Is your bearded dragon showing signs of stress and agitation?
Do you have an angry bearded dragon panicked over its relocation?
It’s important as a reptile enthusiast to know how to care properly for your animals.
Part of bearded dragon care is knowing how to calm down a bearded dragon.
You calm down a bearded dragon by removing its stressors and taking steps to make it feel more secure. This can include covering the enclosure, getting it used to you, stroking its head, and many more strategies.
As you get to know your bearded dragon over the years, you’ll learn exactly how to destress a bearded dragon in a way fitting your specific pet.
Until then, here is a guide on how to calm a stressed bearded dragon.
What Are Stressed Bearded Dragon Behaviors?
Stress in bearded dragons can show up in different ways, just like in humans.
Knowing some of these behaviors is key to knowing when you need to take extra steps in calming your pet.
Here are a few common stressed behaviors.
When you see these, it’s important to know how to calm a bearded dragon.
Loss of appetite – If your central bearded dragon is normally a good eater but all of a sudden stops eating as much, it may be a sign of stress.
Eating for animals is a fairly vulnerable time.
When they’re eating, the awareness of their surroundings is diminished.
If an animal feels threatened, they may not eat much because they feel in danger and stressed.
We’ve written in more detail on bearded dragons that won’t eat if you’re having trouble in this department.
Dark coloration – Bearded dragons have an impressive ability to change the coloration of their body depending on environmental circumstances.
This occurs naturally in the wild and captivity.
Harmless reasons for changing color include preparing to shed, communicating with other bearded dragons, and regulating temperature.
After making sure this isn’t why your bearded dragon has a darker color than normal, assume the darker coloration is due to stress.
Not basking – Basking is a common and essential bearded dragon behavior.
It absorbs heat and energy by resting in the sun.
In your terrarium, the lamp takes the place of the sun and provides the needed UVA rays.
And if you happen to be looking for a new heat lamp we reviewed the best heat lamps for bearded dragons if you want to check it out.
However, when a bearded dragon is stressed or threatened, it doesn’t want to bask for the same reason, it may not be eating.
The reptile feels in danger, and its instinct is preventing it from the “danger” of vulnerable basking/resting.
Glass Surfing – Glass surfing or frantically scratching and jumping at the sides of the enclosure is the most noticeable stress behavior.
When your bearded dragon is doing this, it’s highly agitated and feels greatly in danger.
As the pet owner, it’s up to you to take care of your beardy and calm it down using our methods outlined below.
This behavior is most often seen when a bearded dragon has been relocated to a new enclosure.
If glass surfing is a major issue you’re experiencing here’s our article on why bearded dragons glass surf and what you can do to fix it.
Lack of movement – On the complete opposite end, a threatened or stressed dragon may not move much at all.
This is also a sign of stress.
This behavior is more often seen when the animal is overwhelmed or sick.
And sometimes it’s difficult to tell when your pet is sick but we do have an article to help spot different types of sickness in bearded dragons.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Stressed?
Knowing why your pet bearded dragon is stressed is a big part of calming it down.
Ultimately, a pet lizard species is stressed because something is wrong in their environment the majority of the time.
This could be because of external or internal reasons.
External stressors range from any number of things, and they may include:
- Loud sounds
- Rapid changes in light levels near their tank
- Tapping on the glass
- Other critters visiting their terrarium
- Rapid changes in temperature
- Temperature too hot or too cold
- Being relocated to a new enclosure
Internal reasons usually involve some illness, but it’s possible stress from an external source can cause internal health problems.
A common example of this is when a bearded dragon feels stressed they may refuse to defecate.
This can, in turn, cause internal health problems over time making them even more stressed.
This is why a good goal is to start by addressing the external stressors and then assess your pet for internal problems.
If your beardy isn’t improving, it may be time for a trip to the vet.
7 Ways To Calm Down A Bearded Dragon
In this section, we suggest common and proven ways to destress an upset or aggressive bearded dragon.
Because each beardy has a unique personality (one of the reasons they make the cutest reptiles!), not every method works for every dragon.
As a responsible and loving bearded dragon owner, it’s up to you to attempt different strategies for calming them and find the one or ones working best for them.
#1 Bath Time
Fill a bathtub, tub, or sink with an inch or two of warm water.
Make sure the water is 90° – 93° degrees Fahrenheit (32° – 34° C).
Let your beardy rest in the water.
Rub its belly, back, and head gently to let it soak in the warmth and calm down.
Warning! Don’t make the water so deep it reaches its eyes or mouth.
It is a dry weather animal and isn’t used to taking in huge amounts of water.
#2 Remove Sensory Overload
Sometimes it may be helpful to cover the enclosure with a blanket or cover.
This cuts down on the light and sounds overloading your bearded dragon.
Make sure the tank stays warm enough.
For safety reasons, you may need to shut off the lamp for the time you do this.
#3 Less Handling
When a dragon is stressed, especially from relocation, you may need to let the reptile be for a little bit.
Don’t handle it too much.
Even when your pet isn’t stressed from relocation you may not want to handle it as often as you think.
We have a post going into detail on how often to handle bearded dragons if you’re interested in reading more.
#4 Get Them Used To Your Scent
On the flip side, you do need to get the bearded dragon used to your scent and to recognize you.
Put hands in the tank in front of their face with your palms up.
If the beardy runs away, follow it slowly with your hands.
In a beardy, you’ve had for a long time, being patient and getting them to recognize your scent can calm them down.
This is because they recognize and trust you.
For new pets, this can work over time to make them feel less threatened and stressed when you do need to handle them reducing your odds of having to deal with bearded dragon bites.
For more reasons why your pet may run from you we have an article on what causes bearded dragons to run away to help change this behavior.
#5 Feed Them From Your Hand
By feeding them from your hand, you’re further associating your scent and humans with positive experiences.
If your dragon is extremely stressed, have a green or treat in hand whenever you go to handle or touch them.
#6 Talk To Your Pet Calmly
Bearded dragons, like other animals, respond to sounds just like humans do.
If you’re cursing, muttering, or yelling at your lizard, it interprets those sounds as distress calls in the wild.
By talking to your dragon in a calm, low, and soothing voice, its instincts tell it all is safe, and its body may calm down as a result.
#7 Stroke The Head
This is a common one people do for their bearded dragons.
Take one finger and gently stroke the head of your beardy from the nose to the crown.
Take care not to touch its eyes.
This may not work with a highly stressed bearded dragon.
Things To Avoid
This section includes a few things to avoid which may be causing your bearded dragon some accidental stress.
In some cases, you may not even know you’re doing this!
But by being educated and aware, you will avoid making your pet worried and stress about its environment.
Don’t approach from behind the head – Bearded dragons have a “third eye” on the top of their head, it senses changes in light and dark.
It doesn’t see shapes, but it does sense when a shadow is approaching.
This is part of its natural defenses.
When you go to pick it up by the body and your hand approaches from behind the head, it may panic and think it’s under attack.
The third eye is very interesting so here’s our article going into detail on the bearded dragon’s third eye.
Don’t put your pet with other bearded dragons – Even in a huge enclosure, it’s not recommended to keep more than one bearded dragon in the same enclosure.
Larger ones may dominate the smaller ones causing undue stress and unhealthy behavior.
This is especially true with males who will fight each other.
Never put two males in the same tank.
Don’t use a small tank – It’s a common mistake new bearded dragon owners make to buy a terrarium large enough for a baby bearded dragon, but then they never upgrade the size when the reptile is fully grown.
Make sure your terrarium is around the suggested size of 40+ gallons for an adult bearded dragon.
This gives them plenty of room to move around as needed.
Don’t let the bearded dragon habitat be boring – If you were stuck in a tank all day with nothing to do, you’d probably get stressed too.
Give the bearded dragon some rocks, sticks, and other items to interact with to keep it entertained like Reptile Cafe’s Log Hide Away.
- Safe For Freshwater And Marine Aquariums And Terrariums
- Hand Painted Detail
- Basking areas for your reptiles
Don’t only hold one part of the reptile – When you do pick up your bearded dragon (a good thing to do for a pet), be sure you support every part of the dragon in your hands.
If you let feet dangle off the reptile, it feels stressed and insecure.
Make sure you let the beardy feel supported and safe.
We hope you found learning how to calm down a bearded dragon helpful.
Having this information can make your reptile happy and healthy.
Ultimately, calm down your pet by removing stressors and providing the reptile a feeling of safety.