Why is My Bearded Dragon Aggressive? Causes and Solution

Bearded dragons are calm and friendly reptiles, but they can become aggressive if things in their environment stress them.

You know your bearded dragon is aggressive when it is literally trying to bite you while you are going in its tank.

In this post, we will discuss all the possible reasons why bearded dragons become aggressive and how to tame them and make them like you.

Signs of Aggression in Bearded Dragons

  • Hissing
  • Open mouth display
  • Puffing up the beard
  • Black beard and stress marks
  • Staring
  • Head bobbing (especially quick jerks – a sign of competitive behavior)
  • Running away
  • Biting

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. You should probably just avoid handling them until they calm down, especially if their beard is dark or their 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.

2. Hormones

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.

3. Cohabitation

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

Another common cause of aggression in bearded dragons is health.

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 could also be linked to how the previous owner treated them.

Poor treatment from humans can make them distressed and even attack anyone who tries to handle them.

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.

7. Brumation

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.

8. Shedding

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, 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

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.

11. Hunger

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 breeding season, your bearded dragon might get a little bit more aggressive, but this doesn’t happen very often. 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.

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.

1. Petting

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.

3. Handling

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.

I am the editor-in-chief at MyPetReptiles.com, a site that is devoted to reptiles and the people who love them. I have been keeping and breeding many pet reptiles such as bearded dragons, geckos, chameleons, etc. for over 10 years now.

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