Bearded Dragon Arm Waving? 9 Reasons Why

You might be wondering why your new bearded dragon seems to be waving at you if you’re a new beardie owner. It may be their way of greeting you when you walk into the room, but that’s usually not the case. Beardies wave for many reasons, but not all of them are as simple as saying hello.

Although some of these are pretty normal, you should try to figure out what is the exact reason so you can ensure your beardie is at ease in its surroundings. Let’s take a closer look at each of the reasons why your bearded dragon might be waving its arm.

What Does Bearded Dragon Arm Waving Look Like?

Understanding what a bearded dragon waving its arm looks like can help you find out why exactly it’s doing it. Many people misunderstand arm waving for other kinds of arm movement.

Arm waving in bearded dragons may seem straightforward, but in reality, it is a fascinating display of behavior that can take on many different forms. From standing on hind quarters and waving both arms, to barely lifting a single limb as if mimicking a step, these creatures know how to put on a show.

Some even take it to the next level by waving their arms against the glass of their tank, giving the illusion of scratching rather than waving. And just when you thought you’ve seen it all, brace yourself for the ultimate showstopper – double arm waving! Yes, you heard that right. Bearded dragons can wave both their arms at the same time, and it’s an incredible sight to see.

So, if you notice your bearded dragon lifting one or both of its front legs and moving them back and forth, regardless of speed, you can be sure that it is arm waving. Whether slow or fast, this is a remarkable display of dragon communication, and every owner should take a moment to appreciate it.

Bearded Dragon Waving

Why Do Bearded Dragons Arm Wave?

What exactly is that arm waving all about? Is it a high-five, a greeting, or simply an attempt to grab our attention for some bonding time?

Nope. All wrong.

The rise in bearded dragons as pets has led to a surge of misinformation and misguided explanations. This is due to the lack of knowledge and understanding of these creatures, which were not even that popular as pets just a few years ago.

But, as they say, ignorance is bliss – and that is no longer the case. As bearded dragons continue to grow in popularity, so does the quest for answers. The internet and pet stores are overflowing with information, some accurate, some not so much. That’s why it’s crucial to do your own research and make informed decisions when it comes to caring for your scaly friend.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the primary reasons your bearded dragon is arm waving.

1. They’re being submissive

Bearded dragons have a unique way of exhibiting their submissive nature, just like how a dog rolls over to show its belly or a cat lowers itself and tucks in its tail. These fascinating creatures use body language to communicate their submission, making them a joy to observe and understand.

Waving is a submissive indication typically given by dragons that see themselves in a subservient or beta position, while head bobbing demonstrates dominance and is normally done by alpha males or females. 

When your bearded dragon waves at you as you approach its tank, it’s actually showing you in a visual demonstration that it sees you like the bigger or alpha dragon and is surrendering to your authority.

A low-ranking male or female can confront the ‘superior’ dragon to claim this position and assert their status. As a display of aggression and challenge, the dominating dragon will bob its head.

If the lower-ranked dragon determines that fighting isn’t the best option, it can show submission to the higher-ranked pogona by waving an arm, signaling the end of the combat.

If the challenged dragon does not make this move, or simply bobs its head back, a battle for dominance will start.

2. They’re Scared of Something

While your beardie waving at you every now and then is normal and nothing to worry about. If your dragon is waving at you every day and has been for several weeks, your dragon is most likely trying to tell you that it feels threatened.

It’s not a good idea to put any pet under a lot of stress for an extended period of time because it can lead to stress-related health problems like loss of appetite or weight loss in your beardie.

Note: The presence of other bearded dragons in the same cage isn’t the only factor that might make your bearded dragon feel threatened.

If you already have any house pets, like a dog or cat, and they might get close to your bearded dragon’s cage, which could make it extremely nervous.

Your bearded dragon will perceive these big animals as predators and it will start waving its arms in surrender to the other house pet.

If you notice this with your bearded dragon, place their cage somewhere your pets cannot reach it.

3. They’re sharing a tank with other bearded dragons

Bearded dragons are loners by nature, and if they establish a loose group in the wild, they will have the room and freedom to flee when necessary.

In captivity, though, space is typically at a cost. Bearded dragons are notoriously territorial, especially when it comes to males.

When too many male dragons are housed together, their territorial attitude can lead to severe violence, which can often result in the less dominant dragons being attacked or damaged.

It is possible to have a group of females if they are properly cared for and their body language and behaviors are observed during mating seasons. But it’s still not recommended, you should always try to keep each bearded dragon in a separate cage.

If you keep your beardies together and notice one or two of them ‘waving’ at you or other dragons on a regular basis, it’s likely they’re feeling overly threatened by their environment, and you’ll need to separate them.

4. It’s a baby bearded dragon

Bearded dragons are curious and playful when they are young. It’s important to differentiate between being playful and being stressed out.

When introduced to a new area, baby bearded dragons might wave their arms. This is very normal and can last anywhere from a day to a week. If your baby bearded dragon’s arm waving lasts more than a week, it’s not because of the new environment.

It’s very important to figure out what’s causing your baby bearded dragon’s arm waving especially since anxious dragons often lose their appetite. Because bearded dragons develop to 90 percent of their adult size in the first year, this loss of hunger can be damaging to their growth.

5. They’re seeing their own reflection

Bearded dragons like most animals, cannot recognize themselves when they see their reflection on windows or the glass of their enclosure.

When your bearded dragon is in their cage and sees their reflection, they don’t realize it’s only a reflection of themselves.

Instead, they see this as another bearded dragon in their territory, which, as you can see from the example above, can make your bearded dragon quite upset, especially if they consider themselves as the dominant bearded dragon.

When possible, use a dedicated wallpaper developed for cages to reduce reflections. Or yet better, invest in a non-reflective bearded dragon cage.

6. It’s Mating Behavior

A reason you could see a bearded dragon waving is if it’s in the process of mating. Female bearded dragons will occasionally wave at a male in the wild to indicate that she is interested.

If you only have a male bearded dragon, the chances of this being the reason for waving are small. But, if you have a female beardie and more than one beardie, this might be the reason.

You’ll almost always notice other types of mating activity as well. The female will most likely be bobbing her head and moving around the enclosure in a calculated way. If you don’t notice any of those, mating behavior is unlikely to be the cause of the waving.

7. Changes have been made in their cage

New objects, like toys, plants, rocks, or even decorations, can be frightening to your bearded dragon and cause them to arm wave in distress, just like a new place or habitat does.

Besides that, they don’t really know what toys are, so if you put a new one in their cage, especially one that is large or weirdly shaped in comparison to previous toys, they may not realize right away that it is something to play with rather than something that will harm them.

Instead of dumping new items into your bearded dragon’s enclosure all at once, gradually introduce one toy at a time, wait until they get used to the changes to bring in the next one.

8. They’re Acknowledging Other Pets

This is one of the most difficult situations to understand. It might indicate one of two things if your bearded dragon is waving around another bearded dragon.

To begin with, it’s possible that your bearded dragon is just acknowledging the other bearded dragon’s presence and stating that it sees the other. This is also your bearded dragon’s way of saying they don’t want to hurt you.

Or, it could be an indication that your bearded dragon is stressed out by the new bearded dragon’s presence and is surrendering to the newbie.

The simplest way to tell the difference between these two scenarios is to keep an eye on the situation and look for the context of your bearded dragon’s body language.

9. They’re In the wrong tank

A tank that is too small for your beardie can make it nervous and drive them to wave their arms excessively. Read our post on bearded dragon cage sizes.

There are many reasons why a dragon would consider their surroundings to be dangerous, and fortunately, most of them can be solved with a little effort.

Your beardie’s safety may be jeopardized because of the size of the tank where its housed. It could make it feel confined or contained if it’s too small, and it could make them feel exposed or vulnerable if it’s too wide with too many open spaces.

Is your bearded dragon able to see out the window? Then It could be seeing birds outside, which could make it scared because birds are bearded dragon’s natural predators. If this is the case, consider repositioning their tank or covering the window.

Is the space in your bearded dragon’s enclosure limited? Have you made certain that they have enough places to hide? Bearded dragons will hide in holes in the ground in the wild to protect themselves from predators or bad weather.

If your beardie feels anxious or threatened, its natural instinct will be to seek cover, and if you haven’t given suitable options, your dragon may become irritated.

Common Misconceptions About Bearded Dragon Waving

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There are a lot of misconceptions and theories about why bearded dragons wave their arms, however, not all of them are right. Here are some of the misconceptions about arm waving in bearded dragons.

It’s a Greeting

One of the most popular myths about why your beardie is waving is that it is simply excited to see you and is greeting you.

While this is a cute idea and most likely the reason why bearded dragon waving videos are so popular, it’s unfortunate to say that this is not the case.

While beardies can recognize their owners and show affection in their own unique way, waving is a human-created social construct used as a form of welcome that your beardie has no understanding of.

Only females do it

There’s been a lot of speculation and theories about arm waving and gender in bearded dragons. One of the most common misconceptions is that only female bearded dragons wave, whereas male bearded dragons make a motion close to head bobbing, which is an indication of authority.

This is not quite the case 

arm waving and head bobbing are not gender-specific characteristics in bearded dragons. Female bearded dragons will bob their heads, and male bearded dragons will wave.

This is because the two actions aren’t opposites; they’re just two ways for your bearded dragon to communicate, and which one they use depends on both their personality and their situation.

What If They’re Waving A Lot?

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If you’ve been observing your bearded dragon waving its arms excessively, there’s likely a problem that needs to be addressed. Normally, if a bearded dragon is feeling relaxed, you might see occasional waving, but if it’s happening frequently, there’s something amiss.

Let’s take a closer look at the two most common causes of frequent waving in bearded dragons.

  • A nervous beardie
  • A suboptimal habitat

If your pet is constantly scared of people or animals passing by its enclosure, the result may be an increased frequency of waving. It’s not fair to your pet to live in a constant state of fear, and this may lead to long-term health problems, including the risk of a bite. To address this, do everything you can to reduce stress or fear factors, like putting the enclosure in a safe, undisturbed area, and avoiding having other people or animals near the bearded dragon until it becomes more comfortable (which may never happen).

The second cause of excessive waving is a suboptimal habitat. To determine if this is the problem, you’ll need to take a closer look at your setup. Is the enclosure large enough? Is the temperature, humidity, and lighting just right? Is there a place for your bearded dragon to hide?

Be critical and honest with yourself to identify areas where improvements can be made. This will help you create a better environment for your pet, reducing the chance of excessive waving.

Can I Stop My Bearded Dragon From Arm Waving?

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Say it ain’t so! Stopping a bearded dragon from arm waving is like asking a dog to stop wagging its tail – it’s simply an instinctual and innate behavior. But fear not, there may be a way to reduce arm waving.

By tweaking their environment, you may see a decrease in arm waving. For example, if your bearded dragon is being bullied by other dragons in the tank, removing them and giving each dragon their own thriving space could lead to a decrease in arm waving behavior. So, who knows, with a little TLC, you might just be able to give your dragon a more peaceful existence.

Should Bearded Dragon Waving Be A Concern?

Bearded dragon arm waving is not always a red flag. It could be just a way of surrendering or a minor sign of stress. But, if you observe any other symptoms of stress like lack of appetite, sluggishness, or abnormal bowel movements accompanying excessive waving, it could be an indicator of a potential health problem.

Don’t let anything in its environment stress your scaly friend, pay attention to the setup of its enclosure. Eliminate any sources of stress that could lead to excessive anxiety, which could harm your dragon’s well-being. Keep your dragon healthy and happy by creating a stress-free environment for it.

Is arm waving bad for your bearded dragon?

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One of the most important things to remember is that arm waving is not an unhealthy activity itself.

Instead, this is a natural instinctive response that helps your bearded dragon in coping with their discomfort and worry.

Rather than focusing solely on preventing your bearded dragon from arm waving, it’s essential that you concentrate on identifying and eliminating whatever is causing the behavior.

You are limiting your bearded dragons’ way of showing their distress if you simply focus on stopping the arm waving itself.

This is a major aspect of their body language, as well as how they communicate and connect with others.

Why is my bearded dragon waving at insects?

Bearded dragons are known to wave at bugs, especially when they are babies or juveniles, which is both interesting and alarming.

The beardie usually looks at the crickets, shakes its arm at them, and then attacks. We know that arm-waving indicates submission, acknowledgment, fear of other pets, humans, and toys, or its own reflection.

However, when it comes to eating, things might be different. Of course, it is unclear why beardies behave in this manner, although it can be because of many factors.

When a beardie gestures at crickets, it is posing as a friend and then attacks when the cricket is least expecting it.

Also, seeing a lot of crickets rushing about can scare a bearded dragon, which is probably why it’s waving. When you feed too many crickets at once, this can happen. If that’s the case, start with a few crickets and slowly increase them when the dragon consumes them.

You could also be feeding the beardie crickets that are too big for it to eat, or the lizard isn’t happy with the way you’re feeding it.

Consider purchasing a feeding bowl with a lid and cutting a hole in the lid for the beardie’s head and front legs. The crickets will be happily devoured by the beardie.

Why is my bearded dragon arm waving and head bobbing?

Bearded dragons have their own unique way of communicating with each other. They often wave their arms to show recognition of another bearded dragon’s presence and to express submission.

Females have a variety of head bobs that they use to express themselves. A slow head bob is a sign of submission to a male, while a wave followed by a slow head bob signals that she’s ready to mate. But, if she’s feeling stressed or wants to be left alone, she may bob her head quickly as a warning sign. This can also indicate to a male that she’s already carrying eggs and not interested in mating.

Male bearded dragons are known to display dominance through their head bobs. A fast head bob from a male is a sign of his dominance, and it can be accompanied by puffing and blackening of his beard, which shows aggression. When a male is ready to mate, he will perform a violent or vigorous head bob that shakes his entire body.

So, there you have it! Bearded dragons have their own language and communication style that they use to express themselves and interact with each other.

Conclusion

Overall, bearded dragon arm waving is a rather normal thing that shouldn’t cause you too much stress. Most of the time, your bearded dragon is only showing that they are aware of your presence and do not intend to hurt you. You should only be concerned if they keep waving for extended periods of time!

I am the editor-in-chief at MyPetReptiles.com. I have been a reptile enthusiast for over a decade, and during this time I have kept and bred a variety of different reptiles such as bearded dragons, geckos, and chameleons. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience with others to help them provide the best care possible for their pet reptiles.

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