How to Train a Bearded Dragon: Teaching Commands and Tricks

To train a bearded dragon, it’s essential to understand their cognitive abilities. Recent scientific studies have illuminated the mental capabilities of bearded dragons. Research shows that these reptiles possess a level of intelligence that facilitates their ability to learn and respond effectively to training methods. For example, a study conducted by Herndon in 2021 delved into the social and physical traits of bearded dragons, underscoring their capacity for learning.

Socializing Your Bearded Dragon

How you train a bearded dragon starts with socialising. Introducing a bearded dragon to its new surroundings marks the beginning of an exciting journey, with the first crucial step being socialization. This initial phase of training your bearded dragon involves allowing them to gradually become accustomed to your presence.

Engaging in normal activities near your dragon’s enclosure, such as studying, reading, watching TV, or talking on the phone, helps them get used to you. These routine acts within sight of your bearded dragon’s enclosure are instrumental in making them feel more comfortable and at ease with your presence.

Once your pet is comfortable, the next step to train a bearded dragon is to allow some exploration in its surroundings. This may also deepen the bond and trust between you and your pet. Be vigilant, though. Bearded dragons can be quick to hide, especially under furniture, and it’s essential to ensure they don’t get cold and go into hibernation. We have heard a few stories over time about reptiles left to explore in the house going missing over winter. It’s also best to keep other pets away to avoid frightening them or posing any threat.

When you train a bearded dragon it is also important to ensure both their safety and hygiene and yours. Since they can carry salmonella, it’s wise to keep them out of food preparation areas and ensure that all exits are securely closed to prevent accidental escapes. Wash your hands when finished handling and if anyone in the household is immunocompromised, then consider other steps in the hygiene routine.

The Impact of Temperature on Training

As cold-blooded reptiles, to successfully train a bearded dragon requires an understanding of how temperature influences their activity. Research by Stockley, Wilkinson and Burman (2020) emphasizes the importance of understanding stress indicators in reptiles. Stress can manifest in various ways, such as decreased appetite or aggression. Creating a comfortable and stimulating environment for your bearded dragon to thrive is crucial.

Bearded dragons are ectotherms, relying on external heat sources for thermoregulation. This aspect of their biology can impact their learning and training. As observed in a study by Black and Tattersall (2017), both adult and neonatal dragons showed preferences for certain temperatures during the learning process. If the room’s temperature isn’t adequate, limit their time out of the cage to avoid any discomfort.

Recognising and Managing Stress

Recognizing and managing stress in your bearded dragon is a crucial aspect of responsible pet ownership. The study by Stockley, Wilkinson, and Burman (2020) sheds light on how certain interactions, particularly prolonged handling, can elevate stress levels in these reptiles. Here’s how you can recognize signs of stress and manage it effectively:

  1. Identifying Stress Indicators: Bearded dragons exhibit several signs when stressed. These include glass surfing (scratching at the glass of their enclosure), hiding more than usual, aggressive behavior, decreased appetite, and irregular bowel movements. It’s important to be attentive to these signs as they indicate your dragon may not be comfortable.
  2. Minimizing Handling: While handling is an essential part of bonding, overdoing it can stress your bearded dragon. Limit the duration and frequency of handling sessions, especially if you notice signs of discomfort. Gradually increase the handling time as your dragon becomes more accustomed to you.
  3. Creating a Comfortable Environment: Ensure that the enclosure is suitable for your bearded dragon. This means maintaining appropriate temperature gradients, providing hiding spots, and ensuring enough space for them to move around. An environment that mimics their natural habitat reduces stress.
  4. Diet and Nutrition: A balanced diet is essential for reducing stress. Irregular or inappropriate feeding can lead to nutritional stress, impacting their overall health and behavior.
  5. Routine and Consistency: Bearded dragons thrive on routine. Consistent feeding times, regular light cycles, and a stable environment help in reducing stress. Any changes in their routine should be introduced gradually.
  6. Health Check-ups: Regular vet visits are important. Sometimes, signs of stress can be linked to underlying health issues. Early detection and treatment of any health problems can prevent stress related to illness.
  7. Observation and Patience: Spend time observing your dragon’s behavior without interacting directly. This will help you understand their normal behavior and notice any deviations that might indicate stress.
  8. Enrichment: Provide mental stimulation through environmental enrichment. This can include rearranging their enclosure, introducing new safe objects for exploration, or interactive feeding techniques.

Training Techniques

To train a bearded dragon it is important to understand their behavior and needs. Positive reinforcement and consistency are key. As mentioned on Quora, familiarizing your bearded dragon with your presence and using treats as rewards can set a foundation for training.

Once your bearded dragon masters the basics, you can introduce more complex tricks like waving, sitting on your shoulder, or even potty training. These tricks require patience and repetition but can be achieved with consistent training sessions. Make sure to keep each session short and enjoyable to maintain their interest and prevent stress.

Starting with Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a cornerstone to train a bearded dragon. This technique involves rewarding your bearded dragon for desired behaviors, which can be anything from responding to their name to performing specific tricks. Treats, gentle handling, and verbal praise can all serve as rewards. As highlighted on Quora, consistency in using treats and praise can significantly enhance the training process.

Teaching Simple Tricks

To train a bearded dragon begin with basic commands or actions that align with their natural behaviors. Hand targeting, where you guide their movement with a small object like a stick, can be a great starting point. This trains them in a specific action and aids in establishing communication between you and your bearded dragon.

Tricks to Train a Bearded Dragon

Train a Bearded Dragon to Come when Called

With repetition and patience, bearded dragons can learn their name.
To train a bearded dragon to come when called requires consistency, patience, and understanding of their behavior. The journey begins with familiarizing your bearded dragon with its name. Regularly use their name during daily interactions such as feeding times, play sessions, or while simply spending time near their enclosure. This repeated exposure helps the dragon to recognize and associate their name with positive experiences.

The key to successfully teaching a bearded dragon its name is in positive reinforcement. When your pet acknowledges or responds to their name, immediately reward them. Treats are an excellent form of positive reinforcement, but gentle strokes or verbal praise also work effectively. To train a bearded dragon its name requires a strong association between their name and something they find enjoyable or comforting.

Gradually, as they begin to understand that responding to their name leads to rewards, your bearded dragon will start to come when called. During this phase, it’s crucial to maintain a consistent training schedule. Allocate a few minutes each day specifically for this training, ensuring that the environment is free from distractions and stressors.

To train a bearded dragon to come when called requires patience and understanding that each will learn at its own pace. Avoid becoming frustrated or disappointed if progress seems slow. Instead, continue to encourage them with positive affirmations and rewards. Over time, with regular practice and reinforcement, your bearded dragon may learn its name and come when called.

How to Potty Train a Bearded Dragon

To potty train a bearded dragon requires observing their habits and patience. It takes time to teach your bearded dragon to use a specific area for their bathroom needs.

Start by closely observing your bearded dragon’s elimination habits. Bearded dragons tend to prefer a particular spot in their enclosure for defecation. Once you identify this preferred spot, you can begin to train them. Place a designated ‘potty area’ in their enclosure, such as a shallow container filled with easy-to-clean substrate or paper towels. Encourage your dragon to use this area by gently placing them in it at times they are most likely to defecate, typically after meals or bath time.

Maintaining a consistent routine is vital to train a bearded dragon. They are creatures of habit, and respond well to regular schedules. Feeding, lighting, and bath times should be consistent each day, as these routines can help regulate their digestive system and, consequently, help them defecate.

Gradually, with repetition and consistency, your bearded dragon will start associating the potty area with their bathroom habits. It’s important to be patient during this training period and to clean the designated potty area regularly to maintain hygiene.

In conclusion, potty training your bearded dragon not only helps keep their enclosure cleaner but also strengthens the bond between you and your pet, as it requires trust and understanding from both sides.

How to Train a Bearded Dragon in a Nutshell

To train a bearded dragon can be a rewarding experience that enhances the bond between the pet and its owner. Utilizing scientific research and understanding the unique needs and behaviors of bearded dragons are crucial in this journey. Patience and consistency is the key to train a bearded dragon, always reward it for good behavior.

References

Herndon, Sydney. (n.d) Intelligence of Bearded Dragons Intelligence of Bearded Dragons.

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.

How do I train a bearded dragon? (n.d.). Quora. Retrieved January 2, 2024

Black, I. R. G., & Tattersall, G. J. (2017). Thermoregulatory behavior and orientation preference in bearded dragons. Journal of Thermal Biology, 69, 171–177.

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