Handle your Bearded Dragon

Behaviour

Bearded dragons can display some amusing actions. It is important to have an understanding of bearded dragon behaviour so that you can be aware of your pets moods. Here is a list of common actions and what they are believed to mean, to help you in your understanding of your dragon.

Head bobbing

This is a common act in males and is a display of dominance. This can be a large and quick movement. A female may also display this but is less common than males and her head bobbing will often be smaller and slower than a male's head bob.

Arm wave

Unlike the head hob, the arm wave is an act of submission and is commonly displayed by females. When a male is displaying dominance, the female will often wave her arm in a circular motion to inform the male that she is submissive. This can also be shown as meaning a thank you after you have fed your dragon. Males will also display this behaviour but is very rare, and is likely to be after another male has displayed more dominance.

Bloating/flaring beard

The bearded dragon is known for their large beard under his chin. They may bloat this into a large balloon to appear bigger than they actually are. This is a sign of aggression but don't be intimidated by this. It is often a bluff and would not be followed up by an aggressive bite despite how fierce this conduct may appear. If your beardie appears to be on alert with tense body shaping and up on their legs then this is more than a bluff. This will happen when your dragon is unhappy for whatever reason, if they feel intimidated by you or if he is trying to display that he is 'alpha male'.

Opening mouth widely

If your dragon is opening his/her mouth widely this could be for a number of reasons, but should be monitored. The most common reason is for the dragon to cool down, and if this occurs regularly it could mean there isn't enough ventilation in your vivarium.

Raised tails

This will happen when your dragon is on alert such as when they are stalking their prey. You will notice that the tail will curve and raise.

Change in colour

Colour is a good indicator of mood. If they go dark especially in the beard area this could mean they are distressed or in an aggressive mood. Dragons are normally dark in colour. If they are paler than normal they could either be too cold or stressed.

Handling your bearded dragon

Your bearded dragon should be handled on a daily basis. Dragons have a relaxed and calm personality and are good to have as pets as they are normally tame by their nature. It is important to ensure that your dragon has contact with you on a regular basis in order for you to build a mutual trust.

Once your confidence has grown you may wish to try hand feeding your bearded dragon. This may come in handy if for any reason your dragon is having eating problems. We have had to hand feed our female Amber when she was pregnant as she wasnt quick enough to catch the locusts at the latter stages. Dont hand feed your dragons all the time though, as this will make them lazy and beardies can be very lazy as it is let alone encouraging them to be even more so.

hand feeding greens to a bearded dragon

Bathing

It is recommended to bath your dragon once a week. Bearded dragons are notorious for not drinking their water and so by bathing your bearded dragon you can help keep your dragon hydrated.

The other advantage to bathing your beardie is that it helps with their shedding. The water should be warm but not hot and should only be as deep as the beardie's chest. You may also wish to put something in the bath like a rock or use your hand for your Dragon to stand on if s/he feels insecure or unsafe. Like with bathing a baby, you should never leave your dragon unattended in the bath.

Bathing the bearded dragons together

Hibernation

The hibernation periods are necessary for breeding cycles. You will often find this is referred to as Brumation. A beardie will begin this cycle when s/he is over 12 months old. Live prey should not be fed during Brumation, but they should be fed fresh greens. You will find that your beardie will go off food and will sleep for long periods of the day. The natural cycle will cause this to happen in December - February, though Eddie did not go through this last year, this will be monitored closely this year. Reduce the hours your light is on to 8-10 hours per day and reduce the temp in the viv gradually until it reaches 60oF. Once this period is over gradually adjust the temperature and lighting hours back to what it has been for the rest of the year.