Do you really think that the Bearded Dragon doesn’t communicate?
That is so far from the truth.
Understanding bearded dragon behavior is key to keeping your pet happy and healthy. Beardie’s gestures are not random, they all have their meanings and they can tell you something about their health, mood, and environment.
As a bearded dragon keeper, it is important to know what each behavior trait means so you can understand what your dragon is trying to tell you and know when it’s time to call your vet. But first, it’s necessary to know the origin of a bearded dragon. They are medium-sized lizards that are generally 12-24 inches in length. They have a maximum lifespan of 12 to 14 years. Bearded dragons are only found across Australia’s desert woodlands, savannahs, and warm deserts, typically in arid or semi-arid environments. They are not picky eaters. As omnivores, they eat veggies, fruits, leaves, and flowers but with their strong jaws, they can clench and crush hard-shelled insects like beetles. They need a shallow water tank for drinking and soaking.
Are Bearded Dragons Friendly & Can They be Good Pets?
The Bearded Dragon is one of the most friendly creatures on the earth. Bearded dragons are usually gentle by nature and can be easily managed by kids too. In fact, they enjoy being handled. bearded dragons do not attack when threatened; instead, they freeze, puff their throat, and may change colors.
They are diurnal (up during the day and sleep at night) which means you can only enjoy and watch them during the day time. Bearded dragons vary in their personality. Some are more personable and responsive than others. Some show more signs of intelligence than others.
Bearded Dragons are excellent reptiles, with one of the best temperaments of all lizards. They are generally docile, and many seem to actually enjoy being handled. They are diurnal [up during the day and sleep at night]. Which means you can watch them during the day. They will watch your every move, sometimes pacing their tank as if begging for attention and to be fed. Their spikes make them look like dinosaurs; however, they are usually quite tame. They can even make good pets for children, if properly supervised. Bearded dragons vary in personality. Some are more personable and responsive than others. Some show more signs of intelligence than others.
Here below, we will summarize the Beardie’s behaviors.
|Arm Waving||Submissive behavior that is common in hatchlings and juveniles.|
|Head Bobbing||Used to initiate courtship and during mating or as a sign of aggression.|
|Glass Surfing||A sign of stress that is not seen in wild species.|
|Changing colour||Stress behavior when feeling threatened or ill.|
|Digging||A very common behavior when looking for food or preparing for brumation.|
|Flaring beard||Used as a defense technique to protect their territory.|
|Mouth Gaping||Is used as a way of cooling down in the wild.|
|Tail Twitching||Normal when hunting but can be caused by metabolic bone disease.|
|Eye Bulge||This is a normal behavior and helps them to shed.|
|Hiss or Stamp||Bearded dragons hiss if they feel threatened or scared.|
Are Male Bearded Dragons Different From Female Bearded Dragons When It Comes To Temperament?
There are no differences in male and female bearded dragons’ behavior when it comes to aggression or friendliness. bearded dragons display various behaviors across the spectrum, and whether or not they are aggressive depends mainly on how they were raised as babies.
Males tend to become aggressive towards other males when they are housed in the same enclosure if there is not enough space to claim their territory. Male bearded dragons may also become aggressive towards females when it is time to mate.
Females are usually very calm, but they might get aggressive when laying eggs because their instinct is to protect their babies, much like other species .
What are the Typical Behaviors of a Bearded Dragon?
Understanding bearded dragon behavior is the key to keeping your pet happy and healthy.
Here are some common behaviors among pet bearded dragons through which each beardie communicates. Every beardie keeper must be aware of it.
- Bearded Dragon Head Bob
Head bobbing is when your bearded dragon moves their head quickly in an up and down movement. It can have multiple reasons. Generally, in bearded dragons, head bobbing is used as a sign of dominance and aggression. It is their way of attracting female attention or intimidating fellow male dragons by asserting dominance. This endearing behavior is more common among male dragons than female dragons. This is also a sign of social hierarchy.
Males bob their heads to show they are suitable mates, females show acceptance by bobbing their heads back as a territorial response to another dragon. Usually, the faster they move their head, the more aggressive they are.
A fast head bob is usually interpreted as a sign of dominance and is used as a territorial showing of who’s the boss, while slower, shallower head bobs are usually a sign of submission.
- Bearded Dragon Digging
Bearded dragons may dig for a number of reasons. Some of the reasons bearded dragons dig include:
Preparing to lay eggs:
Pregnant female dragons begin digging when they are ready to lay their eggs. If your dragon is expecting, be sure to offer her additional calcium supplements to prevent metabolic bone disease, since eggs require extra calcium. In the wild, bearded dragons cover their eggs to incubate them and keep them safe from predators.
Some individuals will dig because they are stressed. They are trying to hide or escape. Stress can be a result of incorrect lighting levels, heating, humidity, and loud noises.
Looking for food:
If your bearded dragon is not stressed but continues to dig, they may be underfed and are looking for food.
If it’s too hot or cold in your dragon’s tank, she may be digging frantically in an attempt to cool down or regulate her body heat.
Not enough space:
Not having enough space to roam around can also result in boredom and digging.
Preparing for brumation:
Finally, bearded dragons dig to prepare for brumation. Brumation is a type of hibernation where bearded dragons eat less and only drink water occasionally.
- Hand Waving
This is when a bearded dragon, male or female, will raise one of its arms in the air and wave it in a circular motion. When you appear in front of your beardie, sometimes he will raise his front foot and literally wave at you. That is because he is saying “Hi!” bearded dragons usually wave the members of their own species, as well as with humans and other animals they encounter.
Arm waving is generally interpreted as a submissive behavior, but can have other meanings. Fast arm waving may accompany head bobbing in a dragon who is trying to assert his dominance, while slow arm waving is usually a submissive response to stop aggression by a dragon who is trying to assert their dominance. Submissive bearded dragons will wave their arms towards more dominant individuals.
- Changing color
Likesome other species of reptiles, fish, and amphibians, bearded dragons have what are called “Chromatophores”.
Chromatophores are pigmented cells that reflect light and allow them to change color as they react to their environment.. If your beardie seems to darken or brighten up as they get older, don’t worry too much, especially if this change takes place over the course of months.
Bearded dragons can change color as they grow and shed. Each time they shed they can get more colorful until they are about 1 – 1½ years old. Sudden skin color changes are usually due to thermoregulation or mood. Skin color changes can be due to stress, illness, emotion, or an external stimulus.
Additionally, some bearded dragons can change color as they warm-up or become happy. If you notice your bearded dragon turning a brighter color, like orange, light brown, or yellow, when they’re warm or appear to be in a good mood. A bearded dragon that darkens its body or beard is typically one that is cold and trying to attract warmth, they may be angry, scared, ill, or threatened, or they may be trying to stress out.
- Beard flaring up
Flaring is when a bearded dragon puffs up its beard to appear bigger. Both males and females fluff their beards as a defense mechanism. This behavior is normal and natural in bearded dragons. It is very common to see this behavior in wild species when they feel threatened. Bearded Dragons tend to puff their beards out when they feel stressed or threatened. Your dragon may be severely stressed out by something new in his or her environment.
A bearded dragon may also puff up its beard to challenge another species for territory. This can occur in wild and pet species.
Bearded dragons puff their beards before shedding to loosen the skin around their head. Sometimes bearded dragons are so desperate to get out of their shedding skin that they will begin puffing their beard out in an attempt to speed up the process. In this case, the beard appearances will only last as long as the shedding.
- Glass Surfing
Have you ever seen your dragon pushing and scratching at the glass of his tank, possibly standing on his hind legs, almost as if he is trying to escape? This behavior is called glass surfing. They will also stand on their hind legs and slide (surf) along the front or side. It is fun to watch, and you may think your bearded dragon is playing or sees his reflection in the glass but he isn’t doing it for fun.Glass surfing is much like your dog scratching desperately at the glass after being put outside, your bearded dragon too may scratch at the glass. Glass surfing can be for various reasons.
Expecting females sometimes glass surf along with digging.
Dragons may glass surf because they are startled by their own reflection. If the walls of their glass terrarium are very reflective, this may be the case.
Your dragon may be trying to tell you he is desperate to get out and cool off or warm up.
Lack of space:
If your dragon’s terrarium is too small (or crowded with extra decor), she may glass surf. Although a 40 gallon tank is standard, you will need a 50 gallon tank or bigger if your dragon is over 16 inches long.
Your pet may want to play with you or doesn’t have enough to do in her cage so she is glass surfing. Make sure you spend time with your bearded dragon
Some dragons will glass surf after they defecate. Clean it up quickly if this is the case!
- Tail is up/Twitching tail
This behavior has a very simple explanation. If you see your dragon wandering around with his tail up, it simply means he is alert. They also twitch their tails when hunting for food. You may see your pet do the same when hunting for insects in their tank. However, sometimes tail twitching can be a sign of metabolic bone disease too.
- Eye Bulging
When you look at a beardie during shed you may notice their eyes look like they are about to pop out of its sockets. This is known as eye bulging. It’s common in shedding. It helps them shed their skin.
- Mouth Gaping or Yawning?
The most common reason for gaping is that your beardie is too hot. bearded dragons do not sweat like humans! Gaping is their only way of cooling down. They will hold their mouths gaping open to maintain a suitable temperature within the body, similarly to a panting dog. In the wild, bearded dragon’s habitat goes through extreme temperature changes. Gaping is used as a cooling mechanism as they try to cool down and regulate their body temperature. This is completely normal behavior.
Basking under a heat lamp or in full sunshine is a behavior that bearded dragons exhibit daily. That way they collect heat, and UVB radiation which helps create vitamin D3 to metabolize calcium. For proper metabolism bearded dragons need to maintain a core temperature of 95°F to 110°F. Bearded dragons can frequently be observed basking with their mouths open.
Basking also plays a big part in the social hierarchy when multiple dragons are kept in the same enclosure. The most dominant dragons will have their choice of perching on the highest branches and best basking areas.
“Pancaking” is when your bearded dragon flattens its belly out against the ground, in the shape of a pancake. This may have two possible reasons, fear and drop in temperature.
In the wild, bearded dragons “pancake” as a way to hide from predators. Domestic bearded dragons often show pancaking behaviour if they are outside (especially if they don’t go out often) or if they see a sudden movement.
They drop their body temperature if their tank is too cold, bearded dragons may attempt to regulate their body temperature by flattening out in order to absorb as much heat as possible.
- Hissing and stamping
When provoked or threatened a bearded dragon will show signs of aggression. Dragons typically hiss when they feel threatened or scared. If your dragon is new, he may need some time to get used to the new environment and you. If your beardie hisses at you, then stop what you are doing. Hissing is a sign of aggression and is a behavior that prefaces biting.
Many people also confuse stamping as a sign of aggression. However, males who are interested in females will stamp their feet on the ground. This is a natural behavior.
Brumation is a type of hibernation cycle experienced by bearded dragons. It is a state of regulated hypothermia that allows the animal to conserve energy during the winter, and reset their biological clock for a new breeding season. Bearded Dragon brumate when the temperatures drop, the days shorten, and food becomes scarce. Bearded dragons usually brumate when they are 8 months to 1 year old, but it can happen earlier or later.
Each dragon experiences brumation differently. They may take long naps, become less active, lose appetite or may sleep through the entire cycle without walking.
Behavior After Brumation
If your bearded dragon is coming out of brumation than you need to be prepared for them to be a little on the lethargic side. Also, don’t expect them to have much of an appetite either.
You may also notice your bearded dragon has a bizarre sleeping schedule and random bouts of energy. Don’t be too surprised if you find them acting sleepy and taking long naps, only to wake up later with tons of energy!
The tongue is one of the bearded dragon’s main tools for exploring the world around him. bearded dragons have a Jacobson’s organ, which lies at the roof of their mouth. When they lick something and then retract the tongue, its forked tips pass the smell to the Jacobson organ. That way they use licking for both tasting and smelling.
Bearded Dragon Behavior During Different Situations:
A black beard can show that a beardie is ready to mate. Before mating bearded dragons will bob their heads. Males head bob to initiate courtship and will continue this behavior during mating to show their dominance. Females accept a male’s gesture by head bobbing.
bearded dragons in the wild hiss, stamp and fluff their beards to make themselves look bigger and more menacing. These behaviors help to ward off predators and keep them safe.
When a bearded dragon sheds they will fluff, eye bulge and twitch their tails. All of these behaviors are done to make shedding easier. Keep in mind that shedding is uncomfortable. It is important not to disturb them during this time. Avoid any handling and interactions. If you attempt to handle it is likely your beardie will twitch their tail and hiss.
As a bearded dragon owner, you have the awesome responsibility of keeping your reptile happy and healthy. It’s important to pay attention, stay educated, and understand your bearded dragon’s normal behavior so you can tell early on when something is amiss. Never be afraid to call your vet if you are uncertain about something. The more you care, the happier your dragon will be!