8 Behavior Patterns of a Bearded Dragon and When to Worry

The bearded dragon is famous for the variety of behavior patterns which it displays. It’s one of the reasons they are so sought after as pets.

Watching them display these behaviors can be very amusing, not to mention downright entertaining!

Some of these behaviors, though, can be an indication that something isn’t quite right with your beardie. Keep reading to find out what these may be.

Why Do They Do It?

There are many different behavior types displayed by a bearded dragon; some can be easily recognized while others are a little harder to notice.

These behaviors are used by a beardie to express their mood and emotion.

You will typically see a beardie doing these things when there is another dragon around (especially if they are ready to mate).

But it doesn’t have to just be other beardies, any other animal or even you could trigger these behaviors.

Knowing What The Behaviours Mean

One part of looking after your beardie entails fully understanding what these all mean.

Knowing what your beardie is trying to tell you will make it simpler to work out his or her needs, they are sometimes useful hints of sickness or distress.

The best way to learn which behaviors are healthy is to handle your beardie as often as you can.

This way, they will learn to trust you and let you in on their quirky behaviors.

Some of these will leave you laughing, while others may lead you to be concerned. Below is a list of common beardie behaviors with some info on what they might be trying to tell you.

1. Arm Waving

Arm waving is when a male or female beardie raises one or both of their arms and waves them back and forth.

And no, as cute as it would be, it doesn’t mean they’re trying to say “hello”. Neither are they trying to give you a high-five, sorry to say.

The main reason you might see your pet beardie arm-waving is when they are acknowledging the presence of another animal or human.

Beardies also do this to demonstrate submission. It is often seen when two or more dragons are living in the same tank (this is highly discouraged).

Arm waving can also be seen in female dragons indicating their willingness to mate.

2. Glass Surfing

This is when beardies run back and forth along the front and side edges of their enclosure.

They also stand on their hind legs with their bellies against the glass or terrarium surface in an attempt to climb over it.

This behavior, amusing as it may seem, generally signals boredom and stress. Check out 13 reasons why a bearded dragon glass surfs right here.

Keeping a careful watch of your beardie and its environment will help you identify factors responsible if it exhibits this behavior.

If your beardie is regularly doing this it could be that they are catching a glimpse of their reflection in the glass.

Beardies can easily get spooked by this so an easy way to prevent this happening is to place a tank background at the rear of the enclosure.

3. Digging

One reason beardies dig is to create a more comfortable spot to bask or sleep in.

Alternatively, if they are old enough, your beardie may be trying to dig a hole in which to brumate and help regulate their body temperature.

Also, female beardies may dig to create somewhere to lay their eggs.

All of these behaviors are normal for a bearded dragon; you should just be aware of what they are trying to do and assist where you can.

If you want to give your beardie a natural environment which satisfies the urge for “going underground”, then you could consider getting this excavator kit. You can build a whole tunnel system for your beardie to run around in.

Bearded Dragon Tank Decor Excavator Substrate

4. Head Bobbing

Head bobbing is one of the most regular behaviors seen in both adults and juvenile beardies.

This is where your beardie repeatedly raises and lowers its head. This motion is usually supported by a flaring and darkening of their necks, called bearding.

This behavior is mainly seen when a male beardie’s territory has been invaded, and it is ready to fight for dominance.

A quick head bob represents dominance, whereas a slower head bob is more often than not a sign of submission.

Though more common in male beardies, some females may sometimes slowly bob their heads, particularly during mating to accept the other dragon’s dominance.

You can read more about head bobbing right here.

5. Beard Puffing

Beard puffing is a phenomenon practiced by both male and female bearded dragons; this is where their famous name originates from.

As the name suggests, the spikes, or “beards” around their neck, flare up and expand, making them look larger than they are, and a tad scarier too.

It is similar to a dog snarling where the hairs on its neck stand on-end.

Beard puffing is an aggressive-defensive behavior that a bearded dragon may exhibit when they feel threatened or intimidated and in a bid to discourage predatory attacks.

Some males also do it to impress and attract female dragons when it’s time to breed.

Sometimes, beard puffing is followed up with darkening or blackening, which can extend to the chest area, and this has also been translated as a sign of aggression.

Most of the time, though, it’s just a bluff and is rarely followed up with hostility.

angry bearded dragon

6. Changing Colour

Color changes observed in bearded dragons isn’t the same as beard darkening, although both behaviors could well occur at the same time.

A beardie’s skin color typically changes as it grows older and begins to shed.

It will continue to get more colorful with shedding until it’s about a year and a half old.

When they need to absorb more heat, beardies can turn darker in an attempt to regulate body temperature better.

If this is regularly occurring, then your beardie may not be getting adequate light and heat.

You must provide an optimal lighting setup so your dragon can get all the light it needs.

7. Sleeping for Ages

Beardies go through a process called brumation. This is a process performed by cold-blooded animals and is quite similar to hibernation, usually adopted during winter.

When brumating, the beardie will become increasingly lethargic and less interested in eating.

It is a process used to regulate hypothermia, which allows beardies to save energy during the winter.

During this time, it will also recalibrate its biological clock for a new mating season.

Brumation is a less frequent occurrence in captive-bred species because unlike in the wild, the temperature is controlled, and food is readily available.

This behavior can, however, be seen in a bearded dragon as young as 10 months to 1 year of age and can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months.

8. Mouth Gaping

As a cold-blooded animal, beardies depend on their environment for heat and have unique mechanisms to regulate their internal body temperature.

One such mechanism is mouth gaping or sometimes yawning.

Because they don’t sweat, beardies need a way to cool off and maintain a constant internal temperature.

The solution for a beardie is to open its mouth and let off some steam.

Your beardie’s tank should have different temperature zones.

Bearded Dragon temperature

However, if your beardie is at the cool end of the terrarium with its mouth open, it could mean that the enclosure is too hot, and there isn’t enough ventilation for the poor guy to cool down.

Mouth gaping accompanied by a hissing or gurgling noise might mean they’ve come down with a respiratory infection and need to be examined by a vet as soon as possible.


Although there are many more types of behavior a bearded dragon can exhibit, this list covers some of the most common ones. The main thing is that you can understand your own beardie’s behaviors.

This is something that will develop over time.

Regularly handling your beardie will also help you understand its body language a lot more, which is a substantial step to keeping your pet lizard both happy and content.

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bearded dragon behaviors

  • About Matthew Cantell

    I was just 15 years of age when I first met a bearded dragon. It was at my friend's house and I instantly grew an immediate attraction to, what has now become, my favourite animal on the planet! Making fantastic pets for both children and adults alike, they each have their own personality and are certainly full of character. There are, though, some important things that we should all know when it comes to caring for these amazing animals!
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