Bearded dragons are docile and easy to handle…but not so much fun if you find your bearded dragon is biting or simply not tame. Here are some tips and tricks used in the Bearded Dragons World Community to tame a bearded dragon and stop it from biting.
How to Tame a Bearded Dragon
How long it takes to tame a bearded dragon is difficult to tell. The time it takes to tame is dependent on the lizard, it’s environment, cues and its keeper. Taming bearded dragons will usually start to yield results within a week but it will take much longer to build a strong bond. The time and effort is worth the friendship you will build with your bearded dragon.
A bearded dragon will experience a level of stress when taming. The bearded dragon will be pushed out of its the comfort zone at least a little. Stress promotes illness, so avoid long periods that cause excessive stress.
Before approaching a bearded dragon always ensure you are calm. It is well known that animals can sense various vibrations from humans and the assumption is that bearded dragons are just as capable. The very survival of animals requires them to be in tune with what is approaching them, assessing the level of threat and determining the response.
When responding to a threat, bearded dragons have the standard 3 options:
- Fight, or
Bearded dragons may use all three in a single taming session depending on the animal and the situation.
Use your favorite techniques for keeping yourself calm, don’t react in a negative way. Whistle or hum a tune, whatever it takes to focus before starting taming techniques.
5 Tried and Tested Techniques for Taming Bearded Dragons
Here are 5 tested techniques to tame your bearded dragon, gathered from the Bearded Dragons World community. For the best results in taming bearded dragons, combine multiple techniques.
1. Taming a bearded dragon using scent familiarization
One of the easiest and most effective ways to tame a bearded dragon is to leave it with your scent over time.
The 4 steps to tame a bearded dragon by scent are:
- Cut up an old t-shirt, clean piece of clothing or a rag that has been washed in just water and doesn’t have any scents from perfumes, chemicals and soaps. Note that to avoid issues with zoonotic disease it is best to use a cloth that doesn’t need to return to your wardrobe.
- Keep the cloth on your body for a few hours or more until it has your scent.
- Place the cloth in the bearded dragons tank.
- Repeat this as many times as needed over the next few days or weeks, replacing any cloth that becomes soiled. More than one cloth may be required depending on the size of the enclosure.
2. Pleasurable Experiences Like a Little Scrub
There are lots of little things you can do to provide your bearded dragon with some pleasure, one of those is a little scrub. Using a toothbrush as if it were a grooming brush, gently give your bearded dragon a gentle scrub. This can also be done during bathing time.
3. Using Food to Tame a Bearded Dragon
Hand feeding is a useful technique for taming bearded dragons.
Insects are more likely to provide interest during hand feeding than vegetation, but either are suitable if it is sufficiently enticing.
At first simply drop the food nearby and gradually work your way closer and closer to the bearded dragon as it shows signs of settling.
Tongs may be used for feeding at first if there are concerns with the bearded dragon biting. This will also help disassociate your hand from food and accidental bites.
Feeding crickets and roaches with tongs is best. Mealworms are not a good option as they will just curl around the tongs and make it difficult for your bearded dragon to grab without biting the tongs which puts teeth at risk. How to clean bearded dragons teeth here.
Note that teasing a bearded dragon with food could like end up with biting.
4. Easing into Touching
After a few days to a week of sharing your scent and perhaps hand feeding, the bearded dragon should be tame enough to touch. If being bitten by the bearded dragon is a concern, protect your hand using a hand towel or gloves.
If your hand is to be covered then the bearded dragon will need to become accustomed to the covering as this changes your scent and look. Leave whatever will be used to protect your hand should in the bearded dragons tank so it will become accustomed to the object and its scent.
Once everything is prepared, pick up your bearded dragon. If you believe it is stressed, end the handling session within minutes. Otherwise, keep your bearded dragon close to you ensuring it cannot run, jump or in any other way become harmed.
Keep handling sessions only as long as the animal can cope with. The bearded dragon taming sessions are better to more frequent and short than long and stressful. You do not want to be associated with stress and it is very unhealthy for the lizard. Try a few minutes multiple times a day. The more frequently this is done over the next days and weeks, the quicker the process should go.
Spend time in the sunshine as things progress and calm down. Don’t try bathing or other forms of activity that may cause a new set of fears. The handling session should start and end positive, enjoyable and before long taming your bearded dragon will be complete.
5. Provide a Refuge for Stressed Bearded Dragon
Some bearded dragons are kept in small glass sided tanks. Glass tanks have open sides providing no privacy. In addition, the bearded dragons own reflection in the glass can be a source of stress as well. Stress from a poor habitat can extend to the handler as well.
Install some backgrounds and provide hiding places in the cool side of the habitat. These hiding spots and peace are important to keep stress levels down especially when pushing the boundaries when taming.
2 Things to Avoid when Taming a Bearded Dragon
1. Don’t wear black clothes or nail polish
Black t-shirt or even black nail polish has been known to impact interactions with bearded dragons.
Some pet owners have found that wearing black can cause negative reactions from their bearded dragons whether it is a t-shirt or nail polish. While establishing the relationship it may be best to avoid black. Mind you, others have found nicely painted nails are attractive to eat!
2. Be aware of your own scent. Bearded dragons are.
Before entering a taming session be aware of all surroundings including yourself. Do you have perfume, deodorant, have you been smoking or anything else with a strong aroma that may confuse your bearded dragons senses.
Strong aromas will cover up your own scent. Bearded dragons are so good at being able to read chemical signatures that it is a part of their own communications. See more on how females can detect the quality of a male through femoral pore secretions here.
Bearded Dragon Biting
There is no denying that a bearded dragons bite can seriously hurt and if it tries, it can certainly break skin. Biting may not be the result of not being tame. 4 reasons a bearded dragon may bite include:
- Accident, especially if it has become accustomed to your hands delivering food. Some lovely painted nails can be quite attractive potentially looking like some sort of food, especially when wearing red nail polish.
- Pain and discomfort.
- Seasonal hormone change.
If the bearded dragon is displaying a black beard, hissing, lunging at your hand or other signs of defense or aggression it is likely protecting itself due to a perceived fear or it could be seasonal hormones. Behaviors such as staying very still or running away are also signs of fear.
If a bearded dragon seemingly starts biting when it was previously calm, consider causes such as:
- Experiencing pain.
- Something recently changed that it is having difficulties with.
- Started associating your hand with food.
- Seasonal hormones have kicked in. For more on the signs and how to deal with a bearded dragon biting from seasonal hormones, see the post sudden aggression.
Are Bearded Dragon Teeth Sharp?
Bearded dragons teeth are sharp, like serrated knives. As they grow older, their teeth wear down. Lots more on bearded dragon teeth with diagrams and how to clean them here.
How to Tame a Bearded Dragon Conclusion
While our pet reptiles are often quite docile and amenable, it’s not always the case. There is nothing more disappointing than finding the pet that you so want to connect with doesn’t seem to want to be with you.
If your bearded dragon is biting, hissing, turning black, running away or showing other signs of distress, take it slow.
When you are handling your bearded dragon make the sessions short. Dr Sharman Hoppes (2011) recommends that a successful handling session with a reptile for 2 minutes outweighs a longer session where the animal may become distressed.
Provide a habitat that has hiding spaces as well as basking.
Use all the taming bearded dragon techniques combined for a faster result.
For more on bearded dragon bites, bearded dragon venom (is it dangerous) and how to treat bites, see the post Can my Bearded Dragon Make me Sick? by Dr Callista Chinenye Emecheta.
- Hoppes, S. (2011) Reptile Emotions. Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Did you tame your bearded dragon?