Mastering the Art of Handling Bearded Dragons Without Stress

Handling bearded dragons, known for being fascinating and popular pets, requires careful attention to ensure their well-being. There’s been limited understanding of how handling reptiles impacts them, especially the gentle kind typically encountered by pets. Research by Stockley, Wilkinson, and Burman (2020) explored how gentle handling duration affects bearded dragons in terms of their behavior. Tests providing insights into their emotional state indicated that extended handling might slightly increase stress-related behaviors.

The study by Stockley et al. (2020) reveals that handling bearded dragons for 5 to 15 minutes can increase stress indicators, such as frequent tongue flicking and avoidance of novel objects. These signs, especially the increased tongue flicking, are common reactions to stress in reptilian species. The avoidance behavior towards unfamiliar objects further suggests discomfort resulting from the handling.

The Stockley et al. (2020) research is crucial as it demonstrates that handling bearded dragons, even when done gently, can cause mild stress if it continues for too long. It highlights the need for a balanced approach in handling these sensitive creatures. Pet owners and handlers must be particularly mindful of the time spent handling bearded dragons, ensuring interactions are kept within a duration that does not elevate their stress levels. The findings of Stockley et al. are key to promoting the welfare of bearded dragons, guiding owners on how to interact with them in a way that maintains their comfort and health.

Studies indicate that reptiles are capable of emotions like anxiety, fear, and even pleasure. This emerging understanding should influence how they are treated and handled.

handling bearded dragons

Recognizing Stress in Bearded Dragons

Reptiles, being non-domesticated species, display distinct stress behaviors in human presence. Large lizards like Iguanas and Monitors show defensive postures, while more docile species like Bearded Dragons also exhibit warning signs. Chelonians, like tortoises, often withdraw into their shells under stress. Aggression and hiding are also indicators of stress in reptiles.

Identifying stress when handling bearded dragons is key to their care. Stockley et al. (2020) discuss that stress can show in various ways, including changes in appetite, coloration, and activity levels. Key stress indicators include reduced eating, skin darkening, decreased activity, or a lack of interest in their surroundings. Additionally, behaviors such as glass surfing or excessive hiding are common signs of discomfort with their environment.

Alleviating Stress Through Careful Handling

When handling bearded dragons consider limiting the duration and ensure a secure and comfortable environment for your dragon to reduce stress. Slow and predictable movements during interactions can help avoid startling your pet. Regular observation of their behavior and physical changes is crucial for the early detection of stress and for ensuring their comfort.

The Importance of a Suitable Habitat

As ectothermic animals, bearded dragons rely on external sources for their body temperature regulation. Providing a well-regulated and comfortable habitat is vital for their health and can significantly reduce stress related to handling. This includes ensuring appropriate temperature gradients, UV lighting, and a safe enclosure.

Handling Bearded Dragons: The Balance of Duration

The handling of bearded dragons is a delicate balance of duration, environment and nature of handling. While longer handling sessions can be stressful, it’s unclear if bearded dragons might adapt to extended interactions over time. It is essential to observe your pet’s reactions and adjust handling times based on their comfort and responses.

Conclusion: Fostering a Harmonious Relationship

Concluding, the research by Stockley et al. (2020) offers invaluable guidance for bearded dragon owners. When handling bearded dragons be ready to respond quickly to stress signals, and adjust handling practices as needed. Foster a nurturing and harmonious relationship with these unique pets. Emphasizing short and gentle interactions is key to a stress-free life for your bearded dragon. Further insights for handling can be gleaned from taming bearded dragons.

Cassie McCollum
When Grace gets the a massage and I don't.

Posted by Bearded Dragons World on Friday, October 28, 2016


  1. Stockley, V. R., Wilkinson, A., & Burman, O. H. P. (2020). How to Handle Your Dragon: Does Handling Duration Affect the Behaviour of Bearded Dragons (Pogona Vitticeps)? Animals, 10(11), 2116.
  2. Williams, J., & Beck, D. (2021). Stress, anxiety, fear and frustration in different reptile species: how to reduce these negative emotional states during veterinary proceduresVeterinary Nursing Journal36(7), 213–216.

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