Some reptile owners are content to watch and observe their pets all day long. Other owners might want to interact with their pets and bring them out of their enclosures from time to time, and some want to be absolute best friends with their pets.
The level of bonding you can achieve with your pet reptile does vary based on species. While bearded dragons aren’t the most affectionate pets since they’re reptiles, it’s definitely possible to create a bond with them.
In this article, we’ll describe how to bond with your bearded dragon.
Bonding is all about positive reinforcement. To bond with your bearded dragon you should make sure that their enclosure and diet are perfect, and establish a routine with them early on. Hand feed them, handle them gently, and keep stressors to a minimum. You want your pet to associate you with good things and experiences.
Before we get into the tutorial on how to bond with your bearded dragon, let’s talk a little bit more about how deeply bearded dragons can form connections.
Can You Create A Bond With A Bearded Dragon?
How do you describe what a bond is?
For animals, a bond is a strong attachment to another animal or a human. It’s pretty obvious that cats and dogs can bond. Some cats and dogs only feel safe and comfortable when they’re surrounded by the people or animals that they bonded with.
While reptiles are a little bit different, bearded dragons may be one of the reptiles that bond easiest with humans. Bearded dragons are considered to be dog-like reptiles. This is because bearded dragons are pretty friendly and do have their own ways of showing affection.
As your bearded dragon gets to know you you might start to notice that they get excited when they see you. Signs of affection in bearded dragons are things like head bobbing, falling asleep on you, and truly wanting to spend more time with you than in their enclosure.
This video shows a great example of a special bond between a bearded dragon and its human owner.
As you can see this bearded dragon clearly loves to spend time with their owner and comes running when she calls. Bearded dragons are one pet reptile that you can definitely build a strong bond with.
Can Bearded Dragons Feel Love?
Did you know that a part of our brains is responsible for the love that we feel?
The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that’s in charge of the limbic system and is sometimes called our love center. The hypothalamus gathers information from physical stimuli and processes that to create the emotion of love. Now, it’s more complicated than that but it’s safe to say that animals without a hypothalamus will have a hard time feeling true love.
The reptilian brain is more primitive than the human brain. Sadly, the reptilian brain does not contain a hypothalamus. This should indicate that reptiles can’t develop feelings of love for other reptiles or humans. So, while your bearded dragon can’t fall in love with you, they can feel affection for you and bond with you.
Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Held?
The bearded dragons can’t feel love, it does seem like they like to be held.
Bearded dragons are a little bit like cats in the way they like to be petted. They are temperamental and will usually choose when they want to be touched. That being said, there are bearded dragons who seem to enjoy being petted by their human owners.
For more information about how we know that bearded dragons like to be petted, read our article all about it here.
Positive Reinforcement Is Your Best Tool
Before we dive into how to make your bearded dragon like you and bond with you, let’s go over one important item.
Positive reinforcement is the basis of how to get almost any animal to like you. Essentially positive reinforcement describes the association of you with positive things in your pet’s life. Positive reinforcement also describes a reward system where you reward your pet when they’ve done something that you like. This is an important tool in any animal lover’s toolbox.
If you want your pet like you, you don’t want to be the one doing scary things to them. Instead, you want to be the one giving them positive experiences like treats, playtime, and cuddles.
This is the basis of how to get your bearded dragon to bond with you. You’re going to want to always associate yourself with good things and never give them a reason to fear you or dislike you.
How To Make Your Bearded Dragon Like You
Even though your bearded dragon might not fall in love with you, you can still establish a solid relationship with them. Here are our favorite ways to start creating a bond with your bearded dragon and get them to really really like you.
1. Establish A Routine Early On
One of the best things that you can do for your pet is to establish a good routine.
Bearded dragons are diurnal animals. That means that they’re awake during the day and asleep during the night. A lot of their health relies on a normal light schedule and a consistent sleeping schedule.
You should make sure that your bearded dragon gets their food and mice turned on around the same time every day. Not only does this help with their physical health but it helps with their mental stress and leads to trust building.
Ideally, handling will happen at the same time every day too. Keeping things steady keeps your bearded dragon calm and happy. Tell her to expect you and might even look forward to the time when you visit them. These routines can help you build bonds with other animals like leopard geckos too!
You don’t want to be surprising your bearded dragon every day. That can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.
2. Make Sure Your Husbandry Is On Point
We can’t stress enough how important good husbandry is in building a bond with your bearded dragon. Beardies are one of the easiest reptiles to take care of and make great pets for beginners. Despite this, there’s definitely room for error since no reptile is really easy to care for.
Bearded dragons need a long horizontal enclosure with plenty of natural light. Even with plenty of light, bearded dragons need UVA/UVB bulbs to keep their vitamin D and calcium levels good. Beardies do well in 35% to 45% relative humidity and like a temperature range from 70°F to 80°F. You’ll want to make sure that the lights are turned off at night so they can get quality sleep.
Maintaining a proper environment for your pet reptile is so important to their mental health. Poor husbandry can cause unnecessary stress and will definitely not leave your pet any time to bond with you. If all of their basic needs are met in captivity they’ll be more likely to form an attachment to you in the meantime.
3. Provide Them With A Good Diet
One of the best ways to get your bearded dragon to like you is to give them the proper diet. Beardies are omnivores and eat a little bit of everything. A typical bearded dragon plate is made up of leafy greens, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, and live insects.
Bearded dragons have their individual preferences and appetites. Juveniles generally need a diet made up of higher protein and need to eat more often. Adults need a more balanced diet and might eat just once a day or once every other day.
You can always supplement your bearded dragon’s plate with some vitamins and minerals. There are plenty of formulations to help support reptiles in captivity. You can talk to your vet about which supplement is right for you and your pet. Vitamins and minerals can help prevent medical issues like metabolic bone disease.
Eventually, you’ll start to figure out what your bearded dragon’s favorite foods are. As long as it doesn’t disrupt your bearded dragon’s diet, you can use their favorite foods for our next steps and how to bond with your bearded dragon.
4. Try Hand Feeding Them
Hand feeding is a solid version of positive reinforcement. Hand feeding creates a direct link between you and your bearded dragon’s favorite treats. It lets your bearded dragon know that you’re the one providing them with something that they like. This will help them trust you, like you, and bond with you.
In theory, hand-feeding is great. However, if done incorrectly hand feeding can lead to accidental biting and unintentional aggression. For bearded dragons, you might not technically want to feed them directly with your hands or fingers. The bearded dragon’s bite is nearly painless, you don’t want them making that mistake of biting your fingers.
So, try hand-feeding your bearded dragon by dropping the food right in front of them piece by piece. You can talk to them while you’re doing this and keep your hand and face near your bearded dragon while you’re eating. Or, you can place the food on your flat hand so that your bearded dragon can’t bite you. You’re basically feeding them in the same way you might feed a horse.
You can also try using tongs to feed your bearded dragon, but if they accidentally bite them they might end up injuring their mouth or teeth, so that’s kind of an advanced skill.
5. Keep Stress To A Minimum
Our next step in how to get your bearded dragon tycoon is to always keep stress at a minimum.
What is this mean for a pet reptile? Our pets don’t have jobs or bills to pay so how did they get stressed?
Stress for a pet reptile usually has to do with their environment. Inside of their tank stressors can be things like an appropriate temperature or humidity. For bearded dragons, as solitary animals, tank mates can also be a great source of stress.
It’s not usually recommended to keep two bearded dragons and one small space. It will eventually lead to stress and aggression which will make your bearded dragons less happy overall.
Stress outside of their tank occurs during handling or while you’re in the room. Things like candles and incense are not good for pet reptiles and should be avoided as they can cause stress.
When handling your bearded dragon try to keep other pets like cats and dogs out of the room. Although it might be tempting, your bearded dragon is still a wild animal that may see a cat or dog as a big predator.
When your bearded dragon is stressed they’re not healthy and they’re not focusing on forming attachments. Keeping stress levels low gives you a much better opportunity to bond with your scaly friend.
6. Practice Good Handling
Handling is always the first thing people think about when trying to bond with their pet reptiles. In reality, handling can be very stressful. But, with the right approach, you can definitely make sure that handling is a positive and bonding experience.
Bearded dragons are wild animals so it’s always a good idea to move slowly when you approach them.
Moving quickly may trigger a prey response in your pet reptile. They might become alert and overexcited. Those aren’t really the states that you want your reptile to be in when you handle them. Don’t dart your hand inside their tank but rather move your hand slowly toward your bearded dragon so they know what’s coming.
Don’t Be Afraid
Even though handling should be slow and thoughtful, you should never be afraid of your bearded dragon.
Animals can definitely sense hesitation and nervousness. It puts them on edge and just creates a cycle where everyone is a little bit more nervous than they need to be. Bearded dragons aren’t carnivores and don’t have very sharp teeth or strong jaws. Their skills aren’t that spiky and they really don’t have many ways to hurt you.
You can move slowly but with confidence when you handle your bearded dragon.
Don’t Overdo it
The last puzzle piece and good handling are to never overdo it. You should start off with handling your bearded dragon for very short segments. Just start with a few minutes at a time with lots of their favorite treats involved.
Your bearded dragon may very well tell you when they’re done being handled. Their beard may turn black, their neck might puff out, or their tail might curl up. These are all signs of aggression and bearded dragons and you should take them as it is that your pet is not up for handling.
7. Create a Special Noise For Your Pet
Bearded dragons have good hearing. You can use this to your advantage when bonding with your pet. Noises are great cues to use to inform your pet of what’s about to come.
You can try snapping your fingers, clicking your tongue on the roof of your mouth, or even investing in a clicker. Basically, you’ll want to use this noise every time you interact with your pet in a positive way. This will help reinforce your relationship and let your bearded dragon know that good things are coming when they hear that sound.
In the future, you can use the sound to teach them other things and maybe to help them navigate stress at the vet’s office. When used right, this sound will help strengthen your bond with your pet.
8. Give Them Space
Our last step and how to make your bearded dragon like you may be a little counterintuitive. Though you’ve spent the last seven steps perfecting their environment and spending time with them, sometimes animals just need a little space.
We mentioned earlier that bearded dragons are solitary creatures in the wild. It’s not natural for these animals to spend too much time with other animals. They’re not like dogs who live in packs but more like cats who roam around independently. As we all know cats sometimes need their alone time.
So, you should always make sure that your bearded dragon has time to retreat and relax each and every day. If your bearded dragon ever showing any signs of aggression when you go to pick them up, I may just need a day off of interacting with you.
How Long Does It Take To Bond With A Bearded Dragon?
It’s hard to say exactly how long it will take for your bearded dragon to form a strong bond with you.
Bearded dragons are all different and may be more or less wild than other individuals. Regardless of their individual personalities, it will definitely take weeks to months to form and establish a relationship with your pet.
Bonding is a long game with plenty of rewards at the end. So be patient and keep following are steps on how to bond with your bearded dragon. Eventually, you’ll be rewarded with an animal that trusts you and is affectionate towards you.
How Do You Know If Your Bearded Dragon Likes You?
The best way to know if your bearded dragon likes you is to observe their body language.
When bearded dragons like you, they’ll let you know. I look at you and stay calm and relaxed. They’ll be OK spending time with you and may even prefer it over spending time alone. Or, you may get a bearded dragon like the one in the video at the beginning of this article who runs to you when you call their name. Then, you’ll definitely be sure that your pet likes you.
In this article, we’ve discussed steps on how to bond with your bearded dragon and how to get them to like you. Technically, your bearded dragon is not capable of true love. That being said bearded dragons are known to form strong attachments with their owners and can definitely bond with humans.
For your bearded dragon to bond with you you need to provide a safe space for them. That includes good husbandry, a good diet, and a low-stress environment. Then you’ll want to start getting them used to the idea that you come with good things like treats and enjoyable petting. Eventually, they’ll start to associate you with all of the positive things in their life.
Though this may take months, it’s definitely worth it. Once your bearded dragon bonds with you, they’re your buddy for life.