Spend a little time around a bearded dragon, and you will eventually see them puffing up. What is the reason for this? Could it be a sign of stress, aggression, or sickness?
Why do bearded dragons puff up? The reasons behind this are multiple: they may do it to attract a mate, to assert dominance, or scare off predators. There are a few other reasons why beardies do this, such as being intimidated or being in the bath.
Now you know a few of the reasons why bearded dragons puff up-but let’s explore them a bit deeper. Keep reading to discover 8 reasons why your beardie is puffing up.
Reason 1: It’s Bath Time
Your beardie could be doing this puffing as a response to being in the bathtub.
The water may well be too deep for the dragon to enjoy. As a rule of thumb, I don’t advise you bathing your bearded dragon often-unless he or she has dirt or fecal matter that will not come off or needs some help with impaction or shedding.
The puffing in the bath comes as a response to the fear of drowning. They puff as a means of trying to float.
If you have to bathe your bearded dragon, do it because he or she is impacted (constipated), as this can help things get moving easier. Bath time may also be used as a means of remedying dehydration or helping him shed.
Check out my article for some helpful info.
Reason 2: Getting Prepared to Shed
Puffing up will help loosen the skin on his neck and body. After all, bearded dragons know when they are going to shed and will take necessary measures to make the process easier.
Bear in mind this is not something that ALL beardies do, but it could help you explain why your dragon is doing it if no other factors are present.
Reason 3: Your Beardie Feels Threatened
Bearded dragons will puff up if they feel threatened or in danger. Your bearded dragon perceives a threat and may feel like they are going to be attacked by a predator at any given moment.
Thus, they puff up their necks to feel and look bigger than they really are. It is a means of scaring off the real or perceived predator.
It is a common behavior when it comes to animals – the use of a defense mechanism. If you see your beardie doing this, take steps to remove whatever is bothering him and gently speak with him to calm him down. Look for him turning black – this is also a signal that something is wrong.
Avoid touching your beardie – these little guys do bite when upset and hurt fingers aren’t fun.
Reason 4: Attracting the Opposite Gender
One of the more common reasons that a bearded dragon might puff up is because he is trying to attract one of your female beardies over.
Male bearded dragons are notorious for puffing up on a regular basis as a means of showing the females that they are ready to mate and attractive.
This tactic is also an indicator of dominance over the female bearded dragon. He is more or less requesting that the female gives in to his advances.
This behavior isn’t just for the guys, though. Females may also puff up their necks to show that they are attracted to males. However, you will mostly find this technique being used by male bearded dragons.
The bottom line? If a male and female bearded dragon see each other and want to mate, there is a good chance you will see some puffed up necks on either side.
Reason 5: It’s Mealtime
Has your bearded dragon ever puffed up before, or after, they ate their meals?
One theory states that puffing up aids the reptile in creating more room in their stomach so they can eat a larger amount of food. After all, in the wild, bearded dragons have to fight for their food, and whatever is around to be eaten can help them stay satiated for a longer period of time.
If you suspect this is the reason your bearded dragon is puffing up, try this out: Lower the amount of food you give at your next mealtime and see if your beardie still puffs up.
You can then give him the rest of the food a few moments after, once you find out if there was puffing behavior or not.
Another reason he could be doing this goes back to the prey/predator reason we talked about earlier. Even though your bearded dragon does not have to compete with other reptiles or animals for his meal, he may be doing it as an instinctive habit.
In the wild, a beardie has to feed himself, and to make himself look stronger and larger is one way to keep others away from the food you found.
It may also happen if you feed your bearded dragon live meals like crickets.
Reason 6: They Are Feeling Happy
Your bearded dragon might be puffing up because they feel happy.
If you notice that your bearded dragon is puffing up during playtime or treat time, this could simply be a way of showing how happy they feel at that moment.
After all, these little guys can’t speak in the same way dogs, cats, birds, or even guinea pigs can, so they have to express how they feel in some way.
If everything is good and nothing is bothering your beardie that you can see, chances are his puffing behavior is just a way of showing how good he feels.
The owner of the beardie in the video below stated in the video description that her bearded dragon does that every morning when the lights switch on. Since there is not really a thing that seems to be bothering the bearded dragon (except the camera, maybe) it seems to be happy!
(Warning: The music in the video is pretty loud and kind of irritating, haha)
Reason 7: Babies Need to Feel Safe
Seeing a baby bearded dragon do the puff can be funny and cute, but why do they do this?
Firstly, it is a matter of keeping themselves safe. They are in a new habitat, in a new home, and like anybody else, don’t understand that there is nothing for them to fear.
As a result, they will usually stop puffing up once they realize there’s nothing to be afraid of.
The thing to do here is to bond and get to know your baby beardie as soon as you can. Once the reptile comes to the realization that you mean no harm, he can start to feel safe in his surroundings and stop puffing up his neck so much.
Make sure your baby beardie feels at home and has a habitat with a good substrate (I advise against carpets, paper towels, and sand with too much calcium).
I recommend ZooMed Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate because the babies can indulge their natural need to dig and create their own spaces.
Should I Be Concerned About Puffing?
Great question. I will settle your fears right away and tell you, NO.
Puffing up is not harmful to the bearded dragon. It is a natural ability they can use to help themselves feel safer when threatened.
It helps them deal with problems that are real or perceived, such as being in too high of water or dealing with a predator.
That being said, it is not okay for your beardie to puff up constantly. If this is the case, something in your home or environment is causing him to feel stressed out. Would you like to constantly feel stressed all the time?
The answer is a clear no, so make sure to look around for objects that might be bothering your reptile. It could be a trinket, piece of clothing, or other toys that is making your beardie stressed.
Make sure to examine the environment and remove objects until the beardie stops puffing constantly.
Reason 8: Comfort
Sometimes, you will see a beardie puffing up as a means of making himself comfortable. What does this mean?
First, your beardie may be trying to pressurize his ear canal. Just as you have yawned as a means of making your ear pop when going up a hill or riding in an airplane, this is a way for bearded dragons to help themselves feel relief.
Stretching is one way us humans feel comfortable, and bearded dragons do it too. You might see them puffing up even when in a relaxed environment as a means of stretching. It may be accompanied by opening their mouth up wide, too.
Now you know some of the reasons as to why the bearded dragon is puffing up.
To sum it up:
- They may feel threatened
- They may be trying to intimidate others
- They may be getting ready to shed
- They may be trying to attract a mate
- They may just be feeling good and want to show it!
And despite the many reasons why these reptiles puff up, it is also good to know that these reptiles are not harmed when they do it.
That being said, you certainly don’t want your beardie puffing up ALL the time, as this could mean he is constantly stressed, which is not healthy. Enjoy the good “puffing” times with your bearded dragon!