Typically laid-back, friendly lizards, bearded dragons and their human families often develop deep bonds of friendship. But don't expect that friendship to happen the moment you bring your dragon home. Making friends with your bearded dragon will require time, patience and knowing how to properly handle him.
Know the Signs of Aggression
Building a friendship with your dragon may take time, especially if you have adopted one who has been abused by previous caretakers. A mistreated or a frightened bearded dragon will warn you before biting, showing such signs of aggression as:
- Arching his back
- Flattening his body
- Opening his mouth
- Whipping his tail
Deal with the Aggression
Do not stop handling your bearded dragon because he becomes aggressive. Instead, wear a pair of gloves to pick him up so he knows you will not hurt him. Start slowly by holding him for several minutes, adding a few minutes every time until he becomes comfortable with you.
If your bearded dragon begins to struggle to get out of your hands, ignore him. Letting him go teaches him that he just has to struggle to get what he wants. When he stops squirming, put him down.
Handle Your Dragon Properly
You may frighten your bearded dragon if you reach for him too quickly or come at him from above. Knowing how to properly handle him will make it much easier for him to trust you and for you to become friends.
- Thoroughly wash your hands before picking up your dragon to ensure they don't smell like anything that would frighten him.
- Never attempt to pick up your bearded dragon by reaching from above his head. He will think you're a predator. Instead, hold your hands with the palms up, gently put under your dragon's belly and pick up.
- Make sure you support your bearded dragon's whole body, including his legs and feet.
Build Trust and Friendship
Developing a bond with your bearded dragon will take time and patience but, if you're proactive, the process should be fairly simple.
- Keep your bearded dragon's cage in an area where the family spends a lot of time.
- Each time you pass the cage, stop and talk to your dragon so he gets used to you.
- Frequently pick him up, even if he squirms.
- If your dragon becomes stressed when you hold him, gently pet the top of his head to calm him down.
- Hand-feed meals and treats. It may take him several times before he trusts you enough to accept the food but be persistent.
- Allow your dragon free time, in a room where you can supervise him, to run around and to explore his surroundings.
You may want to leave your television or radio on for your bearded dragon when you are not home to allow him to get used to and feel comfortable hearing human voices.