Home » What Tricks Can You Teach A Tortoise? [4 Easy Tricks Tortoises Can Learn]
can tortoise learn tricks?

What Tricks Can You Teach A Tortoise? [4 Easy Tricks Tortoises Can Learn]

Most tortoises can learn basic tricks that you can add more stages to over time. Of course, some tortoises are good at learning tricks, while others are unable to do so or disinterested in training.

Tortoises need consistent training over many weeks to learn tricks. However, according to Animal Cognition, giant tortoises can be taught new tricks and recall how to do them a decade after training.

What Tricks Can You Teach A Tortoise?

How much tortoises are willing to learn varies based on their intelligence, attention span, and species. So, don’t be disheartened if your tortoise doesn’t pick up a specific trick, as there are others.

Here are some easy tricks to teach tortoises:

1/ Coming When Called

Tortoises have poor hearing, as they can only process certain sound frequencies.

However, they can see and sense vibrations, which is why the tortoise recognizes your voice, as long as you use a similar pitch and frequency each time. They recognize the frequency, not their name.

To speed up the training process, offer your tortoise a treat when you call them. For attention-motivated tortoises, replace food and treats with affection and light petting.

Eventually, your tortoise will associate your sound frequency with being addressed directly.

2/ Climbing

Almost all tortoises like climbing, and they’re very good at it.

While tortoises can’t scale large heights, they enjoy walking over things in their enclosures. However, some tortoises need encouragement to climb, and training will be required to climb on command.

To teach your tortoise to climb, hold a piece of food directly above the object you want them to scale and encourage it to get the treat.

While treats are more effective, you can teach your tortoise to climb whenever you tap the object or use a command word.

Tortoises can solve puzzles and figure out simple cognitive tasks.

That’s why teaching your tortoise how to navigate through a maze is one of the most entertaining tricks you can teach a pet tortoise.

You can build a simple maze using wood or get one from a pet store. Ensure that it only has 1-2 turns and has enough room for the tortoise to walk through comfortably.

Once the tortoise gets the hang of this simple maze, you can upgrade it with additional turns. Start the training with something easy to learn, or your tortoise will likely become confused and lose interest.

Let the tortoise loose in the maze, and reward it each time it completes the puzzle with a treat or petting.

tricks to teach your tortoise

4/ Knocking on a Door

You may be surprised that tortoises can learn to knock on doors. Of course, this trick works better with larger tortoises, but you can still try it if you have a smaller tortoise.

Kneel next to the tortoise by the door and knock it 2-3 times, ensuring that the tortoise is watching. Once you’ve got your tortoise’s attention, immediately open the door and allow your tortoise to walk through.

Repeat this process multiple times, and eventually, your tortoise will learn that knocking on the door will get you to open it.

How Do Tortoises Learn To Do Tricks?

Unlike other animals, tortoises aren’t motivated to perform tricks to make their owners happy. Instead, they learn through other means and methods that they consider worthy of their time and effort.

You can use the following incentives to get tortoises to learn different tricks:

Food

Positive reinforcement training using food is one of the most effective ways to train tortoises.

According to Cambridge University Press, tortoises have long been considered sluggish and unintelligent, but they’re food motivated. Having their favorite foods available makes it easier to train tortoises.

As soon as your tortoise does something you want it to do, reward it with a snack. The tortoise won’t know you’re pleased with it, but it’ll soon realize that it earns a tasty reward for its actions.

Attention

While most tortoises respond to food, some are more motivated by attention from their owners. This doesn’t happen often, but some tortoises respond better to one-on-one attention. For example, some tortoises enjoy having their neck rubbed or their head petted.

Problems with Training a Tortoise

While training a tortoise is fun and rewarding, there are things to be mindful of before starting the training process:

Time

Don’t underestimate how much time you’ll need to put into training a tortoise as they move slowly, and most don’t pick up new tricks immediately.

Consistency is key if you want your tortoise to develop fun tricks, so move at its pace. Dedicate a small amount of time each day to the training process, as this will be more effective than one long session.

Exhaustion

Tortoises can only spend so much time training before they become tired and need sleep.

They’re slow-moving creatures for a reason – their large, heavy shells weigh them down. They don’t move around that much in the wild, instead choosing to burrow into underground tunnels.

Stress

Constant, repetitive training can make your tortoise feel stressed.

Because their hearing is different from ours, it isn’t easy to communicate with them. Tortoises are much slower than us, so everything takes longer, making training difficult.

Your tortoise may not display noticeable signs of stress, but it’ll only tolerate a small amount of training.

Overeating

If your tortoise is motivated by food, there’s a risk that overfeeding could cause weight gain, diarrhea, and digestive problems. While tortoises will eat the treats, overfeeding them isn’t recommended.

Tortoises don’t stop eating when they’re full, so it’s hard to tell if you’ve overfed them. So, determine how much your tortoise is allowed each training session and stop.

Consistency is key to tortoise learning, so spread the training over several weeks. Tortoises are slower learners, so a series of short sessions over several weeks is more likely to yield results.