If you own a bearded dragon or are thinking of getting one, a question on your mind might be, ‘Do bearded dragons like to be pet?’
After all, it’s not always obvious like it is with a dog or a cat.
In our vast experience owning and dealing with bearded dragons, they do enjoy being petted as long as they’re properly socialized to being handled.
For evidence, take a look at how a bearded dragon tends to close its eyes and relax when petted. With that being said, it’s likely that bearded dragons don’t enjoy being petted as much as many mammal pets do.
Reptiles simply aren’t as social as many mammals, and they don’t seek out contact from others. It may be that bearded dragons learn to tolerate being petted rather than actively loving it.
Regardless, you won’t be upsetting or harming a bearded dragon by petting it, as long as you teach it to expect human contact over time and pet it in the right spots.
Can you handle bearded dragons?
The answer is that you absolutely can, provided you do it in the right way. It’s worth noting right away that all bearded dragons have individual personalities, likes and dislikes.
My bearded dragon might enjoy being handled more than yours, or they might have different areas where they like being petted. You should experiment with what works for your bearded dragon.
You may also be wondering where do bearded dragons like to be pet. Commonly, bearded dragons like being petted in a few places.
- One such spot is directly between the eyes and on top of the head.
- Another is scratching their beards, or rubbing the spikes behind their eyes.
Some bearded dragons are a little more skittish than others and maybe resistant to petting. But in those cases, the bearded dragon may prefer laying on your body or being picked up and held without petting. You can learn how to handle a skittish bearded dragon.
There’s a right way and several wrong ways to pick up a bearded dragon. If you want to acclimatize your bearded dragon to being handled, you’ll want to learn the proper way to lift it up.
How to Handle Bearded Dragon?
When picking up a bearded dragon, it’s important to understand how to read the body language of the dragon.
This is especially true when you first get a bearded dragon and it’s unaccustomed to you, or to being handled.
There are also a number of dos and don’ts to keep in mind when approaching the bearded dragon.
Here are some step-by-step instructions for how to handle your bearded dragon:
Step 1 (Optional): Wash your hands or don gloves.
This step isn’t required – Many people will handle their bearded dragons without washing their hands or putting on gloves.
If you’re especially worried about transmitting any bacteria or germs to your bearded dragon, both these measures will protect against it. And this bite proof glove is best suited to protect your fingers.
Step 2: Approach the bearded dragon slowly and calmly.
Bearded dragons often react poorly to sudden movements. You will want to move deliberately over until you’re next to the bearded dragon, the slowly extend a hand.
Bearded dragons will indicate stress by lifting their head up and puffing up their chin, which will turn black.
If your bearded dragon is stressed, now might not be the best time to hold it.
The answer for how to handle aggressive bearded dragons is usually to give it some time to cool down and approach later when it’s in a better mood.
One very important note: Don’t approach your bearded dragon directly from above. Bearded dragons have sensory receptors on the top of their head because in the wild their predators attack from above.
If you try to grab a bearded dragon from directly above, they will interpret this as a predator attack.
Step 3: Make gentle contact with the bearded dragon before attempting to pick it up.
You will help your bearded dragon grow more comfortable with you before attempting to lift it by making some light, non-threatening physical contact.
You can stroke the bearded dragon gently around its head, or allow your index finger to lightly rest against its front legs.
Again, you’ll be looking for signs that the bearded dragon is angry or stressed.
Another sign is when a bearded dragon’s mouth is wide open – This is the bearded dragon trying to look as intimidating as possible.
Step 4: Support the front end of the bearded dragon.
When lifting a bearded dragon, you will want to make sure you’re supporting both the front legs and the back legs and base of the tail.
If any of these areas aren’t supported, your bearded dragon will feel unsafe and uncomfortable.
You’ll begin by supporting its front legs.
Slide your hand underneath the bearded dragon’s front legs so that it’s standing on your hand.
You can also gently lift the front of its body to accomplish this.
Step 5: Scoop the bearded dragon up from the rear while continuing to support its front.
Once the front of your bearded dragon is supported, you can slide your other hand underneath the rear of the dragon and lift it into the air.
It’s front legs and body should be cradled by one hand, while your other hand cradles its back legs, the base of the tail and rear part of its body.
If you’ve executed this properly, your bearded dragon will sit calmly in your hands.
Make sure you don’t squeeze the bearded dragon with your hands – You should only be supporting it.
One common mistake people make when holding bearded dragons is not supporting its rear legs and base of the tail.
When not supported, a bearded dragon will frequently begin to whip its tail in a circular motion.
This indicates the dragon is uncomfortable and also can harm its back over time.
Step 6: Reposition your bearded dragon if you’d like.
Once you are lifting and supporting your bearded dragon and it’s calm, you can reposition in into a more comfortable position.
One common way people hold bearded dragons is to use their entire forearm as a cradle for its body.
The bearded dragon’s head can rest in your palm in this position, or it can be the opposite way in the crook of your elbow.
Some people also like to set their bearded dragon on their shoulder or chest and let it rest there.
You can reposition your bearded dragon in any way you choose, so long as you continue to support its front, rear, and base of the tail.
How Often Should You Handle Your Bearded Dragon?
It’s a good idea to handle your bearded dragon at least once a day if you can manage. Ideally, you might handle it around once or twice a day, for at least 10 minutes or so.
Hatchling bearded dragons tend to be curious about the world and will want to explore around when out of their tank or cage.
Keep in mind that your climate and indoor temperature are a factor.
If you’re not in a particularly warm environment, be careful about keeping your bearded dragon for too long outside its properly warmed environment.
If your bearded dragon seems to be growing sluggish or lethargic and it’s been outside its tank or cage for a long time, you may want to put it back in there to recharge.
Aside from making sure its internal temperature is properly regulated, there’s no real limit on how long you handle your bearded dragon. You can carry it with you on your neck, chest or shoulder or play with it on a couch or table.
Keep in mind that if you hold your bearded dragon for long enough, it’s going to end up defecating, which can be an unpleasant surprise.
Often times, the bearded dragon will warn you by getting a bit restless and wiggling its hips. Take this as a cue to get it back inside the tank or cage if you don’t want to have to clean up a mess.
How to Bond with Your Bearded Dragon and Get Them to Like You?
When you first get a bearded dragon, it’s important to create a bond between yourself and the dragon.
It should learn to like being held, petted and touched. If you do this, your bearded dragon has a great chance of being calm and happy when interacting with people.
Many people wonder are bearded dragons social or are bearded dragons nice?
The bottom line is that a bearded dragon which has been raised to expect to be touched and handle will be incredibly docile and nice.
One unaccustomed to coming into contact with humans will probably be skittish or aggressive.
This is probably the biggest and most important piece of advice: Start early.
A bearded dragon hatchling can often time be fairly skittish. It may tend to run away when handled in certain ways. It’s okay if it doesn’t immediately take to being handled.
Be patient, make sure your movements are as gentle and calm as you can and make sure not to approach it from directly above.
Over time, your bearded dragon will likely begin to become used to contact with you. One little tip on how to handle juvenile bearded dragons is using your other hand to provide a ‘cave’ for it.
If it’s becoming upset or wriggling around, cupping your hand around it can make it feel safe and secure.
Once your bearded dragon gets older, you can use a variation on this technique that many people call the ‘beardie burrito’.
Take an old t-shirt, a scrap of fabric or a towel and gently wrap your bearded dragon in it.
This enclosure provides the bearded dragon with a sense of security and can be a great way to take your bearded dragon out in public.
One great way to build a bond with your bearded dragon is to feed it from your hand when it’s young.
This associates your hand with food, and it can be an excellent way to make a bearded dragon trust you.
There can be a downside to making your bearded dragon accustomed to eating from your hand, though.
If you constantly hand feed your dragon, it will eventually grow lazy and only take food in that way.
It’s probably a good idea to alternate your feeding methods. Beyond trying to associate food with yourself for your bearded dragon, the number one tip we can give you is to spend as much time with your bearded dragon as possible.
This can be anything from stopping by their tank or cage to give them a little pet from time to time, to letting your bearded dragon lay on or next to you while you read or watch TV.
Bearded dragons are great study buddies if you have to do homework or any other stationary work. They’ll be happy to lay on or near you, and that time spent will cause the bearded dragon to be more accepting of your presence.
Or take them our for a walk in a bearded dragon harness.
If you want to be able to handle your bearded dragon in a variety of situations, make sure to vary the way you hold it periodically.
You can comfortably hold a bearded dragon in any number of ways, using your hands, your forearm, your entire arm, shoulder, chest or lap.
If you make sure to hold your bearded dragon in lots of different ways, it won’t become uncomfortable or threatened in less familiar circumstances.
Beware! You Can Get Salmonella from Bearded Dragon
Unfortunately, bearded dragons can transmit salmonella to humans in some cases.
While salmonella is generally not a life-threatening illness, it’s one you definitely don’t want to contract.
The good news is that there are a number of ways that you can limit the chances of contracting salmonella from a bearded dragon.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacterial infection which causes nausea, diarrhea, cramps, fever, and abdominal pain.
Salmonella is most dangerous for older people and children, though it’s rarely fatal.
Salmonella is a zoonotic disease, which means an infection which can be passed from an animal to a human.
Bearded dragons are an animal known for transmitting salmonella.
Do All Bearded Dragons Have Salmonella? How Do I Know if My Bearded Dragon Has It?
Not all bearded dragons carry salmonella.
In fact, most don’t.
However, it’s very difficult to know whether your bearded dragon has salmonella.
This is because salmonella doesn’t produce any symptoms in bearded dragons. In other words, your bearded dragon might be perfectly healthy but still have salmonella.
As a result, it’s better for you to be safe than sorry when dealing with any bearded dragon.
How Do Bearded Dragons Pass Salmonella to Humans?
The primary way bearded dragons give people salmonella is through their feces. They can also transmit it through contact with the skin, but usually only if the skin has been befouled by feces.
How Can I Avoid Contracting Salmonella From My Bearded Dragon?
Because the main way bearded dragons transmit salmonella is through feces, cleanliness is the primary way to keep yourself and others safe.
Before handling your bearded dragon, check to see whether it has any feces on it. If so, time to give your bearded dragon a bath.
When you’re cleaning your bearded dragon’s tank or cage, make sure to not let any feces come into contact with your face or mouth.
It may be a good idea to use gloves when doing the cleaning.
On the subject of cleaning, keeping your bearded dragon’s environment clean is a big plus. If its environment is dirty, the bearded dragon’s skin can easily become a vector for salmonella.
Finally, it’s a good idea to wash your hands after handling a bearded dragon. And as cute as they are, resist the urge to give them a kiss or let them touch your face in any way.
Bearded dragons can be a fantastic pet and a big part of the reason why is how agreeable they can be when you handle and pet them.
Having a pet you can pick up, pet and carry with you is great, and a bearded dragon can be a constant companion.
In order to make sure your bearded dragon is comfortable with you handling it, make sure to begin accustoming it to your touch and presence early in its life.
Handle it frequently, and use the proper technique so that your bearded dragon feels comfortable and stress-free.
Once you’ve developed a bond with your bearded dragon, you can easily pick up and hold them with no problems.
When doing so, be mindful of the risk of salmonella, and be sure to keep your bearded dragon and its environment clean to avoid any problems.
If you’ve had experience with your own bearded dragon and would like to comment, please feel free to share below.
These wonderful creatures are an outstanding addition to any household and can provide companionship and fun for years if raised and handled correctly.