Last week, my new neighbor saw me petting a bearded dragon, and I couldn’t help but notice her puzzled look.
She approached me cautiously and asked if it was normal to stroke a bearded dragon.
After a long chat, she seemed excited to get a beardie of her own and wanted to know the best way to handle one.
We did some research, asked a reptile expert for some insights, and here is what we learned.
READ MORE: Do Bearded Dragons Like Blankets?
Handling A Bearded Dragon: Must-Know Tips!
As a bearded dragon owner, handling your beardie in the best way is important. Note that your beardie depends on and lives with you; hence looks up to you for survival.
Here are some insights to know.
There are various benefits arising from handling your pet, and they include:
1. Catch Health Concerns Early
By holding your bearded dragon often, you will notice any injuries, parasites, and other underlying health concerns. And since your scaly friend will get used to your touch, it will be easier to treat them.
2. Be Open to Socialization
The pogona vitticeps are a solitary species, and constant handling can help make them sociable animals. In this way, you train it to accept new hands comfortably when your friends want to hold it.
Handling your beardie also creates the chance of forming a strong bond over time. You will find the lizard warming up to you much quicker than any other person.
3. Make Bath Time Easier
Your pet will get accustomed to regular bathing and cleaning with the proper handling. Moreover, any other handling becomes a breeze as the lizard is used to your hands.
4. More Accessible Tank Handling
Beardies are tiny creatures compared to your hand size, and getting them out of the terrarium can be a challenge.
However, you can expect this process to become easier with frequent handling, making tank-cleaning sessions quicker.
Aside from the benefits of holding your dragon, there are significant risks worth knowing. These risks are as follows;
1. Risk of Deadly Salmonella Contact
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when 18 individuals from 11 states were reportedly infected with Salmonella bacteria an investigation was carried out. (1)
The investigation showed that these salmonella infections arose from contact with a bearded dragon.
This shows that it is possible to contract this zoonotic disease from holding your beardie. Hence, it is advisable to adopt clean hygiene habits and have regular vet checks.
2. Skin Shedding
As Taylor Crane puts it in this video, beardies shed off their skin quickly or slower depending on age.
Your juvenile beardie is likely to shed more skin than an adult, so you do not have to worry about the short durations between shedding.
While you can still pet your scaly friend, it is recommendable to resist the urge to peel off their skin.
This exposes the young undeveloped skin to infections and other health problems and will only make your beardie uncomfortable.
Beardies do bite but not until there is a reason to do so. While the bite is painful, luckily, it is harmless to humans.
A dragon’s bite can cause swelling but it will go away in a few days. Meanwhile, ensure to wash with anti-bacterial soap and warm water.
Actions like quick movements and holding on to the wrong parts, among other factors, make the beardie uncomfortable and can result in a bite.
Safety Measures Before Handling the Dragon
You can adopt safety measures to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases, among other beardie-handling issues. These measures include:
Ensuring you wash your hands before and after handling a bearded dragon is essential. Remember, no matter how healthy a beardie looks, they can carry the salmonella bacteria.
Moreover, washing your hand with antibacterial soap before handling your beardie allows you to avoid transferring bacteria to them.
As the public health officials suggest, avoid touching your face and mouth when holding a bearded dragon. (2)
How Long Should You Handle a Bearded Dragon?
How long you can hold a beardie varies with the animal’s personality. While some like the physical touch, others are not fond of it.
When holding your pet, be sure to observe their body language. Also, if the beardie shows signs of becoming cold in the tummy, put it back in its terrarium.
Beardies are cold-blooded animals, and when their body temperature goes down, they can develop health concerns. Similarly, if they show any signs of stress, it is time to give them a break.
How Often Should You Handle a Bearded Dragon?
As a bearded dragon owner, spending time with your lizard is essential to creating an everlasting bond. However, note that the environment you are in is crucial in determining how long the beardie will spend outside their enclosure.
Ideally, you want to spend about 10 minutes or more bonding with the pet either once or twice daily.
Also, note that baby beardies are curious about their surroundings and will want to explore more than fully-grown beardies.
There is no limit to how often you should handle a bearded dragon. However, be sure to look out for stress cues and avoid holding them for too long as they can defecate on you.
Picking Up a Bearded Dragon
The art of picking up your scaly friend is an essential skill. While there are the perfect ways to pick the beardie, there are wrong ways also.
However, you want to master the best pick-up methods, so your beardie gets used to your touch. This knowledge also allows you to avoid pick-up actions that can cause stress.
How To Pick Up Your Bearded Dragon
When picking up your beardie, it is essential to do it the right way. Ideally, you should pick up your pet by its tummy and avoid the legs and tail.
As mentioned before, any movement on top of the beardie can send a mixed message to it. While your intention is positive, it will see this as an attack and won’t let you pick it up.
Ideally, approach your pet from the front slowly and place your finger beneath their chin as you stroke them. After that, you can slide your palm on the beardies’ underside and lift them.
As you do this, ensure you support their lower back and tail to avoid spine injury. You can do this with two hands, as this YouTube video from the Bearded Dragons Owners explains. (4)
Petting A Bearded Dragon
Pets and other animals, in general, enjoy petting, and this is no different with your lizard. Petting is an effective way to strengthen the bond between you two and make your pet’s life a breeze.
Do Bearded Dragons Like Being Pet?
This question is critical to all beardie owners. The answer, however, depends on your lizard’s preferences.
While some beardies adore human touch, others do not. Do not force your bearded dragon or invade its privacy as a rule of thumb.
How to Pet a Bearded Dragon?
There is a proper way to pet your lizard: slowly approaching it from the front and stroking it. Meanwhile, the worst way to pet the beardie is coming from the back since this startles it.
That said, you can entice the lizard by giving it a treat since this makes it trust you. Ideally, holding and petting a bearded dragon from head to tail is the proper and recommended way.
According to a study, petting your beardie for prolonged durations has a negative outcome. So be on the lookout for any signs of stress. (3)
Where Do Bearded Dragons Like to Be Pet?
Now that you know the proper way to pet your bearded dragon, let us look at the areas your beardie likes to be petted.
If looking for the best petting spot, go for the head. Just like with other pets, if you have any, your beardie will undoubtedly warm up to a rub on its head.
However, the best way to do this is to let the beardie know you are approaching since a sudden touch leaves them frightened.
Also, note that it is advisable to pet your lizard from the head toward the tail and not vice versa. You can use one or two fingers to do the stroking and apply a little pressure but not enough to hurt the beardie.
A light touch on your beardie’s snout is welcome. However, ensure not to poke the eyes or apply excessive pressure.
Read the signs your beardie does not want this kind of touch. This touch can sometimes irritate them and make them attack or bite you.
After the head, the next spot you want to pet your beardie is the neck region. You can do so as you progress to the tail area or focus on the beard region.
Imagine the experience of someone giving you a neck massage. That is how relaxed your lizard will feel.
Beardies Don’t Want To Be Petted: 3 Reasons Why
For some reason, your beardie may not be fond of petting. Here are some of the reasons why.
1. They are Stressed
A stressed lizard won’t let you handle it, nor will it lay still. You will notice the pet running from your touch when you advance toward it.
Other stress causes include loud noise, new terrarium decorations, a new space or environment, seeing its reflection, and inadequate food. You have to look at the causes of the stress and deal with them to reduce this anxiety.
2. Improper Handling
A beardie can refuse your attention if you tend to mishandle it. Beardies have an impressive memory and can remember details such as scent, the owner, and close people.
If the previous owners had a poor handling history, the lizard could refuse to be pet at first. However, you do not have to worry since this won’t last long as you bond with the dragon.
3. Their Preferences
While some beardies will love being held and pet, others won’t. This reaction is normal and should not worry you since it can change over time.
If you have a lizard who does not like being petted try spending more time with them. As you bond, the beardie gets accustomed to you and will let you hold and pet it.
Why Does My Beardie Close His Eyes When I Pet Him?
While many beardie parents interpret a dragon’s act of closing their eyes during petting as positive, it is not. Closing their eyes can mean they feel anxious or threatened by what you are doing.
Also, note that a beardie can close its eyes when you two cuddle. This action is somewhat unusual because dragons typically stay alert in the wild to spot predators.
In whatever you are doing, look at how your beardie responds to your pets. If they show signs of discomfort, put them back inside their terrarium.
Is My Bearded Dragon Closing its Eyes Because of an Infection?
A dragon’s act of closing the eyes can suggest other underlying health issues. For example, If you notice the beardie closes one eye instead of both, this could indicate an eye infection.
The best way to catch such issues is through regular handling. The visit to the local animal clinic will guarantee your dragon’s health is in check and restored as soon as possible.
Holding a Bearded Dragon
Holding your beardie creates a strong bonding session. However, note that there is a proper way to hold your dragon, and this is what you want to master.
Do Bearded Dragons Like Being Held?
As mentioned before, dragons have different preferences. While some will like to be held and pet, others will resist the holding.
If you have a dragon that likes petting, great, but if you have one that resists holding, you can change that behavior over time. You can try using treats to build trust with your shy lizard, and you can hold them within no time.
How to Hold a Bearded Dragon
The best way to hold your beardie is by ensuring its weight is balanced. If your beardie is enormous, hold it using both hands.
You can also hold the lizard closer to your chest since they love warm places and this promotes sharing body heat.
And if your beardie is curious, you can let them walk on you; however, keep an eye on the lizard to prevent it from falling.
READ MORE: All About Bearded Dragon Sunken Eyes
How to Bond With Your Bearded Dragon?
As a beardie parent, bonding with your dragon is crucial. Remember, your beardie looks up to you for food, survival, stimulation, and comfort.
You can build your beardies bond through:
There is no better way to bond with your dragon than food. When you hand-feed your beardie, you give them a chance to get accustomed to scent and presence.
Handling Them Regularly
By constantly handling your pet, they get accustomed to your touch. However, ensure you handle and pick the dragon well to enhance the bond.
Organize Quality Bath Times
Naturally, beardies are fond of getting a bath, and you can make such sessions memorable. However, ensure the water is shoulder height to prevent the lizard from drinking it.
Clean water helps get rid of parasites, supports hydration, and rejuvenates their skin. Your presence during bath times will build trust and increase the bond over time as the beardie gets used to you.
Another excellent way to bond with your pet is by playing and exploring together. You can let the lizard roam freely around the house, if safe, or get some lizard-friendly toys.
With time, the beardie will be looking forward to spending time with you. Also, note that you have to be patient and be there even if the pet does not feel like interacting.
How to Know if Your Bearded Dragon Likes And Trusts You
Although bearded dragons are solitary animals, they will show affection once they grow fond of you. Moreover, this should be your goal as a beardie parent, and here are signs of affection to expect;
- They lick you.
- They close their eyes and sleep around you.
- They let you pick them up.
- They want to hang out around you.
- They follow you around the house.
How to Get a Bearded Dragon to Like You
A beardie is guaranteed to love you over time if you show them positive energy. It is essential to remain patient and not feel defeated because this can take time.
You can even endure bites in the process, but sooner or later your efforts will pay off. Do bearded dragon bites hurt? They do, but they are harmless, and the pain goes away after some time.
Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Pet Under The Chin?
Yes, the chin is among the parts beardies like to be pet and held. While some will dislike petting, you can be sure touching under the chin won’t get the dragon anxious or stressed.
Do Bearded Dragons Get Attached To Their Owners?
Yes, dragons eventually get accustomed to their owners. In fact, a beardie has an excellent memory that allows it to know its owner’s scent and voice.
Do Bearded Dragons Get Lonely?
No, a bearded dragon is a solitary creature used to surviving alone. While you may think of getting your beardie an animal companion, note that they will be competing for resources instead of sharing them.
The issue of petting a bearded dragon is essential for all dragon owners. Ideally, you want to form a strong bond with your lizard so you two can enjoy each other’s company.
The above guide should shine a light on all new beardie owners looking to own these fantastic reptiles. It may seem overwhelming at first, but trust me, it gets easier as time progresses.
Does your bearded dragon like to be pet? Share with us below!
- 1. Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Pet Bearded Dragons | CDC [Internet]. www.cdc.gov. 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/muenster-10-20/index.html
- 2. Reptiles and child safety [Internet]. HSE.ie. [cited 2022 Jun 5]. Available from: https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/babies-and-children/child-safety/pets/reptiles/#:~:text=Keeping%20clean%20around%20reptiles
- 3. Stockley VR, Wilkinson A, Burman OHP. How to Handle Your Dragon: Does Handling Duration Affect the Behaviour of Bearded Dragons (Pogona Vitticeps)? Animals. 2020;10:2116.
Alina Hartley is a small-town girl with a ginormous love of bearded dragons. It all started with Winchester, a baby bearded who was abandoned at the shelter by his former owners because of a birth defect that caused one front leg to be shorter than the other. Alina originally went to the shelter looking for a guinea pig, but one look at Winchester and it was love at first sight. From that day on, Alina has dedicated her life to learning everything she can about bearded dragons. She loves helping new beardie parents start their incredible journey with these magnificent reptiles.
Follow her on:
Read her latest articles HERE
Learn more about her HERE.