Bearded dragons exhibit a multitude of behaviors, depending on their intentions and state of mind. Since you may not be aware of some of these behaviors’ meanings, I’ve made it my purpose to shed some light on the matter.
More specifically, we will discuss tail wagging because this behavior means completely different things for reptiles than it does for dogs, for instance. To start at the beginning, do bearded dragons even wag their tails?
Yes, yes they do. Let’s see why!
Understanding Bearded Dragon Body Language
Bearded dragons have a wide set of behaviors that they use for different purposes, with tail wagging being just one of them.
Here’s an overarching view to understand what I mean:
- Head bobbing – Head bobbing is a common behavior in male bearded dragons. They usually bob their heads up and down to display dominance or attract a mate. If your bearded dragon is bobbing its head, observe the situation to understand the reason behind the behavior.
- Arm waving – Arm waving is another behavior observed, especially in male bearded dragons. Their arm waving is meant to show aggression or establish dominance in the face of other males. If your bearded dragon is waving its arms, it is best to keep a safe distance until the behavior subsides. The reptile might express some discontent regarding your presence.
- Puffing up – Bearded dragons puff up their body and beard to look bigger and more intimidating when threatened. Puffing up is a defense mechanism to ward off predators, but beardies can also exhibit this behavior when scared or annoyed. If you notice your bearded dragon puffing up, it is best to remove the source of the threat. In some cases, that source may be you.
- Black beard – A black beard is a sign of stress or agitation in bearded dragons. Bearded dragons tend to darken their skin tone, especially under the chin, due to changes in the environment, such as temperature, lighting, or diet.
- Flattened body – When bearded dragons flatten their body, they are trying to appear smaller and hide from potential threats. Flattening is a sign of fear or discomfort, which can occur if the dragon is scared of something or surprised by a loud noise, light, or even an unfamiliar voice.
- Tail position and movement – The position of the tail can also indicate your bearded dragon’s mood and intentions quite accurately. If the tail is curled up, it could mean that the reptile is relaxed and comfortable. A straight tail can indicate a heightened state of awareness or aggression, and so will the tail wagging that may sometimes come with it.
- Tongue flicking – Bearded dragons flick their tongue to sense their surroundings and identify potential prey or threats. Frequent tongue flicking can indicate that your bearded dragon is nervous or anxious or maybe that it has detected a delicious meal close by. Beardies also flick their tongues as a way to make acquaintance with you or greet you when you approach their enclosure.
- Eye contact – Bearded dragons make direct eye contact to establish dominance or to show aggression. If you’re the source of the piercing eyesight, keep your distance for the time being.
As you can observe, bearded dragons have a decent arsenal of bodily and behavioral hints that they use to communicate with one another.
What Does Tail Wagging Mean in Bearded Dragons?
Tail wagging is a common behavior in many animals, including bearded dragons. Or, should we say, especially bearded dragons.
However, unlike in other animals, the meaning behind the beardie’s tail wag can vary depending on the situation and the individual dragon.
Here are some common interpretations to consider:
- Excitement – In some cases, tail wagging can be a sign of excitement or enthusiasm. Bearded dragons may wag their tails when they are happy to see their owner or during playtime. They may also wag their tails when they are exploring new environments or when they are presented with a favorite food. In this sense, beardies are no different than a dog that enjoys the sight of their owners and the aromatic scent of their treats.
- Aggression – In other cases, tail wagging can be a sign of aggression. Bearded dragons may wag their tails in a quick, jerky motion when they feel threatened or want to establish dominance. If your bearded dragon is wagging its tail furiously, keep a safe distance and avoid handling it until they calm down. If your beardies wag their tails at one another, consider that some powerplay may be…at play. Nothing to see here as this is natural hierarchically-informed behavior. You should only intervene if your beardies become extremely aggressive toward one another and their aggression doesn’t seem to subside.
- Stress – Finally, tail wagging can also signify fear or stress. Bearded dragons may wag their tails when they feel uncomfortable or anxious. For example, if the bearded dragon is in a new environment or is being handled in a way that makes them uncomfortable, it may wag its tail to express its distress and discomfort. This informs you on the right approach, so you can change your behavior accordingly.
It is essential to observe your bearded dragon’s body language and behavior to understand the meaning behind their tail wagging.
Keep in mind that frequent or unusual tail wagging can also be a sign of an underlying health or behavioral issue.
In such cases, it is best to seek veterinary help to identify and address any potential problems.
Recognizing the Type of Tail Wagging of Your Beardie
That’s right, these reptiles can move their tails in a variety of patterns, each expressing a different emotion.
Here are some general outlines to consider:
- Slow and steady tail wagging – A slow and steady tail wagging can indicate contentment or relaxation. Your bearded dragon may wag its tail this way when enjoying basking in the sun or lounging in its enclosure. This type of movement is usually slow and rhythmic and does not involve quick, jerky movements.
- Quick and jerky tail wagging – These are often a sign of aggression or irritation. Your bearded dragon may wag its tail quickly and with abrupt movements when it is feeling threatened or wants to establish dominance. This type of tail wagging is usually accompanied by other aggressive behaviors, such as arm waving or head bobbing, making it easier to translate its meaning.
- Side-to-side tail wagging – Side-to-side tail wagging indicates excitement or enthusiasm. Your bearded dragon may wag its tail from side to side when it is exploring new environments or playing with its toys. Other behaviors may accompany this tail motion, such as running around or climbing.
- Rapid tail twitching – Rapid tail twitching can indicate stress or discomfort. Your bearded dragon may twitch its tail rapidly when it is feeling anxious or uncomfortable. In this case, your beardie may also refuse food, express aggression or irritability, or hide more often and refuse to come out.
- Tail curling – Tail curling is indicative of a defensive posture or a feeling of submission. Your bearded dragon may curl its tail tightly around its body when it feels threatened or when it is submissive to a more dominant bearded dragon. Look for additional signs, such as the flattening of the body or a puffed-up beard.
Whoever said bearded dragons are basic and lack emotional depth?
When to Be Concerned About Tail Wagging in Bearded Dragons?
While tail wagging is usually not a cause for concern, there are some instances where you should find it concerning.
- Aggressive tail wagging – If your bearded dragon is wagging its tail quickly and with abrupt movements, take this as a sign of aggression. Aggressive tail wagging is often accompanied by additional behaviors, such as arm waving or head bobbing, behaviors which are usually directed toward other beardies. In this case, monitor your pets’ interactions to make sure that their interactions remain somewhat manageable.
- Unusual tail wagging – Any unusual tail movements could signify an underlying health or behavioral issue. For example, if your bearded dragon is normally relaxed and content but suddenly starts tail-wagging aggressively and repeatedly, take this behavioral change as a sign of stress or discomfort. These are 2 symptoms that are most often associated with various health problems.
- Frequent tail wagging – If your bearded dragon is wagging its tail frequently and without any apparent reason, it could be a sign of stress or discomfort. Frequent tail wagging can also indicate an underlying health issue, such as Metabolic Bone Disease, respiratory or skin infection, or even a digestive problem. In this case, it’s best to contact your vet for assistance with the diagnosis and the treatment.
As you can see, bearded dragons have a wide range of behaviors, depending on what they’re attempting to transmit.
Their tail movements are just part of the equation, but to understand the lizard’s language better, you should also consider additional communication-oriented signs.