10 Signs Your Bearded Dragon Is Absolutely Happy

Bearded dragons are hardy pet reptiles but how do we know whether they’re really happy, or whether we are wrongly reading human feelings in their reptile body language? What are the signs of a happy Bearded Dragon?

A happy Bearded Dragon will be alert, with both eyes open. It will stay smooth through the neck, and retain bright or light coloration all over. It sleeps, eats, and defecates in a good routine. It shows signs of relaxing when handled and approaches or interacts with you voluntarily. 

So those are the basic signs of a happy Bearded Dragon. But this summarized information can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. Let’s look deeper into how to tell that a Bearded Dragon is happy. 

Find Out If Your Bearded Dragon Is Happy!

So first, have a look at the decision tree we created for you below. It will help you to find out if your beardie is happy. After that, we explain every point in detail and tell you what you need to look out for.

bearded dragon happy behavior

If you are still not sure, also check out our article with 5 clear signs that your bearded dragon is unhappy!

1. Your Bearded Dragon Eats, Sleeps, and Defecates In A Regular Pattern

This point may seem kind of boring but is absolutely crucial. Animals love routine. Routine is what gives them security and confidence that they know when the next meals are coming and when they are safe.

If you have a happy, well-cared-for Bearded Dragon, it will respond to the routine that you put in place, by predictably eating, sleeping, and pooping. 

Get familiar with this pattern so that you know when all is well with your pet, and when something is out of place.

A happy Bearded Dragon has a good circadian rhythm (it knows the cycle of day and night), and will follow a regular pattern of behavior. 

2. Your Bearded Dragon Is Usually Found In Plain View

Your Bearded Dragon should have a selection of areas in its enclosure, including a basking spot, digging substrate, and a hide.

A Bearded Dragon that is stressed and anxious will often be found sheltering in the hide. This is a bad sign that it feels under threat and could be suffering chronic stress. It may develop subsequent health problems.

A happy Bearded Dragon will almost always be found in full view. Often, this will be lounging in a basking spot, like the Bearded Dragon pictured below.

Bearded Dragons are also very active and curious, so it will probably spend a lot of time exploring the habitat. It may even be found at the glass, asking to come out!

What you’re looking for is a Bearded Dragon that feels confident in its environment. An unhappy Bearded Dragon will hide away and avoid contact. 

how to make your bearded dragon happy
This Bearded Dragon is alert, has clear eyes, and is happy to be out in full view.

3. Your Bearded Dragon Is Alert And Has Both Eyes Open

They say that eyes are the windows to the soul, and with a Bearded Dragon, it is no different. Bearded Dragons have many predators in the wild, so their usual state is to be alert.

They should have both eyes open and should look around the room. 

A Bearded Dragon should not have only 1 eye open. This is usually a sign of infection or illness. You should take your Bearded Dragon to the vet if you notice it is closing one eye all the time.

A healthy Bearded Dragon’s eyes should be round, bright, and inquisitive, like in the image below. 

Except in cases when your Bearded Dragon is sleeping, it should be in an alert state. Look at the video below to see a confident, happy, and alert Bearded Dragon interacting with a toy. 

It has wide, bright eyes, a smooth neck, light coloration, and is interacting voluntarily with its owner. That is a happy Bearded Dragon!

4. Your Bearded Dragon Comes Over To Say Hello

Just like with humans, a Bearded Dragon that strides toward you to say hello is a great sign of self-confidence!

It is probably doing this out of cupboard love, because it knows that you bring the food. However, this doesn’t make the trust that you have gained from your dragon any less special!

Your pet might get up to approach you when you enter the room. It might return to you when it has a choice of open space to run around in.

Any scenario like this is a great sign of a confident and happy Bearded Dragon. Never forget how large and intimidating you are. It is no small compliment that your pet feels secure enough to approach you. 

5. Your Bearded Dragon Is Vibrant Or Light In Color

*CAUTION! COMMON MISINTERPRETATION ALERT*

Bearded Dragons are reptiles and so are cold-blooded. This means that they can’t warm or cool themselves internally.

Instead, they have a range of behaviors that allow them to use the environment to warm up or cool down. These behaviors include basking in warm places, sheltering in cool places, and changing colors. 

Dark colors absorb heat and light more easily, so Bearded Dragons that feel cold and want to warm up will turn a dark color.

On the contrary, light or bright colors reflect heat and light away, so a Bearded Dragon that is too hot and wants to cool down will turn lighter, brighter colors.

This is confusing, because color changes also mean something else. When they feel defensive or aggressive, Bearded Dragons will become darker in color.

They begin with their famous beard. The neck turns black, and the underside then the whole body will follow to some extent.

This leads to people believing that a light or bright-colored Bearded Dragon is not feeling aggressive or threatened, and is therefore happy instead. In part, they are correct. Bearded Dragons that feel relaxed, confident, and not threatened, will adopt brighter, more vibrant colors.

So, a colorful Bearded Dragon is likely to be a great sign! But beware! Don’t think that your light-colored dragon is always happy.

It may be that it is overheating, so ensure that you move it to a cooler location before you make a snap judgment. 

Also, did you know that Bearded Dragons now come in a wide range of colors, known as morphs?

Morphs can be extremely vivid colors, or dark, or pale. Because of this, it can be difficult to decide exactly what bright or dark looks like for your particular pet.

So, make sure you learn your Bearded Dragon’s normal colors. Try taking a picture of them going about their business. This way, you will learn what changes look like for your pet. 

bearded dragon happy body language
On the left: The black coloration, open mouth, and puffed-up bread of the Bearded Dragon all indicate that it is very unhappy. On the right: A very relaxed and happy white bearded dragon. The incredible array of colored morphs available today makes it more difficult to read Bearded Dragon behavior.

6. Your Bearded Dragon Is Quiet

Bearded Dragons are not very vocal animals. In fact, they pretty much only make one sound, and that is hissing.

Bearded Dragons hiss alongside puffing up their beard, turning black, and trying to bite. Hissing means an unhappy Bearded Dragon, while the sweet sound of silence means you have a happy Bearded Dragon!

7. Your Bearded Dragon Has A Smooth Neck And Doesn’t Bob Its Head

*CAUTION! COMMON MISINTERPRETATION ALERT*

When you approach a happy Bearded Dragon, you are going to see light or bright colors, a smooth, narrow neck, and a lifted head that follows your movements.

You do not want to see aggressive communication such as a puffed-out beard and dark colors. Look at the video to see this aggressive body language.

Body language like this tells you that your Bearded Dragon is stressed and unhappy. It might not be you that has caused this.

A dark, puffed-up beard and head bobbing could signal that your pet feels territorial, wants to find a mate, is trying to intimidate another pet, or is trying to challenge you.

It could also signal that the Bearded Dragon is unwell or in pain. 

Of course, it is never quite that simple. Some head-bobs are a little different. If you see your Bearded Dragon head-bobbing, but you don’t see a dark beard, open mouth, biting, or hissing, it may mean something different.

Your Bearded Dragon may do a slow head bob to acknowledge your approach, or to signal submission, like with the arm-waving behavior. Check out this Bearded Dragon’s careful message of welcome.

8. Your Bearded Dragon Waves At You For A Short Period Only 

*CAUTION! COMMON MISINTERPRETATION ALERT*

Waving the forearms is another sign of a happy Bearded Dragon that is often talked about. However, this is not quite accurate.

Waving the forearms literally translates as “I am submissive to you”. Just like when puppies roll their bellies up, this can be a great way to start a social interaction with a friend.

Therefore, to a certain extent, it can mean that you have a good relationship with your Bearded Dragon. They recognize you as a dominant, larger animal that provides food and protection.

Your Bearded Dragon may say hello with an arm wave every day. Unfortunately, if the arm-waving continues beyond the first few moments of your interaction, it means something else. 

Prolonged arm-waving means that they have been saying “I am submissive to you! You are in charge! Please don’t attack me!” for some time.

Unfortunately, they are not confident that you have got the message. This means they are anxious that you, the dominant animal may still be a threat, and have not accepted their communication. 

In this situation, it would be best not to pick them up immediately. They may scuttle away, or freeze in fear. Try starting the interaction by introducing a treat, or not touching them for a moment.

When you do touch them, make sure not to chase them, but just deliver a gentle stroke. Reinforce the touch with some food.

Build up their confidence until they stop waving, and only then offer your hand to pick them up. See this technique in the video below. 

9. Your Bearded Dragon Does Not Move Away When You Pick Him Up

*CAUTION! COMMON MISINTERPRETATION ALERT*

A commonly cited sign of a happy Bearded Dragon is that it does not move away when you pick it up. This is true, but only under certain circumstances. 

If you have worked on building a history of positive experiences with your Bearded Dragon to get it confident with being picked up, this is great.

The result that you want to see is an alert bearded dragon that approaches you. You should offer your hand from the front, not from above, as grabbing from above mimics aerial predators like birds.

Your Bearded Dragon not moving away is a good sign if:

  • Your Bearded Dragon has walked toward you as you approached the tank.
  • Your Bearded Dragon is light or bright in color.
  • Your Bearded Dragon is looking at you with both eyes open and also observing the environment with awareness. 
  • You put your hand under the chest of the Bearded Dragon, and it moves forward voluntarily. 
  • Your Bearded Dragon has not head-bobbed fast, nor hissed at you. Perhaps it waved its arms, but it’s not continuing to do so. 

These signs show that your Bearded Dragon is in an alert state, and in control of its movements and choices. It is confident to be picked up and you probably have a happy Bearded Dragon! 

However, not moving away from your hand is a bad sign if:

  • Your Bearded Dragon did not move to approach you. 
  • It is hissing, puffing up, or turning black. 
  • One or both of its eyes are closed.
  • It is frantically waving its front legs and does not stop.
  • Its body is floppy, or completely rigid. 

These signs show that instead of choosing to be handled, your Bearded Dragon is actually suffering a very negative situation.

It may be frozen in fear, unwell, lethargic, or otherwise unable to respond. Once you get to know your pet, the difference should be very obvious. 

10. Your Bearded Dragon Goes Flat And Floppy And Falls Asleep Near You 

*CAUTION! COMMON MISINTERPRETATION ALERT*

As mentioned above, the usual state for a Bearded Dragon is one of alertness, curiosity, and activity. However, they do sometimes need to rest, bask, and sleep as well.

They can only do these things in circumstances when they are absolutely sure there are no dangers to watch out for. 

Therefore, if your Bearded Dragon relaxes enough around you, or when being handled, to release tension from its body and become flat like a pancake, perhaps even close its eyes for a snooze, this is great news. 

It means that you have built a relationship of trust with your Bearded Dragon. 

Beware, however, that you also look for other signs that are discussed in this article. For example, if your Bearded Dragon has become dark in color, and then appeared to fall asleep, it may be far too cold.

You should put it back in its habitat where it can bask under the heat lamp. A happy Bearded Dragon is not unusually dark in color. 

Also, it is not a good sign if you enter the room, find a sleepy Bearded Dragon, pick it up, and it continues to sleep on you.

This means that there is something wrong. Certainly, at the beginning of the interaction, when a new activity is happening for your pet, it should be alert and responsive.

What Does Happiness Mean For Bearded Dragons?

In the world of professional animal care and zoological science, we never use words like “happy”.

This is because happiness is a human emotion, and as of yet, it is impossible for us to know whether animals truly feel happiness in the same way that we do.

When does successful survival cross that line and become a spiritual enjoyment of life? This is a philosophical question that probably won’t be answered for a long time to come.

So, when animal care experts talk about their pets being happy, we actually mean something a little different. More accurate words could be:

  • Healthy and not suffering from pain
  • Well fed, watered, warmed, and sheltered
  • Able to fulfill their natural behaviors such as building a home, exercising, or mating
  • Have positive social interactions with the creatures around them
  • Don’t show signs of prolonged fear, distress, or aggression
  • Confident in their environment, which is suitable for their needs

When you think of whether an animal is happy or not, try to assess these things from the perspective of the specific creature you are looking at.

Judging animal emotion from the perspective of human experience is called “anthropomorphization”. We try to avoid it in order to better understand our animals and provide the best care for them. 

So, if your Bearded Dragon is showing you the signs we discussed today, you can be pretty confident that it is unstressed, healthy, confident, and well cared for. In other words, you have a happy Bearded Dragon!

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