresses them, everytime u turn off or on the light it stresses them....they are not in the wild in a burrow...they are in captivity...im sure everytime I stick my arm in my or my customers tanks it stresses the fish...u have to take any hobby with a grain of salt

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I897 using Tapatalk
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  8. natebugman

    natebugman Arachnoknight Old Timer

    Regarding stress...you have to consider the stress we take away from our pets as well as what we add...Sure we add stress when we move them, but we remove the stress of long periods without food, drought, predation, etc.
  9. Low

    Low Arachnoknight

    Thats true....food for thought tho, spiders are, physiologicaly speaking, completely diff. From most inverts....the stress from impending predation is obvious but, take grammostola for instance, they can go for extreme amounts of time with no food, so I dont necesarily consider that stressfull, in captivity some fast almost willingly for extended periods of time.
    Its as if they are designed specifically for these situations...kind of like a failsafe...

    Very good point tho.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I897 using Tapatalk
  10. UralOwl

    UralOwl Arachnosquire

    I'm a bit too new to these forums to know whether or not similar threads to this one have been posted before, though I do apologise if there have been any recent threads posted that I may have missed. If you're wondering where I got my information from, there are other sites and forums dedicated to tarantulas on the internet, plus there's books too.

    Also, I'm pretty sure opinions on this subject can be a bit more varied than just 'don't handle Ts' or 'handle them as much as you like', and I don't see the harm in surveying people's views on this matter. If I wanted to see a poll for the general public's favourite music genre, but the most recent poll I could find was from the late 90s, am I to expect that poll would be accurate to people's taste in music nowadays? Opinions change and vary all the time.
    I didn't mean to upset anyone by posting this thread, but flame wars are pretty much inevitable in a subject like this.

    I've got a zebra jumping spider that definitely seems to have become accustomed to me handling it - at first it would refuse to crawl onto my hands when I cupped them around the spider and would try to find a gap underneath them in order to avoid them. But it eventually accepted walking on my skin, though often jumped off onto the bed again soon after. Since then it seems to have become much more calm when handling and almost never jumps any more, I've even seen it grooming while on my fingers before.
    I haven't really interacted with my tarantula enough yet though to say whether or not she's gotten used to human contact, so I think I can safely say I'm a bit to ignorant in the 'tarantula handling' matter to have noticed any of the things you have, lol. From watching YouTube videos however, there definitely seems to be some Ts that tolerant being handled more than others, regardless of species.
  11. jbm150

    jbm150 Arachnoprince

    This is definitely true but that goes directly towards the individuality of Ts. Some OBTs are not very defensive at all, some H. macs sit out all day, some LPs are slow growing. I'm not entirely sure if they do or don't get accustomed to handling, it might just have to do with the mood it's in when you attempt. If you handle, enjoy it and be careful (for both you and the T). If not, just enjoy looking at them :)
  12. Jared781

    Jared781 Arachnobaron

    MY Opinion::

    I think handling is deffinitely part of the hobby! The process of adaptation is very effective for animals and humans, basically all living organisms now I would think adapting to handling is such a minor action and i believe to some extent it may be true...
    Last edited: May 15, 2012
  13. LemonVenom

    LemonVenom Arachnopeon

    I would encourage handling, but always remember the risk your taking, and also before you handle your T look at its behavior in the cage and that can give you a good idea of what it may do.
  14. jhalla16

    jhalla16 Arachnosquire

    I've found that my older tarantulas are less panicky and unpredictable than the spiderlings/juveniles. My personal opinion is that, as the spiders are younger, they might know that they're small and practically defenseless, aside from their pinpricks for fangs. I've wondered if some of my skittish spiderlings/juveniles will become more relaxed as they get older and perhaps gain a bit more confidence in their abilities to defend themselves. As far as the spiders' ability to learn and differentiate my hand from a possible predatory attack, I really don't think there's a way to know for sure. The only thing I can say for sure is that my smaller spiders are very skittish and alert to any movement or vibration. Like I said before, I think it's just because they know that they're vulnerable and are easily damaged. Although I know it's kind of the same for adult T's, I think they are more comfortable when the giant hand trying to pick them up and manipulate them is closer to their size than them being a quarter to half-dollar size spider. Just my opinion, though. My juveniles are getting bigger, so I'll be able to come to a possible conclusion as they grow, but for now, I can only guess.

    ---------- Post added 05-15-2012 at 08:04 PM ----------

    Oh yeah, and I forgot to say that it really honestly depends on the spider in most circumstances. I think that there are some that just don't like being handled, period. And there are others that are catatonic and don't even seem to care if you pick them up by pinch grabbing.
  15. Bill S

    Bill S Arachnoprince Old Timer

    I don't handle my tarantulas except as necessary to deal with escapes, recaging, etc. As you mention - no real point to it. The tarantula does not benefit from the handling. As for learning behavior, though, it's been shown that even very simple animals like planaria can learn and remember. They can't learn anything complex, but they do have some ability for basic learning. I suspect that some tarantulas do get used to handling - but not to the level of enjoying or appreciating it.
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  16. Handle your spiders if you want to. When I first got my old rosie, I would handle it quite frequently, but I actually noticed that it got MORE skittish as time went on. So I'd say no, tarantula do not have the memory or capacity to develop traits such as that, in my opinion.

    PS I'm all for handling them if you so choose. holla
  17. Bill S

    Bill S Arachnoprince Old Timer

    Maybe there was something about your technique in handling her that made her uncomfortable, and that skittishness was evidence that she was learning that she didn't want you handling her?
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  18. SamuraiSid

    SamuraiSid Arachnodemon

    Love your point, Bill!!!

    We always hear from people, "I did this and it worked" and from others, "I did it, and my T died!!". but nobody ever bothers to post details anymore so are they really doing the same thing??? Probably not. This is not a stab at you sbullet, just making a point;)

    I will never encourage T handling. I have handled in the past, and may from time to time still.

    To answer the OP's question: Yes. a T can get used to be handled, but not by the standard deffinition of the words. This is based on purely anecdotal evidence from a few enthusiasts, and this doesnt mean that every species, every individual T can be comfortable while being handled.
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
  19. Well good as long as you're not taking a stab at me we're ok here. Jk, but no, I personally believe there was nothing wrong with the way we interacted, overall her habits changed. Eating, activity, etc. Not getting into it as it doesn't matter and she is no longer with me.
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  20. Merfolk

    Merfolk Arachnoprince Old Timer

    Had a cuddly and adorable cat, but one day it bit me.I don't know why. But it's an animal and so is your Ts...
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