Why Do Bearded Dragons Hiss?

Bearded dragons do hiss occasionally. Their hiss is fairly loud for their size and may be accompanied by an open mouth or your dragon running towards you.

You might also notice that their beard becomes darker. A bearded dragon’s hiss is just like the hiss of a cat when it feels angry or threatened.

In the wild, the hiss acts as a deterrent towards predators and the coloration of their beard and aggressive running stance helps them to appear bigger and more threatening to put predators off.

Bearded dragons are also very territorial, so will use their hiss to make other bearded dragons aware that they’re trespassing in their territory. 

Why Might My Bearded Dragon Feel Threatened?

1. Your Approach

If your bearded dragon is young or not used to being handled, it may be that they aren’t used to the way that you approach them.

You’re a giant compared to them and it’s bound to be a bit scary if they don’t understand what you’re doing. 

The best way to overcome this is to make sure you always approach them from the side.

Show them your hand first, so it’s not a shock when you touch them. Never approach them from above or try to pick them up using their tails. 

If you’ve got a really young bearded dragon, the best way to start this process is to place your hand next to them to start with.

Gradually stroke them, then gently pick them up over a period of a few minutes to avoid the shock of just picking them up immediately as a predator would do.

2. Terrarium Glass

You will have seen the tiny mirrors that you give to domesticated birds for company. It works well for them as they enjoy having a friend and this removes the potential for loneliness.

However, bearded dragons are the complete opposite. They like being alone.

They get distressed and territorial if they’re placed alongside another bearded dragon.

Unfortunately, sometimes the glass of their terrarium can display their reflection, which they might mistake for another dragon. 

You’ll be able to spot this if they start hissing and running at the glass in a threatening manner. 

It’s best to get a terrarium with three sides that aren’t reflective to limit the issues as much as you can.

You could also change the lighting angle to make sure it doesn’t reflect too clearly onto the glass where possible.

To avoid the constant stress of a reflection, you should also make sure that your dragon has somewhere to go and hide away if they feel a little overwhelmed.    

3. Other Bearded Dragons

Obviously, if your dragon is getting upset with their own reflection, being placed in with another bearded dragon will be even worse.

You should always house a bearded dragon by themselves and limit contact with others unless it’s for mating purposes. 

If you notice hissing, this is a sign that a fight is about to break out and the dragons should be split up immediately. 

4. Feeling Exposed

Bearded dragons can be insecure. In the wild, they do have a lot of natural predators, so it’s understandable that they might feel a bit uneasy if they’re left out in the open. 

Your bearded dragon may begin to hiss if left alone in a wide-open space. It’s because they feel vulnerable.

Moving them back to their own habitat where they feel at home should ease the situation.

Make sure that you’re always with them when they’re out and about so you can see when they start to feel uncomfortable. 

If you notice your dragon hissing a lot whilst inside their terrarium alone, it may be that they feel exposed in there too.

If they see something outside, such as your pet cat, or something loud on TV they might feel vulnerable.

This could be down to a lack of hiding places. It’s an easy fix, just purchase some plants and a hideaway for them and it should solve the problem. 

5. Brumation

Brumation is the reptile version of hibernation. Your bearded dragon may feel a bit off-it just before or just after they come out of the brumation period.

If you suspect that brumation is causing an issue, you should leave them alone for a few days to allow them to relax. 

Picking them up around the brumation period isn’t advisable as it can disturb their routine, potentially causing issues with food intake.

A bearded dragon that is confused about brumation because they keep being woken up, may start to eat food that could rot in their stomach if it’s not digested in time for them going back to sleep. 

6. Gravid Females

Gravid females are usually aggressive. Don’t take it personally. If they’re about to lay their eggs, all they care about is finding a safe place to lay them.

If you happen to be invading that space when you come in to feed them or change their water, then you’ll get the brunt of the aggression.

Once their eggs have been laid safely, they should return to normal. 

What Should I Do If My Bearded Dragon Starts Hissing?

If your bearded dragon has started hissing, it’s likely that they might become aggressive towards you if you don’t handle the situation correctly.

Your first instinct, if you know that your dragon is unhappy, will be to pick them up to comfort them. This is the wrong thing to do!

Trying to pick them up will remind them of a predator and is likely to make the situation worse.

If your bearded dragon continues to get upset, they may try to run at you, hit you with their tail, or even bite you in extreme circumstances.

Although their teeth aren’t razor-sharp, they could still give you a nasty cut. It’s not worth the risk. 

If you’re able to give them some space to allow them to calm down, try that. As long as they’re not in danger, give them their own space.

If you’re able to give them some space to allow them to calm down, try that. As long as they’re not in danger, give them their own space.

It might also be helpful to place something in their vicinity that provides a hiding place. They’ll feel safer if they have somewhere to retreat to. 

If you’re worried that they’re in a situation where they might hurt themselves, you should attempt to slowly pick them up or coax them into a box wearing gloves if necessary.

Put them back in their terrarium as soon as possible and allow them to calm down. 


In general, short term hissing isn’t a major problem and can usually be resolved quickly. You just need to get in sync with your dragon and learn what they like and what they don’t.

However, if you notice more prolonged hissing with no other forms of aggression, it may be that your bearded dragon is in pain or has a respiratory infection.

Pay attention to your dragon’s hissing habits and you’ll soon learn if they’re just in a bad mood or if it’s something more serious. Always take them to a vet if you’re concerned. 

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  • 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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