Have you ever seen your beardie waving at you? Or maybe you’ve noticed it scratching at the corner of its enclosure. These are just a couple bearded dragon behaviors that can let you know how your beardie is feeling – if you know how to interpret them.

In this article, we’re exploring the wide range of behaviors bearded dragons may exhibit. We’ll discuss what your bearded dragon is telling you with their behaviors. Are they stressed? Happy? Let’s find out!

Why Understanding Your Bearded Dragon’s Behaviors is Important

Bearded dragons don’t just make gestures randomly. What they do can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling and can even give you insight into their health.

A dog wagging its tail means it’s happy, and panting means it’s hot. Bearded dragon behaviors also let us know what’s going on with them.

The information you gain from learning what your beardie is “telling” you can be very useful. But beyond that, your new understanding of your bearded dragon will help you form a stronger bond. And who wouldn’t want that?

Common Bearded Dragon Behaviors

Below is a list of behaviors that bearded dragons often show. You’ve likely already noticed your beardie doing a few of these. Now you’ll know what they mean!

Common Beardie BehaviorWhat it Means
Arm WavingBearded dragon arm waving looks like they’re saying “hello” and they kind of are! Arm waving is a way to let others know that they are there and signal that they aren’t a threat. Arm waving is more often seen in young dragons than adults.
Head BobbingBearded dragon head bobbing can mean several things. Fast bobs are a sign of domination, warning, or threat. Slow bobs mean the opposite. A male beardie may also make fast, jerky bobs when he courts a female.
Glass SurfingGlass surfing, or your bearded dragon scratching at its tank wall, basically means “I want out!” Sometimes this is because they don’t feel safe in their enclosure. If you recently changed the layout, this could be the reason. Other times, they just want to get out and explore!
Turning DarkBearded dragons turn dark when they are trying to absorb more heat. They will often turn dark and flatten themselves while basking for this reason. If they stay dark for too long, they may be cold.
Turning PaleBeardies will start to turn dull and pale just before shedding. It will often start at the legs, tail, or head and may be patchy.
LickingLike other reptiles, bearded dragons have what’s called a Jacobson’s organ on the roof of their mouth. When bearded dragons lick things, they are using their Jacobson’s organ to smell and taste.
Mouth GapingBearded dragons will open their mouths to regulate their temperature. It’s perfectly normal for them to gape occasionally while basking. However, if they keep their mouth open for a long time they may be overheated.
Black BeardingBlack bearding is exactly what it sounds like – their beard will turn dark. Beardies do this when they are excited, scared, or aggressive. It’s not uncommon to see them black beard in a new environment. But if their beard stays black for a long time, this could mean they are under a lot of stress or in pain.
YawningA bearded dragon yawning can look pretty funny! They may puff out their beard a few times and open their mouths. It looks a bit like the hiccups!
Tail CurlingYou may see your beardie’s tail curl upwards when chasing prey. It’s usually a sign of alertness, but can also be a response to heat.
happy dragon
This is an example of bearded dragon gaping.

Uncommon Bearded Dragon Behaviors

Some bearded dragon behaviors are less common. The following list includes infrequent behaviors, as well as behaviors you’ll likely only see if something is wrong.

Uncommon Beardie BehaviorWhat it Means
DiggingBeardies may dig for a number of reasons. They may be trying to find somewhere cooler and more humid. Females will dig to lay eggs (eggs can still develop without a male present). Some just like to dig!
HissingBearded dragons hiss as a warning sign. This means they feel threatened. They may progress to biting. This behavior is mostly seen with unhandled adults. However, your beardie may also hiss if startled or uncomfortable.
BrumationBrumation is the reptile version of hibernation. They will slow down, hide more often, and eat less. Beware: there are illnesses that look a lot like brumation. If your dragon starts showing signs of brumation during the wrong season, schedule a vet visit to rule out parasites or other health issues.
TwitchingTwitching, along with weakness and paralysis of the hind legs, are signs of MBD. Twitching without other symptoms could be neurological. If your dragon starts twitching, it’s time to visit the vet.
“Stargazing”Looking up for no reason is a symptom of atadenovirus. They may also flip over. Unfortunately there is no cure, and this disease is highly contagious.
Strange BreathingStrange breathing of any sort may be caused by a respiratory illness. They may also have stuck shed in their nostril.

When to Contact Your Vet

Bearded dragons display so many behaviors. It can be hard to know which ones are signs of something serious.

A good rule of thumb to follow is to contact your vet if:

  • The behavior is a common sign of illness.
  • Your bearded dragon has never displayed the behavior before and you’re not sure what it means.
  • You feel in your gut that something is wrong.

Don’t worry about feeling silly calling your vet if it turns out to be nothing. That’s much better than not calling and it turns out to be something serious!

Learn More About Bearded Dragon Care

Bearded dragon behavior is just one aspect of taking great care of your beardie. Explore our other articles to learn more about bearded dragons – like what supplements they need, or the top 5 signs of a malnourished dragon!