Can You Train A Tortoise? [Easy Guide]

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Have you watched the YT video “Gibby: The Trained Tortoise”? It is a must-watch for those who do not believe a tortoise can be trained. Well, of course, you can not make a tortoise jump like a dog or talk like a parrot. So, what does a trained tortoise mean, and can you actually train this reptile?

You can train a tortoise with patience and dedication. With a positive attitude and motivation, your pet can learn to respond to commands, solve mazes, and follow targets. In fact, it is also possible to potty-train a tortoise with long-term training.

Do you think your tortoise is ready for a train? Get an idea of whether training the pet is a good idea or not from this following article.

You Can Train Actually Train A Tortoise: The Scientific Back Up 

A positive reinforcement training program was conducted on exotic Aldabra tortoises at Atlanta zoo. The research focused on the memory efficiency and training enthusiasm of these tortoises. 5 Aldabra tortoises participated in this experiment, 2 adult males and 3 adult females. 

Researchers divided the whole experiment into two parts, target, and hold. Under the target program, tortoises had to touch a target stick with their nose. Likewise, during the holding training, the creatures had to follow a target on a platform and stay still for 30 seconds.

The tortoises practiced the target game for over a year and excelled at it. However, they failed miserably at holding in the beginning. But surprisingly, these creatures cracked the game and learned to hold the weight within a short time.  

This experiment proves 2 things, 

  1. You can train your tortoises with positive reinforcement.
  2. The creatures seem to pick up the training quicker if they have been trained before. 

Well, this is not the only experiment conducted to measure the cognitive capabilities of tortoises. There have been studies and research on testing the creature’s smartness too.

Now the question arises of why you should train the tortoises. Honestly, you will not achieve something great out of it. But yes, when teaching your pets little tricks, you can bond with them.

Again, potty training the tortoises relieve you from cleaning up the waste daily. Finally, tortoises take the tasks as a challenge, giving them a survival kick.

Train Your Tortoises For These 5 Tricks 

Your tortoise can not do circus for sure.

However, the little one or two tricks the tortoises actually pull off will make you stunned. For example, you can teach your pets to make a way out of a hard maze or respond to your voice easily. 

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Let’s explore all the tricks you can train your tortoise to play.

1. Responding To Your Command 

Well, the naming system does not exist in tortoises. But still, you can make your tortoise respond to its name or any command you want. 

Tortoises process the words as vibrations. The frequency range for these creatures is 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz. So, when you talk to your tortoise, the pet can pick up your frequency and respond to it. 

But tortoises will not give a reaction to your voice in the beginning. You need to train the pet with treats and continuous practice. With time, the tortoise will learn to respond to your voice if you maintain the pitch. 

You can make the pet give a reaction to a specific word by inducing the behavior in it. For example, call your tortoise by a particular name at the start.

Then, start offering the pet treat every time it responds to its name. This way, the tortoise will get into the habit and react to its name naturally.

You can replace the name with any other command. But keep it short and simple.

2. Figuring Out A Maze

You may feel lost inside a maze but not your tortoise. The creature has mind-blowing navigation skills and can crack any maze in a short time.

Of course, your tortoise can not conquer the labyrinth. You need to consider the pet’s IQ.

Buying simple wooden mazes from the pet store is a good start. Make sure the setup is wide enough for the tortoises to move and includes only a few turns. Offer your tortoise a generous treat once it cracks the maze and upgrades to a more complex puzzle. 

3. Hiking To The Top

Most of us are unaware of the hiking skills of tortoises. Well, these creatures are wild born and are excellent at climbing rock, trees, fences, walls, etc. However, they do not practice these stunts in captivity as they do not have to. 

With a little training, you can remind the pet tortoises of their climbing skills. Making the tortoises respond to their names first will definitely give you an advantage now. 

Start this training by holding a special treat on top of a platform. Then, call the pet by its name. This way, you can grab the pet’s attention.

Next, the chances are that the tortoise will walk towards you and climb the top to get the treat. 

Repeat the training every day to induce the codes in the tortoise’s mind. You can make the game interesting by using a command word or a tap on the shell and a treat afterward. 

4. Following A Target 

You can make a tortoise chase an object by training it gradually. First, use a ball on a stick as a target and treat your pet while following it. You can replace the ball or stick with a hand signal or other toy. 

5. Knock! Knock!

A tortoise can knock on the door! No joke!

You can teach the pet to do this with a simple trick. Knock on the door three times in front of the tortoise and then open it. Allow your pet to go out and close the door. Repeat this routine every day, and soon your tortoise will start asking for permission at the door. 

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Can You Potty Train Your Tortoise? 

It might surprise you, but you can potty train your tortoise. The process is lengthy and requires extensive patience. Yet, the hard work is worth it when your tortoise learns the toilet routine. 

The whole process of potty training the tortoise is given below, 

1. When Do Your Tortoise Take The Potty Break? 

Tortoises get a biological reminder when they need to take a dump. But with training, you can manipulate the timing and make the pets poop at a specific time. But first of all, you need to know their potty time. 

Note the possible hours when the pets dump and their favorite place to release the waste.

2. Work On The Time 

Now you know when your tortoises take a dump. Next, notice how long the pets need to digest the food. You can use this information to schedule the feeding time, so the tortoise poops at your desired hour. 

For example, you feed your tortoise at 10 A.M, and your pet poops at 3 P.M. Now you can slowly move the feeding time to 8 so that your tortoise releases waste at 1. But yes, you can not rush the hours and take the change slowly. 

3. Decide Where To Poop

Every tortoise has a favorite place to poop. Surprisingly, you can change the potty spot with training. 

Imagine your tortoise loves dumping in the corner after a meal. Serving the meal in a new spot where you want the pet to poop will be wiser.

Repeat this every day until it becomes a habit for the tortoise. Soon, the pet will start using the spot for potty tasks.

4. It Is Better Outside

Tortoise poop just makes the tank messy. Training the pet for an outdoor potty can help you avoid this problem. 

You can make your tortoise poop outside by replicating its favorite potty spot in the yard. Then leave your tortoise out there around its potty break. You may notice the pet taking a dump in the new location. 

How To Train Your Tortoise Effectively? 

Training a tortoise will definitely test your patience. While your pet may actually pull off the trick successfully, you can not ignore the chance of failure.

Some tortoises are just not interested in any course of interaction. Again, the giant tortoises are more eager in this type of intellectual game than the small ones.

I have successfully trained my Russian tortoises to respond to its name, chase a target, and climb a platform. Here are the steps I followed,

1. Bonding Is Important 

Before getting into the training, interact with the tortoise for some time. This will help you bond and increase the success ratio. You can feed your tortoise and pet it occasionally just to make friends. 

2. Choose The Training 

As mentioned earlier, tortoises can perform different tricks. You can not teach them all at once. Instead, select a specific training and design it for the pet. Making the tortoise respond to its name or allowing it to chase a target is recommended for beginners. 

3. Click & Treat 

Let me take the example of target training to help you understand this step.

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Take a red stick as a target and hold it in front of your tortoise. The pet will be intrigued and come near the stick. Make a clicking noise and offer the tortoise a fruity treat when it touches the stick. Repeat it several times, and the pet is ready for the trick. 

The click sound after every successful touch gives the tortoise a sense of accomplishment. Besides, the treat works as a motivator. 

In any condition, do not scold, yell, or demotivate the tortoises. Positive reinforcement is the most effective in training pets.

5 Dark Side Of Training A Tortoise 

Tortoises are not as receptive as dogs or cats. So, you may struggle to train these creatures. Nevertheless, the whole fun interactive sessions may actually stress the tortoises. 

Go through the downers that come along with training a tortoise, 

1. It Is A Long Running Project 

Let’s face it. 

Tortoises are not the brightest who pick up every instruction the first time. So, you have to spend a long time training the pet for the trick. 

Teaching the tortoise 24/7 is obviously not possible. Instead, training the pet with a fun interactive session of 10 – 20 minutes every day is healthy. Considering the time limit, teaching your tortoise a simple trick may take more than years.

2. Your Tortoise Is Too Tired

Tortoises are lazy and do not like to do the outdoorsy stuff. So, chasing a ball or climbing a platform is not the most intestersing event for them. Sometimes the whole training session becomes tiring for the pets, and they resent it in every way. 

3. You Are Stressing The Pet

As mentioned, training can be exhausting for the tortoises. Eventually, the fun sessions become stressful for the pets, and they show signs of anxiety. For example, hiding to see you, avoiding the food, etc. Abort the training if you see your tortoise stressing. 

4. Overfeeding Is A Possibility 

The trainers use fruits like grapes or berries as a treat to motivate the tortoises during the session. It raises a risk of overfeeding the pets on the fruits or making them full on them. 

Though fruits carry nutrition, they are not an ideal diet for tortoises. Hence, your pet may suffer from malnutrition. 

5. Health Hazard 

A tortoise-balanced diet includes high fiber, low calorie, and low protein. The meal is 70 – 80% green, and the rest is fruits and supplements. 

Though tortoises love munching on the fruity treat, it can pose a health hazard. Too much sugar in natural or synthetic forms causes stomach aches and diarrhea in tortoises. The pets also suffer from vomiting and nausea due to high sugar. 

How Long Does It Take To Train A Tortoise? 

You can not guess the exact time you need to train a tortoise. It can take months or even years. In fact, sometimes, the whole training goes in vain, and the tortoise learns nothing. 

Before You Go 

Do you know tortoises have intelligence too? Apparently, these creatures can store more information in their heads than you can imagine. The attached article will clear your confusion regarding the tortoise’s smartness.

How Smart Are Tortoises? Learn The Truth

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.

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