bearded dragon handbook

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How To Pick Up A Bearded Dragon in 7 Steps (complete Guide)

Do you have a new bearded dragon, and you’re wondering how to pick it up safely?

Are you considering a bearded dragon pet and researching how to care for it?

Knowing how to pick up a bearded dragon is an essential skill for a kind and loving owner to know.

As a general rule, always pick up a bearded dragon from the front or side and never directly from above. Then slide your hand under them, ensuring you support their chest and front legs. Hold the bearded dragon firmly so they feel secure and cannot jump away.

Read on for more details on how to do this with your pet safely.

Step By Step Instructions On How To Pick Up A Bearded Dragon

In this section, we go over how to pick up and handle a bearded dragon safely.

It’s essential to follow these directions carefully to do this in the safest way possible.

If you pick up your bearded dragon improperly, you might stress it out to the point where it may injure itself to escape from you.

#1 Wash Hands

The first step is to wash your hands with warm soap and water before handling the bearded dragon.

Sanitizing your hands is necessary to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria, which can result in a sick bearded dragon.

A sick bearded dragon can, in turn, mean some costly vet bills.

Plus, you don’t want your pet to get sick!

This step is extra important with young bearded dragons.

These juvenile beardies haven’t developed a robust immune system, and they’re more likely to catch anything you’re carrying.

#2 Approach Slowly From The Front Of The Bearded Dragon

With one hand, you need to start approaching the bearded dragon from the other side of the enclosure in front of their line of sight.

approaching the bearded dragon from front

Make sure you approach the bearded dragon slowly with your hand.

Approaching too quickly can activate its survival instincts, and then it’ll get stressed and run away.

Warning! Please don’t attempt to pick up a bearded dragon while it’s eating or hiding in a corner.

These times will only startle the lizard and make it harder for you to pick it up.

Bearded dragons have a kind of “third eye” on top of their heads.

This eye can’t see shapes or colors, but it can sense changes in shadow.

This sense is meant as a defense mechanism to alert the reptile to predators that may sneak behind it.

You can learn more about the bearded dragon’s third eye in our other post.

If you approach the bearded dragon from behind or above, you may cause shadows and surprise your pet.

Like a fast-moving hand, this can cause its fight-or-flight instincts to kick in, making it dangerous to pick up the beardy.

Pro-tip: Don’t wiggle your fingers at all.

This can make your fingers look like tiny worms, and the bearded dragon may try to eat them.

#3 Pet The Bearded Dragon

When your hand is up to the bearded dragon’s body without alarming it, pet underneath its chin.

Bearded dragons like this, and it calms them down.

petting bearded dragon under the chin

This also allows you a chance to gauge their mood.

As you go to pet the bearded dragon, stop and try again later if you notice any of these signs of stress:

  • Inflated, black beard
  • Mouth gaping open
  • Bobbing head
  • Arm waving
  • Raised tail

If you see a lot of this behavior, you may need to take action to calm your bearded dragon.

After petting the reptile for a few minutes with none of the following signs, move on to step #4.

woman holding bearded dragon in her hands

#4 Scoop And Support

Move your finger and hand in a scooping motion under the bearded dragon’s chest/belly area.

Keep your palm flat and up to support the weight of the bearded dragon as much as possible.

If the bearded dragon’s legs or tail hang off your hand, they will panic and attempt to escape.

If needed, use one hand to support the front and a second to support the back and tail.

The bearded dragon may still struggle a bit when you first pick it up.

Don’t squeeze to keep it secure.

Instead, go with one of these two techniques:

  1. Hold tight (but don’t squeeze) with your non-supporting hand underneath his front shoulders.
  2. Use one hand to support underneath the chest and belly while the other hand gently holds on the top of its back. (Don’t squeeze! Got it yet?)
a man holding a bearded dragon

#5 Relax And Stay Calm

Your bearded dragon should calm down quickly if you do this.

Move about now with your bearded dragon, bathe it, play with him, clean his enclosure, or pet him.

Whenever you move, you still need to take care to move slowly and stay calm.

Rapid motions, sounds, and shadow changes can activate their self-defense strategies at any time.

If you’re in the process of taming your bearded dragon, start with this for 15 minutes at a time for the first week and increase to 30 minutes as the weeks pass.

If you’re petting the back and head of your dragon (which they love!), make sure you are petting with the directions of the scales and not against them.

This startles the reptile and may give you some scratches.

In general, the scales go from head to tail, so pet in that direction when in doubt.

#6 Put The Bearded Dragon Back

bearded dragon in cage

After you’ve spent some quality time with your bearded dragon, you need to put him back.

This isn’t hard, but don’t just drop the lizard in the tank.

Support the bearded dragon fully as you lower your hands slowly to the bottom of his enclosure.

Place your hands flat on the bottom of the tank and let the reptile walk off on its own.

If he doesn’t want to leave your hand, take your non-supporting hand and gently push him off from the tail while tilting your supporting hand up.

Warning! Make sure you seal the top of the tank up before walking away.

Bearded dragons are great climbers and can escape quickly if the top’s not closed up.

#7 Wash Your Hands Again

Now, rewash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap.

It’s essential not to take any germs with you as you go about your day.

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Dos and Don’ts of Handling a Bearded Dragon

Handling a beardie the right way will improve your relationship with your pet. The scaly guy will learn to trust you and enjoy your presence.

But before you scoop your lizard out of its tank, let’s go through some dos and don’ts of handling a bearded dragon.

The Right Size

man holding different sizes of bearded dragons

Don’t: Baby beardies are small and vulnerable. If you are new to holding bearded dragons, don’t attempt to handle a baby. You might exert too much force and harm your little pet.

Do: Wait until your beardy gets at least 6 inches long. Take things slowly. It’ll allow your pet to get accustomed to your touch.

Support Your Pet

Don’t: Did you know that bearded dragons can’t land on their feet like cats do? They have tiny bones in their toes that could break easily if they fall. So, make sure you support their body weight by placing a hand under them.

Do: Hold your bearded dragon gently but securely. Use one hand under the chest and belly while the other hand supports its front legs.

Keep Away From Pets

Don’t: It’s not safe to take your beardy out of its enclosure in the presence of your other pet. Bearded dragons are prey animals, and being surrounded by a potential threat can make them feel threatened and stressed. You might even get bitten by your reptile friend in this case.

Fair warning: Bearded dragon bites hurt!

It’s good for both you and your beardy to keep other pets away while handling it.

Do: Lock the pets out of the room or keep them in a different room while handling your bearded dragon.

Calm Surrounding

Don’t: Beardies are usually pretty docile. But that doesn’t mean you can take them out of their comfort zone in front of a crowd. Don’t pick them up in a busy room with loud noises. It’ll stress your dragon. Stressed beardies are harder to tame.

Do: Handle your beardy in a calm and quiet place the first few times. It’ll help it get used to the handling process.

As time goes by, you can take it out in public places and show off your pet! (Just make sure he stays safe at all times.)

Mealtime Manners

bearded dragon eating kale

Don’t: Handling your bearded dragon right after it’s eaten a meal is not a good idea. Your pet needs to digest the food in peace without being disturbed.

Handling can make your beardy feel like it’s under threat, and that’ll stop its digestive system from functioning correctly.

Do: Allow your pet dragon a few hours to properly digest its food before you take it out for a cuddle session. Adult bearded dragons take about 24 hours to digest their food.

Going Overboard

Don’t: Bearded dragons use the temperature gradient in their enclosure to stay comfortable. Keeping them out for too long will disturb their body temperature.

Another thing to keep in mind is that beardies aren’t really big fans of being handled. So, don’t overdo it.

Do: Limit each handling session to only 15 minutes when you are first starting. As your bearded dragon gets used to the process, you can increase the duration slowly over time. If you’re ho


Follow and remember these steps, and you’ll know exactly how to pick up a bearded dragon.

The big things to remember are to:

  • Approach from the front
  • Support the body completely
  • Don’t squeeze!

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