How To Read Bearded Dragon Body Language: 10 Signs To Look For

Bearded dragons are a type of lizard native to Australia that have become popular as pets in the last few decades. Understanding their body language is an important part of being able to properly care for them and ensure they remain healthy, happy members of the family.

This article will provide insight into how to read bearded dragon body language by looking at 10 signs which indicate different emotional states. It can also be used as a helpful guide when interacting with these reptiles.

By understanding the signals given off by bearded dragons it is possible to recognize if they feel scared, aggressive or curious, among other things. Knowing what each signal means can help pet owners create the best environment for these lizards and give them the respect and care they deserve.

The following sections will discuss further how to interpret bearded dragon body language and explain why it is so important.

Open Mouth

Eastern Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata)
Credit: Brissy Girl – Jan Anderson

Bearded dragons can communicate in various ways, including through body language. Gaping of the mouth is one form of communication used by this species to express their emotions and intentions.

This behavior involves opening the animal’s mouth wide, with its tongue often visible inside. The frequency and intensity of gaping may indicate different states such as stress or aggression.

Various types of mouth movements have been observed in bearded dragons when communicating with others. For example, a slow sideways movement of the jaw has been linked to submission in dominant-subordinate interactions while rapid side-to-side movements are associated with courtship behaviors such as head bobbing displays during mating rituals.

In some cases, gaping can be used to appear larger than normal and intimidate potential opponents or threats to safety.

It is important for owners to understand these signs so that they can identify any changes in behavior that might provide insight into how their pet is feeling at any given time. By understanding their body language, it is possible for people to better assess the needs of their pets and provide them with appropriate care and support accordingly.

Arm Waving

Lionel the bearded dragon
Credit: Kyle Lumb

Arm waving is a behavior that is often observed in bearded dragons, particularly during the morning and early evening. This behavior is believed to be an attempt to communicate with other dragons, as well as a way to establish dominance.

Interpretation of arm-waving behavior can depend on the context in which it is observed, as well as any accompanying body language or vocalizations. Possible causes of arm waving in bearded dragons may include territoriality, courtship, or other forms of communication.

It is important to note that arm waving may also be seen as a form of aggression, and can be a sign that the dragon is feeling threatened. Further research is needed to better understand the causes and interpretations of arm waving in bearded dragons.

Arm Waving

Arm waving is one of the most common postures adopted by bearded dragons when they are trying to communicate. This behavior involves a dragon extending its arm in an upward motion and then slowly lowering it back down. The duration and intensity of this movement can vary but usually lasts between two and five seconds.

Arm waving has been observed in both wild and captive dragons, indicating that this is a natural behavior for these animals. This gesture serves several purposes.

Firstly, it may be used as a way for dragons to greet each other or establish dominance over their peers. It also helps regulate body temperature, allowing them to move warm air away from their bodies while cooling off during hot temperatures outside their enclosure.

Arm waving can indicate curiosity or distress depending on the situation; if another animal approaches too quickly or aggressively, a dragon may wave its arms in an attempt to ward them off.

When observing arm waving in any species of lizard, it is important to consider the context of the situation before making assumptions about what it means. Paying attention to how the animal reacts after performing the action will help you understand what message they are trying to convey.


Interpretation of arm-waving behavior in bearded dragons is complex and requires careful observation.

To properly assess the meaning behind a dragon’s posturing, one must consider both social cues and body language.

A slow-motioned wave with no other signs of aggression may mean that the dragon is trying to greet another or establish dominance over them; meanwhile, a more vigorous movement could indicate curiosity or distress.

If accompanied by other behaviors such as hissing or tail flicking, it is likely that the dragon is attempting to ward off an intruder who has approached too quickly or aggressively.

It should be noted that these interpretations are based on observed patterns rather than definitive evidence, so further research into this topic is needed to draw meaningful conclusions about what messages certain postures convey in bearded dragons.


Arm-waving behavior in bearded dragons can have a variety of causes.

Overcrowding and poor diet are two common factors that lead to this behavior; both of these can create an environment that is stressful for the animal, leading it to display posturing as a way to cope with its situation.

Studies have found that when placed in crowded conditions or deprived of adequate nutrition, bearded dragons are more likely to wave their arms as opposed to when they are kept in spacious enclosures and provided ample amounts of food.

Additionally, if multiple dragons inhabit the same space, arm waving may be used as a form of competition between them for resources.

In other cases, it has been observed that arm waving serves as a means by which distressed animals signal their discomfort or displeasure over something specific happening in their environment.

As such, it appears that there is no single cause for this behavior but rather many potential triggers depending on the individual dragon’s living circumstances.

Head Bobbing

Bearded dragon.
Credit: Pablo Reinsch

Arm waving is one of the primary body language signals that bearded dragons use to communicate with other animals and humans. After looking at arm waving, it’s important to understand another common signal: head bobbing.

Head bobbing is a nodding behavior typically seen when a bearded dragon is exploring its environment or when asserting dominance over others in the same space. When a bearded dragon bobs its head, this can indicate that it is comfortable in its surroundings and not afraid of any perceived threats.

Bearded dragons may also exhibit head bobbing as part of their sleeping posture. This type of nodding behavior indicates that they are relaxed and secure enough to take a nap without fear of being disturbed by predators or intruders.

It could also be interpreted as an indication of contentment; since beardies often sleep curled up into tight balls, gently nodding their heads while doing so suggests satisfaction with their current situation.

Head bobbing should generally be considered positive behavior from your pet, though too much motion can mean they’re feeling anxious or threatened. If you notice your pet exhibiting excessive head bobbing, make sure there aren’t any potential threats nearby, such as loud noises or unfamiliar people in the area.

Taking these precautions will help ensure your pet feels safe and secure in its home environment.

Darkening Of The Beard

Bearded dragons display a variety of signs to communicate their emotions through body language. One sign is the darkening of the beard, which may be seen in both males and females. This darkening often occurs as part of regrowth cycles, when new spines emerge on the dragon’s face or chin area.

Color changes are also associated with darker colorations of the bearded dragon’s beard. This can range from light brown to deep black, depending on the individual dragon’s coloring. It is believed that this behavior is used by dragons to indicate dominance and aggression towards other dragons they encounter.

Darkening of the beard is usually not cause for alarm unless it becomes persistent and does not return back to normal once the situation has calmed down. If this happens, then it could possibly be an indicator that something else is wrong in terms of health or stress levels within your pet bearded dragon; thus, it would be wise to consult with an experienced veterinarian who specializes in reptile care before any further actions are taken.

Flattened Ears

Bearded dragons have the ability to communicate their feelings by flattening their ears.

This can be a sign of fear or aggression, but can also indicate other emotions.

The cause of flattened ears in bearded dragons can be attributed to a variety of internal and external stimuli.

To properly interpret flattened ears in bearded dragons, it is important to observe the environment and body language of the animal for additional clues.

What Causes Flattened Ears

Bearded dragons are typically known for their impressive displays of body language; flattened ears are among these signals. Flattened ears indicate a negative emotional state and can be caused by sudden changes or environmental stressors. These two triggers often act together to cause the dragon’s defensive behavior, which is displayed by flattening its ears against its head.

The external ear flap may also move downward, further signifying distress. Rapid movements such as changing temperatures, loud noises, unfamiliar animals or people nearby, and other potential threats may lead to this response in bearded dragons.

In addition, environmental stressors like overcrowding with too many dragons in an enclosure or inadequate lighting levels could contribute to the occurrence of flattened ears.

It is important to note that not all cases of flattened ears mean the animal is experiencing fear; some instances can simply be indicators of general discomfort due to hunger or illness. Therefore it is essential for owners to observe the entire context and environment before assuming a negative emotion has been triggered.

How To Interpret Flattened Ears

Interpreting flattened ears in bearded dragons requires careful observation of the animal’s behavior and environment.

If a dragon is displaying flattened ears, it may be due to fear or distress caused by external stressors such as loud noises, sudden changes in temperature, overcrowding, or inadequate lighting levels.

Alternatively, lack of movement combined with territorial behavior could signify general discomfort unrelated to negative emotion.

It is important for owners to observe their dragon’s body language carefully along with its immediate context before jumping to conclusions about its emotional state.

Knowing how to interpret these signals can help owners better understand the needs of their pets and provide them with appropriate care accordingly.


Hissing is an important visual cue for understanding bearded dragon body language. It serves two main purposes: fear-based and territorial hissing.

Fear-based hissing occurs when a bearded dragon feels threatened, scared or startled. This type of hiss is characterized by short and quick exhales with the mouth closed.

Territorial hissing usually happens in response to another animal encroaching on their space or territory; it involves opening the mouth wide and producing a louder sound than that fear-based hissing.

Bearded dragons are solitary animals and they can become possessive over their environment, so territorial issues may arise if there is more than one bearded dragon living together in close quarters.

Be sure to provide enough hiding places, perches, basking spots, and food sources to reduce competition between them. If multiple lizards are housed together, watch out for signs of aggression like head bobs, arm waving, pushing each other away from resources as well as territorial hissing.

It’s important to note that while some owners may think positive reinforcement such as treats will help teach their pet not to be aggressive towards others, this could actually make matters worse – especially when competing for food or territories – since rewards reinforce undesired behavior in these cases.

Therefore it’s best to keep a vigilant eye out for any signs of aggression among your reptiles before things escalate into physical fights where injury can occur.

Puffing Out The Chest

One of the most common body language signs for a bearded dragon is puffing out its chest. This can be seen as an attempt to appear larger and more intimidating, which serves as a defensive posture towards perceived threats or sources of stress. It is typically accompanied by other behaviors such as mouth gaping or bobbing their head.

When a bearded dragon puffs out its chest, it does so in order to make itself look bigger than it actually is. To do this, the beardie will use its forelimbs to spread open its ribs making them appear wider and flatter. Its tail may also become slightly raised with scales standing on end along its spine in order to create an even more impressive illusion of size.

The combination of these physical postures creates a formidable display that can serve as either a warning signal or a deterrent to potential predators. In some cases, it may even be used simply to reinforce dominance within social groups; however, when combined with additional behaviors such as mouth gaping or bobbing their head, it usually indicates fear or aggression in response to external stimuli.

A list of items associated with the behavior includes:

  • Mouth gaping
  • Defensive posture
  • Bobbing head
  • Tail flicking

Tail Waving

Tail waving is a common behavior in bearded dragons, and is often used as a sign of communication.

Tail waving can vary in meaning depending on the posture of the dragon, with different postures indicating different levels of emotion and/or intent.

In general, a vertical tail wave indicates a dragon is feeling aggressive or alert, while a horizontal tail wave is usually a sign of submission.

The frequency of tail waving can also be used to interpret the dragon’s feelings, with quick, short waves indicating excitement and longer, slower waves indicating a more relaxed state.

Tail Waving Meaning

The tail is an important indicator of the bearded dragon’s body language.

Tail waving is a sign of excitement and relaxation, which can be seen when the lizard basks in the sun or enjoys environmental enrichment.

When observing a bearded dragon, it is possible to identify tail waving as the tip of its tail moves rapidly from side to side like a fan.

If a beardie feels relaxed and comfortable, their tail will make more vigorous movements than if they were feeling stressed or threatened.

Relaxation techniques such as providing them with plenty of heat and UVB lighting while also offering environmental enrichment activities can help reduce stress levels and increase comfort for your pet reptile.

Additionally, some owners have found that offering treats during these times helps promote positive reinforcement behaviors in their pets.

By recognizing signs of tail-waving, one can gain insight into how their bearded dragons are feeling and respond appropriately with environmental changes or calming techniques accordingly.

Tail Waving Posture

In addition to tail waving being an indicator of the bearded dragon’s body language, it is also a sign of shedding behavior. During this process, their tails will wave more slowly as they shed dead skin and scales. Therefore, proper UVB exposure for your pet lizard is important in order for them to complete the shedding process correctly.

Furthermore, when beardies are in the lower basking spots with low-intensity light levels, their tails may not move at all or only slightly sway from side to side. This can be seen as a sign of relaxation and comfort when observing these lizards.

Puffed Up Body

The next sign of a bearded dragon’s body language to look for is its puffed-up body. This occurs when the reptile feels threatened and is trying to intimidate other animals or humans.

In this state, they will stretch out all four limbs and raise them off the ground while arching their back. Their tail may also curl inwards toward their chest as an additional act of intimidation. They might also open their mouth slightly and hiss at whatever it perceives as a threat.

Stretching of the limbs is an obvious indicator that your lizard is feeling defensive or aggressive. When stretched out, they become more visible which can be intimidating to other animals who are smaller than them.

The same applies if they puff up while bowing down with their head raised and mouth opened; this could mean they’re preparing to strike something or someone perceived as a threat.

Bearded dragons use these behaviors to protect themselves from danger. It can be helpful for owners to learn how to recognize these signs so that interactions between them and their pets are safe for both parties involved.

Understanding what kinds of actions provoke reactions like these can aid in providing better care for a pet beardie by avoiding situations where they feel threatened or scared.

Licking Or Rubbing The Face

Bearded dragons may demonstrate their contentment and happiness by licking or rubbing their face. This behavior is often seen when a bearded dragon feels comfortable in its environment, and it is considered to be a sign of social grooming. Bearded dragons can extend this behavior past their own faces; they will sometimes lick other surfaces such as rocks, logs, furniture, and even people if given the chance.

The following are some behaviors associated with facial licking:

  • Licking lips or beard repeatedly
  • Rubbing chin against another surface
  • Tilting head when approaching a new object, person, or animal
  • Drooling while leaning towards something

It is important to note that this behavior should not be mistaken for aggression. If your bearded dragon licks you in an affectionate manner then chances are they have formed an attachment to you and feel safe around you.

Facial licking is generally just one way that bearded dragons express themselves and show how happy they are in their current environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Optimal Temperature For A Bearded Dragon?

When discussing the optimal temperature range and thermal gradient for a bearded dragon, it is important to consider its natural environment.

This type of lizard inhabits deserts in Australia and other nearby countries; therefore, they require hot temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night.

The ideal daytime temperature for a bearded dragon should be between 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit (29-35 °C). At nighttime, this can drop to around 70–75°F (21–24°C).

A basking spot under an ultraviolet light should reach up to 110°F (43°C) in order to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D3 production.

There must also be a thermal gradient within its habitat where one side remains cool while the other is warm, as well as hiding spots that provide shade.

How Often Should A Bearded Dragon Be Fed?

Bearded dragons have certain dietary needs that should be taken into consideration in order to ensure a healthy lifestyle.

It is generally recommended that they are fed every other day when they are young, and as adults, they can typically maintain their diet on an alternating daily basis.

To supplement their meals, bearded dragons require access to various sources of lighting and sunbathing areas so they may obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals for optimal growth.

Additionally, providing them with high-quality greens, fruits, insects or protein-rich foods like mealworms will help keep them nourished.

What Type Of Habitat Do Bearded Dragons Require?

Bearded dragons require enclosures that are at least 40 gallons in size, and the enclosure should provide a temperature gradient from 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit.

The enclosure also needs to have a basking spot with an overhead light source providing UVB rays for about 12 hours per day.

UVA lighting can be provided as well, but this is not necessary if the dragon has access to natural sunlight throughout the day.

Additionally, it is important to ensure proper humidity levels of 30%-40%, as bearded dragons need some moisture in order to stay hydrated and healthy.

How Long Should A Bearded Dragon Be Handled Each Day?

When handling a bearded dragon, it is important to follow certain techniques. Generally, the amount of time spent handling should not exceed twenty minutes per day as any more can be stressful for the animal.

It is recommended that during this period of time, an observer looks out for signs of stress in order to ensure the wellbeing and safety of both the handler and the reptile. These include puffing up their beard, hissing or arching their back when touched, tail twitching, and increased movement speed.

If these behaviors are observed then it is best to immediately stop handling and return them to their habitat.

What Type Of Food Should A Bearded Dragon Eat?

Bearded dragons, a type of monitor lizard indigenous to Australia, are omnivores and require both plant-based matter and insects in their diet.

A good supplemental diet should include:

  • Leafy greens like turnip or mustard greens, collard greens, kale, and dandelion
  • Vegetables such as squash, zucchini, bell peppers
  • Fruits like apples and melons
  • Cooked lean meats
  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Wax worms
  • Silkworms
  • Roaches
  • Grasshoppers and locusts

Additionally, bearded dragon owners must be aware of signs of stress when feeding the animal that may indicate it is not receiving an adequate diet.

These signs can include:

  • Aggressive behavior when food is presented
  • Lack of appetite for meals provided by its owner
  • Weight loss or malnutrition
  • Poor physical condition including thinness or flaking skin.


In conclusion, it is important to understand the needs of a bearded dragon in order to keep them healthy.

To ensure optimal temperature and habitat conditions, environmental temperatures should range between 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit and be kept dry with plenty of hiding spots.

Additionally, they should be fed according to their age and size; juveniles require more frequent feeding than adults.

Last but not least, handling time should generally last no longer than 15 minutes per day and consist only of nutritious insects or vegetables.

By understanding what a bearded dragon requires, owners can better interpret their body language which will ultimately lead to stronger owner-pet bonds.

With proper care and attention, a pet beardie’s life expectancy may increase significantly as well as improve quality of life for both human and reptile companion alike.