Have you ever noticed your bearded dragon puffing out his neck repeatedly?
Puffing up like this is a normal part of bearded dragon behavior, but many owners have no idea what it means.
It could be even more confusing when your reptile does it under multiple circumstances.
Bearded dragons puff up their beard in response to stress, fear, or territorial behaviors. They may also do it during bath time, mealtime, or mating season. A healthy dragon will puff up under various circumstances, but it does not necessarily mean anything is wrong.
If you want to understand the possible reasons bearded dragons puff up, here is what you need to know.
Table of Contents
Puffing Up From Stress or Fear
One of the main times pet owners notice their bearded dragon puffing up is when they are stressed or scared.
This is probably the primary reason you see this behavior.
This is similar to how many animals interact with the world around them.
Most people know how dogs growl and snarl when they feel threatened.
Many species throughout the animal kingdom will have related behaviors.
If they are particularly stressed or afraid, you might also notice a bearded dragon’s beard turning black.
Bonus Info: Freaked out bearded dragons can also bite.
If you are unsure why he is puffing up, you might want to scan the environment.
Chances are there is something around making him feel scared.
It could be a toy, or it might be the presence of another animal.
You might not want to admit it, but if bearded dragons puff up for no reason may mean they are frightened of you.
It can take time for them to adjust to new owners, so give them time.
It may not be uncommon for a new dragon owner to give their reptile a bit of a scare.
Mainly if you purchased a baby bearded dragon, it could take them to get used to being handled.
Spend time with your hand in the enclosure so they can grow accustomed to your scent.
Gradually spend more extended periods like this before you begin handling them more regularly.
Puffing Up When It’s Time to Breed
Mating is another common reason why bearded dragons puff up.
Both genders are known to do this regularly if they want others to know they are prepared to mate.
However, this is typically more common behavior for male bearded dragons.
They want to demonstrate to their would-be partners what they are interested in.
In response, some female bearded dragons puff up in response.
This is not as common, but it does happen.
How will you know if male bearded dragons are in the mood to mate?
They do not have a specific breeding season, so it is hard to tell.
Most reptiles are ready to breed approximately one month after their brumation.
Brumation is a time of rest for your bearded dragon.
They will generally slow down their activity and their metabolism.
It is very similar to the way bears hibernate during the winter.
Here are a few of the signs and symptoms your bearded dragon may be in brumation:
- Reduced movement
- Increased sleep
- No interest in food
- Fewer bowel movements
- More time spent in cooler areas of the terrarium
- Burrowing in the substrate
A reptile who has recently gone through this stage may be ready to find a mate soon.
If you noticed your bearded dragon puffing up when they are in the presence of another reptile, this could very well be the cause.
A confused reptile may also puff up to impress toys.
Puffing Up During Bath Time
Bath time can easily be your reptile’s favorite activity, but you must be careful.
They will enjoy swimming around in the warm water only if it is shallow enough for them to touch the bottom.
If your bearded dragon puffs up, this could be a sign you have added too much water to the tub or container.
Why do they do this?
They have a fear of drowning.
This helps them to feel safer in an uncertain situation.
While we’re on the topic of baths, we’ll share our post on how to bathe bearded dragons.
It’s a great little guide on bathing your pet properly that I believe you’ll enjoy reading.
Puffing Up For Meal Time
A healthy dragon may also puff up around mealtime.
Depending on how they feel, they can do this before and after mealtime.
While not much research has been done on this phenomenon, a few widely accepted theories exist on why they do this.
First, it could be the natural ability of your reptile to hunt their prey if you are feeding them live insects.
They will often puff up to appear more intimidating to scare their prey.
Even if the insects you feed them are harmless, a baby bearded dragon may not recognize this.
From time to time, you might also notice they puff up in the middle of a meal.
They could still demonstrate this behavior even if you are not giving them live feeders.
In this case, they are likely making more room in their stomach so they can finish their meal.
In nature, bearded dragons may go long periods without eating.
They feel like they have to consume everything before them because it may be a while before they are fed again.
This is instinctual even if you are in the habit of giving regular meals.
Don’t worry if you witness a reptile consuming as much as they possibly can.
Next time, cut their meal back to a slightly smaller portion to see if they stop puffing up.
Check out our post on the best insects for bearded dragons to see which feeder insects we recommend for an optimal dragon diet.
Puffing Up For Shedding
Have you noticed your bearded dragon’s skin looks dull or waxy?
Take a quick look at your reptile’s overall coloring and see if it looks different than you remember.
If it does, this is a sign your bearded dragon is likely getting ready to shed.
Their skin might begin to feel a bit tight, particularly if you are raising baby bearded dragons.
As the old skin feels tight around their head, baby bearded dragons puff up to give them the means to loosen the skin.
This is nothing to worry about.
Shedding is perfectly natural, and it makes sense your reptile would attempt to hurry along this somewhat uncomfortable process.
We have a post on bearded dragons struggling to shed for anyone that thinks their reptile may be having issues with shedding.
Popping Their Ears or Stretching
Have you ever noticed the pressure in your ears when you climb to the top of a mountain or a tall building?
Sometimes, you might even wake up from a nap feeling too much pressure in your ears.
The same thing can happen to your beloved bearded dragon.
If you notice adult or baby bearded dragons puff up while also keeping their mouth open, it pressurizes its ear canal.
In other words, they are popping their ears and relieving the pressure.
While heights may not cause it, it’s still an uncomfortable phenomenon for them.
Fortunately, puffing up and yawning is a simple fix.
They might do it a couple of times to pressurize their ear canal.
If you notice they do this after a nap, it may just be their way of taking a good stretch.
Like you may reach your arms overhead to get the blood pumping again, your bearded dragon can stretch out the muscles of its chest and neck by puffing up.
Bearded Dragon Battles
Do you have more than one bearded dragon in your enclosure?
Most of the time, you may notice territorial behavior come into play when you have two bearded dragons of the same sex in your enclosure.
In particular, male bearded dragons tend to be highly combative, and you may see more of this behavior from them.
It is far more common for this to occur between same-sex reptiles, though a male bearded dragon puffs its chest to a female bearded dragon if he feels his space is threatened.
However, this is not the only time you see this occur.
It also happens if you have a size differential between your bearded dragons.
Larger bearded dragons are more tempted to challenge smaller ones, even if they are members of the opposite sex.
If you want to keep two bearded dragon breeds in one enclosure, ensure the enclosure is relatively large.
They both need to have their own space without feeling like they need to compete for it.
In a small enclosure, you will almost always have problems with multiple bearded dragons in such a confined space.
You may also notice black bearding when you encounter an issue with dominance.
Sign of Happiness
Have you come to the end of this list and still aren’t sure why your bearded dragon is puffed up?
The reality is there may be nothing at all wrong with them.
Puffing up could be a sign of happiness.
It is your reptile’s way of letting you know you are doing a good job taking care of them.
When your bearded dragon wants to show off a little bit, it is not uncommon to find them puffing up.
A happy dragon will likely do this during his favorite activities, such as mealtime.
They may also do this if they are particularly enjoying their basking.
It is common to find bearded dragons puff up because they enjoy it and are showing off.
If you have a very warm dragon, they might even open their mouth a bit to expel some of the heat.
It’s nothing to concern yourself with.
This is likely the case if you notice your bearded dragon doing this during a particularly enjoyable activity.
For example, bearded dragons may puff up during playtime or when you handle them.
Further Reading: How often to pick up bearded dragons and how to do it right
Continue to spend quality bonding time with them, and you will likely be rewarded with more of this behavior.
It’s a simple way for your reptile to show you how much they love and appreciate what you do for them!
We have an exciting post on how to tell if bearded dragons are happy that has been extremely popular, and many bearded dragon owners have loved it, so we wanted to share it with you here.
Should I be worried if I notice my baby bearded Dragon puffing up?
If you have a baby beardie, you might notice that they puff up sometimes. Don’t worry, it’s a normal defensive response when they feel threatened or stressed. However, if you notice that your little bearded dragon is puffing up too often or too much, it might be a sign that they’re not feeling comfortable.
To make sure your baby beardie is happy and healthy, check their environment. Make sure they have the right temperature, lighting, and hiding spots. Also, be gentle when handling them to avoid stressing them out. Remember, baby bearded dragons are more sensitive, so it’s important to be patient while they get used to their new home.
Keep an eye on their overall behavior, appetite, and health. If you notice that your baby bearded dragon is still puffing up a lot or if you see any other concerning signs, it’s always a good idea to consult a reptile vet for guidance.
Regular checkups can help ensure that your little dragon stays healthy and happy.
What Should I Do If My Bearded Dragon Puffs Up?
If your bearded dragon puffs up, it could be displaying a defensive behavior, and there are several reasons why this might occur.
Here are some steps you can take if you observe your bearded dragon puffs up:
Assess the Environment
- Temperature, Lighting, and Humidity: Ensure that the temperature gradient in the enclosure is appropriate, providing a warm basking spot and cooler areas. Proper UVB lighting is essential for the synthesis of vitamin D3. The humidity level should match the specific requirements of a bearded dragon.
Check for Stressors
- Environmental Factors: Identify any potential stress-inducing elements in the surroundings. This could include loud noises, sudden movements, or frequent disturbances.
- Other Pets: If there are other pets in the house, their presence might be causing stress. Ensure that the bearded dragon’s enclosure is in a quiet and secure location.
- Signs of Illness: Keep an eye out for signs of illness, such as changes in appetite, weight loss, lethargy, or unusual behaviors. If you notice any concerning symptoms, seek veterinary advice promptly.
- Handling Response: Bearded dragons, especially if not accustomed to handling, may puff up as a defensive response. If your dragon puffs up during handling, place it back in its enclosure and allow it some time to calm down.
- Gradual Introduction: If your bearded dragon is not used to handling, start with short sessions and gradually increase the duration. This helps them get accustomed to human interaction over time.
- Stress Indicators: Look for additional stress indicators such as dark coloration, hiding, glass surfing, or erratic movements. These behaviors can provide clues about what might be causing stress.
Create a Comfortable Environment
- Enclosure Setup: Ensure the enclosure is well-equipped with appropriate substrates, hiding spots, and climbing structures. This creates a comfortable and enriched environment for your bearded dragon.
Regular Vet Checkups
- Preventive Care: Schedule regular veterinary checkups, even if your bearded dragon appears healthy. Regular examinations can help detect potential health issues early on and ensure overall well-being.
If the puffing behavior persists or if you notice any other concerning symptoms, it’s crucial to consult with a reptile veterinarian. Professional guidance can help determine the underlying cause and appropriate steps to address it.
Understanding the Reasons Behind Bearded Dragons Puffing Up
Bearded dragons are usually calm and friendly, but sometimes they puff up, and it’s important to know why. They do this as a way to protect themselves.
A few reasons for this could be that their home is not the right temperature or there are things stressing them out. If you handle them in a way they don’t like, they might puff up too. It’s a good idea to take them to the vet regularly to make sure they are healthy. To make them feel better, make sure their home is comfy, avoid things that stress them, and let them get used to being handled slowly.
However, many times a beardie simply puffs up to show its happiness or that it feels right at home!
Watching how they act and taking care of what they need will keep your bearded dragon happy. If you’re worried, talk to a reptile vet for advice on how to help your scaly friend.