Bearded dragons are fascinating creatures that make great pets. They are generally known for their docile nature and affectionate personalities, but at times they can display aggressive behaviors that may surprise their owners.
Understanding why your bearded dragon may be displaying aggressive behaviors is important in order to address the underlying issues and help them feel more comfortable around you.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of aggressive behaviors displayed by bearded dragons, the possible causes of aggression, and how to deal with aggressive behavior.
Aggressive Behaviour in Bearded Dragons
Here are some common aggressive behaviors that bearded dragons may exhibit:
1. Black Beard
One of the most noticeable signs of aggression in bearded dragons is the black beard. The black beard is a display of dominance and is a clear indication that your bearded dragon is feeling threatened or stressed.
The beard will turn black, and the throat area will puff up to make the dragon appear larger and more intimidating. This display is usually seen when a bearded dragon encounters a new environment, another bearded dragon, or when they are feeling threatened in some way.
2. Head Bobbing
Head bobbing is another aggressive behavior exhibited by bearded dragons. This behavior is usually seen in males and is a sign of dominance.
When a male bearded dragon bobs its head, it is trying to establish dominance over another male or trying to attract a female.
However, head bobbing can also be a sign of aggression and is often seen when a bearded dragon feels threatened or is warning another bearded dragon to back off.
Here is a video of a bearded dragon head bobbing:
3. Flattening Out
Bearded dragons have the ability to flatten out their bodies, making themselves appear larger and more intimidating. This behavior is often seen when a bearded dragon feels threatened or is trying to establish dominance. Flattening out is usually accompanied by a black beard and can be a sign of aggression.
Hissing is another aggressive behavior exhibited by bearded dragons. When a bearded dragon hisses, it is a warning sign that they feel threatened and are ready to defend itself.
Hissing is usually accompanied by a black beard and a flattened-out body. If you hear your bearded dragon hissing, it is best to give them space and avoid handling them until they calm down.
Biting is one of the most concerning aggressive behaviors exhibited by bearded dragons. When a bearded dragon bites, it is usually a sign of extreme stress or fear.
Biting can also be a sign of dominance, but this behavior is less common. If your bearded dragon bites, it is best to seek advice from a reptile veterinarian or a qualified reptile behaviorist.
5. Tail Whipping
Tail whipping is another aggressive behavior exhibited by bearded dragons. When a bearded dragon whips its tail, it is a warning sign that they feel threatened and are ready to defend themselves. Tail whipping is often accompanied by a black beard and a flattened-out body.
What Causes Aggression in Bearded Dragons?
Most of the potential causes of aggression in bearded dragons are directly related to your pet’s environment and how you interact with them.
1. Improper Handling
Improper handling is one of the leading causes of aggressive behavior in bearded dragons.
When you approach to pick up your bearded dragon, look at it to see if it’s showing signs of hesitation or fear as you get closer.
Note: You should avoid handling your bearded dragon until it calms down, especially if its beard is dark or its mouth is gaping.
Some of the mistakes owners make when handling their beardies and potentially making them aggressive include:
- Approach from above
- Picking up by the head or tail
- handling for too long
- Touching or prodding at their mouth, limbs, and tail
- Sudden loud noises or movements
Approaching beardie from above will stress them because they will perceive you as a predator. In the wild, predators mostly attack from above. That’s why you should always approach your beardie from the sides.
Picking up beardies with fragile body parts such as the head and tail can also make them aggressive. When handling beardies, carefully slide your hands underneath their belly and limbs to support their entire body.
Holding your bearded dragon for too long can also exhaust them and make them aggressive.
Hormonal changes are a common reason why your bearded dragon becomes aggressive. This can occur in both male and female dragons.
In females, it can happen when they are getting ready to ovulate. Male bearded dragons may do this as a way to show territorial dominance or to attract females. Bearded dragons can start doing these things as early as six months old.
Bearded dragons are solitary creatures and can become aggressive toward other dragons or pets in their enclosure.
Housing multiple bearded dragons in the same tank will almost always cause unnecessary stress and competition for resources that may lead to aggression.
Bearded dragons are territorial creatures that benefit most from being the only animal in their enclosure.
Note: Bearded dragons can also become aggressive if they see their own reflection in the glass of the tank.
4. Your Bearded Dragon Is Scared
If your bearded dragon cannot see you approaching or is relaxed while you approach them, it may get scared. This can happen, for example, when you sneak up on your bearded dragon from behind or touch it when it’s almost asleep or calm. Because of this, your bearded dragon may suddenly become aggressive, rush about the tank, and hurt itself.
5. Health Problem Leading To Aggression
Illness is another reason why bearded dragons may become aggressive.
If a bearded dragon is experiencing pain or discomfort due to an underlying medical condition, it may exhibit aggressive behavior as a result.
Your beardie will act differently if they have parasites, MBD, respiratory infection, or mouth rot and will not enjoy handling as much as they usually do.
It is important to watch your beardie and learn what normal behavior is to deal with sudden changes.
If you notice sudden weight loss or frequent black beard in your beardie, it’s best to take it to a vet as these are sometimes indicators of potential illnesses.
6. Prior Abuse Or Neglect
The aggression in your bearded dragon could also be linked to how the previous owner treated them.
If a bearded dragon has been mistreated or abused in the past, it may develop aggressive tendencies as a defense mechanism. This behavior can be challenging to correct, but with patience and proper training, it is possible to help the bearded dragon overcome its fear and aggression.
The easiest way to tell if they have been abused or neglected is if they have a tail nip or toe nip, which causes damage to these areas.
If your bearded dragon came from an abusive home, be patient with it and handle it slowly to earn its trust.
Before they go into brumation, many bearded dragons get grumpy or even aggressive.
You’ll know your bearded dragon is about to brumate because it will stop eating, become lethargic, sleep excessively (even during the day), and hide.
During brumation and the weeks before it, it’s best to give your dragon space and not handle them as much.
Bearded dragons can become quite grumpy during the shedding process. The shedding process can cause bearded dragons to have mood swings, and some will even refuse to eat during this time.
During this time, they may become irritable and aggressive due to the discomfort and itchiness associated with the shedding process.
During this time, it’s possible that your bearded dragon won’t want a lot of attention or want to be handled. If your bearded dragon is young, you will learn its typical behavior during these times.
9. Change in Environment
Your bearded dragon can get mad if you change its environment or bring in or take out new things. Your bearded dragon may react negatively to seemingly minor changes.
Moving the tank or adding new decorations items, such as new accessories and furniture, can make your bearded dragon angry and aggressive.
If you have relocated the tank or added new things, give your bearded dragon time to adjust to the new surroundings. This can take up to two weeks.
10. Wrong setup
Another factor that may contribute to aggression in bearded dragons is living in a small tank.
If your beardie’s enclosure is too small, they will become upset from a lack of space to walk, eat, hide, and sleep.
Small mistakes in setting up the enclosure or caring for your bearded dragon can make them angry, aggressive, or sick.
When your bearded dragon is irritated by something in its environment, it may also become angry with you.
This, for example, can be incorrect lighting or heating. The wrong lighting can damage your beardie’s eyes, making them stressed and aggressive.
Your beardie can also get stressed if they can see other pets, such as cats and dogs. This can also be due to feeder bugs hiding and biting it, a lack of hides in the tank, and other stressors.
Bearded dragons are voracious eaters and can become aggressive if they are hungry.
If your bearded dragon shows any signs of aggression, such as attacking or biting you, it may simply be hungry.
Young bearded dragons up to 7 months old should be allowed to eat as much as they want in a 20-minute feeding time. They grow very rapidly in the first few months, so limiting the food will decrease this growth rate and may lead to health issues.
12. Breeding Season
During the mating season, male bearded dragons can become aggressive toward other males and even toward their female mates.
Male bearded dragons often become aggressive when competing for a female.
When competing for a female, they can bite each other, bob their heads, and run around. You might get bitten if you try to handle your dragon at this time.
Bearded dragons can also become aggressive when they are frightened or startled. This can happen if they are surprised by a sudden noise or movement or if they perceive a threat. Owners should always approach their bearded dragon calmly and avoid making sudden movements or loud noises that may scare them.
How To Tame An Aggressive Bearded Dragon
We have a few methods that you can try. Tell us in the comments below which one worked for you.
If your bearded dragon doesn’t really like your hand in the tank or anywhere near them and tries to attack you, don’t rush handling them. This may time some time, so you need to be patient. Because you don’t know what that bearded dragon went through before you got him.
We recommend putting your hand on the other side of the tank but inside. Do not move your hand if your beardie seems stressed out.
Slowly approach your bearded dragon with your hand, but if they stress out more, take your hand out and try again after a few minutes.
You want to gradually make your way into touching your bearded dragon. You want to start petting your beardie somewhere on the body, not their heads, so they can see you when you are petting them. Because bearded dragons have eyes on the sides, they can actually see behind them. They can see their tails and the bottom half of them. If you try to pet them on the head, they will not be able to see and will try to bite you.
We recommend starting from the tail, pet on the tip of their tail, and then making your way up so they can be familiar with you.
If your bearded dragon looks like it is becoming stressed out at any given time, hisses at you, tries to attack you, takes your hands out, and start from the beginning.
Taming an aggressive bearded dragon is a very slow process. And if you try about three or four times in one day and your bearded dragon still doesn’t want to be petted, then I highly recommend just stopping and trying the next day. Because they are at least getting used to the fact that your hand will be in the tank. We recommend doing this daily because the more you have your hand in there, the more attention you give them, the better.
2. Hand Feeding
Pick up their favorite food (whatever they go to first in the bowl), slowly put your hand into their enclosure, and try feeding them.
Warning: You don’t want your bearded dragon getting used to being hand fed. You only want to do it so they can get used to you and trust you.
If they work their way toward your hand and take the food, you can then begin trying to pet them. But if they look more stressed and aggressive, take your hand out of the tank immediately. You should try this method every day until your beardie starts to trusts you.
Once your pet allows you to pet them, you can move on to the next stage, which is holding them.
When you try to pick up your bearded dragon, make sure to pick them up from the chest and, with the other hand, support its bottom at the same time. Never pick up your beardie with one hand, at least if you are a beginner.
Stop handling them if they get stressed out when you try to pick them up. Continue petting them until they get used to you.
Once your beardie is comfortable with you, you can put them on your shoulder or even let them walk around the floor.
Bearded dragons can become aggressive for several reasons, including hormonal changes, improper handling, environmental changes, shedding, and feeling threatened. It is important to take your bearded dragon to a veterinarian if you notice any aggressive behavior to rule out any underlying health issues. By understanding the reasons why bearded dragons become aggressive, you can take steps to prevent aggression and ensure that your bearded dragon is happy and healthy. I hope this information helps you write your article. Let me know if you have any other questions or if there is anything else I can help you with.