Imagine you are a brand new owner of a beautiful bearded dragon and your ultimate goal is to bond with this little reptile. How do you know if it likes you and is comfortable around you? Let’s talk lizards.
It is usually easiest to tell if a bearded dragon likes you when its body language is positive. If it seems relaxed when picked up, that means it feels comfortable and safe with you. If it tenses up, kicks, or wriggles when held, it probably views you as a predator or a threat.
There are multiple ways to tell if a bearded dragon views you as a pal rather than a predator. Here are some common signs you can watch for:
Why Is It Important for Your Lizard to Like You?
First of all, why is it important that your bearded dragon likes you at all? Does it really make a difference? You may be shocked to find that the answer is yes. If a bearded dragon is worried that you are a predator, it will have a surprisingly negative effect on its health. If it feels threatened, your bearded dragon will not be basking, eating, or pooping regularly. Instead, it will most likely be hiding from you and trying to stay out of sight.
For example, imagine if you lived in the same house as a wild tiger. You probably wouldn’t feel relaxed either! Even if you don’t attack the lizard, just the presence of a stressor can cause problems.
A bearded dragon living in your house has to be fed and cared for by you. If it doesn’t enjoy your care, this will just mean the dragon will go on to lead a fairly miserable life. This is why it is extremely important to take the time to gain a bearded dragon’s trust. If you are willing to do that, it will make the experience way more enjoyable both for you and for the lizard. It may take time, but you will find it to be completely worth it in the end.
Happy Bearded Dragons: Telltale Signs
Now that you know the importance of a happy, trustful bearded dragon, let’s talk about ways to tell if you are successfully raising a happy lizard. If you are paying close attention, it will not be hard to tell!
One of the most common signs is the dragon’s color. Most bearded dragons come in yellow, brown, orange, tan, or even olive green. If their natural color is bright and vibrant, this most likely means your lizard is healthy and content. If its color is dark or faded, this probably means the lizard either doesn’t feel well or doesn’t trust you.
Another sign to look for is the lizard’s level of aggression. If your bearded dragon is content to sit perfectly still in your hand without trying to bite or escape, this means that it trusts you completely and feels comfortable when it is with you.
In addition to feeling comfortable with you, your bearded dragon might even start to “ask” if it can spend time with you. If it feels comfortable outside its tank, the lizard will scratch on the glass until you take it out. Again, if it feels relaxed in your hands, on your shoulder, or wherever else, this means it trusts you. The more it grows to trust you, the more the lizard will want to spend time outside of its tank. You can take it out and let it run around and get in some good exercise. It will grow to love this time with you.
Your bearded dragon will most likely scamper away from you if you frighten it. If it trusts you, it will probably be much more willing to let you pick it up. Additionally, you will be able to tell if it is comfortable with you if you are holding it and it closes its eyes. In the wild, bearded dragons do not usually close their eyes because they have to be alert and on the watch for predators. Closing its eyes means the lizard feels completely safe and comfortable with you. It will also be content to sit on/with you for extended periods of time.
Another thing you can look for is licking. If your bearded dragon gives you a couple of licks every once in a while, this is a good indicator that they like and trust you. Licking means they are familiar with and have latched onto your scent. This indicates they are recognizing and enjoying your scent. It also means they enjoy your company and your nearness. It might even start coming up to you on its own, without being prompted. That’s a great sign for anybody who is seeking to bond with their bearded dragon!
If you are still unsure, all you really have to look for is the dragon’s general appearance and behavior. If it is doing everything normally (eating, sleeping, basking, etc.), this probably means it is happy with its living conditions. As mentioned before, its color will be bright and vibrant if it is healthy. If the lizard’s color starts to fade or grow dark, you may then have something to worry about.
How to Know if Your Bearded Dragon Is Unhappy or Distrusts You
It is just as important to recognize signs of malcontent or unhappiness in your bearded dragon as it is to recognize signs of good health and contentedness. Here are a couple of things to be on the lookout for:
As mentioned above, your bearded dragon’s color can say a lot about its level of wellbeing. Its color will fade or grow darker when it is sick, in pain, or unhappy/anxious.
Likewise, its beard will puff up and turn black if it is angry or feels threatened. Any of these things is a telltale sign that your bearded dragon does not trust you. Yet. Don’t worry, there’s still time to bond with it and develop feelings of mutual trust.
Increased signs of aggression are also common indicators that your dragon does not quite trust you yet. If you go to pick it up and it runs away from you, that definitely means it is frightened of you and views you as a threat and predator rather than a friend. Likewise, if you pick it up and it squirms and claws you and tries to escape, it probably does not trust you yet.
It might also puff up its beard at you, stare at you, and even try to bite you. While this might not hurt a whole lot, it will not promote a good relationship between the two of you. A few other standoffish signs you can look for include hissing, waving its arms, bobbing its head, or even staying completely skill.
Your bearded dragon will not come up to you if it does not trust you. In fact, it might try to hide or run away from you at first. While this might initially be frustrating, it is not abnormal. It may take some time for your lizard to trust and grow accustomed to you. If it is being aggressive toward or running away from you, you will have to patiently work with it and start to gain its trust.
There are more signs, however, than mere distrust that you should be aware of. As mentioned before, dark color can often indicate feelings of distrust, but it is also a common indicator that your dragon is sick or in pain. Your bearded dragon might also be exhibiting other signs such as cloudy eyes. This does tend to happen around shedding season, but cloudy eyes most often indicate severe infection. If you are concerned about your beardie’s health, consider taking it to the vet and getting it checked out.
Several other signs might indicate a sick bearded dragon. It might not be eating or sleeping regularly. Sometimes an otherwise happy/friendly lizard might become reclusive and bad-tempered if it is not feeling well. There are many potential reasons for this, some of which may take a vet to diagnose. If you are unsure, the vet is always the best option. Do not attempt to treat your lizard unless you are positive about the problem and the solution.
How to Bond with Your Bearded Dragon: Increasing Affection and Trust
There are things you can do to increase your bearded dragon’s trust in you more rapidly. Here are some of the best ways to do that:
One of the first things you should do to gain a dragon’s trust is to hold it often. This may not be terribly enjoyable at first—they may exhibit signs of aggression and fear. They will most likely squirm and wriggle and claw at you, trying to get away. You may or may not even suffer a couple of bites from time to time (unless your lizard is a full-grown adult, however, this probably won’t even hurt).
Repetition of this action is necessary for you to gain your lizard’s trust. The more you hold it, the more it will grow accustomed to your touch and accustomed to being handled in general. This will feel uncomfortable at first, but the more you do it, the more at ease and trusting the bearded dragon will become.
Keep in mind, however, that you should exercise extreme care in how you handle it. Rough handling will result in any hope of trust being damaged or demolished. This can mean holding it by its tail or jerking it around. Either of these things will cause them fear, stress, and discomfort, and will keep them from ever wanting to be touched by you again.
Bearded dragons are extremely sensitive and you would do well to treat them as such. Speaking of sensitivity, try not to make any loud noises; bearded dragons don’t typically like loud noises, so don’t subject them to any. Keep noise, loud music, and yelling to a minimum if you can (any signs of discomfort will include the aforementioned indicators of aggression).
You can also try petting your bearded dragon regularly. Most bearded dragons enjoy being petted and will likely grow more comfortable with you the more often you do it. This will translate into affection from you and they will more quickly learn that you are trying to form a bond with them. In addition to petting, you can let your dragon walk on you from time to time. This will not only help your dragon to feel comfortable walking on you, but it also shows trust on your part and can familiarize them with your scent.
Try to develop a good feeding routine with your dragon. This will help it to associate you with being fed and it will begin to understand that you are not a threat but a source of nutrition and comfort. It might also help for you to feed it treats as a reward for good behavior toward you. The more you do this, the more they will associate treats with their positive behavior and direct it toward you.
Finally, you must remember two very key things:
One, your bearded dragon is not going to bond with you instantly. Love and affection grow with time. If you have just gotten your bearded dragon, you should not expect it to exhibit signs of trust and affection right off the bat. It will take the careful practice of the tips mentioned above and a whole lot of time for most beardies to learn to love their owners. You aren’t doing anything wrong if your dragon is not instantly attached to you.
Two, it is important to remember that all bearded dragons are different. They do not all express affection in the same way, at the same time, or as quickly. As time passes by and you pay your dragon the attention and respect it deserves, you will grow to recognize the signs of trust and affection your lizard displays. Your bearded dragon may not exhibit any of the signs mentioned above (though that is not likely). Again, you and your dragon will begin to understand and become familiar with each other over time.