Why is your bearded dragon biting you?
You’ve seen your pet puffing out their beard at you.
Maybe they’re glass surfing constantly, and you don’t know what to do about it.
How do you calm down your bearded dragon?
What is causing their stress?
We’re here to help you figure out what’s going when you have a pissed-off bearded dragon.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Pissed Off?
Your bearded dragon may be angry or showing signs of stress for a variety of reasons. Most often, a bearded dragon gets pissed off over poor husbandry or something wrong in their enclosure. Calm it down by fixing all habitat problems.
Though a bearded dragon may show a variety of stress signals, the most common tend to be:
- Puffing and darkening beard
- Twitching Tail
- Escape attempts or glass surfing
- Head Bobbing
- Lack or loss of appetite
- Lower activity and movement levels
- Digestive impaction
- Hard urates
Since these signs generally have different causes, they also have different fixes.
Pissed Off Bearded Dragon Behaviors
Glass surfing is a behavior which may signal boredom or stress.
You will see your bearded dragon running up and down the sides of its tank and possibly attempting to climb up the walls.
What this usually means is your bearded dragon’s enclosure is too small.
It may also mean something is insufficient or inappropriate, as the amount of substrate, heat, or light.
Make sure your lighting and substrate are in working order, clean, and deep enough.
Make sure you have the correct tank temperature as well. In rare cases, this may signal mites’ presence, which will require veterinary treatment and deep cleaning.
Glass surfing could also mean a bearded dragon is threatened by something outside of its enclosure.
This is part of the reason why you should keep other pets away from the enclosure when possible.
The presence of another bearded dragon or another reptile, even in a separate tank, may also be stressing out your bearded dragon.
Make sure to keep a visual divider between reptile tanks if you put them together.
If your bearded dragon is female, she may be glass surfing because she needs to lay infertile or fertile eggs.
If you are unsure, get in touch with your veterinarian.
If your vet confirms eggs, prepare a laying box.
This could be as simple as a heated plastic play tub with a safe mixture of dirt and sand to dig a laying hole.
If your beardie does not lay eggs in a few days, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Egg binding, also called dystocia, is a serious condition and may be fatal if not addressed.
This is a sign of stress similar to a cat.
When they’re feeling aggressive, a bearded dragon’s tail will twitch or wag back and forth.
If this happens while handling, either the way you’re handling them is uncomfortable, or they are not comfortable with you yet.
You may need to adjust the way you handle your beardie.
If your pet shows other signs of discomfort with you, make sure to take time to build trust and bond with your pet.
Learn more about the bearded dragon tail twitch and what else it could mean in our other post.
Puffing And Darkening Beard
These signs are not good, especially not if your bearded dragon is directing this behavior towards you.
In the wild, a bearded dragon uses its beard to make itself more intimidating to predators.
It is also used to show dominance in a situation with another bearded dragon.
If they do this toward you, it means they have determined you are not safe.
This will take a lot of trust-building and bonding to counteract.
If you are cohabitating bearded dragons, a puffed and black beard could be an attempt at dominance.
We cannot recommend against cohabitating beardies enough.
Contrary to popular husbandry belief, no combination of bearded dragon sexes in one tank will prevent infighting and dominance attempts.
This may lead to serious injury and even death.
Please house them in individual tanks.
Bearded dragons, as a rule, rarely vocalize, so when they do, it is usually a sign of feeling threatened.
As recommended before, limit contact with other pets and make sure nothing in their environment is threatening them.
If your bearded dragon has decided you are a threat, they may not be used to your presence.
Hand or tong feeding may get them more used to you and associate you positively with food.
If your beardie bites during handling, it is a sign you still need to work on trust-building.
Juveniles and babies tend to be more likely to bite than adults.
Wear gloves during handling to protect yourself from more bites.
This behavior means your bearded dragon is attempting dominance.
In the wild, they would bob their heads to intimidate another bearded dragon.
Males also head bob to express their dominance to a female during mating season.
If your beardie is head-bobbing at you, address this behavior with trust-building.
Ways To Counteract Bearded Dragon Aggression And Stress
The best way to calm a bearded dragon is to determine what is causing stress in the first place and mitigate the threat or stressor.
We have addressed specific causes of stressed behavior.
Here, we will give general advice to cheer up an unhappy beardie.
Make sure not to cohabitate bearded dragons, even as hatchlings.
This will be a huge source of stress for them.
If you have just gotten your bearded dragon, they may be experiencing relocation stress.
Give them at least a couple of weeks to adjust to their new environment, and you, before offering gentle handling.
For a certain period of time, your beardie may be going through a “snotty juvenile stage.”
Juveniles and hatchlings are generally more aggressive and likely to bite or nip than adult bearded dragons.
With gentle and frequent handling, along with trust-building with their owners, they will most likely grow out of it and into comfortable and happy adulthood.
Check out our post on how to tell if your bearded dragon is happy for a great resource to pair with this information.
To get your bearded dragon used to handling, make sure you are being gentle and supporting their weight properly.
Do not approach them from the back, but offer your hand to them from the side of their heads.
Offer them a treat afterward.
Juicy, fatty worms make great treats.
Limit handling time during shedding.
Improper handling could pull off the skin before it’s ready to come off.
This may cause pain and perhaps bleeding.
You do not want to associate handling with these stressors in the mind of your beardie.
Bearded dragons are easily stressed by issues in their environment.
The easiest way to counteract stress and aggression is to make sure your bearded dragon has high enough temperatures, good lighting, a varied and balanced diet, and mental stimulation.
Make sure to reduce stressors outside of the tank.
Keep other pets, especially cats and dogs, out of sight whenever possible.
If you have kids, make sure they aren’t regularly bothering your pet.
Make sure their enclosure is in a secure space.
If you’ve ruled out all other causes, we recommend running a fecal analysis.
Aggression could be a sign of poor health, which could be causing your dragon’s poor mood.
The low cost of a fecal analysis with your vet might make it beneficial to rule out common parasites.
Aggression in a bearded dragon is usually caused by stress of some kind.
Issues in their environments or improper handling are the most common causes of stress and anger.
Rectifying any heating, lighting, or nutritional issues will help relieve a lot of stress.
Determining the cause of your bearded dragon’s stress and fixing the specific cause is the best way to calm aggression.