Most mammalian pets like dogs and cats love to be petted, but how about pets of the reptilian persuasion? There are plenty of videos on the internet showing supposedly snuggly bearded dragons; however, the question remains: do bearded dragons actually like to be petted?
Even though bearded dragons are considered solitary critters, they do like to be petted, especially by their human owners with whom they’ve bonded. Like any animal, each bearded dragon has its own personality, and some dragons may like petting more than others.
Unlike canine pets who are actively social, the temperament of bearded dragons tends to favor feline pets in that they like to be petted on their own terms. While most bearded dragons like to be petted, they usually do not tolerate being handled for too long.
It is necessary to recognize the signals your bearded dragon may be giving you to indicate whether or not he wants to be petted. If your dragon stretches out to meet your hand, snuggles up to you, or relaxes in your presence, these are all good indications that he likes being petted.
On the other hand, if he wags his tail back and forth, begins hissing at you, turns away from your hand, or his beard turns black, he is not in the mood to be manhandled. Just because your tries are rebuffed this time doesn’t mean he won’t want a good stroking later on.
Timing is everything, but so is the way that you pet your dragon. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to pet your bearded dragon and what places they best like scratched. Additionally, we’ll review whether or not bearded dragons like to be held and how to properly handle them.
How Should I Pet My Bearded Dragon?
While a bearded dragon makes a great pet, don’t confuse it with a puppy or kitten who may savor a good rough scratch behind the ears. Bearded dragons are a little more delicate than typical pets so you should always be gentle when petting them.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that bearded dragons are always on alert for threats. Show your dragon that you mean him no harm by approaching him slowly from the front where he can see you. Don’t surprise him from behind or overhead because he may lash out and bite your fingers thinking he is under attack, not about to be loved on.
The best way to begin petting your bearded dragon which is agreeable to most dragons is by starting at the head and working your way down to the tail by stroking, lightly scratching, or rubbing with minimal pressure. If your bearded dragon deems this acceptable, you can try other spots on his body to see what he prefers.
When you approach your bearded dragon to pet him, note what he is doing before you attempt to reach out. If your dragon is sleeping, hunting, or eating, these are not the best times to try to pet your reptile buddy. You’ll want to wait until he’s relaxed and calm. This video does a great job showing you exactly what that looks like:
Each bearded dragon has his own unique personality that comes with all kinds of different preferences for being petted. Try a few different methods and spots to pet your dragon and he will let you know whether or not these are acceptable.
Do Bearded Dragons Like to Be Stroked?
Stroking a bearded dragon is one of the best ways to pet it and create a bond with your reptile friend. Most bearded dragons like to be stroked when they are feeling affectionate.
Always stroke your bearded dragon from head to tail, going with the lay of their scales. Stroking a bearded dragon in the opposite direction is not only uncomfortable and rough on your fingertips but can be potentially harmful to your bearded dragon. You may run the risk of lifting scales or hurting your bearded dragon’s skin.
When you stroke your dragon, apply light pressure and slowly move one or two fingers down your dragon’s body. Most bearded dragons enjoy this kind of attention and will show you by lifting their heads to meet your fingertips.
Do Bearded Dragons Like When You Rub Their Head?
While bearded dragons do like a good head rub, you need to be extremely careful where on the head you rub your dragon. Rubbing around the nose and slightly forward of the eyes is usually tolerated. Dragons also like to be rubbed on the back of the head anterior of their spikes.
However, it is important that you avoid rubbing the third eye, called the parietal eye, which sits directly between the two optic eyes. Even though this eye doesn’t have an iris or cornea like the other two, it has the ability to detect light levels. If it falls under a shadow – for example, your finger over the top of it – your dragon may perceive that a predator is attacking from above.
Avoid stressing out your dragon and risking your fingers from his counterattack by leaving that spot alone.
Where Do Bearded Dragons Like to Be Petted?
Just like cats and dogs love a good scratch between the ears, bearded dragons enjoy being stroked from head to tail. Using a slow gentle motion helps to relax your dragon and establish a bond between the two of you.
Aside from the head-to-tail petting, bearded dragons also enjoy having their cheeks and chin rubbed, their beards scratched, or their spikes stroked. Some dragons like their feet and tails to be petted too although this is less common. So if your beardie doesn’t take to it, don’t force it.
Most spots on a bearded dragon are fair game for petting; however, there are a few places that should be avoided. Don’t pet your bearded dragon’s mouth or you may be asking to get bitten or contract salmonella. Bearded dragons do not like to be petted on their parietal eye on the top of their heads or on their bellies because laying on their backs makes it hard for them to breathe.
Do Bearded Dragons Like Being Held?
Being petted is one thing, where your dragon can retreat from you if it doesn’t want the affection, but being held is another thing entirely. Most bearded dragons do like being held, especially if they become accustomed to it from a young age. However, every bearded dragon is different, and some dragons may not tolerate being handled even if they don’t mind being petted.
Oftentimes bearded dragons that do not like being held in any capacity will let you know by showing signs of aggression when you attempt to pick them up. Unfortunately, these cases are usually indicative of abuse from a young age.
However, most dragons will welcome being held if they are in the mood to be socializing with you. Just like most other animals, be mindful of when you want to hold your bearded dragon as even the most snuggly reptile will not be thrilled if you disturb their sleep or a good meal.
Bearded dragons that are held daily from a young age will grow to like and expect it since it becomes a part of their routine. If you are not as regular about holding your dragon, there is a better chance he may resist being handled.
If you create a daily routine by picking your dragon up at the same time every day, he will begin to expect it just as he would a regular meal. Make sure that you are in a quiet and calm environment when you hold your bearded dragon so that he feels safe. Loud noises and sudden movements can scare dragons into thinking they are under attack.
Be sure not to overhandle your bearded dragon though. Even the most friendly beardies may become stressed out if held for too long. Limit your holding time to no more than an hour at a time.
How Do Bearded Dragons Like to Be Held?
Even though most bearded dragons like to be held, you can’t just pick your dragon up any way you feel like it. If your dragon is handled properly, he will repay you in kind by allowing you to pick him up more often. However, if you don’t hold your dragon the correct way, he may resist your attempts to handle him.
Bearded dragons may bear the name of a fierce predator, but they are more often prey animals, so they need to be approached calmly, slowly, and in full view of their visual field. If you try to pick up your beardie by approaching him from above, he may perceive you as a threat, and any snuggle time will be out of the question.
Before picking up your dragon, start by petting him to see if he’s in the mood for physical contact. If this is acceptable, lift his front legs onto your hand and then support his back legs and tail with your other hand.
When holding your bearded dragon, always make sure to provide support for all four legs. While bearded dragons enjoy being held, they do not take too kindly to having their limbs dangling in the air.
Once your bearded dragon is used to being held, it may choose to curl up and snuggle with you or explore you as a new perch by walking around. The most important thing to remember when holding your bearded dragon in order to have the optimal experience for both you and your buddy is to ensure your beardie that he is in a safe environment.
Check out this video which demonstrates how to properly pick up both baby and adult bearded dragons:
Even though bearded dragons prefer to be on their own and may exhibit the aloofness of a cat, most of them do enjoy being petted and held if done the right way. As long as you are gentle and approach your beardie from the front, he will most likely allow you to snuggle him.
Remember to handle your bearded dragon with care and try to hold or pet your beardie on a daily basis to establish a routine habit. You may find that your bearded dragon is a far more lovable pet than you ever expected!