When you think about the word “pet” maybe a bearded dragon is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, these reptiles are known to be very docile animals that make great pets! Now, the question that remains is, do bearded dragons like to be petted?
Although there are no scientific studies that can confirm -or deny- that bearded dragons like being petted, most reptile experts and owners do believe that bearded dragons enjoy a gentle head-to-tail scratch when they feel comfortable and relaxed around their owners.
However, like any other animal, bearded dragons have their own personalities. Perhaps your pet will enjoy being petted more than other bearded dragons would do. So, how do you know for sure if you can pet your bearded dragon? Let us show you the signs to look out for!
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Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Pet?
Bearded dragons are gentle and docile creatures when it comes to interacting with humans, and it is believed that beardies do like being petted. However, there is limited scientific research on this specific subject.
How Often Can You Pet A Bearded Dragon?
One study published in 2020 found that gently handling your bearded dragon for longer periods of 5 to 15 minutes may slightly increase its anxiety-related behavior and stress levels.
However, regular handling for short periods of time can help your bearded dragon become more comfortable around you.
Therefore, beardies can enjoy being held and petted, but it’s important to do so for short periods of time, like once per day for 5 minutes, and in a way that they find comfortable.
Even so, each beardie has its own personality and preferences, so your bearded dragon may like being held and petted more than other bearded dragons may like.
Start with 5 minutes per day and see if you can increase the duration and frequency without your bearded dragon getting uncomfortable.
Where Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Pet?
As it happens with most animals, bearded dragons have spots they like to be petted and places you should completely refrain from touching to avoid getting you or your pet hurt.
As a general rule, you can gently stroke your pet from its head to its tail, always following the direction of its scales. Be aware of your beardie’s behavior and body language, so you can notice right away if they start feeling uncomfortable.
Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Pet Under The Chin?
You can safely pet your beardie under its chin and gently rub its beard too. These are areas where most bearded dragons love to be petted.
Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Pet On The Head?
Bearded dragons do like a good head scratch! Just make sure to come at it from the front, so your beardie can see your hand.
If your bearded dragon likes your strokes, try moving forward to the spot between its eyes or rub them from head to tail.
Place one or two fingers on top of your beardie’s head and softly stroke it, you can apply a little bit of pressure and see if your pet likes that.
You can also try petting your bearded dragon between their eyes, but be very careful not to touch their “third” eye, also called the parietal eye, which is a small dot located on top of the head near the eyes.
Please refer to the section called “What Areas To Avoid Petting” in this article if you want to know exactly why you shouldn’t touch your pet’s parietal eye.
Wanna learn more about a bearded dragon’s third eye? Read our article here!
Chin and cheeks
Beardies also love having their chin, cheeks, and beard scratched.
Many beardies like having their snout gently stroked, so you can give it a try and see if your pet likes it.
You can gently scratch your bearded dragon’s back after you have stroked its head. Remember to always pet them following a head-to-tail direction, don’t go back and forth.
Although not as frequent, some bearded dragons also like having their tails stroked.
Be aware to never start petting your beardie at the tail though, as they can get stressed and scared if they don’t see you coming. It is best if you start at their head and start slowly going down towards their tail.
Remember to never grab or pick up your pet by the tail.
Legs and feet
While these may not be your bearded dragon’s favorite places to be petted, you can still gently stroke their legs and feet if they let you. Just don’t force your beardie to be petted if he or she starts to wiggle around or pulls away its leg.
What Areas To Avoid Petting
Even if your beardie seems to enjoy being petted, there are some areas that you should avoid touching so you or your beardie don’t get accidentally hurt. These areas are:
Although bearded dragons rarely bite humans, if you put your hand or fingers near their mouth, you may end up being accidentally bitten.
They may mistake your fingers for food and try to get a bite out of one of them.
Third eye (parietal eye)
As we mentioned before, the parietal eye is a small dot located on top of your beardie’s head and just above its eyes. The parietal eye does not look like a normal eye and does not allow your beardie to see.
The parietal eye is rather believed to help your beardie regulate their temperature and hormone production, and most importantly, it also protects them from possible predators by allowing them to sense changes in light and dark.
Therefore, if you come near your bearded dragon and put your hand over its head, you will cast a shadow over its parietal eye, which may make them believe you are a predator who is attacking them from above.
This will result in your beardie becoming alert and stressed, and they may end up accidentally biting you.
Bearded dragons hate laying on their bellies as this makes it hard for them to breathe. So, they won’t probably even let you try petting them in that area before getting back on their feet again.
How Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Pet?
Now that we established that most bearded dragons do enjoy being petted, you probably guessed that you can’t just pet them like you would with a dog or cat.
It is important you realize that bearded dragons are always on the lookout for potential predators. So, to avoid startling your beardie and stressing them out, you should always approach them slowly from the front where they can see you.
Never surprise your pet from behind or above their head, as he or she may interpret this as a threat and may bite your hand or fingers.
When wanting to pet your beardie, first make sure they are in the mood to be petted. You can read more about it in the “Signs A Bearded Dragon Will Accept Petting” section of this article.
So, if you decide your beardie is in a good mood to get some petting, then you can use one or two fingers to gently rub, stroke, or scratch its head while slowly working your way down to its tail.
Make sure to always pet your beardie following the direction of their scales, do not rub them back and forth as you risk accidentally lifting their scales and potentially causing skin problems, plus, it can also be an unpleasant sensation for both you and them.
Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow to help you know how to pick up and pet your bearded dragon:
- Wash your hands before petting your bearded dragon this way you can avoid transmitting potentially harmful bacteria to your pet.
- Approach your pet slowly and from the front where he or she can clearly see you.
- Slowly extend your hand towards your beardie. Do not make sudden movements as this may be frightening for your pet.
- Lightly stroke your bearded dragon around its head to make some physical contact before trying to lift them from its enclosure.
- Firmly but gently start picking up your bearded dragon. Place one hand underneath your pet’s front legs and fully support them.
- Place your free hand underneath your beardie’s back legs.
- Lift your beardie from its enclosure. Make sure to use your two hands to fully support your pet’s front and back legs as well as the base of their tail. If they feel unsupported, they may feel unsafe and start wiggling out of your hands.
- Get a more comfortable hold on your bearded dragon. Once you have completely lifted them up from their enclosure, you can rotate your pet to be in a more comfortable position. Make sure to always support their front, rear, and base of the tail while doing this.
- Now you can go ahead and start petting your bearded dragon!
- Avoid squeezing your beardie. Just holding them is enough for them to feel secure and comfortable around you.
- When you are done petting your beardie and after putting it back into its enclosure, make sure to wash your hands. Bearded dragons carry a bacteria called salmonella which can be harmful to you.
Here are a couple of videos that can show you how to pick up and pet your bearded dragon:
What To Do Before Petting A Bearded Dragon?
Before attempting to pet your bearded dragon, take note of what they are doing.
If they are sleeping, hunting, or eating, then it is probably not a good time to try to interact with them. Wait until they are relaxed, calm, and willing.
It’s important to be aware of signs that indicate whether or not it is a good time to pet your bearded dragon. Refer to the following sections in this article so you can know what to look for.
Signs A Bearded Dragon Will Accept Petting
When petting your bearded dragon, it is imperative they feel comfortable and safe, not scared and stressed out. So, you must learn to recognize the signs that will indicate whether it is a good time to pet your beardie.
Recognizing these signs can be a little bit tricky at first if you are only getting to know your bearded dragon, but don’t worry, you can achieve this in no time if you only have patience and take the time to get to know your pet.
These are some behaviors that indicate your beardie is relaxed and more likely to accept petting:
- Your beardie seems excited when seeing you and comes to greet you.
- Your beardie does not run away when you try to reach them.
- Your beardie lets you pick them up without trying to wiggle out of your hands.
- Your pet starts rubbing its head or body against your fingers.
- Your beardie’s mouth is closed.
- Your pet is not showing any of the stress signs listed further down this article.
Signs That A Bearded Dragon Doesn’t Want To Be Pet
Some bearded dragons just don’t like being petted, and all right as that may be just part of their unique personality.
In this case, these beardies usually rather lay on your legs or just be held without petting.
In any case, you must try different approaches to find out what your pet likes and what it doesn’t.
Here are some signs of stress that can help you decide whether your beardie doesn’t want to be petted or that it is time for you to stop petting them and leave them alone:
- Your beardie closes its eyes while its muscles remain tense, meaning they are not sleeping. This is an indication that your pet feels stressed or threatened.
- Your beardie starts hissing at you.
- He or she puffs their body up.
- Their beard turns black.
- They start bobbing their head.
- Your beardie tries to wiggle out of your hands if you are holding it.
- Your beardie is waving its arms.
- He or she looks for a place to hide or burrow themselves.
- Your pet starts glass surfing, which means they are trying to climb out of the enclosure.
- Your beardie opens its mouth when you try to touch it.
If you notice one or more of these behaviors, try giving your beardie some space and avoid holding them or petting them.
Instead, you can give them some alone time and then come back to offer them some treats or a nice warm bath to help them relax.
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