Bearded Dragon Behavior List – 11 Things You Must Know
Imagine that you are in a foreign country and you don´t speak the language. Let´s say you are in Japan ( actually on my bucket list) and you don´t speak Japanese. What would you do to communicate with people there? First you would try to communicate in English with them, but if that would not work, you would try to find a way to make clear what your want. Most probably with your hands and feet.
Bearded dragons can´t do that. They only know their own way of communicating and it is your job to know what they want in order to care for them appropriately. Below I prepared a list of bearded dragon behavior that you should definitely know.
Arm Waving - A Common Bearded Dragon Behavior
Your bearded dragon wants to show you or another bearded dragon that it is submissive. It accepts you or the other bearded dragon as the stronger one.
I know it is sad. Back in the day I always thought that my beardie would say hello, haha. I´m sorry, I know it would be cool, but it´s just not true. Here is more on arm waving.
If you keep two beardies in one tank and you see this behavior you should definitely have an eye on your little friends. Beardies are loners and often times keeping them in one single tank doesn´t work out. Especially if you have two male dragons.
Your bearded dragon wants to show you that you are weak. It shows that you or another bearded dragon is subordinate. It is part of a territorial behavior. If you just got your bearded dragon, don´t worry about it. Your bearded dragon will get used to you and calm down.
If you keep your bearded dragon with other bearded dragons you might wanna increase the tank size or keep them in separate tanks. Need help setting up a tank?
Nodding can also be part of a mating ritual. The male nods and the female ducks.
Turning Completely Black
This can be stress and most of the times it is. Ask yourself why is my bearded dragon stressed? Do you keep your bearded dragon together with other beardies? Did you just get your dragon and it has to get used to the new environment?
Another reason might be your lighting. Maybe your tank is not warm enough. Maybe your hot spot is not warm enough and your bearded dragon can´t get on temperature. If you need help with your lighting, read my lighting guide.
If you see that your bearded dragon is completely black you should definitely be alerted. Read this article on bearded dragons turning black if you want to know more.
There are a lot of reasons for this. I wrote an entire article on black beards. It can be territorial behavior. Your bearded dragon is not happy with a fellow bearded dragon or it is not happy with you.
It can also be a sign for fear. Maybe your bearded dragon saw something unfamiliar. Maybe a bird outside of the window?
This can also be a sign for bad husbandry. Your bearded dragon is not feeling well. Maybe your cage is not appropriate. It could be too small or the placement isn´t right.
If you want to create a bigger habitat for your bearded dragon, have a look at this article!
Apparently one of the most misinterpreted behaviors of bearded dragons. Most people think that bearded dragon only do that when they are enjoying something. However it has been found out that beardies do that as well if they are afraid and want to show you that you should stop.
In my opinion it is important to diversify this. Has your bearded dragon come to you and closes it´s eyes while lying on your lap I am pretty sure that this is not a defensive behavior.
If you pet your bearded dragon and it closes it´s eyes it could be.
This often times comes with a very dark beard and an open mouth. Your bearded dragon is really angry at the moment. Sometimes they even nod to show you that they are the stronger one and want you to stay away.
It can also happen while yawning and stretching.
Lifting The Tail
This can be part of the mating ritual. Most probably your bearded dragon is ready to mate. However it can also be part of interacting with other beardies. Some bearded dragons do that to be social and to identify a bearded dragon.
If it is part of a mating ritual the bearded dragon that lifts the tail often times ducks at the same time.
Biting The Neck Of Other Beardies
This can have two reasons. Mating or saying hello and being social. Weird, right? So if you have a bearded dragon that bite´s your other bearded dragon´s neck, there is a pretty good chance that they will mate. Even if you think that you have two females actually. Most beardies turn out to be a different gender than you thought - happened to most beardie owners.
So now you know, mating or being social ... isn´t that the same? 🙂
You can see such a behavior very often in green iguanas. Green iguanas do not only bite if they are angry, they also like to give you a little slap with their tails which can be pretty painful.
A bearded dragon on the other hand is more of a faker when it comes to tail whipping. They might want to slap you if they are angry, but it is more for keeping you on distance. Most probably you won´t ever see this behavior in your beardie. As you know they are pretty laid back creatures.
However if you have a beardie that isn´t tame at all and you want to change that, read my taming guide!
Opening The Mouth
Actually this has more than one meaning or function. Most of the time this is just to make sure that your bearded dragon does not overheat. Absolutely normal, you should not worry about it if it happens when your beardie basks.
However there are multiple other reasons why your bearded dragon opens it´s mouth. One of it might be aggression. Doesn´t matter if it is towards you or other dragons, sometimes they do that when they are really angry and try to keep the aggressor at distance.
There are even more reasons, read my article on "mouth open" here.
It is actually a very good sign if you see your bearded dragon digging. Your beardie tries to get more comfortable in it´s home. Bearded dragon are natural diggers. No matter if male or female both love to dig caves and hide in there. However it could also mean that you have a female that wants to lay eggs. It could also be a sign for an upcoming brumation.
Male or female, you should always give your bearded dragon the opportunity to dig. Therefore you have to use a natural substrate. I recommend to get this Excavator Burrowing Clay. It is diggable and you can form hills and caves for your bearded dragon as well.
If you are afraid that your bearded dragon eats sand and might get impacted, read this article. It shows you how to prevent your bearded dragon from eating sand. And let´s be honest, sand looks way better than repti carpet, newspaper or kitchen roll, right?
If you want to know more about the Excavator Clay, read my substrate article.
So now you should be fluent in bearded dragonish. Have fun with your bearded dragon and don´t forget to share this article with other beardie keepers!
If you have questions about bearded dragon behavior, leave a comment below!
About the Author
Hey! I am Pierre. I own bearded dragons and many other reptiles for a very long time. I know from experience that it can be very hard to find the right information about a specific reptile, since there is so much misinformation out there.That´s why I created this website. To help other people to have the best time with their reptiles.