Bearded dragons communicate with their environment and other dragons through body language alone.
Without knowing it, you have probably observed your bearded dragon’s communication style several times in the form of odd behaviors.
It’s important to understand the underlying reasons behind a bearded dragon’s behavior because although most are harmless, they can be good indicators of mood, stress, and illness.
There have been over 70 behavior patterns recorded from bearded dragons, but this list will focus on 18 of the most common behaviors and the interpreted meaning behind them.
This is an entertaining behavior to watch because it will look like your bearded dragon is waving at you. This is a form of communication that many people believe is a bearded dragon’s way of saying “Hi, I see you!” but it can be interpreted as submissive behavior when confronted by something larger too.
2) Glass Surfing
Glass surfing occurs when a bearded dragon tries to climb up the walls of their tank. The look of their belly rubbing against the glass in combination with their arms paddling gives the appearance surfing motions.
This behavior is a stress response, but you don’t need to worry unless you see any signs of illness. You can help by keeping their environment the same and ensuring the humidity and temperature levels are where they need to be.
Brumation is the bearded dragon’s version of hibernation occurring naturally during colder months when there is less sun and heat. Each bearded dragon is different, but you’ll probably notice him sleeping more and eating less during this time.
It’s normal for some bearded dragons to sleep through their entire brumation and it can last anywhere from 1 week – several months.
Shedding is a natural process that occurs while a bearded dragon is growing or needs to repair their skin. You can help by misting or bathing your bearded dragon during periods of shedding to loosen skin. Once your bearded dragon reaches adulthood you should see a decline in this behavior.
5) Color Changes
Bearded dragons slowly change color after shedding, usually getting more colorful until 1-1 ½ years of age. When you notice a sudden color change it’s usually related to mood, stress, illness, or a change in temperature. If your bearded dragon gets cold, their skin might darken or turn black to absorb heat better. Similarly, their skin might darken when they feel threatened.
Head-bobbing is a behavior normally seen in male bearded dragons. When a male wants to assert dominance over another male in his territory he’ll bob his head up and down, changing the speed to appear more threatening. Males will also head-bob at females to assert dominance before mating.
7) Eye Bulging
Eye-bulging is a behavior that’s not fully understood but most people agree that it is a bearded dragon’s method of stretching the skin around their eyes during a period of shedding. Whatever the cause, it’s proven harmless so far.
Licking is a normal behavior used to taste anything a bearded dragon might find. It also helps them remember their environment and location.
Bearding refers to when a bearded dragon flares and darkens their beard. Males and females will both do this, usually to make themselves look bigger. Males are known to beard to attract females during mating. In some cases, they will turn their beard black to strengthen the effect of their display.
Bearded dragons can’t generate their own body heat, so they rely on basking to regulate their internal body temperature. You can tell your bearded dragon is basking when you catch them lying under the heat lamp with their mouth open.
11) Inflating/Flattening Body
Bearded dragons will inflate their body to look larger and more threatening but it’s not always an aggressive behavior. If you notice them flattening their body instead, it’s a tactic used during basking to efficiently absorb heat.
During the mating process, male bearded dragons will head-bob with such force one or both of their front legs will lift and down giving the appearance of stamping their feet.
13) Tail Twitching
This behavior is more common in juvenile bearded dragons than in adults. Most people think that it means their bearded dragon is alert to something in their environment or stalking prey.
Most people observe their bearded dragon yawning when they wake up from a nap or when light in their tank turns on. It’s described as a puffing of their beard several times while opening and closing their mouth.
You’ll usually notice your bearded dragon rubbing objects or the side of their tank during periods of shedding. This behavior helps loosen shedding skin and usually isn’t harmful. If your bearded dragon is having trouble loosening their skin, you can help by bathing them or misting them with water.
If you notice your bearded dragon digging in their tank, you aren’t alone. Digging is a natural behavior usually observed before basking. Many people believe digging is how they get comfortable before laying down. Older dragons will probably dig before entering brumation, it’s a technique used to regulate their body temperature while sleeping.
Stacking is when bearded dragons lay on top of each other while basking. It might seem cute – like they’re cuddling but is sign of dominance. This behavior is believed to be caused by a bearded dragon’s instinct to survive by getting more UVB light than everyone else.
Hissing is the only noise a bearded dragon can make. It is an aggressive behavior and is a sure sign a bearded dragon feels threatened.
Now that you know the meaning behind the most common behaviors you should have no problem communicating with your bearded dragon and the best way to help them in times of need.