Building trust and friendship with your bearded dragon

There is nothing more disappointing than finding your pet does not want to be touched and/or appears to be aggressive. The following steps have been used successfully for taming bearded dragons from the wild in Australia and in captivity around the world. Taming bearded dragons will usually start to yield results within a week, however complete taming will take longer. The duration and level of taming is dependent on the level of stress the animal is experiencing, the skill of applying techniques and the time spent.

Assaulting the Senses

bearded dragon protecting himself
There is potential that black colors may be associated with aggressive intentions.

Taming bearded dragons, at least for those who display a high level of stress with human contact, will require extra consideration before handling.

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 finger nails when wearing red nail polish.

Smoking, perfumes and anything else with a strong scent also have the potential to change a sensitive animals receptivity towards their owner.

Calming the anxiety

Taming will cause a level of stress as comfort levels will be pushed during the process and 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. The three options are flight, fight or freeze. Bearded dragons use all three depending on the animal and the situation. Use your favorite techniques for remaining calm, whistle or hum a tune, whatever it takes to focus and start your taming techniques.

David Hammond and bearded dragon Romeo having cuddles
David Hammond and bearded dragon Romeo enjoying together time

Scent Familiarization

The easiest and very effective way to start taming 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 with your bearded dragon. 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. This technique alone may be sufficient to tame the less wild pet, otherwise combine with others.

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 in this manner are pretty much out of the question since they will just curl around the tongs and make it difficult for the animal to grab without a mouthful of tong which puts teeth at risk. 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.


progressing to touching bearded dragon

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 the bearded dragon. Whether it struggles or not, keep it close ensuring it cannot run, jump or in any other way become harmed.  Keep it with you for at least 1/2 an hour or more. This can be done a few times a day if necessary. 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.

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