Showing and receiving affection is the ultimate goal of owning a pet. Most people love to keep pets that are friendly, easy to handle, and tolerant of human interactions.
One of the animals that have grown to become a favorite pet for most individuals is the bearded dragon.
However, one thing that every new bearded dragon owner wants to know is whether these lizards are affectionate and can display emotions.
This guide will go into the nitty-gritty and explore the bearded dragon’s ability to show affection. With claims that most reptiles don’t have the mental capacity to process emotions, can they really show love to their owners?
Herpetologists and pet lovers who have kept bearded dragons at one point in their life agree that bearded dragons have feelings.
They can show affection, happiness, fear, and even anger. It depends on how they’re treated when displaying affection to their owners.
However, beardies’ bond and companionship with humans are not the same as those of other pets such as cats and dogs.
Do Bearded Dragons Have Feelings?
Yes, bearded dragons can have feelings and show affectionate but to a certain level only. According to scientific literature and studies, most reptiles, including bearded dragons, have an underdeveloped hypothalamus, which means they are not capable of forging emotional connections fully.
Since bearded dragons led solitary lives in the Australian deserts, there was no evolutional benefit of developing an emotional part in their brains.
But because evolution is an ongoing process, beardies brought up in captivity have developed emotionally, even more than the other reptiles.
Many bearded dragon owners claim that their lizards have, in many occurrences, shown affection and a wide range of emotions.
This has proved that their emotional responses and reactions will depend on whoever they interact with and their inherent personalities.
The baseline is that these creatures can be tamed and trained to show affection, but their personality will determine whether they value and bearded dragons enjoy the company their owners offer.
Recent research by Hungarian researchers who collaborated with the University of Lincoln in the UK revealed that bearded dragons could mimic social behavior.
This means that they boast the emotional development that can aid them in creating bonds with humans and other pets.
Do Bearded Dragons Show Affection to their Keepers?
Bearded dragons will not run to you wagging their tail or whining when you cuddle them like dogs and cats, but they also have their way of showing affection.
Don’t expect beardies to stay by your side and show loyalty like dogs. However, you’ll notice that your bearded dragon enjoys having some precious time with you.
According to anecdotal data and experiences from various bearded dragon owners, there’s no doubt that reptiles will show love to their owners.
For example, when you’re coming to feed your beardie, you’ll notice that it is trying to meet you halfway.
Once they get comfortable around you, they’ll even begin to curl up your neck, sit on your lap, and seek your comfort when frightened.
Since beardies are not your usual pet, you need to learn how to read their emotional cues. To understand whether your lizard is affectionate or angry, you’ll need to understand what each body language or gesture means.
And just like all the other animals, how bearded dragons relate to you will depend on individual traits.
While some lizards are more curious and ready to bond, others will take time to drop guard and show affection to their owners.
How Do You Know If Your Bearded Dragon Trusts You?
If you want to create a strong bond with your bearded dragon, you should be able to read their signs and behaviors and respond accordingly.
The first sign that your bearded dragon trusts and likes you is by getting comfortable around you.
The bearded dragon will remain calm and relaxed even when you come closer or touch it.
Besides getting comfortable, bearded dragons will display other behaviors that tell you they appreciate and have a lot of affection for you. A bearded dragon likes and trusts you will show these signs:
1. It won’t run away when you come close
The first sign that your bearded dragon trusts you and is happy being around you is not running away when it sees you.
Before bearded dragons get used to their new environment, they often take a flight and hide when they know the owner is approaching.
However, when they get used to the owner showing them affection and feeding them, they develop a strong bond that allows them to remain calm when you’re around.
If your beardie runs away or hides when you approach its terrarium, it is clear that it still fears you and hasn’t developed affection towards you.
2. They won’t mind being massaged or picked up
Before you create rapport with your bearded dragon, it won’t let you touch it, let alone hoist it up. You’ll know that your bearded dragon likes you if it remains relaxed when you start petting it or lift it off the ground.
If the bearded dragon is not comfortable, you should expect disturbing leg movements and lots of wiggling when you try to lift it.
Some lizards will even dash and hide when you try putting a hand on them.
As long as your beardie doesn’t show resentment or look uncomfortable when you’re handling it, that’s enough proof that it feels safe and is affectionate towards you.
3. Sitting comfortably on your lap or shoulder for an extended period
A happy and affectionate bearded dragon will enjoy every moment around you. The bearded dragon will climb up your thigh, chest, or shoulders and stay put for an extended period.
Once a beardie gets comfortable and bonds with you, it won’t want to leave your side.
Once a bearded dragon starts climbing over your body and resting on the part of your body that they deem comfortable, this is a sign that they are happy, contented, and affectionate towards you.
Sometimes the beardies take the trust to the next level by falling asleep on your lap, chest, or shoulder.
4. Coming to you
Another behavior that indicates that your bearded dragon has gone bonkers about you is coming to you as you edge closer.
Actually, most pet owners consider this a commendable milestone in their relationship with beardies.
Usually, when beardies are yet to create a bond with their keepers, they react in various ways when they see them approaching. This includes;
- Running away
- Staying completely still
- Arm waving
- Opening the mouth, producing a hissing sound, and even darkening their beards.
When you see lizards reacting this way, this is a sign of being defensive and or a pointer that they’re stressed.
And beardies will be frightened and defensive if they perceive you as predators. Once you train and bond with your lizard, it will come to you and even beg you to pick it up.
5. Eating, basking, sleeping, and pooping normally
Before a bearded dragon gets acquainted and bonds with its owner, it might experience seeping, eating, pooping, and basking difficulties. The creature might hide and won’t come out to eat or bask.
However, when they settle, get comfortable, and bond with their owners, bearded dragons will savor all comforts of living in captivity.
They will even enjoy being fed by hand. If your bearded dragon can perform all the integral functions, even when you’re around, this is a sign that they are thriving and fully contented.
6. Exuding Positive Signs
A happy, comfortable, and affectionate beardie will produce positive signs when you’re around. If your beardie stands on its hind legs and starts glass surfing when you approach its enclosure, this might indicate that it wants to spend some time outside the cage.
Conversely, if the eyes are wide open and the pupil dilated, it’s trying to show interest and feels relaxed when you’re around.
However, when the mouth is wide open or when the beard is puffed up, this is a sign that the beardie is agitated or scared of you.
A bearded dragon will only display positive signs if it already feels a connection with the owner. If it shows negative behavior, it hasn’t trusted you yet, and you need to do more to build a long-lasting bond.
Can Bearded Dragons Get Attached?
Yes, bearded dragons can be attached to their keepers and other animals. Many pet owners have narrated how their bearded dragons have shown affection by seeking attention to cuddle or even sleeping beside them outside their cages.
We don’t need science to accept that we can create a strong bond between bearded dragons and us.
Most pet owners have done it, and there are several videos on the internet to prove that bearded dragons and humans can be friends.
The unfortunate thing is that only a handful of people recognize when a reptile species is attached to them since their kind of affection shown is different from what they get from mammals such as dogs and cats.
However, we need to remember that since bearded dragons are sentient beings, we should be conscious of our decisions since they can directly impact the care and well-being of these lizards. Unfortunately, these creatures are sensitive and can quickly get stressed.
Never Confuse These Behaviors with Affection
Not all bearded dragon behaviors display affection. Sometimes you might think that your lizard is doing something to show trust, but it’s doing quite the opposite.
Most of the signs we’ll discuss in this section indicate that your relationship hasn’t yet reached a comfort zone, and you’ll need to up your game with the bearded dragon.
Some of the behaviors to look for include;
1. Head Bobbing
You might find it funny and even crack up when you see your beardie head bobbing, but this is one aggressive behavior that you shouldn’t find humorous.
When your bearded dragon is head bobbing, it’s trying to enlarge itself in readiness for a fight. So, if you see notice such behavior, don’t try to handle your bearded dragon or do anything that may seem threatening.
Instead of pressing the bearded dragon to interact with you, you should let them calm down.
Additionally, you can do things that will help them cozy up to you and get comfortable when you come around.
However, you must remember that bearded dragons can bob their heads for other reasons. It’s up to you to determine whether they are doing it every time or just when you approach them.
A bearded dragon can bob its head when threatening another animal, showing submission, or acknowledging other bearded dragons.
2. Arm Waving
This is the most confusing signal from your bearded dragon. Usually, arm-waving is a greeting or an okay sign in human beings.
In bearded dragons, it’s also a positive sign, but one that indicates the bearded dragon isn’t going to attack you.
While people think that arm-waving is a good sign, it is usually a submissive behavior.
When a beardie waves its arm, it simply tells you that it has accepted that you’re the dominant figure and you have its respect.
The wave means that the lizard is scared, and it will be hard for it to trust and be comfortable around you. Although the beardie won’t be aggressive towards you, it won’t interact with you freely like a friend.
3. Nipping/Light Biting
Bearded dragons are known to nip-bite the females when mating, and this behavior is often considered acceptable by most bearded dragon owners.
Sometimes the beardies may extend the nipping behavior to their keepers. You might consider it a sign of affection or love, but this is not true.
When bearded dragons start light biting you, this is a clear sign that they are under undue stress. If you don’t take action, they will soon graduate to full bites, which may be painful and nocuous.
Since bearded dragons don’t communicate, some people think that hissing is one of their ways of showing affection and appreciation.
However, just like head bobbing, hissing is aggressive behavior that shows that your beardie is stressed, frightened, or agitated.
Although not all bearded dragons hiss, you should never approach or try to handle a bearded dragon when it’s hissing.
You’ll need to give it sweat treats so that it calms down. You can also frequent its enclosure so that it understands that you don’t mean it any harm.
What to Do If You Notice That Your Bearded Dragon Doesn’t Love You?
If you’re yet to see your bearded dragon showing affection, don’t panic. These things take time.
You should be aware that the way bearded dragons display love differs from one lizard to the other.
Luckily, there are a few tips to strengthen your bond with your bearded dragon.
If you have been trying to cozy up to your bearded dragon without any results, here are some insightful tips:
1. Handle Your Bearded Dragon Regularly
One unique thing about bearded dragons is that they can recognize you by your scent. However, you need to hold and massage your beardies regularly for this to happen.
These lizards will only be comfortable around you if you handle them often.
While they may be resistant in the first few days or weeks, they will ease up to being held once they start recognizing your scent.
If you want to hit the handling milestones of your relationship with the bearded dragon faster, let your bearded dragon out of the cage and let it rest on your arm or lap as you stroke and massage its back.
2. Feed Your Dragon Yourself
Bearded dragons love and enjoy eating. For this reason, they’ll always feel an attraction toward the person who feeds them.
An excellent way to get your bearded dragon to like you is to make a feeding routine where you show up with a bag of feeder insects and vegetables at a given time.
More importantly, they will feel more connected to you if you start feeding them by the hand.
The more your beardie gets to see you come around with delicacies, the more it will feel affectionate towards you.
However, the caveat is to make sure that your bearded dragon is not agitated before you start feeding it by hand.
3. Let Your Beardie Walk On Your Body
Once your lizard feels comfortable and shows you some trust, you need to reciprocate by letting it walk on you. You can place it on your arm and let it walk up to your shoulders and even down to your chest.
As the bearded dragon moves around your body, it might familiarize itself with your scent and hopefully feel some attachment towards you.
However, don’t let your dragon pass over your mouth or eyes as it might leave some Salmonella bacteria, leading to serious stomach infections.
4. Let the Beardie Come Out of the Cage
Since bearded dragons come from a habitat that allows them to roam around and get fresh air whenever they feel like it, they usually get bored staying in enclosed cages.
Letting them out of the terrarium provides a reprieve as they can now scour the surroundings and exercise.
Additionally, you can take advantage of the time when they are out of the cage to stroke, pet bearded dragon, and massage them.
When lizards notice that you’re always the one who comes to take them out of the tank, they will start developing some bond. They’ll always be waiting for you to take them out.
5. Surprise Your Bearded Dragon with Treats
Treats work wonders for both humans and animals. Carry a few treats with you when bonding with your bearded dragon. If they respond well or display positive behavior, don’t hesitate to give them treats.
As soon as a beardie realizes that you always reward good behavior, it will try to stay positive and behave well when you’re around. Furthermore, they’ll start associating you with treats.
Bearing treats is an excellent way to encourage your bearded dragon to cultivate good behavior and familiarize themselves with you.
Since most beardies deem every large creature a predator, doing nice things helps them separate you from the rest.
Things To Know About Bearded Dragons Bonding with Humans
There are a few things any bearded dragon owners need to remember if they want lizards to be affectionate.
1. The More the Time You Invest in Bonding, the Greater the Affection
The more effort you put into showing your lizard that you love it, the greater the response.
If you spend more time doing the things discussed in the section above, there’s a higher chance that your bearded dragon will return a reasonable amount of affection or at least display some form of attachment.
Spending time petting, feeding, treating, or letting your bearded dragon walk on your body can accentuate the bond between you and the lizard.
You’ll likely not get much affection if you don’t give your birdie enough time.
2. Affection Increases as the Lizard Ages
The age of your bearded dragon will make a significant difference when it comes to being affectionate and showing love to its owner.
When they are at their tender age, especially babies and young bearded dragons, they might be jittery and always non-responsive to being handled or loved.
When these creatures first arrive in an unfamiliar environment, they’re always nervous and intimidated by anything that seems out of the ordinary. However, as the beardie ages, it recognizes that you’re not a threat.
They start being cordial and even begin to trust you and feel comfortable when you’re around.
Therefore, don’t stress too much if the bearded dragon you brought home as a hatchling isn’t showing any signs of being affectionate after several months of taming.
It might still be confused and scared of its new environment. Sooner than later, it will start sending signals that it likes you as it ages.
3. The Display of Affection Varies From One Bearded Dragon to the Next
Some bearded dragon owners claim that their lizards started displaying affection a few months after getting into their compound.
Still, some don’t even believe that beardies have emotions since they’ve never experienced it firsthand.
Being affectionate is not a species thing but something that boils down to individual personality. The way one bearded dragon displays affection is not how another one does it.
You might have come across a bearded dragon that climbs and walks all over the keeper’s body. But still, others don’t do anything besides relaxing on the palm or lap.
Therefore, don’t get yourself a bearded dragon expecting it to behave like the one you saw on YouTube. Their display of affection and how they interact with you may be considerably different.
Things to Avoid Doing If You Want Your Bearded Dragon to Like You
Although forging a meaningful relationship with bearded dragons seems easy, some callous owners may do certain things that create distrust and discomfort for bearded dragons.
If you don’t want to put off your bearded dragon, please avoid doing these three things:
1. Holding Your Bearded Dragon by the Tail
During the initial stages of interaction, your beardie might seem uncooperative and try to run away when you try to handle them.
Don’t let them get off quickly if they aren’t aggressive, but never try to hold them by their tails.
Holding a bearded dragon’s tail can cause discomfort and stress.
Once they realize that you’re capable of pulling them by the tail, your bearded dragons won’t want to be handled by you anymore.
2. Rough Handling
Beardies are sensitive, calm and relaxed animals. Therefore, you should also be gentle and careful when handling them.
If you hoist them up hurriedly without caring whether they are upside down, they might feel intimidated and frightened.
Your lizard won’t trust or be comfortable around you if it is used to be handled roughly.
They won’t bond or display any form of affection until you start handling them with care.
3. Making Loud Noises
Bearded dragons love staying in peaceful and quiet environments. Don’t subject them to loud music or startle them by screaming or making unpleasant noises.
If you want to start your relationship on the right foot, don’t subject them to abrupt noises that might frighten or make them feel uncomfortable.
Ordinary things such as loud music on your TV or children’s screams as they play can make lizards uncomfortable.
They may start associating you with the noise disturbance and won’t want to be associated with you.
Wrapping It Up
Are bearded dragons affectionate? Yes, they must be; because no one would want to keep them in their homes if they aren’t.
Although science tries to underrate the bearded dragon’s ability to have an emotional connection, experience has proved that if these creatures are treated right, they can be fun animals to have around your home.
Providing a safe, happy, clean, and healthy environment for your bearded dragon can go a long way to ensure that you create a long-lasting bond.
However, to keep your relationship with your beardie strong, you need to learn how to read their behaviors and signals and act accordingly. It is these behaviors that will tell you whether your beardie likes you.