Some bearded dragon owners may worry, for whatever reason, that they haven’t bonded with their pet. While bearded dragons are simple creatures with simple emotions that they wear on their sleeves, it may not always be obvious why they feel the way they feel or what’s wrong.
Why doesn’t my bearded dragon like me? Your bearded dragon may show signs of not liking you for a few reasons, but the most common ones are because of a lack of trust, mishandling, or health-related issues.
Bearded dragons, also known affectionately as beardies, are great first pets for reptile owners, but still require ample time and attention and have a distinct set of needs. Beardies are easily impacted by what is around them. They are extremely mellow and friendly creatures, but when their needs are not being met, they may come across as unfriendly. Luckily, this is an easy fix: by following these steps towards the best possible care, you can form a wonderful friendship with your beardie.
First, Let’s Talk About Time, Trust, and Patience
Bearded dragons tend to be more shy around strangers, so if you and your bearded dragon have just been acquainted, it might take some time for you to bond and build the trust necessary for a happy relationship with them.
This point is simply a matter of waiting. When bonding, keep in mind that sometimes small steps forward are best. Reptiles also show their affection differently than other types of animals, so also keep in mind that their signs of trust will display themselves differently than that of a dog or a rabbit.
They also will display body language that indicates how they are feeling. Just like you wouldn’t want someone to hug you if you weren’t in the mood to be touched, bearded dragons sometimes are in a more solitary mood.
If you have more than one beardie, pay attention to how they communicate with each other when they are in different moods or need different things and pick up on those cues. Also pay attention to how your beardie reacts to your movements and presence, then work from there.
Consistent presence is important to a bearded dragon. If you’re only around them when you are bored or want attention from them in return, they might not be able to form the proper bond you are looking for. Keep your beardie’s tank in an area where there is plenty of human activity. Your mere presence will help build that bond.
Getting a beardie to like you isn’t just about being persistent, but brave as well. It’s a cliche, but it’s true. Animals are often a lot more afraid of humans than humans are of them. They can sense your fear so do not be afraid. You should give the same trust to your bearded dragon as you expect them to give you.
With this trust, comes freedom! Allow them to explore on their own around a safe room and learn more about their surroundings. Creating more than one environment for them or taking them outside when the weather is ideal for them is also another option.
Additionally, just like any baby, young beardies love to be rewarded! Whether you are training your beardie or simply reinforcing good behavior, a rewards system of treats and/or toys is another way to create a positive connection between you and your pet.
Create a Healthy Environment
Animals are not meant to be stuck in small areas. Having said that, make sure your tank gives them the proper environment they need to stay happy and healthy. A beardie’s tank should be at least 55 gallons with a screened lid that provides both safety and good air circulation.
Beardies also need both a warm, well lit area to hang out in and a moist, dark hiding space in which to relax. This includes adding rocks, branches, and logs for basking in the light or hiding away.
If your tank does not have these things, your bearded dragon is not getting the full environment that they need. Any lighting should be of the UVB variety to ensure that as they grow, your beardie does not develop bone deformities or other issues. A heat lamp is also a necessity.
Time is once again an important aspect here because along with constant monitoring of the tank’s temperature with a proper thermometer, it is essential that light shines in the tank for twelve to fourteen hours a day – no more, no less.
The tank is also always in need of constant upkeep. Always clean food and water bowls along with toys and other well used items daily and make sure to continually scoop out feces and not let it sit. In addition to that, heat lamps and UVBs should be checked monthly.
A healthy environment also includes water, and not just of the drinking variety! Give your beardie the chance to swim with a small container of warm water, similarly to the way you would while bathing them.
More details for creating the best possible environment for beardies can be found here.
Beardies also enjoy playtime! It’s important to make some fun part of the routine, whether it’s playing with a ball or other toys, shining a pointer around, or coming up with tricks to teach and learn.
You Should Be Using Proper Handling Techniques
Handling also plays a role in a bearded dragon’s demeanor. There is a specific way to pick up these creatures in order to not spook them and invite them to be comfortable and friendly with you. To give you an idea of what proper handling looks like, check out this list below:
- Wash your hands very well before you touch your beardie. Make sure you use unscented soap as to not turn them off or cause any distress.
- Move slowly when approaching your bearded dragon.
- Talk softly so they know you’re there.
- Pick them up gently with both hands and always support the legs.
- Try to stay still once you have approached and once they have come to you, avoid squeezing or any such movements.
- Continue to reassure them and support them properly as you’re handling them.
- Be mindful of any struggling and react appropriately.
Proper handling may be one of the most important aspects of bonding with a bearded dragon.
Sometimes, It’s a Matter of Health
If all else has failed, it may not be a problem between you and your bearded dragon at all.
Bearded dragons are susceptible to certain diseases, such as issues with their bones, respiratory problems, and more. Your little buddy may just be in pain.
Additionally, an unbalanced diet with too many crunchy bugs may lead to digestive issues for excited eaters. Make sure your bearded dragon is provided a well balanced diet that includes vegetables as well as invertebrates and vertebrates. This will decrease the chances of an upset stomach. See the list below for examples of a balanced beardie diet:
- Prepared food meant specifically for beardies with added vitamins and minerals
- Dark leafy greens such as parsley and kale
- Vegetables such as carrots and snap peas
- Balanced animal protein, with crunchy insects like crickets, and softer ones like mealworms
- Occasional fruits like mango as a treat!
Chopping this food well also prevents indigestion. A happy tummy means a happy beardie!
If you ever see any symptoms of a respiratory infection or other problems, make sure they see a vet as soon as possible. These are common issues with beardies and oftentimes they will get better, but you do not want to take the risk. Symptoms of illness include a change in beard color and weird noises from the throat such as sniffling or wheezing.
More information about respiratory infections and the health of beardies can be found here.
As disconcerting as it may seem when your bearded dragon does not appear to be friendly, there are many things you can do to build your relationship and build for them the comfortable environment that they need. Like stated before, beardies are gentle and simple creatures who, once given proper care and a little extra love, will become a wonderful companion to any pet owner.