Bearded dragons are very docile, friendly, and affectionate pets. Generally bearded dragons enjoy being held and enjoy physical contact and even start to cuddle their owners. So when a bearded dragon is averse to being held, a lot of owners question why.
Why won’t my bearded dragon let me hold him anymore? While it does depend from dragon to dragon, it usually has to do with a lack of trust in the relationship.
In this post we will discuss reasons why your bearded dragon may be averse to being held as well as steps you can take to establish more trust in the relationship and hopefully build up to a point where you can hold and cuddle your bearded dragon.
Reasons why your bearded dragon won’t let you pick him up
1. Past Owners
Bearded dragons have a lot of great qualities. One of those qualities are their impressive memories. They especially have a knack of recognizing and remembering their owners. They can recognize your voice, they can remember your scent, and they remember other prominent members of the household, too, like spouses and kids.
That being said when a bearded dragon has a previous owner who may have treated them poorly, they can be a little more timid when it comes to humans and interacting with humans. If your bearded dragon seems abnormally afraid or skiddish then it could be possible the previous owner may not have taken the best care of him.
Just because this happens does not mean your bearded lizard will never want to be held again. Later in this post, we will discuss ways to build up trust between you and your bearded dragon. Building trust may take longer than with younger bearded dragons who have not been improperly handled but it is still possible to reach that level with your bearded dragon.
If your bearded dragon is feeling generally anxious they probably will not want to be held or want to sit still. Because bearded dragons like to run around and hide when they’re anxious when they seem antsy or like they have too much energy, consider looking in other areas of their lives to see if you can reduce some stress.
Here are a few reasons why your bearded dragon may be feeling a little stressed out:
- Improper Tank Size – if your tank is too small for your bearded dragon this can create a lot of anxiety. Be sure to check charts or consult your local reptile store to make sure your bearded dragon has adequate space to dig, hide, and roam around.
- New Decorations in the Vivarium – bearded dragons are very observant and can tell immediately when something is different: especially when that change is happening in their own tank. Sudden change in tank decorations has been known to upset bearded dragons.
- New Spot in House – same with a change in the tank’s decoration. If they have recently been moved to a new spot in the house, this can also cause anxiety and extra energy.
- Too Much Noise – bearded dragons have excellent hearing. While some owners have reported seeing their bearded dragon become more alert and actually seem to like music, other bearded dragons seem the opposite and appear to dislike music or noise – especially if it’s too loud. If you recently have begun playing music or have moved a speaker closer to their tank, consider moving the speaker away as this could cause anxiety.
- Not Enough Playtime– bearded dragons need a lot of playtime and stimulation. If you’re having a hard time holding your bearded dragon because they just don’t want to sit still, consider playing with them first and then holding them again after playtime.
- Not Enough Food– not enough food is enough to make anyone stressed. Check to make sure your bearded dragon is well fed if you’re having trouble holding them in your arms.
- Threatened by Reflections – sometimes the glass in your tank is too empty and the reflection of your bearded dragon they see is enough to make them upset and angry. A lot of owners have to landscape their tank by putting in enough decorations to where they can get rid of that reflection.
Just like humans every bearded dragon has their own distinct personality. Humans sometimes like to be touched while others do not. This is the case with bearded dragons as well.
It is possible that you may have a bearded dragon who simply likes to be touched/handled less than the general bearded dragon. But not to fear! There are still plenty of ways you and your bearded dragon can bond without the physical contact.
Giving your bearded dragon a ball to play with, letting him explore your house, and walking around the neighborhood are all fun ways to spend time with your bearded dragon.
4. Bonding Time And Trust
It’s all about trust. That’s why making a good first impression (or several, really) are extremely important to getting your bearded dragon used to be handled.
There is a lot of trust that goes into bonding with a bearded dragon. Think about it – you’re a big human and picking them up too quickly or too aggressively may upset your bearded dragon to the point where it does more harm than good. Be sure to read the cues your bearded dragon puts out.
Avoid sudden, jerky movements when handling your bearded dragon. This is especially the case for the first time. It’s best to hold your dragon in a quiet, calm environment and be sure that you’re comfortable as well because you don’t want to make any sudden movements while your bearded dragon is beginning to trust you.
Go slowly. Instead of reaching down to scoop him up, try petting him or patting him first. Get him used to contact, get him used to your smell, and get him used to your touch. It’s all about baby steps and making sure your bearded dragon is always comfortable.
5. Proper Handling
When picking up your bearded dragon make sure to always handle them correctly and give them enough support.
Do not pick up your bearded dragon by the tail because they can break off. You need to support your bearded dragon from the bottom under. Support the tail so that the bearded dragon does not fall or wriggle around which can cause it to sustain injury.
Make sure that your bearded dragon is comfortable and supported. It’s about finding a balance – you don’t want to hold your bearded dragon too tightly to where he is uncomfortable or stressed but you also don’t want to hold him too loose to where he could fall. It’s about finding the right position and listening to your bearded dragon.
If you sense your bearded dragon is uncomfortable, put him down. If you sense your bearded dragon wants to explore and walk on your body, let him. It’s really about letting your bearded dragon take the reins and you follow.
A lot of bearded dragons get comfortable quickly and will even want to snuggle up and fall asleep in your arms.
Many owners also report their bearded dragon enjoying soft fabric to snuggle up to. Consider bringing out a soft blanket or bed for your bearded dragon to snuggle into when they’re in your arms.
It is important to note that blankets are simply for the comfort of your bearded dragon and not to generate actual heat. As we discuss in another post, blankets don’t actually provide any warmth for your bearded dragon (unless they are overheated) since they are cold-blooded. But soft blankets always can help for comfort, safety, and cuddling.
Always take the proper precautions when handling your bearded dragons
All reptiles should be handled with care as they may carry diseases – especially salmonellosis or, more commonly known as salmonella. This is because they carry a lot of bacteria in their lower gut and this bacteria could travel in their feces and then onto their skin.
That being said, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after each time you handle your bearded dragon.
Another thing to remember is to use gloves for the first few times. This is to protect against bacteria but also because their skin is very rough and scratchy and the gloves will help protect your skin against unwanted scratches or marks.
Bearded dragons make fun pets because they’re easy to get along with and for the most part they really enjoy physical contact and physical attention. If you’re having trouble holding your bearded dragon it could be because of several reasons.
They could simply not like being held but in a lot of cases it has to do with the amount of trust bearded dragons have with their owners. Try putting in extra time by taking slow steps to earning your bearded dragon’s trust. Once they trust you enough to be held you might have a hard time putting them down!