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A day or two ago I brought in my pet (Bearded Dragon) to the place of work of a girl I have a crush on. The beardie was on my shoulder as he mostly always is when the aforementioned girl comes up and snatches (yes, snatches) the animal off my shoulder without permission. She proceeds to baby-talk the poor thing as it flails around in her hand because of the discomfort. Other customers actually saw her do this and started whispering to each other.

I don't believe she particularly deserved this but I tried to be very patient with the way she was handling my pet so as to not embarrass her in front of her customers. I suggested the reason my animal is flailing around like that is because he wants to feel secure on her shoulder rather than in her hand. The girl's response was "I know how to work with beardies." So I obviously hit some sort of brick wall there with her.

While the animal wasn't comfortable, he wasn't wholly in pain. I wanted to be discreet since other people were watching her at that point. God help me even though I wanted to wring her neck, I still wanted to spare her the embarrassment of being an animal care professional that did not professionally care for an animal.

This was at a pet store and she is a possible manager. It was less of an argument and quite more of a suggestion that the way the beardie was being handled was improper. I feel even the other customers knew where I was coming from when I explained that the beardie likes support.

I'm not really very interested in her anymore.

Is there a better way to communicate that something that works for puppies and human babies may not work for a lizard?

So she will not get in serious trouble if she does this with anyone else who doesn't have the patience for it.

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    If you're interested, there's also a site for Pets. :) – NVZ Sep 4 '17 at 11:51
  • You don't have to rollback our edits to add new info. We edit to help your post read better. – NVZ Sep 4 '17 at 12:18
  • Hey! We've merged your accounts for you, so you should be able to edit this question whenever you like using the account you created. – Catija Sep 6 '17 at 18:50
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You might be attacking the wrong problem here. It doesn't matter whether or not certain things work for certain pets or babies, or even specific animals.

What matters is that this is your pet, you are responsible for it, and it is currently in distress.

Your initial communication should have been along the lines of: "That is my pet and you are making it uncomfortable, please give it back to me."

Then after you dealt with the immediate distress and the pet is securely attached to your shoulder again, you can explain to her how you want your pet to be handled. You can then hand over the pet when the other party agrees to treat it as you ask for it to be treated.

By trying to argue with someone who is holding your pet (without asking), you are giving a signal that they are allowed to handle your pet in whatever way they want. The entire idea of discussion on likes/dislikes is based around the idea that both parties have some say in the raising and handling of the creature. That's not the case here, so there shouldn't be an initial discussion. If you say "no", then it is "no", and the opinions of other people don't matter there.

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    The language is strong, but I think it is accurate, because the pet is obviously unable to defend itself in the situation. – Nelson Sep 5 '17 at 4:06
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"Oh sorry, he doesn't like that" while reaching for your pet.

This makes it not about her competence with beardies, but about your beardie. It allows her to save face -- "oh, his beardie is finicky" as opposed to "he's calling me incompetent". I've used this approach when houseguests tried to pick up a cat who really, really wasn't into being held, and I've seen people use it when people touch their dogs without asking first.

Separately, given that this person works in a pet store, you might want to find a way to privately deliver the "no, that really isn't ok" message to her (or her manager). People who work in pet stores have a higher-than-average chance of coming into contact with other people's pets (and of course any they sell), so you'd be doing other people a service. (I realize that's not what you asked about in this question.)

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Unfortunately working in a pet store does not make someone a care and handling expert. Often these stores just get a little data card with each animal with basic feeding, housing, and temp information.

This is probably the case here. I say that because snatching someone's pet isn't something an expert would do. There's some etiquette to be considered from the start of the interaction.

Oh! A beardie?! How is he/she with being handled?
Wait for a response
May I?

The same goes for a puppy and most definitely with a baby. You wouldn't snatch up someone's child without asking, would you?

I don't have experience with beardies, but one of my former partners had an amazing leopard gecko named Snot Face. Snot Face's first reaction to being handled, being low on the food chain, was usually "It's gonna eat me! Gotta hide!" People who are familiar with handling lizards would recognize this behavior and let the animal acclimate and find a comfortable position.

The best way to handle this situation is probably to prevent it from happening to begin with. When they reach out, step back and start the dialogue yourself.

Wait, he/she can spook easily, let me transfer him/her to your shoulder.

While you're doing this you can explain how your pet likes to be handled.

Believe it or not, reptiles have personality. They have likes and dislikes. My beardie likes to be handled like this...

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    The "believe it or not" part sounds sarcastic - I'd probably opt for dropping those first 2 sentences and just starting with "My beardie", or refer to "this specific one", as to imply that what she says might be true for most, but there are exceptions, like this one. – NotThatGuy Sep 4 '17 at 20:03
  • @NotThatGuy You'd be surprised at how many people think reptiles are all the same, that they act purely on instinct. – apaul Sep 4 '17 at 20:06
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    Sure, but starting off with an implied "you're wrong" is likely to make them very defensive (see also: the girl's response in the question). I think it's much better to downplay what you think the truth is (here the implication is "you're mostly right", regardless of whether or not she is), and just focus on this situation - that gives you the immediate resolution you want (getting her to treat it better and/or communicating its preference), as well as possibly making her more open-minded to the idea of it not always being true in future. – NotThatGuy Sep 4 '17 at 20:12

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