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 or perhaps even appears to be aggressive. While our pet reptiles are often quite docile and amenable, it’s not always the case. Here are some tips and tricks used in the Bearded Dragons World Community to tame a bearded dragon.
How long it takes to tame a bearded dragon is difficult to tell. It really is down to the animal, its environment and you. 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.
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.
Here is how to tame your bearded dragon, tips and tricks gathered from the Bearded Dragon World community.
Before you can Tame a Bearded Dragon…
When you tame a bearded dragons it will experience a level of stress. You will be pushing your bearded dragon out of its the comfort zone. Stress promotes illness, so keep the pace at levels that does not result in excessive stress.
Before approaching your 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 most animals do being:
- fight, or
Bearded dragons may use all three at once depending on the animal and the situation.
Use your favorite techniques for keeping yourself calm so that you do not react in a negative way. Whistle or hum a tune, whatever it takes to focus and start your taming techniques.
5 tried and tested tips and techniques for taming bearded dragons
1. 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.
2. Scent familiarization
The easiest and very effective way to start tame a bearded dragon is to leave it with your scent. Take a cloth (old piece of clothing cut up will suffice) that has been washed in just water (no soaps or perfumed chemicals). Keep the cloth on your body for a few hours or more and place it in your bearded dragons tank with it. This could be simpler by using your own clothing. However to avoid issues with zoonotic disease it is best to use a cloth that doesn’t need to return to your wardrobe.
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.
Don’t wear perfumes, smoke around your bearded dragon or introduce anything else with a strong aroma.
3. Feeding Techniques
Hand feeding is a useful technique for the more mild cases, or later on during the scent familiarization method. It will have little positive effect on any animal that is too cautious to approach and more likely to cause high levels of stress since closer contact is required.
Insects are more likely to provide interest during hand feeding than vegetation, but either are suitable if it is sufficiently enticing. Use tongs so that food doesn’t become directly associated with your hand and you are not open to being bitten.
This means feeding things like meal worms is not a good option as they will just curl around the tongs and make it difficult for your bearded dragon to grab without a mouthful of tong which puts teeth at risk. Check out bearded dragons teeth in this post here.
Try crickets, roaches or caterpillars. 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.
After a few days to a week of scent familiarization and perhaps hand feeding, the bearded dragon should be tame enough for touching. Ensure your hand is protected in case of biting. Use a hand towel, gloves or anything to wrap around your hand and protect it. Before starting, whatever it is that will be used to protect your hand should also be left in your bearded dragons 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. Continue the handling for 1/2 an hour or more monitoring its responses to ensure your bearded dragon is ok.
The sessions your tame your bearded dragon in do not need to be long and they can be frequent. So rather than keeping your bearded dragon out of its environment for a half hour session, 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. Don’t wear black clothes or nail polish
Before entering a taming session be aware of all surroundings including yourself. Do you have perfume or, deodorant or anything else that may confuse your bearded dragons senses.
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.
On the more amusing side, there are those who have reported their bearded dragon would try eating their painted fingernails, especially when wearing red nail polish.
- Hoppes, S. (2011) Reptile Emotions Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences https://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk/reptile-emotions/
Did you tame your bearded dragon?