When you think of pets that do pretty well without interacting with their owners, what comes to your mind first? My guess is… there are bearded dragons on that list.
Unlike other pets, beardies are perfectly okay without spending time with their owners, but it doesn’t mean that they feel no emotions and don’t want to bond with you.
Studies have shown that reptiles feel a wide range of emotions (i.e: your pet feels guilty whenever she bites you). But the only difference is that they don’t “wear their emotions on their sleeves.” (Not like they wear anything anyway, but you get the point).
So it might be difficult to know what your dragon feels when you reach out to hold her, which is why you need to pay attention to the signs.
But does that mean you can’t cuddle with your beardie as you would with other pets? Do bearded dragons like to be held at all?
Do Bearded Dragons like to be held? Are they interested in being held?
Bearded dragons don’t like being held, but they can tolerate it. In most cases, it would only be for a few minutes and they would do that because you’ve established a bond for your pet to trust and like you.
However, getting to that stage will take a lot of hard work from you. You’re going to have days where they puff at you because they don’t want to come out. They might try to attack you because you seem like a predator, or because they could be under stress and trying to do everything to avoid you. However, as long as you don’t quit trying, your pet will grow accustomed to your touch in no time.
Why you should hold your bearded dragon
Why should you really get into their personal space? What are the benefits and cons of holding your bearded dragon?
- To Create a Bond. This is the most obvious reason, and it is important for both you and your pet. If there’s no bonding time, then why would you choose to adopt a pet in the first place?
Holding your bearded dragon proves to them that you’re more than just the food provider; it shows you’re there to give them the love they’ve never had a chance of receiving. How do you do that? By spending quality time with them, because over time, you will grow on them and whatever you do will be reciprocated.
- It makes bathing easier. If you hold your dragon every day, then getting them out for their baths wouldn’t be an issue. In fact, they would be excited to get out of their enclosure as it means they get to spend more time with you.
- Cleaning the tank doesn’t have to be a chore. Hygiene is important to your bearded dragon, and in the first few months of bringing them home, cleaning the tank might have been one of the problems you had to face.
They don’t know you yet, which means each and every move you make means something to them, but if you two share a bond, then it makes things easier. It means you have time to properly clean up while they watch TV because they’re used to having you around them.
- You notice a lot more about them. Observing your pet in the tank doesn’t do much compared to having them close to you. When you’re together with them, you pay attention to their behavioral patterns, what kind of personality they have, and if there’s anything wrong with them, you can be swift in taking them to the vet in order to find solutions.
Why you shouldn’t hold your bearded dragon
- Salmonella. Salmonella is a bacteria that causes an infection caused by contaminated food or water called salmonellosis. Babies, people with AIDS, and the elderly are the most susceptible to the infection.
No matter how hygenic your dragon is, they can still pass this on to you because this bacteria is found in their droppings. So you need to be careful when handling or cuddling your beardie.
- They can bite you. Most first-time bearded dragon owners don’t know how to approach their pet. For instance, if you stare at them before reaching out or trying to grab them from the top of the terrarium, your dragon will attack you.
In turn, that can lead to distrust, and getting them out to spend time with you becomes a much bigger problem. Though their bite isn’t poisonous, it is painful.
Beardie Care 101: how to handle a bearded dragon to enjoy being held
To make the handling process a lot easier, there are steps to take to establish bonding with your beardie.
- Wash your hands before and after holding them. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is holding your dragon without washing your hands. We come into contact with germs every day, and you definitely don’t want to pass that on to your beardie, so make sure your hands are clean before touching them.
To protect yourself, wash your hands with an antibacterial soap after holding them. This is for your safety. Let’s get real: your pet might release her droppings while you’re holding her, and even if you bathe your beardie, you still need to make sure you’re safe.
- Approach your bearded dragon with ease. Your terrarium looks beautiful and your dragon is doing okay, but that doesn’t mean you stare at the tank for a long period of time. That can stress them out.
Also, you shouldn’t just open the terrarium and get them out. Crouch down to their level, get them some treats and talk to them in a low, calming voice. Tell your beardie you want to bring her out to play, and truth be told, they might not be paying attention the first time you do it, but all these things definitely count.
- Take it slow and steady. Don’t just make a move to grab them. Look out for the signs when making a move. If they puff out at you, it means they want to be left alone, and that could be because you handled them the wrong way in the past, but what you need to take from this is that learning to read and understand their body language is important.
So what if they decline spending time with you today? Try again tomorrow. The key is to never stop trying.
But if they are okay with you, then place your hand by their rear ends to support their body, but also make sure their front limbs are supported by your hands. A way to know if you got this correctly is when they relax calmly on your hands and their tail isn’t moving around.
- Don’t restrict them. They have their own free will to do what they want, and as much as you want to keep them to yourself, resist the urge to do so because they need to explore without being held back by you.
On another note, if you stop them from doing what they want, that could prevent them from ever wanting to spend time with you again. And remember what we said about your dragon tolerating being held? That only tells you one thing: a few minutes is always enough.
- Don’t pet them for too long. How would you feel if someone kept rubbing your head for a long period of time? At first, it’s fun, but in the end, you will start to feel uncomfortable, which means you need to take how your beardie feels into consideration.
The least you can do is pet them a few times and leave them alone. If you notice it’s time for them to get back into their terrarium or it’s becoming uncomfortable for them to stay out, then do what you need to do to avoid stress and also to make them want more.
Lastly, when you put them back, don’t forget to wash your hands.
How often should you hold your bearded dragon?
If you have the chance to hold them every day, then go for it. This makes them get used to you and fast tracks the whole process of bonding with your bearded dragon.
There are some things to consider, like the temperature in your home while you cuddle with your beardie and how comfortable they are with you, but, in both situations, the best thing is to get them back into their terrarium. However, if you can hold them every day, then do so.
Bearded dragons are amazing pets and could make nice buddies to talk to while they lounge on your neck or hand, but all you have to do is take one step and wait for them to meet you halfway.
And for a hot second, don’t you dare think of giving up on getting one for yourself or being close to the one you have right now because of the risks involved.
As long as you take note of those, it’ll only take a while before your beardie starts walking around in the cage when they notice you’re back in the house, and weaving your way into their hearts will always be worth it.