Much like the hair that stands up on a cat’s tail or a dog baring its teeth… bearded dragons puff up their beards to typically show aggression towards someone or something.
By making their beard black and puffing up, a bearded dragon is essentially trying to intimidate something they feel is threatening to them. However, often times bearded dragons can puff up without their beard turning black at all!
And in these instances, they may often seem to be happy or in an environment where there is nothing threatening whatsoever.
In fact, with dragons displaying this confusing behavior both during stressful and non-stressful situations, it begs the questions, just why do bearded dragons puff up exactly?
If your baby bearded dragon is puffing up and going all black beard, it could simply be due to the fact that they’re just not 100% acclimated and adjusted to their new habitat and/or you quite yet. If you believe this to be the case, fret not.
As long as their setup is right and you’re feeding them appropriately, this will likely pass with a little time. Try bonding with your beardie slowly through offering them food from your hand or even talking sweetly to them. They’ll come to realize you’re a friend not a foe in no time.
Now, if you notice your baby seeming lethargic, not wanting to eat, not going to the bathroom, and puffing up and black bearding… you may want to seek out the opinion of a reputable bearded dragon vet.
Beards aren’t the only body part a dragon can puff up! Some bearded dragon owners have noticed their dragon’s stomachs puffing up during the following occasions…
Bearded dragons should never be put in a bath above their shoulders, as they can potentially take in too much water and drown. Now, with this being said, bearded dragons have occasionally been seen to puff up in their bath in an attempt to float!
There isn’t too much research on why some bearded dragons puff up while eating or after a meal, so the general consensus is that it’s simply because they’re full or trying to make room to eat more. If they’re “hunting” live feeders, it could also be their attempt at looking menacing.
As aforementioned, whether you should be concerned about your bearded dragon’s puffing has a lot to do with whether or not their beard is black. Dragons puffing up isn’t always out of aggression, fear, or discomfort and as such, often times shouldn’t be worried over.
Bearded dragons can sense when an upcoming shed is near and as such, can often times try to hurry the process along. This can involve puffing up in an attempt to loosen some skin. If you notice waxy or dull looking skin around his or her head, then an upcoming shed is likely the culprit behind the puffing up.
Some owners have actually found their dragons to puff up as a sign of happiness and have attributed it to them “showing off”. How funny! If your beardie seems happy and healthy and puffs up a little during their favorite activity, then consider taking it as a compliment that you’ve raised a happy (not to mention confident) little dragon!
Opening their mouth wide, puffing up their chest and beard… all potential signs that your dragon is simply trying to stretch their neck muscles a little.
Seriously. Just as we might yawn to try and “pop” our ears while climbing elevation, bearded dragons can open their mouth to try and relieve small pressure too.
It is important to remember that just because your dragon is puffing up, it doesn’t mean that something is necessarily wrong or that there should be cause for concern.
Pay attention to your dragon’s beard and watch whether it turns black or not and then consider what around them could be causing it. If your dragon’s beard doesn’t turn black and they only puff up on occasion, chances are it’s simply for one of the normal aforementioned reasons.
I’m Stacey, the owner of this website and lifelong reptile lover, caretaker, and educator. Here you will find everything from information on how to care for reptiles, to even how to give your reptiles the best fighting chances against a range of common reptile diseases and illnesses, and everything in between!