It’s important to understand your bearded dragon’s behavior if you want to ensure your pet remains healthy and happy. Since these creatures are exotic, it can be challenging to comprehend their needs intuitively.
It’s phenomenal that bearded dragons can display such a variety of characteristics and individual personalities.
Whether you already own a bearded dragon or plan on getting one, it’s essential to know the different behaviors you may observe. This knowledge can help you interpret what your pet is trying to communicate and recognize when it’s time to seek veterinary care.
Here are the fifteen most common bearded dragon behaviors.
Bearded Dragon Behavior & Body Language
Although bearded dragons may not vocalize, they still communicate with other beings through body language. This includes interactions with other bearded dragons, as well as other creatures they come across.
It is important to note that humans do not have an innate understanding of these signals. Rather, we have gained knowledge about them through studying and observing the behavior of bearded dragons. Therefore, it is crucial for owners to learn how to interpret these gestures in order to better understand their pets.
We can sort all bearded dragon behaviors into to categories i.e. common and abnormal.
Common or Normal bearded dragon behaviors include:
- Arm Waving
- Head Bobbing
- Changing Color
- Mouth Open
- Tail Curl
Abnormal and undesirable bearded dragon behaviors include:
- Glass Surfing
- Beard Puffing/ Inflation/ Bearding
- Tail whipping/ twitching
Certain common bearded dragon behaviors may raise concerns if they persist for an extended period or if they occur in a strange situation. For instance, a bearded dragon’s beard may become black during moments of excitement, which is expected behavior. However, if the beard remains dark consistently, it could signify that the dragon is experiencing distress or pain.
This is precisely why it is essential to examine the everyday habits of bearded dragons in greater detail.
Common or Normal Behaviors of Bearded Dragons
1. Arm Waving
Have you ever noticed your bearded dragon raising its front foot and waving at you? It’s quite a funny sight, almost like they’re saying “Hi!” to you.
Well, they are actually using this wave as a form of greeting.
Arm waving communicates two things: “I am here” and “I come in peace, don’t hurt me.” It’s a way for them to signal their presence and show submission. This is why young beardies who are still insecure tend to do the wave more often than mature adults.
Interestingly enough, bearded dragons will also use this wave as a form of greeting among their own species, as well as with humans and other animals they come across. So, the next time your bearded dragon waves at you, be sure to wave back!
Bearded dragon arm waving seems to be a submissive way to communicate, I’ve seen this in both males and females. I’ve seen them spend long times waving and alternating front legs and even from the dragons that are normally very dominant in the below video.
So possibly it could also be a courtship sign as well as acknowledgment. Check out the below video of 4 of my babies all waving at the same time!
Read More >> Why Do Bearded Dragons Wave?
2. Head Bobbing
Head bobbing is more common in male dragons compared to their female counterparts. In the wild, male dragons use this behavior to attract female attention or to intimidate other males and assert dominance.
However, in a domestic setting, your dragon may exhibit this behavior for various reasons, including:
New Dragon: If you recently acquired a new dragon, it may take some time to get used to its new environment. During this adjustment period, your dragon may bob at you as it familiarizes itself with its new surroundings.
Ongoing Stress: If you notice your dragon puffing out its black beard while bobbing, it could be a sign of severe stress or fear. This may be due to changes in the tank’s decor, noise levels, or the presence of crickets or other live feeders that may be biting your dragon.
Too Much Light: If your dragon is bobbing in its sleep, it could be due to excessive light in its terrarium. Bearded dragons sleep best in complete darkness, so try to provide a dark and quiet environment for your pet.
Breeding Season: If a male bearded dragon is head bobbing in springtime, it’s just his hormones getting wild due to the breeding season.
The length of time is also a factor, a couple of short head bobs is more an acknowledgment, whereas a full repetition is showing courtship/ dominance.
Sometimes, beardies also do short, slower bobs that seem like nodding to acknowledge each other or their humans. So, the next time you see your bearded dragon nodding its head, it may not always be trying to dominate or threaten.
Read More >> Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads Up And Down?
3. Changing Color
Bearded dragons change their colors for a variety of reasons. Each color mean different things.
Bearded Dragon Turning Black
Have you ever noticed your bearded dragon turning black? It’s actually a common behavior and has to do with temperature regulation.
When bearded dragons want to soak up more warmth, they’ll flatten out and turn black to absorb as much heat as possible. This can happen when you turn on the light in the morning or take them outside to bask in the sun.
Another reason why a bearded dragon might turn black is when they’re feeling aggressive. It’s their way of showing they’re ready to attack. However, if your bearded dragon’s beard is constantly black, it could be a sign of something more serious. They could be in pain or their habitat might not be suitable for them.
Bearded Dragon Turning Pale
If your bearded dragon suddenly becomes pale, it’s usually a sign that they’re going through shedding. This is a natural process for them and nothing to worry about. And don’t be surprised if you see them get lighter when they’re sleeping!
Read More >> Why Is My Bearded Dragon Turning White?
4. Mouth Open
If they’re not bobbing their heads, there’s no threat and no color changes, then they’re gaping and this is a way for them to let out surplus heat. It’s a way for them to thermoregulate their bodies, it happens when basking normally, but look out for it when they’re not under their heat lamp – it could signal overheating or poor heat gradient.
If the heating is correct and they’re frequently gaping, look for any signs of coughs, sneezes, loss of appetite, yellowing of the mouth tissues – this is likely an infection or respiratory disease.
Otherwise, if the mouth is open wide when your hand is nearby, then they’re excited in anticipation of being fed, but you’ll figure this out as they’ll also be trying to pounce at you with their tongues out.
Failing that if they’ve got their mouth open and they’re showing teeth or you can see the back of their mouth clearly, they’re backing away, the beard is dark and possibly puffed up this is an aggressive response to a threat.
Read More >> Why Do Bearded Dragons Open Their Mouth?
Have you ever wondered why bearded dragons like to lick things? Well, it turns out that their tongues are their main tools for exploring their surroundings. Just like other reptiles, they have a special organ called the Jacobson’s organ, which is located at the roof of their mouth.
When bearded dragons lick something, their forked tongue picks up the scent, and as they retract their tongue, the scent is transferred to the Jacobson’s organ. This helps them to both taste and smell their surroundings. So, the next time you see your bearded dragon licking something, remember that it’s just trying to learn more about the world around them.
Have you ever seen your bearded dragon yawn? If so, don’t be alarmed, as it’s quite normal. Lizards, including bearded dragons, can yawn occasionally.
When a bearded dragon yawns, it involves puffing out their beard a few times, which can look like hiccups, followed by opening and closing their mouth. This action is usually observed in the morning or when waking up from a nap.
But why do they yawn? Believe it or not, no one knows for certain what purpose yawning serves, not just in reptiles, but in any species. It remains a mystery.
7. Tail Curl
Have you noticed your bearded dragon’s tail curling? Don’t worry, it’s a natural behavior that indicates alertness. When these dragons get excited, chase prey or run around, they curl their tails up. Additionally, they may also curl their tails when exposed to warmth, such as being in hot surroundings or warm water. So, there’s no need to panic, your bearded dragon is just expressing its instincts.
Read More >> Why Is My Bearded Dragon Tail Curling?
Brumation is like hibernation for reptiles, but it’s a bit different. Unlike hibernation, reptiles slow down their metabolism instead of shutting it down completely. Also, they don’t really sleep.
Each bearded dragon will brumate differently and maintain different levels of activity.
While brumating, your bearded dragon will fall into a slumber that will last for a week or months, during which time he might not eat or drink much, or not at all.
Brumation is a natural process which is perfectly normal for your bearded dragon. You don’t have to worry about it. This process shouldn’t be interrupted.
What are the signs of bearded dragon brumation? The first sign is a significant change in behavior, which can include:
- Frequent hiding
- More naps and a sleepy appearance
- Sluggish movement
- Poor appetite
If your bearded dragon is trying to brumate out of season (in the summer), or if they are under a year old, it’s highly likely that their behavior mimicking brumation is a sign of poor health. Poor UVB lighting, improper temperature, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, vitamin overdose (especially with D3), or infections can all prompt brumation-like behavior.
In nature, weak or sick individuals often die during brumation. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make sure your bearded dragon brumates safely and wakes up with plenty of strength left.
Read More >> Bearded Dragon Brumation
Shedding is a normal process that occur in lizards and snakes. Unlike snakes, bearded dragons shed their skin in chunks.
One of the reasons for shedding is that bearded dragons outgrow their old skin. This means that younger bearded dragons that grow quickly will shed more frequently.
The shedding process can last anywhere from three to ten days, during which time your bearded dragon’s appearance and behavior will change.
You can tell when your bearded dragon is about to shed because their skin color will become dull and they will feel itchy and uncomfortable. As a result, they may not want to eat or sleep as much as usual. However, it is perfectly normal for bearded dragons not to eat during the shedding process.
Note: It can be tempting to pull off pieces of the old skin, but you should never do this unless the skin is completely loose. If there is any resistance, stop immediately.
Read More >> Bearded Dragon Shedding
Unusual or Abnormal Behaviors of Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons may display unusual behaviors when they are feeling unwell or distressed. While some of these behaviors are natural, such as digging or self-defense, they may also indicate that your pet needs your attention and assistance.
However, some behaviors should not be ignored, like constantly gaping, which can be a clear indication of sickness. It is important to monitor your bearded dragon’s behavior closely and seek veterinary care if you notice any concerning changes.
Bearded dragons are known for hissing when they feel threatened. This is their way of saying “back off, I will defend myself”. You can tell they are really serious when their beard puffs up and turns black.
Unfortunately, hissing doesn’t always work and some bearded dragons may resort to biting. This is a clear sign of aggression and a signal to leave them alone. So if you see a bearded dragon hissing, it’s best to give them some space and let them calm down.
Sounds obvious, but can happen during mating, the male will mount the female but bite the back of the female’s head to stop her moving. Otherwise, it’s more aggressive.
I’ve had a dragon attack and bite their offspring, breaking their arm – everything was fine, but once they’ve bitten they don’t want to let go, so you’ll have to prise their jaws apart – there’s not too much pressure.
The most obvious cause of biting/nipping occurs in the young when breeders keep a clutch of eggs together in one tank, space runs out and they get aggressive – this is one reason why your beardie will be missing a toe or have a shorter tail – I’ve seen one baby lose a foot to another one biting.
In short, give them their space. This happens with adults too but thankfully most of us are sensible and give each one plenty of space.
If you have adopted an adult dragon who has not been accustomed to human handling or has been mistreated in the past, it is crucial to approach him with caution. Such dragons may view human contact as a threat and defend themselves in their own way.
To avoid getting bitten, it is advisable to wear thick gloves and initiate short handling sessions every day. You can also try hand-feeding them with some treats during mealtime in their terrarium. This will help your dragon understand that your hand is not a source of discomfort, and consequently, he will stop displaying aggressive behavior.
Read More >> Bearded Dragon Bite
3. Glass Surfing
Have you ever witnessed your dragon constantly pushing and scratching at the glass of its terrarium, standing on its hind legs, as if trying to escape? This behavior is commonly known as glass surfing, and although it can be adorable or amusing, it may not necessarily be a display of affection or a photo opportunity.
Here are some reasons why your dragon may be glass surfing:
Pregnancy: Expecting female dragons may experience glass surfing along with digging. If your dragon is pregnant, you may notice rock-shaped bulges in its enlarged abdomen.
Surprise: Dragons may become startled by their own reflection, especially if the walls of their glass terrarium are highly reflective.
Poor temperature: As previously mentioned, inappropriate temperature regulation can lead to various behaviors in bearded dragons, including glass surfing. Your dragon may be attempting to convey its need to cool down or warm up.
Lack of space: If your dragon’s terrarium is too small or cluttered with decorations, it may glass surf. A 40-gallon tank is typically recommended, but if your dragon is over 16 inches long, you will need a 50-gallon tank or bigger.
Boredom: It may seem simple, but your pet may be glass surfing due to a lack of stimulation. Ensure that you spend quality time with your bearded dragon, and provide enough items for it to burrow under and climb on. Dragons tend to enjoy hollow logs, hammocks, and rocks.
Poo: Some dragons may glass surf after defecating, so it’s essential to clean up quickly.
Fear: If something new or stressful is present in your dragon’s environment, it may attempt to flee. For example, if there are feeders in the cage, your dragon may be uncomfortable.
Read More >> Bearded Dragon Glass Surfing
Have you noticed your bearded dragon digging around in their loose substrate or attempting to dig through the floor of her terrarium? You might wonder what’s going on. But, no need to worry! Digging is a natural behavior in bearded dragons and it usually suggests one of the following:
Brumation: When bearded dragons are ready to go into brumation, you may notice them digging accompanied by lethargy. This is completely normal as many pet dragons instinctually brumate during the cold months.
Pregnancy: Pregnant female dragons begin digging when they are ready to lay their eggs. If your dragon is expecting, make sure to offer her additional calcium supplements to prevent metabolic bone disease since eggs require extra calcium.
Temperature issues: 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. If you see your dragon panting, pancaking, or being lethargic, check the temperature to see if it’s ideal.
Is your bearded dragon seeming sluggish and unenergetic for more than a few days? Are they sleeping more than usual, moving slower (not due to mobility issues), or ignoring prey? There are several possible causes for this, some of which are normal, while others may indicate a more serious problem.
Brumation: If your dragon seems lethargic and is hiding under things or trying to burrow, it may be preparing for brumation.
Lack of heat: If the temperature in your tank is too low, your dragon may act fatigued. The temperature beneath the basking spot should be between 95 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit, while the rest of the cage should be around 70 degrees. At night, the entire tank should be around 65 degrees.
It’s a good idea to keep a thermometer at either end of the terrarium and use a thermometer gun to ensure the temperature is consistent.
Poor lighting: Bearded dragons require exposure to UV rays that mimic the desert sun. This helps them properly digest and absorb food and nutrients. Without it, they may become lethargic and sick.
Make sure your basking bulb is on for 12 hours a day and is about 12 inches above the basking spot. It’s also important to replace the bulb every six months for optimal performance.
Parasites: If your dragon is acting lethargic and has foul-smelling, runny stool, it may have parasites. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect this.
Poor diet: If your bearded dragon isn’t getting a healthy, balanced diet, they may become lethargic. Check to make sure your dragon is getting all of the necessary nutrients they need.
If your dragon seems to be panting like a dog, there could be a few potential reasons for this. Here are some things to consider:
Temperature: It’s possible that the tank is too hot. Since dragons are cold-blooded creatures, they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. If the tank is too warm, your dragon might start to overheat and pant as a result.
To avoid this, make sure that your dragon’s basking area is between 95 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. There should also be cooler areas of the tank where your dragon can go to cool off. At night, the entire tank should be kept between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mouth Rot: Another potential cause of panting in bearded dragons is mouth rot. This is a serious illness that can cause your dragon to leave its mouth hanging open and appear to be panting.
Mouth rot is caused by a weakened immune system and can result from stress, inadequate heating and lighting, or poor diet. If you notice that your dragon’s mouth looks yellow or gray, its gums are red and inflamed, or it is refusing to eat, it’s important to contact your veterinarian right away. This disease can spread to the lungs if left untreated.
Respiratory Infection: Respiratory problems such as pneumonia can also cause your dragon to pant. If you notice your dragon sneezing, refusing to eat, breathing quickly or taking shallow breaths, or acting tired, it’s important to contact your vet immediately. Other symptoms can include fluid leaking from the eyes and nose.
7. Beard Puffing/ Inflation/ Bearding
Bearded dragons are named due to their fluffy black beards. If you notice your dragon’s beard making an appearance, there are a few possible reasons behind it.
Stress or Fear: Bearded dragons tend to puff out their beards when they feel threatened or anxious. It could be that your dragon is distressed by something new in their environment or feeling too hot or cold. It’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian if you notice frequent puffing.
Shedding: Sometimes, bearded dragons become so eager to shed their skin that they puff out their beards in an attempt to hasten the process. If this is the case, the beard appearance will only last until the shedding is complete.
Occasionally if they’ve been a bit greedy in eating they could also be clearing their mouths – I’ve seen beardies do this a few times, flexing their beard after a few insects.
Bearded dragons can sometimes flatten their bellies against the ground, in a shape that resembles a pancake. This behavior is commonly known as “pancaking”.
There are two reasons why bearded dragons may exhibit pancaking behavior.
Fear: In the wild, they flatten themselves as a defense mechanism against predators. By doing so, their spikes become more prominent, which can intimidate their enemies.
Domestic bearded dragons may also pancake when they are outside, especially if they are not used to being outdoors, or if they are startled by a sudden movement. Fear is the primary cause of pancaking in such situations.
Drop in Temperature: The second reason for pancaking is a drop in temperature. If a bearded dragon’s terrarium is too cold, they may try to regulate their body temperature by flattening out and absorbing as much heat as possible.
If your bearded dragon frequently exhibits pancaking behavior in its tank, the most likely cause is a lack of warmth. To ensure that your pet is comfortable, it’s important to check the temperatures regularly, and make sure that the basking spot is adequately warm. Additionally, make sure that the temperature does not drop too low at night.
Only occurs when with another dragon, same-sex = fight, different-sex = mating. Always they will flatten and angle their bodies towards the other beardie.
10. Tail whipping/ twitching
This will occur either as part of circling, most likely during mating, but can also occur when there’s some unwanted aggravation e.g. your hand, an insect.
If you want to see them really use their tails, watch them swim, otherwise most times the tail position reflects alertness & health.