Bearded Dragon Behavior & Body Language Decoded (What’s Normal & When to Worry)

When compared to that of the family cat or dog, bearded dragon behavior unfortunately isn’t always so easy to pick up on or understand.

You see, when it comes to deciphering the meaning behind your cat or dog’s behavior, the explanations are obvious and feel almost culturally ingrained within our brains.

We know, before even realizing it, that a wagging tail or a soft guttural purring are both signs of contentment in our furry friends. But what about our pets that are noticeably less furry, who err more on the cold blooded side?

Everyone knows that a dog wagging its tail is happy, just as a cat hissing or yowling is angry or scared.

But, what about your bearded dragon?

How do we know when they’re sad, angry, hungry, playful, or anything else for that matter?

How exactly are you supposed to decipher the meaning behind bearded dragon behavior, especially if you’ve never had a reptile for a pet before?!

Fortunately, this is where I come in.

As a reptile expert myself, I’ve created this article to serve as your all-in-one resource for decoding your bearded dragon’s behavior and body language alike.

If your bearded dragon is doing something strange, chances are I have an explanation for it below.

Common Bearded Dragon Behaviors to Be Aware of

All bearded dragons will likely exhibit some if not all of the behaviors listed below. As a responsible pet owner, it’s up to you to become familiar with what not only each of these behaviors mean, but what triggers them as well.

Understanding your beardie’s body language and behavior will give you a serious look at their health, mental state, and much more.

Arm Waving

bearded-dragon-arm-waving-behavior

Do you ever feel like your bearded dragon is trying to catch your attention by waving at you from behind the glass? If so, it could be their way of showing submission to you. Sure, it sounds crazy but it’s true!

You see, like a dog that might lay down and show you it’s belly, a bearded dragon that feels submissive or intimidated will wave it’s arm!

Many specialists also believe that arm waving is something beardies do in the wild to signal to other beardies that they mean them no harm and are not a threat.

Also, arm waving has been considered a part of the mating ritual as well, with females often arm waving back at males who head bob at them.

Head Bobbing

Ah, good old head bobbing. Arguably one of the more common bearded dragon behaviors, head bobbing can actually happen for a variety of reasons!

Because of this, I took it upon myself to write an entire article dedicated to the potential meanings behind head bobbing. Here, you’ll be able to learn specifically WHY bearded dragons head bob.

If you have noticed your bearded dragon head bobbing lately, I highly recommend you check it out!

Glass Surfing

Bearded-Dragon-Glass-Surfing-Behavior

Much like your dog scratching desperately at the glass after being put outside, your bearded dragon too may scratch at the glass, displaying what is commonly referred to as “glass surfing”.

However, unlike your dog who just wants back inside, this behavior from your bearded dragon could mean a multitude of different things.

In fact, I’ve dedicated an entire post to deciphering this strange behavior because in actuality, there can be SO many reasons behind it!

Make the jump to discover the 8 surprising reasons why bearded dragons glass surf and how to get them to stop.

Changing Colors

Bearded-dragon-changing-color-in-bath

Like other species of reptiles, fish, and amphibians, bearded dragons have what are called “Chromatophores”.

Chromatophores are pigmented cells that reflect light and allow them to change color as they react to their environment.

Now, before diving much deeper into color changes it is important to first note that bearded dragons can change color as they age.

So, if your beardie seems to darken or brighten up as they get older, don’t worry too much, especially if this change takes place over the course of months.

Additionally, some bearded dragons can change color as they warm up or become happy.

If you notice your bearded dragon turning a brighter color, like orange, light brown, or yellow, when they’re warm or appear to be in a good mood, don’t worry about it too much!

Now, if you notice your bearded dragon’s color change out of nowhere or come on in a very dramatic fashion, this is when you’ll want to pay attention…

A bearded dragon that darkens its body or beard is typically one that is either cold, angry, scared, stressed, ill, or threatened.

You’ll want to figure out why your bearded dragon’s body or beard is dark as none of the aforementioned states are desirable.

2 Reasons Your Bearded Dragon is Darkening Their Body

Cold-Bearded-Dragon-with-a-Dark-Body

#1: They’re Cold and Trying to Attract Warmth

Believe it or not, often times when your bearded dragon is cold, they’ll actually darken up in an attempt to attract warmth!

Whether in the sun or under their basking bulb, a dark bearded dragon is simply trying to just warm themselves up.

Additionally, you may notice your bearded dragon during this time flatten out, kind of similar to a pancake.

This is also a mechanism they’ll use to warm up as it enlarges their body, allowing them to attract more heat.

#2: They’re Feeling Stressed Out

Imagine how on edge you’d be feeling stressed out all day long, due to things out of your control.

Sure, your skin color might not change but chances are your stress would physically manifest in other ways, like breakouts or lashing out.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that could be stressing your bearded dragon out, so it’s up to you to really put your thinking cap on here. Ask yourself the following questions…

Has anything changed recently in their tank that could be making them feel uneasy?

Are there any feeders jumping around after meal time that could be biting them?

Has anything changed outside their tank, such as the introduction of a new pet in the family or perhaps kids home for the summer causing extra noise and commotion?

Fortunately, there are measures you can take to help destress your bearded dragon FAST and get them back to their normal color.

Bearded Dragon Behavior When Shedding

bearded dragon shedding

If your bearded dragon is preparing to have a shed, don’t be alarmed if they seem to be a little bit on the cranky or reclusive side.

You may additionally notice them not wanting to be held or even seeming a little restless and fidgety.

They may even black beard a little more than normal as well.

Also, it isn’t uncommon for their appetite to be a little non existent as well. So, if they’re not eating much don’t be too concerned unless this behavior goes on for more than several days.

To make this process easier and more comfortable for your bearded dragon, make sure you educate yourself on how to safely help a bearded dragon shed.

Bearded Dragon Behavior Before Laying Eggs

Before discussing the behaviors associated with a female bearded dragon who is about to lay eggs, let’s make sure you’re caught up on beardie reproduction.

Namely, if you didn’t know… female bearded dragons can lay eggs with or without any formal mating.

This means, that even if your female bearded dragon hasn’t been around any males, she could still be “gravid” AKA pregnant and lay a clutch of infertile eggs.

In the weeks leading up to your female laying her eggs, regardless of whether they’re fertile or infertile, she will likely display some specific behaviors.

For starters, she may seem lethargic and less active, choosing to lay under her heat lamp. Then, as she gets ready to lay their eggs, she will begin digging within her enclosure.

If you suspect that your bearded dragon is gravid and going to lay eggs, you’ll want to make sure you provide her with a lay box and also adjust her diet to keep her healthy and make her birthing process as easy on her as possible.

Bearded Dragon Behavior After Brumation

Bearded Dragon Brumation

If your bearded dragon is coming out of brumation than you need to be prepared for them to be a little on the lethargic side.

Also, don’t expect them to have much of an appetite either.

How long it will take your bearded dragon to go back to normal will vary on a case by case basis, with some beardies acting like their normal selves within a few days and others taking a whole month. Just be make sure to be patient.

On the flip side, you may also notice your bearded dragon has a bizarre sleeping schedule and random bouts of energy.

During this time, they’re adjusting to being awake again so don’t be too surprised if you find them acting sleepy and taking long naps, only to wake up later with tons of energy!

Bearded dragons who seem especially anxious to get out of their tank are also no cause for concern.

Brumation can be a pretty confusing if not scary experience for many first time reptile owners, so make sure you familiarize yourself on what to expect and how to help your beardie during their brumation.

Wrapping Up Bearded Dragon Behavior

All in all, bearded dragons can display some pretty weird behavior.

However, more times than not, this behavior is not a reason for concern so much as it is an opportunity for you to learn more about your pet.

Nine times out of ten, your bearded dragon’s behavior is a direct response to something in their environment that is either stressing them out or not ideal.

This is why it is so important to understand what the behavior means so you can be in tune with what they need from you.

51 thoughts on “Bearded Dragon Behavior & Body Language Decoded (What’s Normal & When to Worry)”

  1. Hi i would like to ask my beared dragon neve got this angry for noting even if i out on the sun ligjt she gos mad if we walk oass the casges she gos made makes her beared up and goes on like she want to atac me it is now two days when she gets mades she poof up her beared maked ger self flat en hit that beared and trow herself around in the and we did not to any thing new to her cages nots is new on the out side momday we opend it up and she just when on like this and just keep on gone made rolling like i dont even know her i dont even want her any more she scares me

    Reply
    • We have two bearded dragons when is so loving the other one right now is puffed up black even the tail is turning black and hissing we did put new sand in its cage but still don’t understand why it’s behaving like this and it’s scaring us

      Reply
      • 1:No sand!!! It could choke, you should see a specialist for any consumed objects,
        2:Give him his own cage
        3:Adjust the lighting
        AND SEE A SPECIALIST ABOUT IT!

        Reply
  2. My dragon has been very calm acting ever since it got about 12inches long. Sleeping and sometimes not moving most the day. Still eats regularly though and gets excited about live food. Only uses the bathroom once every couple weeks and normally cause I give him a long warm bath. Is that their normal behavior to be incredibly chill even while being handled? Or could it be that he doesn’t feel good.

    Reply
    • Yes!!! He is just growing! Mine is still a baby, I wish mine would grow faster, wait, lemme get it out of my hair…

      Reply
    • My dragon is the exact same way, I’m actually not sure how old he is but he is atleast 4, and he basically sleeps all day or if he isn’t sleeping he just basks or stay on his log. When I take him out to hold him we just cuddle. He is very nice, has never puffed his bear or anything. He is so chill. He also has a healthy appetite and only poops once every two weeks and most of the time it’s when I bathe him. So I would say it’s probably not too abnormal.

      Reply
  3. I have a 3 or 4 month old beardie named spitfire he dont like my husband coming close to me when im holding him. He puffs out his beard when my husband is laying woth me watching a movie

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    • Oh, that’s so cute!!! Was he with him as a baby? Does he have a deep voice? Is he big? My beardie is scared of my Dad because of this!!!

      Reply
  4. My bearded dragon arches his back and opens his mouth upwards, towards the sky. He also doesn’t move very much and hasn’t been eating his crickets; he has actually been letting them run all over him. I’m getting very concerned as he won’t eat or drink on his own.

    Reply
  5. I have a serious worry for my beardie he’s about 4 and I even took him to the vet a specialist and got him medicine but he’s been flipping himself over and laying on his back does anyone know the reason I’m very worried thanks so much!

    Reply
    • It could be the adenovirus or what they call stargazing. You should YouTube it. It can be serious. Some beardies have lived long lives with it and some beardies has to be put down because of how serious it was. I’d go to an exotic vet specialist right away.

      Reply
    • Don’t worry, but you should take him to a SPECIALIST, it could be serious, and something for one, just make sure he’s getting good meals and nutrients.

      Reply
    • You want to make sure that uv lighting is sufficient Diet does not block Calcium absorption that he gets enough water and gets enough calcium in his diet. I had this problem I made sure lizard is getting the right Uvb light and that it is close enough Cleaned cage and gave daily warm baths for a week and added vitamins and she showed great improvement

      Reply
  6. Hi, I don’t know it little Roiho, my bearded dragon is having seizures, or what, but he keeps on acting crazy, running around, hiding, biting, scratching, digging, and overall just getting more aggressive, what I hear, this shouldn’t happen, considering he’s very young, and I think it could be a lack of nutrients, but he’s pretty small for his age, my last being pretty big, I don’t think it’s a lack of nutrients, considering he gets fed his meal daily. I don’t know why. I thought you could tell me if I should do something about it, or if he’s just young and active. Thank You!

    Reply
  7. So I just got a baby bearded dragon from a friend they said she was sweet and liked to be handled and when I got her she let me hold her the first couple of days but now she doesn’t liked to be touched I have got to where she will let me pet her after I feed her but then she goes back to puffing up and acting like she’s going to attack. Does anyone know why?

    Reply
    • Hi Cheyenne!

      My guess is that she’s still getting used to you. She could just be adjusting to her new home and owner(s), so please give her some time. As long as she has a healthy appetite and is basking and acting normal, I truly wouldn’t worry much.

      Something you can do to better ensure she’s able to grow up healthy is to ensure her lighting setup is on point and that her diet is appropriate for her age.

      Baby beardies have different diet and temperature needs than adults so it’s very important that we as owners consider this when caring for them in their adolescents.

      Best of luck to you and congrats on your new baby!

      – Stacey

      Reply
  8. Hello,
    I bought a baby bearded dragon about 3 weeks ago ..At first she was eating an up an active butt know she just lays around under her cave maybe she’ll come out for a couple hours ..butt she turns black an skinny plus she bearly eating anymore.. I’ve tried everything.. I’ve bought new light also give her baths.. I still cant get her to be active.. I’m so scared that i bought a sick baby.. They people i got her from say she’s about 5 to 6 months old..
    I also take her out of her home an cuddle with her.butt nothing else..

    Reply
    • Hi Tangie,

      Sorry to hear you’re having some problems with your beardie. To help me understand what’s going on could you walk me through your lighting setup? Specifically, I’m curious as to what UVB bulb and basking bulb you’re using, what the cage temps are (basking spot, hot side, and cool side), and what you’ve been feeding your beardie. Inadequate lighting is typically the first culprit with a sick beardie so I’m especially interested in this information.

      Thanks!

      Reply
      • So my beardie I got for Xmas we just were making masks because of covid-19 and my mom said it would be a perfect for my beardie and he was out on it to see if likes it.and he scrambled off and just scrunched in a corner.p.s it was green and orange.his tank is desert themed so.do those colors just scars them or no? I’m worried 😟

        Reply
  9. Just a quick question! I’m watching a friend of mine bearded dragon and I’ve grown to love him so very much! His name is Rocky and ever since he pooed yesterday, he hasn’t seemed to calm down about it. I knew he didn’t like to be around it after he did his business and I cleaned it up but still seemed angry. I’ve done so much research about glass surfing and color change. I’ve read different temperatures, added some back drops so he wouldn’t see his reflection, let him run around my room a lot but whenever I put him back in his cage he goes all black and just not at all happy. He is shedding right now so the restlessness might be because of that but I’m concerned that he’s black with little to no color change back to his normal color! Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa,

      Sorry to hear about your hissy bearded dragon. I recommend you check out the articles below to bond with, de-stress, and properly care for your new pet. With some time, she should warm up to you (so long as you treat her right and ensure she’s healthy!).

      1. How to destress a bearded dragon
      2. How to bond with your bearded dragon
      3. Expert bearded dragon lighting and temperature guide

      I know this seems like a lot of reading, but I could see her demeanor having changed due to a myriad of reasons. From a stressful environment, to her just needing to bond with you, to improper lighting… it’s probably best you just take a little time to read all 3 articles and put the advice in them into practice. I feel confident if you do this, she’ll come around.

      Reply
  10. Help Please just got a 1 year old male beardie. He use to belong to a young girl who lost interest and from what I can tell just petted him in the cage he is my first and I would really like to get him out take him on car rides and let him roam the place how do I gain his trust or is their a possibility he will never come around. He wants out doing a lot of glass surfing bit when I go to get him he makes it to where I can’t pick him up putting his sides down and flattening out please help

    Reply
  11. Our beardie is 9 years old and just started laying clutches of eggs once a month the past few months which definitely surprised us. She worries me every time because the days before she lays she appears neurologic and will curl herself to one side and not move the other direction. I’ve been giving her soaks when I see this and trying to give her a lot of greens to increase her calcium. It stresses me out and I’m wondering if she’ll ever stop laying or will this continue every month?

    Reply
  12. Hello, my beardie has recently started to darken his beard and only seems to calm down after being handled. He’s never been like this before and I’ve had him for 4.5 years. Is this normal or should I be worried?

    Reply
  13. Hi I’ve got a 3 year old girl bearded dragon. She has just gotten over a yeast infection. For the last week she has gone crazy running around the house. I put her in her tank for and within a few minutes she is wanting to come out again. Ihaxe felt her tunny and I can’t feel any eggs. What can be the reason for this

    Reply
  14. Hello I have a sick bearded dragon he is about 4yrs I took him to the vet and they put him on emerald ic omnivore intensive care nutrition for debilitated omnivore he looks alot better now but still not eating on hits own his eyes have been shut for a bout two and half weeks now I’ve been soaking them and he has opened for 3to 4 seconds and then closes then again he won’t keep then open and he is still not eating on his own the vet said to cut back on the meds so I did but he still not eating on his own and I’m about out of the meds maybe 2to 3 days left of the meds he was real lethargic but moved around a lot more at times is there something I can try to help the poor guy out cant afford another visit to the doc last one cost me over$200 add I had take him to an emergency ofter hours vet como veterinarians in st paul Minnesota if you converting maybe five some advice would greatly be appreciated thanks

    Reply
  15. Hello so I recently got a baby beadie and I was expecting her to be very active running around, skittish, but every time I touch her or pick her up she’s very still and when I put her back in her enclosure she doesn’t move from that spot I set her down at almost as if she’s trying to act like she’s not there. she’s getting the right temperatures she’s not showing signs of stress she seems healthy she’s eating pretty normal so I was just wondering if she might be sick because of how still and un active she is or maybe she’s just adjusting to her new environment ?do you have and thoughts because I’ve never seen this in a baby beardie..

    Reply
    • Hi Celeste!

      What temperature is her basking spot and cool side of her tank? Also, what kind of UVB bulb are you using? Are you dusting her food with calcium 4-5 times a week (but no more than once a day)? Is she getting a multi-vitamin?

      Reply
  16. Hi I’m a new beardie owner, I’ve had mine for about a year or so and I’ve had no experience with them, neither does anyone I know. I changed tanks but as far as I remember he’s always been a dark ish kinda color. He’s never really been yellow and I’ve been extremely concerned about that. Lately he’s been hiding under his hammock and doesn’t eat much. I don’t even remember the last time he pooped. He hasn’t been aggressive towards me at all. I switched his food to more fresh stuff because I learned the food I was giving him has no nutritional value. I changed his light to something brighter and warmer, he just sits in the corner most of the day. I accidentally gave him some mealworms (alive and dead) because I thought it was a good treat but it turns out I was severely wrong. I’m scared for my beardie and I feel like I’m doing tons of stuff wrong

    Reply
  17. I just got my bearded dragon 2 months ago, they didn’t know how old he was, he’s 13inches right now, but he doesn’t really have an appetite anymore, some days he’ll eat 5 worms other days it’s none or maybe 1 or 2. It’s been about two days sense hes ate, he won’t touch his green though he’s never ate any sense I got him. I powder his bugs in rapshy calcium plus, his temps look right with the digital thermometer and I have an inflared temp gun Thing By Zilla too. He’s in his hide a lot which is under his basking light, he only had diarrhea once about a week ago, it was a very light brown/beige color. Sense his poops have been normal with urate. I really don’t know what’s going on. I’ve never had a bearded dragon before or a reptile. Help. 🥺

    Reply
    • Meal worms can be bad for beardies and can cause impaction. Try Dubai roaches as they run around a lot and can trigger hunting response out of your dragon. Mine didn’t eat many worms because the barely moved but he loves Dubai roaches.

      Reply
  18. Hello,

    I just got my beardie Paollo the other day and he is very young. I got him from a pet store and I want to ensure he’s having the best life he can. He’s been keeping to one of his hides primarily but still eats good. I’m not sure he’s getting enough hydration he drank yesterday but today I tried dripping water into his snout and he wouldn’t drink from it. This is my first reptile and I wanna do my best 🥺 any tips and advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • So my experience is to offer them a water dish but mine has never drank from it either that I have seen. They are desert lizards so don’t require a lot of water they get most of there hydration from the food they eat and I give mine a bath once a week to make sure she stays hydrated and clean of course

      Reply
  19. My beardy wont let me pick him up he always opens his mouth hisses and jumps at me like he wants to bite me what do I do?

    Reply
  20. Hello! I have a new baby bearded dragon, we’ve had him for two weeks and I know he needs some time to get used to us and his new habitat, but every single time he sees us he runs away and hides. He eats well and he’s usually on his basking rock but when someone enters the room he immediately hides inside his rock. Any suggestions? We haven’t handled him much at all yet because we were trying not to stress him out and give him time to get more comfortable. But how long should we give him or should we start trying to interact with him more?

    Reply
  21. Hello,
    We have a female bearded dragon and she’s 3.5 years old. She’s very sweet and roams our house quite a bit. For the past few days she is itching to get outside. She sits in her tank to get lighting for a while but then she wants out. She goes straight to her window seat and starts scratching at the windows to get out. I’ve taken her out and let her get sun a few times, which calmed her down but today she just wants out. She even seems to be clawing at the walls and she’s running around the house acting totally stressed. I’ve never seen this behavior from her before.

    Reply

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