Lizards are often thought of as cold and antisocial. When it comes to bearded dragons, you may wonder if they are capable of developing a true bond with their owners. There’s actually quite a bit of research on the subject!
So do bearded dragons miss their owners? Not exactly. Bearded dragons don’t experience the feeling of missing their owner when they’re gone. However, bearded dragons can absolutely feel happy whenever they see their owner!
Below, learn more about bearded dragons and their feelings. You can also take a look at our guidelines for interpreting your pet’s behavior. Be sure to check out our tips on forming a strong bond with your bearded dragon as well!
Do Bearded Dragons Have Feelings?
Yes, bearded dragons do have feelings! Although they don’t feel emotions in quite the same ways as dogs and cats do, bearded dragons can still bond with their owners and show affection. Do keep in mind that each bearded dragon is an individual and will behave and show emotions differently.
What Makes a Bearded Dragon’s Brain Different?
Scientists who study reptiles report that bearded dragons have an underdeveloped hypothalamus. This is the part of the brain that handles emotional responses. Because it is underdeveloped, you won’t see a bearded dragon interact with their owner in the same way cats and dogs do.
In the wild, most reptiles such as bearded dragons live solitary lives. This means that they never needed to develop emotions to be part of a social group. However, as bearded dragons have been bred and domesticated, owners report that they do show a strong range of emotions. Do remember that the feelings and behaviors they show are mostly dependent on their individual personalities.
The Latest Research On Bearded Dragons and Bonding
The ability to form social groups and participate in group learning is an indicator of emotional development. The University of Lincoln in the U.K. recently conducted a study involving bearded dragons and their social behavior.
The results of the study showed that bearded dragons were capable of mimicking each other and learning behaviors from other members of their group. This shows a higher level of emotional development than bearded dragons were thought to have in the past.
Having this type of development means that bearded dragons are capable of forming bonds! They can do this both with humans and with other bearded dragons.
What Emotions Do Bearded Dragons Feel?
Bearded dragons have been known to display a wide range of emotions, from positive feelings like pleasure to negative ones such as anger and boredom.
Stress is actually very common in bearded dragons. A few reasons your pet may feel stressed are hunger, boredom, or feeling threatened by their own reflection.
Hunger is one of the more obvious feelings experienced by bearded dragons. As long as they are fed properly, you shouldn’t have to worry about your pet feeling hungry.
Boredom is more common in bearded dragons than many people think! Those who don’t own bearded dragons often assume that they spend all their time sitting around in their terrarium. The fact is that bearded dragons actually enjoy many different brain-stimulating activities.
Bearded dragons can also feel anger. This can be a result of mating season, overhandling, or changes in their environment such as a new decoration in their terrarium.
You may be able to identify fear in your pet as well, which presents in a very similar way to stress. Bearded dragons may become fearful when being handled by someone new or when their environment changes, including the environment outside of their terrarium.
Bearded dragons show a lot of curiosity. They love to explore and to try new foods. Curiosity is healthy and as long as you supervise your pet, it’s a fun activity for them to explore the area outside of their terrarium. You can even take your bearded dragon on a walk!
Comfort is yet another emotion that bearded dragons can feel. It’s easy to tell if your bearded dragon is comfortable around you. If they calmly allow you to handle them and enjoy cuddling with you or spending time with you, those are great signs that your pet is feeling comfortable.
Finally, bearded dragons can feel pleasure. If your bearded dragon remains still and closes its eyes while you’re petting it, that’s a clear indicator that they’re enjoying the attention. Bearded dragons often feel pleasure when interacting with their owners.
How to Interpret Your Bearded Dragon’s Behavior
Now that you’ve learned more about the types of feelings your pet can experience, it’s time to figure out what your bearded dragon’s behaviors tell you about their emotions.
Hissing and Leaping Forward in Small Bursts
This is a clear sign that your pet is angry. In fact, it is aggressive and ready to attack! These behaviors show that your bearded dragon is feeling threatened. It’s best to try to calm them, but be aware that they may bite if you handle them in this state.
Head Weaving or Rapid Head Bobbing
This behavior shows deep stress and fear. Give your pet space and see if you can identify the cause of your bearded dragon’s fear so you can remove it from the environment. If your bearded dragon often acts stressed or fearful and you can’t figure out why, get in contact with your veterinarian. Unnecessary stress can be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Vocalizing Through Hissing
Bearded dragons only vocalize when they are feeling angry and aggressive. Keep your distance if you notice this behavior, and remove any stressors from your pet’s environment.
Flattened Body and Puffed Out Beard
This is a sign of fear. If your bearded dragon is outside of its terrarium and will allow you to handle it, return it to its terrarium. Otherwise, leave your bearded dragon alone until it calms down and its behavior returns to normal.
Calm, Still Posture With Closed Eyes
This is a sign of comfort and pleasure. You’ll often see this behavior when handling your bearded dragon, especially if you have developed a close bond with them.
Reaching Head Towards You
If your bearded dragon is reaching its head towards you, it wants attention! Pet them gently, and allow them to sit in your lap if they’d like to. Never force your pet to sit in your lap as this can cause aggression and stress.
How to Bond With Your Bearded Dragon
Bonding with your bearded dragon is beneficial to both you and your pet! Your bearded dragon will grow to feel comfortable around you and even trust you. You’ll learn more about their individual behaviors and emotions as well.
Step 1: Try Food-Based Bonding
If you can get your bearded dragon to associate you with food, they’re sure to bond with you. Most bearded dragons quickly recognize their human owner as their food source. This leads to displays of excitement and pleasure whenever they see you!
Feeding your bearded dragon by hand is a wonderful way to bond with them. You can also have your bearded dragon sit in your lap as you feed them, as long as they are comfortable doing so. It’s especially important to feed your pet by hand in the first few weeks after you adopt them.
Step 2: Spend Time With Your Bearded Dragon Outside of Its Terrarium
Allow your bearded dragon to explore outside of its terrarium. Make sure no other animals are present, and never leave your pet unsupervised. You can allow your bearded dragon to play with a ball, a cat toy, or even a mirror–it may be amused by its reflection.
You can also purchase a special lizard leash and take your bearded dragon on a walk with you. If you do take your pet outside, don’t allow them to eat any insects. They may carry harmful parasites.
Step 3: Take Your Bearded Dragon Swimming
Many bearded dragons love swimming! You’ll need a large plastic tub about three to four times as long as your pet. Fill it to the height of your bearded dragon’s elbows. Make sure to use warm water (85 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit) and dry them off before placing them back in their terrarium.
Learning about which emotions bearded dragons experience, as well as the ways in which they display those emotions, will allow you to truly bond with your pet! You’ll be able to take better care of your bearded dragon once you’ve formed a bond with them and know what they are trying to communicate through their behaviors.