Have you been struggling to handle your bearded dragon? It is possible that you are not making any progress as your bearded dragon is too scared to focus on building a bond. What are the reasons why bearded dragons get scared? Is there anything that you can do to make your beardie less scared?
Bearded dragons get scared by your presence and other reptiles or pets. They can also get scared of changes in their environment, sudden movement, or if it is shedding. Baby bearded dragons are also naturally scared as they are still unfamiliar with their environment.
In this article, we are going to discuss the reasons why your bearded dragon is scared. We will also talk about the things that you can do to make them less scared and how they cannot be scared of us. So read on!
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How Do You Know If A Bearded Dragon Is Scared?
The fear that bearded dragons feel is closely associated with stress. When there is something in their environment that makes them feel threatened, they will either choose to fight or take flight.
Therefore, in the case of scared bearded dragons, they express their stress by taking flight.
However, there are still instances that they act defensively due to being scared as they feel that they have no other choice but to fight.
Here are some common signs of a scared bearded dragon:
- Always hiding even when it is time to bask or stays hidden even if there is no one around.
- Hides from you or behaves defensively when the enclosure is opened or when you try to hold it.
- Refuses to come out of hiding even when it is time to eat.
- Flees away from a certain object within and outside its enclosure.
- Puffing and hissing. (more on puffing up here)
- Darkening of the beard. (more on black beards here)
- Stress marks (slightly dark lines) around its body.
- Pacing around the enclosure.
- Digging the substrate and circling around it.
- Biting and scratching excessively. (more on beardie bites here)
Tip: If you would like to learn more about stress marks in bearded dragons, read our article here!
Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Scared
In general, bearded dragons are not jumpy reptiles that react to practically everything in their environment.
They are also not naturally aggressive and will resort to avoiding confrontation if they have to. It is only when something in their environment is agitating them that they react in a certain way.
Here is a decision tree to help you easily determine the reason behind the fear of your bearded dragon.
1. Your Bearded Dragon Is Still A Baby
Almost all baby bearded dragons are anxious. It is rare to find a bearded dragon that is already calm. This is understandable as they have not grown enough to perceive that not all things around them are a threat.
Baby bearded dragons may even be scared of the hide and the water bowl in their enclosure. The same goes for your feeding tongs or your hands.
It is important to not bother your already scared baby beardie during this time as it may get sick.
You have to give it time to get used to its environment and also wait for it to take regular feedings before attempting to handle it.
2. The Bearded Dragon Is Scared Of You Or Reptiles
You may be asking yourself, “Why is my bearded dragon scared of me?” when you notice that it immediately hides away from view whenever you approach the enclosure.
The answer is simple, your bearded dragon sees you as a threat.
This also means that you have not gained the trust of your beardie or it might have felt stressed when you tried to handle it. You just have to be patient for it to get used to your presence.
On the other hand, your beardie will also get scared if you have other pets or reptiles around. Especially if those other reptiles or pets are significantly bigger than them and they are in full view from your beardie’s enclosure.
The good news is, with proper training and socialization, your bearded dragon will eventually get used to your other pets like cats, dogs, or birds. In terms of your other reptile pets, they will remain wary of their presence.
3. Your Beardie Is Shedding
Bearded dragons feel vulnerable and uncomfortable when they are in the process of shedding. Even the tamest and friendliest bearded dragon will become scared and act defensively when you disrupt its peace during its shed.
Many bearded dragons refuse to eat during their shed, so their hunger also adds to their irritability.
During this time, you will notice that your beardie will be hiding more than usual. You can check this article to learn more about this hiding behavior.
Fun Fact: Some bearded dragons also get scared of their own reflection as they think that there is another bearded dragon in front of them.
4. Your Bearded Dragon Is Scared Of Its Environment
When you just got a new bearded dragon and you just placed it in its enclosure, it is natural for it to be scared of its new environment.
The same happens when your beardie that you have had for a long time is suddenly anxious about the new accessory that you added to its enclosure.
Loud noises around the enclosure may also make them feel scared.
At the same time, if you leave too many live feeders in the enclosure that your beardie can no longer manage them, they will not feel secure as the live feeders may bite them in their sleep.
5. Bearded Dragon Is Scared Of Sudden Movements
Baby and juvenile bearded dragons may easily get startled by sudden movements inside and outside the enclosure.
As for adult bearded dragons, the sudden movements do not faze them easily, unless the movements are big, i.e., when you are dancing in front of the enclosure.
Bearded dragons perceive these big and sudden movements as an aggressive display of superiority. Much like how other bearded dragons puff up to make themselves look bigger to assert their authority.
Also read: Can bearded dragons have panic attacks?
How Do I Stop My Bearded Dragon From Being Scared?
For most of the reasons that we mentioned above, the things that you can do is just let them calm themselves and wait for them to get used to their environment.
Along with this, you should ensure that the lighting and heating of the enclosure are properly maintained.
Here are some tips to lessen the fear of your bearded dragon:
If your bearded dragon is scared of its environment
You can add multiple hides in the enclosure to make them feel more secure. You can also cover a part of the enclosure with a cloth.
Make sure not to leave too many live feeders in the enclosure and, as much as possible, refrain from making too much noise.
If your bearded dragon is scared of you
You just have to be patient for your beardie to get used to your presence. Before doing any handling training, you can spend some time with your beardie by just sitting beside the enclosure.
You can also do hand-feeding by using tongs just like these.
Once your beardie is no longer hiding from you, you can start handling training. This article will help with handling training so as to lessen the stress of your beardie.
If your bearded dragon is scared due to shedding
You should not bother your bearded dragon too much while it is shedding. If you noticed that it is behaving differently due to a stuck shed, you can help it by giving it a soak.
Make sure that you are not forcing your beardie to be let out of the enclosure when you try to take it out.
Diverting the fear of your bearded dragon
For baby bearded dragons, a lot of owners have found success in curbing their anxiety by diverting their fear and turning it into a pleasant experience.
An example of this is offering a treat when a baby beardie gets startled when you open the enclosure.
How To Calm Down A Scared Bearded Dragon?
It is important that you do not react negatively or even react at all when your bearded dragon displayed defensive behaviors due to fear.
Doing so will only reinforce that their behavior is acceptable instead of urging them to overcome the stimuli that are making them scared.
Therefore, even though they hiss or puff at you, or even go for a bite, you should calmly continue what you are doing and not overreact. Slowly move away from the enclosure to let your bearded dragon be.
You can also distract them by offering treats. It will also be helpful when you talk to them in a calm and soothing voice when you sit beside their enclosure.
You should not be deterred to bond with your bearded dragon especially when they are displaying defensive behavior due to fear. This reaction is normal and through proper care, they will eventually come to their own.
As owners, it is our duty to help them overcome their fear so that they will grow healthy. It takes a lot of patience to lessen this fear, but now you know the steps to making your beardie feel secure.