Understanding if bearded dragons like to be pet is important if you’re interested in owning these lizards. The way you touch them will go a long way in building a bond and socializing your new little friend!
This guide covers if bearded dragons like to be pet, and how to pet them properly.
Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Pet?
Bearded dragons are a beloved pet for reptile enthusiasts. For many, it’s the first entry into the work of herpetoculture. These animals are some of the most docile in the reptile kingdom, and make very good pets.
But do bearded dragons like to be pet? The answer to that question is: It depends.
Comparatively speaking, bearded dragons tolerate being pet or held more than most lizards living in captivity. But whether or not they like it all depends on the situation and their exposure to human contact.
When you look at a bearded dragon’s true nature, you would think that petting wouldn’t be fun for these creatures. Bearded dragons are solitary animals that live alone in the wild. They don’t need contact with other wildlife and frequently spend their lives alone.
The same goes for life in captivity. While you can keep multiple beardies together with the proper planning, it’s perfectly fine to care for one on its own. A life of solitude is what these animals know best.
The unique thing about bearded dragons is that they can grow comfortable with being pet through socialization. This reptile is calm, curious, and gentle. Socialization at a young age teaches them to tolerate pets, and some even grow to love one-on-one time with their owners!
It all depends on its socialization.
The best practice in the bearded dragon community is to have at least a few minutes of one-on-one time with the lizard daily. In the beginning, it’s natural for beardies to be hesitant or fearful. The goal of early socialization is to get the animal used to being around human contact.
Of course, bearded dragons are all unique. They have distinct personalities and preferences, and their petting tolerance can vary dramatically from one lizard to the next. The good news is that early socialization can make a difference.
Will a bearded dragon ever crave physical attention like a cat or dog? Probably not. But many at least tolerate it and learn not to stress out with your physical touch. In the best-case scenario, they’ll love it and enjoy spending time with you.
Whatever the case, it’s important to remember that you’re dealing with a complex animal. You must build trust, take time to get to know your lizard, and be mindful of its needs in every situation. Just because your beardie seemingly enjoys petting one minute doesn’t mean they will be so tolerant the next!
Your job is to read your lizard and pet them only when they are comfortable with your touch.
How To Tell If Your Beardie Is Willing To Be Pet
The key to building trust between you and your bearded dragon is to respect their boundaries. These animals aren’t like cats or dogs. They’re not going to bend to your will or try to appease you in any way.
If you attempt to pet a bearded dragon when it’s not in the mood for touching, it can lead to unnecessary stress and possible bites.
So how do you know that your beardie is ready for human-to-lizard contact?
There are many telltale signs, and you’ll start to pick up on those subtle cues the better you know your lizard.
Signs To Look For
One of the most obvious signs that your bearded dragon likes to be pet (at least at that moment) is a generally relaxed demeanor. We’ll get into the signs that your beardie doesn’t want petting in a bit, but you can notice a stark difference in attitude that will display your lizard’s tolerance for touch.
A relaxed beardie will be still and calm. They’re not going to try to run away from you or wriggle out from beneath your hand when you start petting. Instead, they’ll be still and accepting.
You’ll also notice that your lizard’s mouth stays closed. Some even say that it looks like a smile! That smile accompanies open, dilated eyes. Relaxed breathing and general peaceful vibes are always good.
In many cases, you can see your beardie’s eagerness before you even reach your hand into its enclosure.
Lizards that are very comfortable with human touch often meet owners at the glass as they approach. It’s a warming gesture that shows you’ve established a great bond with your reptile!
Once you reach your hand into the habitat, your bearded dragon may initiate the act of petting themselves. It’s common for these lizards to rub against their owner’s fingers whenever they expect and enjoy pets.
Seeing these signs indicates that your bearded dragon is fine with petting. Take them as your green light to show affection.
How To Tell If They Don’t Want To Be Pet
Now, let’s move on to negative body language that dictates your beardie will not tolerate pets. Like before, these signs are easy to spot once you understand your lizard’s behavior. Many of these indicators give off a general negative vibe that you can spot a mile away!
Any form of aggressive behavior should be a big red flag. Bearded dragons are typically docile creatures. They might fight with others when necessary, but those instances tend to be rare.
Aggressiveness usually stands out like a sore thumb compared to your lizard’s general behaviors. Anything your bearded dragon does to look intimidating can be seen as aggressive.
The most common indicators are hissing, puffing up its body, and expanding that iconic beard. These lizards use these behaviors in the wild to ward off would-be predators. Think of it as a warning sign to you and anyone who wants to get near. The reptile is telling you to back off, and you should heed that message!
Other signs that your bearded dragon doesn’t want to be pet include any “escapist” behavior. We’re talking about running away from you, trying to wriggle out from underneath your hand, burrowing, or heading to the nearest hide box to get as far away as possible.
You may also see your lizard “glass surfing.” That’s when they fling their bodies onto the glass sides of the enclosure. It’s a funny move that many owners laugh at when they see it. However, it might be an attempt to get away from you and escape the enclosure.
You can look at these behaviors as a sign of stress. Your bearded dragon isn’t up for pets at that moment, and they would prefer to be alone. Once again, respect that boundary and don’t force it. Attempting to pet your lizard when they’re stressed will only exacerbate the problem.
More subtle signs can appear, too. For example, your bearded dragon might wave its arms, keep its mouth open, bob its head, or close its eyes. Those behaviors seem innocent enough, but they often indicate fear or discomfort.
Take closing its eyes as an example. Many owners assume that their bearded dragon is at peace whenever they close their eyes during a pet session. But in reality, your lizard is probably fearful and bracing for whatever harm they think is coming!
Don’t take it personally if you see any of these negative behaviors. As mentioned earlier, all bearded dragons are unique, and they might not like being pet whenever you want. These animals have their good days and their bad days.
Respect those boundaries and give your lizard space. Try again later and pay attention to your reptile’s body language.
The Correct Way To Pet Your Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons are delicate creatures. Improper handling can cause harm and break the trust your lizard has in you.
Before you pet your bearded dragon, wash your hands. It’s wise to wash your hands before and after touching your bearded dragon in any capacity. You can easily transmit bacteria to your lizard that causes illness. And on the flip side, they can carry salmonella and other harmful bacteria that spreads to humans.
Go in with clean hands to be extra safe all around.
Next, find the right time. It’s not a good idea to disturb your beardie’s sleep. Rest plays a vital role in their health, and disrupting a nap could lead to issues later. Plus, your bearded dragon will likely be cranky!
Expert Tip: It’s also wise to avoid petting before or after feeding. You don’t want to associate petting with mealtime. That would create a dangerous connection, leading to accidental bites.
Once you find the right timing, approach your bearded dragon from the front. Be slow and methodical. Avoid any grand or quick movements that could startle your lizard.
Never approach a bearded dragon from behind. It doesn’t matter how well-socialized your lizard is or how comfortable it is with petting. Startling these reptiles will only cause stress.
As you approach your lizard, be mindful of the indicators we went over earlier. Read its body language and look for signs that your reptile is ready for human touch. If you see any negative signs, back off and avoid petting for now.
Always make sure that your beardie is in the right mood for pets. Never force it. Otherwise, you’ll burn that bridge of trust you built.
If it’s all good and clear, you can move in for petting. The right way to pet a bearded dragon is only to use one or two fingers. Using your entire hand may be too much, so you should reserve it for handling.
Run your two fingers from its head to its tail, applying very light pressure. Steer clear of using too much force that could cause discomfort. Continually run your fingers from the head to the tail, and you’ll build an excellent bond with your beardie.
Places Where Bearded Dragons Enjoy Being Pet
Generally, head-to-tail pets are best. However, it’s not the only place where you can focus your attention and touch. Here are some of the best spots to focus your petting.
As always, every animal is different. It’s up to you to pay attention to how your bearded dragon reacts. The more you pet your reptile, the more you’ll get to know what it likes and what it doesn’t.
For the most part, bearded dragons like head petting. That’s a big thing in the animal kingdom. Many animals do not like humans touching their heads, because it’s the most vulnerable part of the body.
Bearded dragons are a unique exception. That is, however, unless you approach it incorrectly.
Earlier, we mentioned that you must approach your lizard from its front. That especially applies to head pets! Make sure that your beardie knows you’re coming. Otherwise, you’ll take it by surprise and cause unneeded stress.
Be gentle, and don’t apply too much force. Never squeeze the head or push it down to the point of moving your lizard’s head.
It’s also wise to avoid the mouth. Petting the mouth will likely end up in a light bite. Most beardies prefer you stay away from there.
Gentle petting on the nose is usually much appreciated. You can move down to the nose after petting the head.
Be extra careful about where you touch your beardie when doing this. Moving to the mouth or accidentally hitting the eyes will only ruin the moment!
Some bearded dragons like a light tail stroke. However, you have to be careful with how you do it.
Grabbing the tail is not a good decision. Instead, start from the head and pet all the way down to the tail. Once there, you can massage it lightly with your fingers or give it a few gentle strokes.
Be mindful of how your beardie reacts when doing this.
If your bearded dragon likes being pet on the head and tail, it’ll likely enjoy some back contact, too!
When you pet them on the back, avoid going in two directions. Back-and-forth petting can be uncomfortable for these reptiles. Instead, focus on one direction.
As always, be gentle and don’t apply too much pressure.
You may have the opportunity to pet your beardie’s belly. Tread lightly if you do.
Don’t force your bearded dragon on its back. Not only is that uncomfortable, but it makes it difficult for the lizard to breathe. If you have an opening to touch the belly, only do so for a few seconds and pay attention to the reaction you get.
How Much Petting Is Too Much?
Reptile enthusiasts often grow strong bonds with their bearded dragons. But that doesn’t mean you can pet them constantly. There is too much of a good thing!
Generally, bearded dragons tolerate pets and general handling for an hour or two a day. Anything more than that, and they may grow to resent that human contact.It’s usually not a good idea to pet your lizard for an hour straight. Instead, break up petting sessions into smaller moments.
A good practice to follow is to pet your bearded dragon for 10 to 15 minutes. At that point, you can see where your lizard is and how they feel. You can continue petting them a little longer if they continue to show signs of calm and peace. But if they start to get a little angsty, it’s time for you to give them their space.
Every lizard reacts differently to human touch, and their tolerance can wane the longer you pet them. Always keep an eye on how your lizard reacts. Stop petting them anytime they start to show signs of discomfort.
Building a bond is about respecting your lizard’s needs.
The Pros & Cons Of Regular Petting
Many people wonder whether petting is a good idea at all. These creatures live in solitude and rarely interact with humans in the wild. So even though bearded dragons can like to be pet, should you try it in the first place?
Here are the pros and cons to consider.
The Pros Of Petting Your Beardie
Ask any experienced bearded dragon owner, and they’ll tell you that the positives of petting these lizards outweigh the negatives. Here’s why:
An Opportunity to Bond
Any opportunity to form a bond with your pet is worth taking. Petting is a fantastic way to build trust. A few minutes a day goes a long way.
Petting your bearded dragon is an easy form of socialization. That human contact will make your lizard more comfortable with others. It may result in less stress around humans and more willingness to be touched by others.
Spot Health Problems
When you pet your bearded dragon, you’ll make close contact and observe its body closely. There’s no better time to assess their health. You may spot potential health problems earlier, giving you ample time to take action.
Easier Enclosure Maintenance
Regular petting can make all the difference when it comes to future tank maintenance. Once your beardie gets used to your presence, you’ll have an easier time cleaning messes, removing your lizard for deep cleaning, and more.
The Disadvantages Of Petting Your Beardie
Despite the good that comes with human-to-lizard contact, there are some risks.
The Spread of Disease
Bearded dragons can carry salmonella bacteria. It will spread to humans and can cause potentially life-threatening illnesses. If you plan to pet your bearded dragon, you must practice good hygiene and wash your hands before and after touching them.
Shedding is a normal part of your bearded dragon’s life. In most cases, it’ll go off without a hitch. But sometimes, they’ll encounter issues.
If you pet your lizard regularly, you risk disrupting that process. It’s best to give your reptile time to shed properly before you pet them.
Finally, petting can cause stress in certain situations. If you ignore the warning signs, you’ll make stress worse. That can ultimately lead to health problems and anxieties with the human touch.
Is It Even Possible For Them To Feel Your Touch?
Bearded dragons can feel your touch. They have sensory receptors in their bodies. Despite the rougher skin, they can feel all the pressure you apply.
That’s why it’s essential to be mindful of how much force you use when petting your bearded dragon. They can feel pain if you apply too much! Always be gentle, and that sensation is something your beloved beardie will get comfortable with over time.
Bearded dragons do like to be pet, as long as they’ve been socialized and are in the right mood. As long as you pay attention to the body language and behavior of your beardie, you’ll be able to enjoy some fun petting sessions!
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