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From Mean to Nice

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  • [Behavior] From Mean to Nice

    Hey everybody!

    So if you know me you know that I have a boa named Callie that really is not nice. She strikes at me every day and I've tried everything under the sun to tame her but it's just her personality. It's fine and I adore her BUT! I couldn't wait to log in here and share this with all of you.

    Last night I decided to give her a bath. Before she became a demon she used to love bath time. As usual, she struck as soon as her door opened, and struck at the snake hook. I tussled her out and got her into the bathtub. I swear that I have not seen that snake in over 3 years. Her guard dropped and she turned into a completely different animal. I have not been able to handle her without some kind of fear, keeping her head away from me, and really being cautious for a long long time. My heart was so filled with joy. I have not seen that snake in so long, it really was a gigantic heart warmer for me. I almost teared up seeing her play, explore, and just act normal again! She let me grab her, pet her, touch her head, and put her back with just my hands.

    I wanted to post this in case anybody has a stubborn mean snake in their collection. Try this. I didn't even put water in the tub and she was calm. I didn't fill the tub but rather turned the water on a good temp and used a big cup to pour water over her. She loved it being poured on her face. I'm still in shock. I'm so happy I have a way to connect with my baby again. I'm going to start bringing her into the tub first thing before getting her out now so hopefully she can associate coming out of her cage with a positive interaction.

    This is what I live for while keeping snakes. A breakthrough moment like this is worth all the times she's tagged me, all the strikes, all the hissing and mean attitude. Who would have guessed? When she was young she loved it.... but once she got big and was mean as all heck, I stopped because she likes to make a mad break for it. When I say a different snake.... I mean I looked into her eyes and saw the baby that I knew when she was young. I saw all the happy times we spent together and I got very emotional. I never thought she would ever make a turn for the better. Needless to say, Callie will be having a lot more bath time from now on. It wasn't even the water that made her happy as I put her in dry. I have no idea.... maybe it was the feeling of being in an "enclosure" but way bigger? Usually when I take her out she gets NASTY because she doesn't like big open spaces. Maybe she felt comfortable in a semi enclosed tub... Whatever it is makes me a much happier person.

  • #2
    Re: From Mean to Nice

    It’s such an amazing feeling when you feel you have tamed the wild beast lol,
    So pleased for you
    I know how you feel,I thought I would never tame my img, but all the small things paid off and I can get her out with out a hook now. She just lets me pick her up
    Hopefully she will remember your the good guy that used to get her out for some relaxation

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


    • #3
      Re: From Mean to Nice

      What an awesome story! I believe that in the mind of a snake what appears to us as "mean or aggressive" is really "afraid & insecure". It's why, many years
      ago when I took in a yearling BCI that had changed hands a number of times for biting & incorrigible "aggression" I named her "Snookems"....because with a name like
      that I pictured her in a baby bonnet in a carriage, not as the reincarnation of evil she was pretending to be. Within 2 months of patiently cuddling her under a towel, she
      proved me right...she was only defending herself from what she didn't understand & feared: to her we were big ugly predators & she was about to die with our every
      touch. Yet in the 12 years I kept her, she never once bit me...she was quite cuddly (& lives on with friends who are more into the BIG snakes than me). But every so
      often she would hiss up a storm at my approach or attempt to pick her up: she does NOT like to be rushed, & at those times (when her 'snakey-brain' was elsewhere?)
      she was fine to be picked up (without biting) only after I "re-connected" to her with touch & scent. I've seen this in other snakes as well...we must ALWAYS remember
      that snakes do NOT know us visually....they need other cues (touch & scent) to keep that connection.

      It's not always easy to get into the mind of our snakes, & while it seems risky to "cuddle" a nervous snake closely to us, I've found over the years that is the safer way
      to calm them...because with our touch & scent, they recognize us, but if we cautiously keep them at arm's length, they are still unsure & afraid, & more inclined to bite.

      That is SO cool that you helped Callie re-connect to the times in her life when she trusted you & relaxed. I so hope you can manage to keep her in this mind-set now.

      There must be something about the shape of the tub that inspires a sense of security in her. It reminds me of the way many of my snakes seem to love the baskets I've
      installed in their branches...something about the "bowl" shape to curl up in? The various rat snakes that I'm referring to have normal hide boxes (both warm & cool side),
      yet they clearly enjoy curling up in baskets. They feel they are hiding, yet they are visible to me too, so we both win. They still use their hide-boxes but like choices.
      I figure that keeping snakes as captives we owe them the best life we can manage, but it pays off since they are better pets this way too.

      I'm looking forward to the continuing story of you & Callie....

      And by the way, I've also seen some "very challenging" snakes calm down when rocked...even in a container...while on my lap using either a rocking chair or hammock.
      Just saying...I know it makes no sense & I don't care if you think I'm a little's works well for some snakes, & you can always watch a movie to pass the time.


      • #4
        Re: From Mean to Nice

        bcasilio, how have you been taking her out of her cage when necessary? Have you ever tried putting a towel over her (wrapping her up in it) and just holding her
        on your lap for an hour or so? The scariest thing we do to our snakes is approach them...because visually they assume the worst (predator!) about us & try to defend
        themselves. Most boas don't respond as much to scent (I often blow air across my hand to give them my thru the screen on the cage) but DO seem to know
        us by touch...but with Callie, I'd try everything to communicate who & what you are when you approach her, to keep her calm. She clearly remembers the "good old
        days" taking baths & I guess she wonders where YOU'VE been for 3 years also?


        • #5
          Re: From Mean to Nice

          I have only tried the towel one time. I wrapped her up and she seemed fine for about 5 minutes until I felt a whip of the tail and then I felt my finger go warm lol She got me through it! A beach towel!

          I constantly work with her and try new things.

          What I do now to get her out now is I open it up and step back slowly. I usually put an almost done paper towel role into her cage and rub her tail. She used to bite every time now its about 1/2 the time she will snip. But once she tags it and realizes what it is, she calms down a bit then I can go in with my hands and grab her.

          If she is fired up.... only the hook will suffice. She is one to jump with her whole body to try and get me, even the hook get scary because she will JET up the rod and come straight for me lol I then put her on the bed and grab her tail which seems to help her relax. I can say that the past 4 months she is a world better than she was a year ago today. I think she's starting to warm up to me Was the first time in years yesterday that I let her come right up to my nose and give me a sniff and I wasn't scared.


          • #6
            Re: From Mean to Nice

            Originally posted by Richyboa72 View Post
            Hopefully she will remember your the good guy that used to get her out for some relaxation
            I hope so! I felt like a child yesterday when I saw her guard drop.


            • #7
              Re: From Mean to Nice

              So, what kind of hides are in her cage? Does she use them? Is there room to try something else? Something she could curl up in??? (& maybe she'd let you remove
              her from the cage while she's in that?) The other thing that "my" Snookems used to like is one of those soft-sided small doggy carriers, with a towel inside. They are
              vinyl* & washable with ventilation, but at the same time, cave-like. I used that when I had to clean her cage. (* but it wouldn't hold up near any type of cage heat)
              Callie might like a laundry basket or pet bed, something like that? (I forget, how big is she?) I think there's many things that could be used (w/minor modification).


              • #8
                Re: From Mean to Nice

                Originally posted by Noelle7206 View Post
                So, what kind of hides are in her cage? Does she use them?
                She has a big rodent (ironically enough) hide. I use this one because 1) it's dark so she can hide and not feel like she's seen. 2) it's smooth, no sharp edges, all rounded and no chance of hurting herself. 3) she fits in it nicely. She rarely uses it, though. I have tried some other hides but she just goes to the opposite end of the cage when I tried them. This one at least she rests her head on and chills, she seems to like that she can hide behind it and keep her head on top to keep watch.

                I absolutely want to try one of those soft sides small doggy carriers, that's a wonderful idea! I even went as far as buying some PVC and making a nice size hide then wrapping some black canvas around it. Stitched it so there was no adhesive and all smooth. I had it in there for 3 weeks and not a single day was she as far away from it as possible. I thought maybe she didn't like the fabric, so I thought I was a genius when I thought of taking one of my shirts (washed of course) and putting it around the hide, it provided a perfect neck-hole-entrance. But again, she just wanted AWAY from that thing. She grew up with the one she has now - Thank the higher powers that I decided to get her a nice big one whens she was a baby that she can still weasel her big butt into lol Maybe she likes it because it's familiar? What's weird is even as a baby she would rather not hide and sit directly in front of the door and guard it. I have a perfect picture I'll post once I straighten out photbucket.

                The picture is when she first bit me and the day that a demon rose from the underworld and took over her body! Perfect picture.... I snapped a pic of my bite because round here.... Pics or it didn't happen! But the best part is in the corner of the picture you can see her in the cage coiled up and upset lol Even as a baby she was very defensive but with a smaller boa I didn't really care if I got tagged, now if she gets me it will do some major damage. I'll post pics of her currently when I get photobucket back up. I can't touch my fingers around her girth and she is about 5ft.

                I just cleaned out the bathtub again and removed all the soap bottles and such..... have to get it ready for Ms. Callie princess' play time tonight. I made the mistake of leaning over to her door this morning to say goodmorning and WHACK she hit the door. Woke me up quick! Funny thing is she is awake at about 5am but Bubbles, my new reticulated python, sleeps until about 10am. So funny to see him passed out for longer than me! Super nice personality. He's only struck once without making any contact. This was when I tried to pick him up while he was sleeping.... Now I know that he's a lazy late sleeper other than that he is sooooooooooooo nice. If you put a finger on his head he will stop moving and smash his face down and let you pet him, he loves it. When I stop he looks over at me like "come on mannn!" so I start again and he goes right back to almost sleeping.


                • #9
                  Re: From Mean to Nice

                  There are just SO many things that can work (many with minor modifications) as "hides" for snakes, you just have to be a little creative. That pet carrier, I found it in
                  new, unused condition in a thrift store for a whole $13...and the handle (shoulder strap) detaches, can be used to take snakes to visit-socialize too. I'm not sure I'd
                  want to use it routinely in a cage, as so many crevices (zippers & vents+) would be hard to clean, & the the cage heat would negatively affect it too. But for out-of-cage
                  play-time, my BCI loved it. I'd have her out of her cage for a couple hours sometimes (also used a human heat-pad as needed) so she could move around with supervision,
                  but then go hide...she felt safe. Though yours might not want to come out of it without a fight, lol. But if there's room in cage, you can use something like this to let the
                  snake emerge on her own, then remove the carrier.

                  I still think it would be worth trying some sort of "hide" that mimics the feel of the tub she likes so much. I'm really surprised at how much my snakes like to curl into
                  their baskets, & maybe the (mite-less) snakes that we sometimes find curled in their water bowls have been trying to tell us something about what feels good to them?

                  Hindsight being 20:20, it's never a good idea to wait until a super-feisty baby snake gets much bigger to address the bites. Me, I avoid bites.


                  • #10
                    Re: From Mean to Nice

                    Yeah, I've been trying with her since she was a baby. It was much easier to try new things when she was small and a bite was just a minor inconvenience instead of a situation lol

                    I took a laundry basket and put a blanket into it and I'll try that tonight. I don't like taking her out without my girlfriend here, just out of safety. It's funny... My girlfriend gets scared when she moves fast and crazy but that's when she is happy! She does the normal tight coil and stone still when she's upset but it's like a light switch that turns her into being nice. Once when she was being nasty, which was understandable as she was deep in shed, I had to clean her cage out due to her making a mess then tipping her water bowl over. I took her out with the snake hook to get her onto the bed where she normally calms down. While she was on the hook she DARTED up the stick toward me. I got frightened but I just held still and she came right up, around my arm, and was happy.

                    She requires a lot of patience, lots of love, and a whole bunch of understanding. I really feel like I'm making strides with her. Now at this point it seems to be more cage aggression and calming once she is out and understands that I'm here to help, not eat her. But again, I love that girl so much and her being the way she is doesn't change a thing!


                    • #11
                      Re: From Mean to Nice

                      Too bad snakes don't just have an "AHA!" moment & get over their fears. But we do like a challenge too, don't we?


                      • #12
                        Re: From Mean to Nice

                        Originally posted by Noelle7206 View Post
                        But we do like a challenge too, don't we?

                        Yes we do! I know I do at least. So tonight I am going to try the towel trick. I plan on giving her bath since she went to the bathroom. I spot cleaned but I'd like to get her out and scrub it down. More for the fact that she likes the tub :P

                        I actually tried something today.... She usually strikes if anybody walks by. I stood in front of her cage and she struck but I just stayed there for about 10 minutes and her demeanor seemed to change a little bit. She was moving around sniffing, absolutely calmer than normal. Tonight I am going to try the same thing. I am going to park my behind in front of her cage until she chills out then try to use just my hands. It all depends on what she does when the door opens up. But this is a great sign because she is always right near her door guarding her space and she is usually still as a stone. Hopefully I can take her out tonight without the towel but if she acts up once the cage pops open, I'll have a backup plan.

                        Since she's a big girl (5ft) I wait until my girlfriend comes home from work before I ever take her out just being cautious. I'll report back later and tell everyone how she does! It's nice, though, to see her start to change a little. What's weird is she started acting nicer once the retic came into the picture. Maybe now she knows shes not "big girl on campus"anymore :P

                        Wish me luck!


                        • #13
                          Re: From Mean to Nice

                          Hey, bcasilio, do you ever give her your scent (thru whatever screen-vent her cage has) when she wants to strike the cage when you walk by, or before you open
                          the cage? Because when a snake strikes the front of a cage without your scent, it's not usually about you, but often it's just excitement, hoping the motion is prey.
                          She doesn't know you visually...remember that. Snakes recognize us best by scent & touch. What happens if you wind your already-worn t-shirt (so it has your
                          scent) around a stick & offer that to her? Does she still want to pounce on it? Can you pet her with that? (to remind her that your touch is ok)

                          When I used to live with a bunch of rattlesnakes (some of them were temporary guests), I wanted to minimize their stress, so I made a habit (when going by) of
                          blowing air across my hand into the tops of their cages, letting them learn to recognize my scent & presence as "familiar", and in a while, they hardly ever rattled
                          at me "oh, it's just you"? ("the one that doesn't attack & sometimes brings food"?) In my personal experience, rattlesnakes & rat snakes respond &
                          recognize us faster by scent, whereas boas hold onto the notion that we still might be edible (lol) but it still might be worth trying. The other thing I do for the overly
                          "food-focused" is to give them a water-spray in the doesn't hurt anything, just sorta changes the subject. In her case, maybe she'll think "bath"? I'm just
                          not sure that what seems like "aggression" from her is really that, or just a hyper-food response, or a very hyper-fear & self-defense reaction?

                          Anyway, good luck! Most snakes bite during our approach, so I hope you can figure out how to communicate to her that nothing bad (or edible) is coming her way...


                          • #14
                            Re: From Mean to Nice

                            I do try that all the time but I just blow into her cage. She usually only strikes once when she sees movement and then chills back out.

                            I have tried tossing a worn tee shirt of mine into her cage for a week but that didn't help. That's a great idea to blow across your hand to give more of my actual scent, not my mouthwash lol I'll try that!

                            I'm happy to report that she had tons of fun last night in the tub. No hook needed upon going back into the cage. She seems now like she's just cage aggressive and not so much a mean girl all around. She let me grab her, pick her up, kiss her head!!!! and put her back. It's just taking her out of the cage now that is the bear. Maybe I'll try and cut a piece of my shirt off and tape it near the edge of the door to see if that helps her understand my scent.

                            We're absolutely making strides lately, though. I mean once she got into the tub.... she was having a great time and went back to her old self. Just have to keep on workin!


                            • #15
                              Re: From Mean to Nice

                              Doesn't sound like a "mean boa" to me at all...I think part of the issue is that the females tend to be more food-focused, because they need the body weight for
                              reproduction. Your "motion" just gives her the munchies, lol... I'm so glad to hear that last night went well again...I think she'll continue to improve the more you
                              can socialize with her, but she'll always have those "not for a beginner" instincts. I like the idea of using a piece of an old shirt of yours near the door...just be sure
                              it's been worn...and you could rub it on your hair before you install it too. We have to find ways to communicate with snakes that they can understand...not always
                              easy, but totally worth it.