Is your bearded dragon closing its eyes when stroked?
Are you worried about whether this is a sign of affection or distress?
You are in the company of many bearded dragon owners who only want to make sure their pets are happy and healthy.
So, what does it mean when a bearded dragon closes its eyes when stroked?
Bearded dragons close their eyes when stroked as a sign of discomfort. While many animals close their eyes as a sign of trust and pleasure, for these reptiles, it’s a sign they know they can’t escape you, but they want you to stop and go away for the moment.
Don’t get discouraged for misinterpreting this sign; educate yourself on what eye closing means in different situations by reading on.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Close Their Eyes?
In nature, eye contact is meant as a threat or challenge to other bearded dragons and creatures.
It’s a part of the reptile’s body language to communicate what it wants.
However, prolonged and intense eye contact against a large predator is too much for them.
They don’t want to seem like they’re challenging, so they may close their eyes as an automatic safety measure.
But while this is the most common reason associated with eye closing, it’s not the only one.
It is possibly a result of infection or poor habitat setup.
In the rest of this section, we’ll look at different situations and why your beardy may be closing its eyes.
Eyes Closed When Petting/Stroking
This is the most commonly confused behavior.
As you pet your bearded dragon, it may close its eyes.
Now, you may think, Wow! He likes it! I’m putting him to sleep!
Sadly, this isn’t the case, as we discussed before.
It’s easy to get confused; there are numerous videos out there of bearded dragon “experts” petting their dragon and exclaiming about how cute it is when it closes its eyes.
As humans, we close our eyes when something feels good.
Think about your last massage; were your eyes bugged out open, or were they closed?
By the same token, when afraid, humans will close their eyes tightly to escape the threat visually.
With beardies, eye-closing is more in line with the latter.
They close their eyes because they’re uncomfortable and threatened.
This is their way of communicating with you; they want you to stop.
It may scare them (if they haven’t bonded with you), or they may want some space.
If you see eye-closing followed by a black and puffed beard, stop right away!
They’re showing you they are very stressed and may start to defend themselves.
Eyes Closed When Holding
Eyes closed when holding follow the same lines as the stroking one, but it’s even more stressful in this case.
If a beardy closes its eyes when being pet, it is almost certain it will like being picked up and held even less at this time.
Now, their entire body is at the mercy of someone else.
Their eyes closed is a sign of fear and stress in this situation.
They’re telling you to put them down and leave them alone.
It’s so much worse in this situation because they have no control.
If they wanted to get away, they couldn’t.
Be careful, or you may put him into a fight or flight state without a flight option.
The only thing left is to fight, so don’t be surprised if this is what it does.
However, if you’re holding the beardy and its eyes are open, then the reptile is just fine.
If it is showing you closed eyes, gently put it down and give it space.
Help your reptile get more used to being held by taming it.
In general, all it takes is time to get used to you by being consistent.
Eyes Closed When Basking
Closing eyes when basking is normal behavior.
We don’t know the exact reason behind this.
It could be the beardy is merely resting.
Bearded dragons do close their eyes when sleeping, although this usually happens only in the dark.
It could mean the UVB light in the basking spot is a little too close for comfort.
There are some recorded cases where a reptile goes blind because the light is too powerful or too close.
If you find your bearded dragon closes its eyes consistently while basking, move the light farther away from the resting spot.
This may help.
There is the possibility the eye closing doesn’t have anything to do with being afraid of you.
It may result from an eye infection, and it’s closing its eyes to protect the infected tissues.
You’ll have a better idea if this is the reason by paying close attention to when the bearded dragon closes its eyes.
If it doesn’t close its eyes the instant you start petting or holding it; it may be because of an eye infection.
If it’s an eye infection, you’d likely notice the bearded dragon closing its eyes at different points throughout the day.
At some point, if left alone, the bearded dragon would be unable to open its eyes and may become blind.
We recommend taking your lizard to the vet for a checkup for those of you who notice this behavior.
This is especially the case if you also notice discharge or pus on or around the eye.
In the meantime, you should read our post on treating eye infections in bearded dragons.
Baby Bearded Dragons
You may wonder if all of this applies to baby dragons, as well.
The answer is a resounding: yes!
Don’t be fooled into comparing human babies with baby beardies.
Yes, our babies spend a lot of their time with their eyes closed, which is of no concern (as a parent, I want their eyes closed for bedtime!).
However, bearded dragons are born almost fully developed.
All they have left to do is grow to their adult size.
Keeping their eyes closed (except when it’s dark) isn’t just the babies sleeping a lot.
It’s a sign of the same possible things as we’ve discussed above.
Eye closing is more common in baby bearded dragons because they’re more stressed out.
Read our guide on bonding with bearded dragons to begin building trust with your pet and they won’t close their eyes as often.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Close One Eye?
Don’t think this is a cute “winking” behavior, even if your pet seems to do it as a response to you.
Bearded dragons are among the smartest reptiles, but they’re not geniuses.
If your pet is closing one eye, this is a sign of something being wrong.
It doesn’t do this in response to an external stimulus (such as your petting); it’s all internal.
The two most common reasons for one eye closing are an infection or parasites.
Beardies getting treated for parasites show this behavior a lot in comparison to those who are parasite-free.
The other most common reason is if there is a foreign object stuck in its eye.
As a rule, do a visual check of the eye area when you see one eye closed.
Look for something stuck in there and remove it if possible and safe for the reptile.
After this, watch the beardy to see if it resolves in a day.
If it doesn’t, take your pet to the vet for a checkup.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
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Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Pet?
The answer is yes and no.
Bearded dragons, if they have bonded with you and are used to their environment, may seem to enjoy when you touch them and cuddle them.
Rather than the act of being touched, they’re responding to your scent and presence.
At this point, they’ve learned to associate you with food and safety, so they will seek you out in many instances.
However, if there’s something wrong and they’re stressed, they will not want to be petted.
You may raise their stress levels by doing this or picking them up.
Many things may stress them out, including:
- Change in light in the room
- Another pet coming by their tank
- Needing to poop
- A loud sound nearby
Please don’t take their stress as a failure or them declining your affection.
In captivity, they’re a small predator with much bigger predators around.
It’s nothing personal.
Take your cues from them; they’ll appreciate it.
We hope you found this information on bearded dragons closing eyes when stroked to be helpful.
In most cases, this is just your bearded dragon telling you to back off.
It isn’t a sign they “dislike” you, but they may want some space.
If they close their eyes outside of you petting them, it could be a sign of an infection.
Don’t be afraid to get it checked out.