One reason bearded dragons have become such popular pets as far as reptiles go is the fact that they are friendly and actually like human contact. A dragon will get to actually like attention from his owner.
Many dragons are known to ride around on their owners’ shoulders or sit in their laps, even falling asleep at times. This is unusual for reptiles. You won’t see many iguanas or geckos riding around on their owners. Some beardies let loose in their owner’s house, however, have been known to look for their owners for playing or attention.
That being said, dragons are reptiles, and even if they enjoy being petted, they aren’t going to be as cuddly as dogs or cats. Also, take note of the fact that each dragon has its own personality.
If your dragon just doesn’t take to being handled much, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing something wrong. It’s just not his thing. Some will have personal preferences as to where they like to be petted. Get to know your dragon and you’ll soon learn how he’ll tell you what his likes and dislikes are.
This is especially true for a dragon that has been raised from a juvenile by one owner as long as that owner made the effort to get his pet used to being handled at a young age. Older dragons that have had more than one owner or that were not used to being handled from a young age may take longer to get used to the contact. However, most dragons like attention. In fact, the interaction plays a part in enriching their daily lives.
Where Do Bearded Dragons Like to Be Petted?
Some will like to be touched in one place while another doesn’t care for that. You just have to learn your dragon’s preferences. However, one good place to start is the spot on top of his head right between his eyes. Dragons do have a sort of third eye on top of their heads.
It’s not an actual eye as far as sight goes, but it does have a lens and retina. It’s there to sense changes in light. It looks like a grey spot. While it is protected by a covering, you should avoid scratching him there with your fingernails.
Petting with the soft parts of your fingers is fine. Other places they enjoy being petted include rubbing the spikes behind their eyes and scratching their beards. Some enjoy belly rubs, but only stroke in the direction of the scales. Also, don’t expect him to roll over and lie on his back like a dog for this.
How To Pet A Bearded Dragon
Get him used to you. Dragons do enjoy being petted and handled, but only when they trust their owners. If you have just gotten yours, don’t try to just pick him up. He may just try to bite you, or at least get upset and fearful. Always approach his enclosure slowly and within his sight if possible.
Sudden movements will startle him. Just spend some time near his enclosure, getting him used to your presence. This is time spent besides feeding him or cleaning his home. Kneeling down so your dragon can see you will help him get used to you. He’ll soon look forward to your visits.
Open the enclosure. Spend a few minutes near his enclosure as you have been, then slowly open his enclosure. You might start by handing him a treat. Then slowly lift up your hand and gently pet his head all the way down to his tail. Watch his body language to make sure he isn’t getting nervous or upset. If he does, try again the next day. Once he gets used to being petted by you, he may even move toward your hand when you put it into the enclosure.
Let him out. If you have an enclosure with a front door, open it and let him walk toward you. If he is a little reticent, try offering him a treat. Once he comes toward you, you can pet him.
Pick him up. Once your dragon trusts you enough, you can start picking him up. Start by reaching underneath him and stroking his belly. If he remains relaxed, pick him up by supporting his front legs, then slide your other hand underneath his rear. One hand should support his front legs and body, and the other his hind legs and the base of his tail.
Don’t squeeze, just support him. If he shows any signs of insecurity, be ready to slowly and gently return him to his enclosure. Try putting him on or against your chest. With a baby, it’s best to also support his chin to keep him from being anxious. Dragons enjoy feeling warm and safe, so your chest or lap are good places for them to sit.
If he shows signs of anxiety at any time, put him back in his enclosure. Just try again the next day. It may take a few attempts before he feels safe when you pick him up, especially if he’s not used to being handled. Check out my article What is The Average Lifespan of a Bearded Dragon? for other ways to increase your dragons life span.
Do Bearded Dragons Like to Be Petted Under the Chin?
Dragons normally enjoy being petted under the chin, on top of their heads, and on their cheeks. Again, you’ll just have to see what your beardie prefers.
Do Bearded Dragons Like to Be Held When Being Petted?
Beardies do like to be held. Yours may even fall asleep in your lap while you’re watching television. Some dragons that don’t especially enjoy petting still enjoy being in your lap, being held against your chest, or riding on your shoulder. When you’re trying to get your dragon to get used to his being handled by you, you need to start with petting.
Once you have built up a trust, then you can move to picking him up. Many owners will let their dragons rest along their arms, with his head in their palms. You can move him while holding him, as long as he is correctly supported so that he feels secure.
Do Bearded Dragons Like to Be Stroked?
Many dragons enjoy being stroked from the tops of their heads down to their tails. In fact, that’s a good way to start getting him used to being petted. Always go in this direction when petting. Starting with his tail not only goes against the grain of his scales but touching his tail first may make him uneasy. Most also like their bellies to be stroked in the same direction.
How Do You Know if Your Bearded Dragon Likes Being Petted?
If your dragon is enjoying your touch, he will often sink down a bit and perhaps close one or both eyes. This means that he is relaxing and trusts you. If he wants to lick your hand while you are touching him, it’s a sign of affection, not a prelude to a bite. It’s a good sign.
If you aren’t sure whether your dragon is enjoying his petting, stop and slowly move your hand away. If he opens his eyes and comes toward you, he’s telling you that he wants you to keep petting him.
A dragon that feels uneasy or anxious will usually start by darkening or puffing up his beard. If he really feels threatened, he may open his mouth wide to look like a big, bad lizard. Just try again the next day. He’ll come around once he gets to trust you. You may also be interested in my article What Do Bearded Dragons Like to Play With?
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Close One Eye When I Pet Him?
This is actually a signal that your beardie is relaxed. If you think about it, closing one or both eyes is a sign of trust. Dragons are often seen as prey animals in the wild. That third eye is instrumental in preventing attacks from birds or other things coming from above. If he feels safe enough with you to close his eyes, feel flattered.
How to Approach a Bearded Dragon to Pet Them?
Wash your hands before and after handling your beardie. Approach your dragon’s home slowly as usual. Put your hand slowly in his enclosure in front of him. Move it underneath him to stroke his belly. If he’s receptive, you can slowly pick him up. Make sure he feels supported at all times and keep your movements slow.
Avoid any quick or sudden movements. If he looks unhappy or his beard starts to darken or puff up at any time, put him back. He may be just not ready for handling, or he may not be in the mood on this particular day.
Your dragon will learn to welcome and look forward to your presence and handling if you just take it slow and easy. Even if your dragon was acclimated to handling at a young age, if you aren’t his first owner after the breeder or he wasn’t handled by his previous owner, getting him used to petting may take longer.
It’s better to start getting them used to handling while they are very young, but this doesn’t always happen. Just have patience and allow your beardie to indicate when he’s ready for each step. Once he likes being handled and petted, you’ll find him a great companion for reading, studying or just watching television. After all, isn’t that trait one of the reasons you got him?