Bearded dragons sitting on top of each other
iStock.com/Claudia Nass

Bearded Dragon Behavior

Similar to people, bearded dragons will have specific body language that indicates their mood, health, and feelings. This page will go over some of the most common bearded dragon behaviors so you can better understand what your bearded dragon is feeling.

Reasons for Certain Behavior

Bearded dragons will not mimic other reptiles, so their behavior is always genuine. Most bearded dragons will display different behavior when a female bearded dragon is around, another dragon comes towards them, or if they are approached by a larger animal or something unknown.

List of Bearded Dragon Behaviors

Below is the full list of different behaviors that bearded dragons have and what they mean.

Arm Waving

This is when the bearded dragon will stand high on three legs and will raise the remaining leg in the air and wave it in a circular motion.

There are a couple of possible meanings when a bearded dragon waves it's arms. One meaning is species recognition. If a bearded dragon waves at another bearded dragon, it signals the other dragon that he/she is aware of their presence.

Another meaning is submission. A bearded dragon may wave his or her arm whenever they are approached by a larger dragon or whenever a larger animal approaches them.

Bearded Dragon Head Bobbing

Head bobbing is more common in males and is when the dragon repeatedly raises and lowers their head.

Head bobbing is generally used as a sign of dominance between two dragons. Males will head bob at females to show their dominance during breeding. Other times two bearded dragons will head bob at each other as a sign of territorial aggression.

Generally the faster the head bob the more threatening. If a bearded dragon is head bobbing towards another dragon very quickly, it's generally for territorial reasons. However, if a bearded dragon slowly head bobs another dragon, it can be a sign of submission.

Bearding - Fluffing Their Beard

Both male and female bearded dragons expand their beards. Generally they will do this as a defensive behavior to make themselves seem larger. However, it is not unusual for a bearded dragon to stretch their beards from time to time without being provoked.

Bearded Dragon Digging

Digging is whenever a dragon beings making a hole in the substrate inside their tank.

One reason bearded dragons dig is to create a smaller basking area that is more comfortable. Bearded dragons can sometimes do strange things, but this can sometimes be the reason.

If your bearded dragon is a female, she will begin digging and moving items around in her tank to create a place for her to lay her eggs.

If your bearded dragon is old enough, he or she will dig to go into brumation (semi-hibernation). This makes it easier for them to regulate their temperature while they are resting. Many bearded dragon owners suggest placing a small towel in the tank that your bearded dragon can go beneath to help aid with their sleeping.

Lying on Top of Each Other

This may look like your bearded dragons are getting along and are great companions, but it's actually a sign of dominance. In the animal kingdom it is the survival of the fittest and bearded dragons need UV rays to remain healthy. So the dominate bearded dragon will always try to get as many UV rays as possible.

Bearded Dragon Mouth Open (Gaping)

An open mouth is just what it sounds like. It's basically when your bearded dragon is sitting with his/her mouth open instead of closed.

The most common reason for an open mouth is that your bearded dragon is regulating his/her temperature. Unlike people, bearded dragons cannot sweat. To control their body temperature they will open their mouth whenever they reach their ideal body temperature and don't want to get any hotter. Normally bearded dragons will do this while basking beneath a heat lamp.

Bearded dragons will also have their mouth open if they are experiencing respiratory issues. However, this is rare so if your beardie has an open mouth it is most likely for regulating their body temperature.

Tail Twitching

This is when your bearded dragon's tail will twitch (similar to the way a cat will quickly flick their tail). Not every bearded dragon will do this, but if yours does it can be an indicator of your bearded dragon's mood.

Many owners report their dragon's tail will twitch when they are hunting prey (e.g. crickets) or if they are stressed with your presence (e.g. you're petting them and they don't want to be disturbed). Sometimes two bearded dragons will twitch their tails during breeding.

Bearded Dragon Signs of Aggression

Bearded dragons are generally not aggressive by nature (which is why they make such good pets). They usually do not show signs of aggression towards people, however if they are provoked they may try to bite you.

Most forms of aggression are displayed when around other reptiles (especially bearded dragons). Below are some common signs of aggression for male and female dragons:

Fluffing Their Beard / Bearding

This is where the bearded dragon got its name. A bearded dragon will "puff up" its beard if threatened. This makes the dragon seem larger and more threatening so it is considered a sign of aggression. It is not uncommon for the beard to change to a slightly darker color when bearding.

Hissing

Bearded dragons will also hiss if they feel threatened. This is a clear signal the bearded dragon is uncomfortable and is considered a sign of aggression.

Biting

This is an obvious sign of aggression. Bearded dragons rarely bite people, however if the dragon is uncomfortable, ill, or is unfamiliar with you they may bite when being held. Fortunately their bites are not severe and it is recommended to wear a pair of soft gardening gloves if your beardie is biting. If your bearded dragon is new and uncomfortable with being held, wearing gloves can be a good way to get your beardie used to being held without getting bit.

Head Bobbing

Bearded dragons will bob their head up and down as a sign of territorial aggression towards other beardies. Occasionally they will bob their heads as a form of communication between each other. For example, a dragon may bob his/her head four or five times quickly and the other dragon may bob their head twice slowly in response as acknowledgement.

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