Everyone agrees! Bearded dragons are the best pet reptiles around. They’re not just easy to handle but have some of the most amusing behaviors ever observed. When you see beardies in action though, don’t be fooled – it’s not an illusion or party trick. Behaviors such as arm waving are perfectly natural and may indicate that your beardie is calm and happy. However understanding their behaviors can be difficult and so no one behavior has been clearly defined. Instead it appears that certain behaviors have a number of meanings. It all depends on who’s around and the situation your bearded dragon finds himself in.
I’ll start off with the most popular behavior of all, and for good reason. It’s no wonder that bearded dragons have a beard. What many don’t realize is that this is not just a physical trait but a behavior used as a defensive mechanism or to display dominance over another dragon. This is done by ‘inflating’ the spines below their mouth making them appear larger, more threatening and I guess, less edible. This behavior is most prominent during breeding season as males become more defensive and whilst the behavior has been observed in females it is most commonly used by males.
Arm waving is the next best thing. It is really quite entertaining to watch a lizard greet you with a friendly wave. They lift one of their front legs and move it in a forward circular motion. Whilst the actual meaning is unclear, both male and females have been seen displaying this behavior to the same and opposite gender. It also appears to be used as an indication of submission or simply as a friendly hello.
Beardies will use a behavior known as gaping to warn off predators. As a defense mechanism, they will open their mouth and inflate their beard. However this particular display has two meanings and the second is the most important to be aware of. When a bearded dragon overheats, it first gives you a series of warning signs. However when it becomes quite severe the dragon will open their mouth or gape in an attempt to release heat and decrease their body temperature. When this happens you will need to cool them down by taking them out of the heat and placing them in a cool place. It would be a good idea at this point to check the temperatures in the enclosure as you may need to adjust the lighting.
Generally a healthy dragon at a peak level of alertness will display a behavior known as tail curbing. When doing this they curl their tail up and point it forward. You may notice this before meal time as they become very active, alert and intensely focused on the food.
Another incredibly amusing display is the bearded dragon head bob. This bob can be slow or fast depending on the situation. In some instances a fast bob may cause the beardie to shake quite vigorously. These displays usually occur as a mating ritual in which both the male and female participate. It may also indicate a sign of aggression or submission, again depending on the speed of the bob.