Learn The Language Of Bearded Dragons: A Guide To Interpreting Body Language

Bearded dragons are among the most beloved and popular pet reptiles, with their bright eyes, bold coloration, and generally docile nature. They make excellent companions for novice reptile owners as well as experienced herpetoculturists alike.

However, like any other animal, bearded dragons have their own language that must be interpreted in order to understand them better. This guide will provide an overview of how to read the body language of a bearded dragon so that one can form a closer bond with this fascinating creature.

The importance of understanding the body language of a bearded dragon cannot be overstated. By interpreting the signals they give off through posture, movement, and facial expressions, one is able to develop a more meaningful relationship with these animals while also being aware when they may become agitated or fearful.

It is essential knowledge for anyone who owns or interacts with these lizards on a regular basis. With some study and observation, it is possible to learn the nuances of this unique form of communication.

Posture And Movement

Jabba contemplating
Credit: Grady Owens

Bearded dragons are diurnal reptiles native to Australia, and they possess their own unique form of communication. They typically express themselves through body language and vocalizations, which can easily be interpreted by those familiar with the species. Understanding a bearded dragon’s posture and movements is an important step in learning the language of these animals.

Posture and movement are some of the most common ways that bearded dragons communicate with one another or humans. A relaxed or contented beardie will often have its head slightly raised as it looks outward while maintaining a calm demeanor. Its tail may hang loosely at its side without any sign of tension.

When scared or threatened, however, a beardie will tuck its legs underneath itself into a tight ball shape and lower its neck close to the ground so that only the top of its head remains visible. This behavior shows fearfulness and insecurity rather than aggression.

Bearded dragons also use breathing patterns and vocalizations such as hissing, chirping, growling, squawking, barking, croaking, and grunting to indicate how they feel in certain situations. As an example, when happy or curious about something new in their environment, they may make soft noises like purring or clicking sounds accompanied by rapid expansion and contraction of their throat area – otherwise known as “breathing rapidly” – indicating excitement at being presented with something interesting.

On the other hand, loud hisses signify displeasure or distress; this could mean anything from feeling stressed out due to improper environmental conditions (such as too much noise) to simply expressing dislike for particular food items given to them during mealtime.

In short, understanding facial expressions along with postural shifts combined with various sound vibrations produced by bearded dragons enables us to interpret what kind of feelings they’re experiencing within different contexts more accurately.

Arm And Leg Positioning

Four baby bearded dragons
Credit: natural_wanderer

Bearded dragons have several distinct arm and leg positioning behaviors. The most common of these is the use of arms to indicate dominance. When a dragon stands tall with its chest forward, head held high, and legs firmly planted on the ground, it is sending out an aggressive signal that says “I am in charge”.

In addition to this posture, bearded dragons may also extend their necks outward or try to make themselves look bigger by raising their spines. This behavior can be seen as a warning before more extreme measures such as biting or vocalizations are used.

When trying to understand how a bearded dragon might be feeling, observing its legs can provide important clues. A relaxed stance usually involves all four limbs close together near the center of the body, indicating calmness and comfort in the environment.

On the other hand, when threatened, they will often spread their limbs outward while keeping them close to the ground in an effort to appear larger and tougher than they actually are.

Finally, if a bearded dragon feels overwhelmed or scared it will typically curl up into a tight ball allowing limited movement but providing greater protection from predators or perceived threats.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is a key indicator of bearded dragon body language. Bearded dragons often use eye contact to communicate dominance or submission, and can also be used as a form of greeting when one creature approaches another.

When two dragons are engaged in a staring contest, it is usually an indication that they are competing for dominance. Vocal communication may accompany this behavior, with the dominant dragon making loud noises while the other remains silent.

Bearded dragons will typically avoid direct eye contact if they feel threatened by something or someone unknown to them. In these cases, looking away or retreating may occur instead of maintaining eye contact.

If a beardie does not recognize the entity before them, they will likely appear hesitant and unwilling to make further advances until more information has become available about the situation at hand.

In addition to its utility in establishing social hierarchies within their own species, eye contact can be used by bearded dragons to gain attention from humans too. A gentle gaze followed by vocal chirping often indicates that your pet would like some treats or cuddles.

Facial Expressions

Facial expressions are a significant means of communication for bearded dragons. The facial features of this species allow it to express its emotions and intentions in various ways, such as:

  • Nose wrinkling – This expression is often used to indicate displeasure or warning.
  • Mouth gaping – Bearded dragons will open their mouths wide when threatened. It is believed that they do this in order to appear larger than they really are.
  • Eyebrow raising – Raising the eyebrows can be an indication of surprise or fear.
  • Facial puffing – When the dragon puffs out its cheeks, it could mean anything from excitement to aggression.

Bearded dragons use these different facial expressions in combination with one another to convey their feelings more effectively. For example, if a bearded dragon raises its eyebrows and wrinkles its nose simultaneously, it may be indicating confusion or uncertainty about something.

Tail Twitching

Bearded dragons use tail twitching as a form of communication. This behavior is typically seen in territorial disputes or when they are looking to attract potential mates. It serves multiple purposes, but it is important to note that there can be different causes and benefits associated with this type of body language.

Territorial DisputesAttracting Potential Mates
Excitement/FrightenedSignaling Presence/Location
Attention SeekingIndicating Size
Reassuring Others

The cause for tail twitching ranges from signaling the presence or location of an individual dragon to indicating its size within a group setting. In some cases, it may also be used by one bearded dragon trying to show dominance over another – either physically or psychologically.

Additionally, if an individual has been startled or scared, then their tail may twitch as a reaction. Lastly, attention-seeking behaviors such as begging for food often result in tail twitching.

Benefits associated with using tail twitching include attracting potential mates and reassuring others who might be nearby. For instance, if two individuals interact frequently enough then the dominant partner will sometimes flick its tail back and forth as a sign of trust between them both.

Similarly, courting rituals involving several possible partners start off with subtle displays of body language which includes their tails flicking about in order to demonstrate their physical prowess and better chance of survival among other suitors vying for the same mate.

During social interactions amongst many bearded dragons at once this behavior allows those present to understand each other’s relative sizes without having to engage in any direct conflict.

Head Bobbing

Head bobbing is an important form of body language for bearded dragons. It is a communication tool often used to indicate submission, typically in response to the presence of another dragon or human.

A beardie will commonly lower its head and quickly raise it again in repetitive motions when confronted by something intimidating or foreign. Additionally, this behavior may be accompanied by other nonverbal cues such as licking lips and turning their head away from the object of intimidation.

It is important for pet owners to understand that if their dragon displays these behaviors, they should not attempt to physically interact with them. Instead, they should move slowly and speak softly so as not to further cause distress.

Allowing the dragon time and space can help ensure that they feel secure enough to approach on their own terms. Doing so also allows the owner insight into how trustworthy the animal finds them.

Opening And Closing Of The Jaw

The head bobbing of the bearded dragon is a clear sign of communication and is often followed by another body language display. The opening and closing of their jaw, also known as gaping, is one such display that can be used to interpret what the dragons are attempting to say.

Gaping typically indicates an aggressive stance from the dragon, but in some cases, it may indicate fear or anxiety. This behavior can vary depending on the age and size of the beardie; for example, juveniles will open their mouths wide for dominance over small prey items like crickets while adults may only slightly open their mouths when feeling threatened.

When surrounded by other bearded dragons, you might see them performing this gape-like behavior indicating submission to avoid conflict.

In addition to its visual cues, mouth sounds and vocalizations may accompany gaping behaviors. These noises are most commonly heard during mating season when male beardies attempt to attract females with low-pitched growls or hissing noises made with their mouths closed or partially opened.

It’s important to note that if these vocalizations become too loud or prolonged then they could signal distress so keep an eye out for any accompanying body language which could confirm whether this vocalization is positive or negative.

Arm Waving

Bearded dragons often communicate through arm waving. This behavior is typically seen when two bearded dragons come into close proximity to one another. Arm waving involves the dragon extending its arms outward, keeping them elevated off the ground for a few seconds before bringing them back in towards its body.

When observed in captivity, this behavior can be an indicator that the dragon senses a potential threat from either scent marking or territorial defense from other nearby dragons.

This type of communication helps determine social hierarchy among multiple male and female bearded dragons living together. It can also be used as a form of greeting between two familiar individuals to show non-hostile intentions.

In addition, it’s believed to be part of the courtship ritual during mating season, where males may perform arm waves at females with frequency and enthusiasm as a sign of dominance over competing suitors and establish hierarchical order among themselves.

Arm waves are sometimes accompanied by head bobs which consist of nodding movements made while rising up on all four legs and then returning to normal ground posture again.

These movements are typically used to intimidate others or demonstrate submission when faced with more dominant individuals within their respective hierarchies. As such, these behaviors help maintain peace amongst groups of different age classes within captive settings without resorting to physical confrontation or aggression.

Color Changes

Bearded dragons are capable of expressing their emotions through physical body language, including arm waving.

In addition to this behavior, they also possess the ability to change colors in order to communicate with other individuals. Color changes can be seen as an extension of both a bearded dragon’s mood and environment.

Color changes come in various forms, from lightening or darkening according to the intensity with which a bearded dragon wants to convey its message. At times it may even appear that scales have changed color, due to the scaling pattern on their bodies.

These patterns help magnify the effect of coloration shifts, further enhancing the communication process between beardies.

Vocalizing behaviors such as hissing or clicking are often associated with these color changes; usually when darting becomes more intense and there is a need for heightened communication.

Submissive Postures

Bearded dragons, like most reptiles, communicate primarily through body language. Submissive postures are one of the primary ways in which a bearded dragon expresses submission or fear of another dragon.

These postures can vary depending on the situation and include:

  1. Hiding its head under its arm
  2. Lying flat on the ground with limbs tucked underneath them
  3. Raising its front legs up toward its face as if in surrender
  4. Basking behaviors that indicate they do not feel threatened by others

In cases where two bearded dragons meet each other for the first time, it is common to observe submissive behavior such as hiding their heads or lying flat on the ground. This type of behavior limits territorial disputes between two unfamiliar dragons and allows them to become comfortable with each other’s presence over time.

In contrast, when two familiar bearded dragons come into contact with each other it is more likely that they will display basking behaviors as an indication that they don’t feel threatened due to previous interactions.

By interpreting these types of behaviors correctly, owners can gain insight into how their pet may be feeling at any given moment and provide appropriate levels of support accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Know If My Bearded Dragon Is Trying To Communicate With Me?

Handling cues and environmental needs can be used to help discern if a Bearded Dragon is attempting to communicate.

When a Bearded Dragon turns toward its handler, this could signify interest in contact or an attempt at communication.

Additionally, when the reptile’s body language appears calm and relaxed while near the handler, it may be indicative of comfort in their presence which could also mean they are trying to converse with them.

Furthermore, observing how the dragon reacts to changes in the environment such as heat lamps being switched off or on can provide insight into whether they are conveying something important.

What Is The Best Way To Handle A Bearded Dragon?

The best way to handle a bearded dragon is to understand its environmental needs and socializing habits.

Bearded dragons are generally docile creatures, but they can become stressed when handled in an improper manner. To ensure that the lizard remains calm during handling, it should be done gently and slowly with minimal disruption of its natural environment.

Properly socialized lizards tend to respond well to human contact, so providing ample opportunity for interaction is important for developing a trusting relationship between the handler and the animal.

How Often Should I Feed My Bearded Dragon?

Bearded dragons require a diet consisting of both insects and vegetables, with the latter making up approximately 25-50% of their daily intake.

Insects should be fed once or twice per day, while vegetables can be offered as much as three times in smaller portions than that of the insects.

Is There A Difference Between Male And Female Bearded Dragon Body Language?

When discussing the differences in body language between male and female bearded dragons, it is important to note that these animals display distinct social cues.

While there are some subtle variations in their body language based on gender, the primary difference lies in how they interact with other bearded dragons of the same sex.

Male bearded dragons tend to be more territorial than females and may become aggressive when competing for resources or territory.

Conversely, female bearded dragons typically demonstrate less aggression towards members of their own species while displaying behaviors such as head bobbing and circling which indicate submission or a desire to mate.

In both cases, recognizing these gender-specific social cues can help owners better understand their pets’ behavior and provide them with an improved quality of life.

How Can I Tell If My Bearded Dragon Is In Pain?

In determining whether a bearded dragon is in pain, it is important to consider its dietary needs and environmental stress. Bearded dragons require specific types of food, such as live insects and leafy green vegetables, as well as heat and ultraviolet light sources to maintain their health.

When these requirements are not met or the beardie experiences excessive levels of stress, signs of discomfort may become apparent. These include weight loss, lack of appetite, increased aggression towards other animals and humans, self-mutilation behaviors (e.g., biting off limbs), trembling or shaking, lethargy, mouth gaping, or open-mouth breathing for extended periods of time.

If any of these symptoms persist over several days or weeks despite attempting to improve the animal’s living conditions, veterinary attention should be sought.


Bearded dragons are fascinating animals that can be rewarding to keep as pets. While they may lack the vocal abilities of other species, their body language is just as rich and complex.

Learning the language of bearded dragons allows owners to better understand and respond to their needs and emotions. By understanding how a bearded dragon communicates through its movements and behaviors, it is possible for an owner to create a safe, healthy environment for them.

The key is observing your pet’s behavior regularly so that any changes in posture or attitude can be recognized quickly and acted upon accordingly. With appropriate care and attention, owning a bearded dragon can become a deeply fulfilling experience.