Bearded Dragon Behavior

Popular reptiles because of their unique appearance and good temperament, bearded dragons also have some of the most bizarre ways of communicating with one another.  And I’m sure, when you read below you’ll agree, that it’s never a dull day with a bearded dragon in the house!

No matter how much you enjoy these unique characteristics of the bearded dragon, you’ll have to learn to interpret their language, so to speak.  Although they rarely vocalize, bearded dragons can display some intense emotions through their behavior and it’s important to understand what it means.  Some behaviors show aggression, some submission and some vary in meaning depending on who’s talking to who.  As you might realize it can get a little complicated, but all these behaviors are normal and make up just another day in the life of a bearded dragon.

Inflated Beard

There can be no doubt that this is where the bearded dragon got its name. The bone-like structure under the neck is expanded, giving the appearance of a beard.  Both males and females show this behavior, however it is most often used by the male.  When a bearded dragon feels threatened it will flatten out its body and inflate its beard.  Defensive bearded dragons have also been seen to open its jaws and hiss.  Dominant males regularly use it to show his authority and superiority over other females and juveniles.  The beard can become very dark when they do this, to the point where its almost black.  You’ll see this behavior often during breeding season.  The male will be defensive against rivals and try to impress the females.

Bobbing Head

Commonly seen during the breeding season, this behavior is used by both male and females all year round.  Sometimes used to show dominance, often with an inflated beard, or just before mating.   The head bob can vary in speed and intensity and subsequently have many different meanings.  A very rapid, intense head bob means that the dragon is ready to mate.  A fast but less jerky bob is usually an aggressive gesture whilst a very slow bob, can be recognized as more of a nod, shows submission.  For this reason it is frequently used by females and juveniles.  Owners have also noticed the head bobbing behavior when they approach the enclosure, as though welcoming its visitor and saying ‘hello’.

Arm Waving

Strange but amusing.  Yes, bearded dragons literally ‘wave’ or rather move their front leg in a circular motion.  They’ll do this whilst standing on three legs and might even swap legs during the movement.

Juveniles will do this to show submission to a larger or dominant bearded dragon.  It is always used to show obedience or submission and generally in response to a dominant dragons head bobbing display.  Not being limited to small dragons, it is also used by adult dragons, both submissive males and females.

Tail Curbing

This is a sign of a healthy dragon.  Although not as amusing as arm waving, you should enjoy this behavior as this is when your bearded dragon is most alert.  Its tail will be curled up and point forwards towards its head. Often they will focus intensely on something such as their food at meal time, or anything else that has their attention.  It is seen during the breeding season, as the females communicate that they are willing to mate.  It might also be seen if the bearded dragon is placed in a new environment or any other change its surroundings.

Each bearded dragon has its own unique personality, so it’s important to get to know your dragon and learn the visual cues that tell you how its feeling.  This way you’ll improve your ability to care for your beloved pet and prevent unnecessary stress.  You might also be able to predict its behaviors and identify what triggers them.

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