If you’ve ever owned a bearded dragon or have been caring for one, you might have noticed some strange behaviors. Maybe something that looked like a wave. If it’s your first time seeing that, you might be amazed.
Can they do that? Do bearded dragons really wave at you?
Unlike dogs or cats, bearded dragons cannot vocalize their emotions. Well, apart from a low hiss when threatened, they use body language, color display, and physical gestures such as waving to communicate.
Bearded dragons wave for several reasons, but saying hello is not one of them. As the owner, it’s your job to determine exactly what they might be trying to communicate.
That’s why we’re here to help you eliminate the guesswork and explain this strange behavior of waving.
Do bearded dragons wave at you?
The short answer is yes, they do, and, I must say, it’s visually appealing to watch.
But before we get into why they wave, let’s first analyze this behavior and paint a picture of what it looks like.
When bearded dragons wave, they do it the same way we do it. They raise one of their front legs/arms in the air, moving it in a slow, circular motion. Many owners find it cute and think it’s a form of greeting, so they respond by waving back.
But what does it mean?
Simply put, waving is a signal. Depending on the situation, it could be either a good or bad signal. Bearded dragons might wave once and move their feet back down to the ground. But sometimes, they may wave repeatedly.
Misconceptions about bearded dragons waving
There are a lot of misconceptions about bearded dragons’ waving. With all these wrong ideas being shared, it can be difficult to understand why your pet behaves in a certain way and how you can help him (just in case it’s a call for help).
Here are some popular misconceptions about this behavior.
It’s a form of greeting
Waving appears to be a sweet gesture, and some owners associate it with greetings. It’s close to one of the reasons, but it’s still a misconception.
It’s certainly cute to watch your pet waving, which is mainly why bearded dragons’ videos of waving are so popular. Unfortunately, it’s never their way of saying hello to you. It’s our human emotions projecting onto our pets since, to us, waving is a nonverbal gesture commonly used to greet each other. But bearded dragons have no concept of this.
Waving may not be a negative thing. It might be more of a recognition or acknowledgment of your presence than a greeting.
All bearded dragons should wave
Again, this statement is false.
Not all bearded dragons can display waving behavior. It all comes down to an individual beardie. Some beardies wave often, others rarely wave, and others never wave at all.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. If your bearded dragon never waves, that’s fine.
Only female bearded dragons wave
This misconception goes like this…Female bearded dragons wave while male bearded dragons bob their heads to assert dominance.
Does it make any sense? No.
All genders can wave and bob their heads. These actions or behaviors are not gender-specific. They are just a means of communication that bearded dragons can use depending on their personality and situation.
Why, then, do bearded dragons wave?
Unlike cats or dogs, understanding a bearded dragon’s behavior can be a hard nut to crack. A dog wags his tail when he’s happy, while a cat can let out a soft purr to show contentment.
So, if a bearded dragon’s wave isn’t necessarily a greeting, how exactly are you supposed to decipher what the wave means?
Fortunately, this is where we come in.
A bearded dragon can wave for the following reasons.
In the wild, bearded dragons wave as they come into contact with each other.
Sometimes, we wave at someone to let them know that we recognize their presence. The same happens with bearded dragons.
So, if you have multiple bearded dragons who can see each other through the glass, it could simply mean they recognize and acknowledge the presence of each other.
It’s a sign of submission
This is one of the common reasons why bearded dragons wave.
A beardie can wave as a sign of submission towards a dominant beardie.
Head bobbing displays dominance, while waving is a sign of submission. If you have more than one bearded dragon sharing a tank, the alpha male or female can bob his or her head to assert dominance. If you notice a wave from one of the bearded dragons, it means they take the subservient or beta position. They do this to avoid fights or conflicts, which may lead to potential injuries.
This behavior represents their social hierarchy in the wild.
This applies to you too. If a bearded dragon doesn’t share a tank with other dragons, and you notice him waving at you, he’s demonstrating submission toward you. This behavior could mean he acknowledges and respects you as the bigger person and doesn’t want any conflict.
Typical juvenile behavior
Waving is more likely to be seen in juvenile bearded dragons, especially if there are multiple of them in the same enclosure.
To them, this behavior can be more experimental than displaying aggression. You might even see them switching arms or changing their body position when doing it.
While this practice could be harmless, we cannot ignore the fact that it could be the start of something more serious, like territorial behavior. So it’s important to keep an eye on them; if it persists, separation should happen.
A female bearded dragon may wave at a male to indicate she’s ready to mate. This behavior can be observed in the wild and captivity as well.
Waving for mating typically happens alongside other mating cues, such as head bobbing and moving in circular motions around the enclosure. If you don’t notice any of those signs, then mating might not be the cause of your beardie’s waving.
They see their reflection
A funny fact about bearded dragons is that they cannot recognize their reflection, whether in a mirror, water, or glass. So, if your beardie sees his reflection, he might think there’s another beardie in the same space. As a result, he might wave as a sign of submission or acknowledgment.
How do you know if they can see their reflection? You can notice him staring in space at nothing in particular for minutes.
You can help your pet by adjusting the lights in the enclosure. However, it might take a few tries before you get the perfect spot. Alternatively, you can use wallpapers developed specifically for cages to reduce reflections.
What if there’s excessive waving?
Normal waving will most likely happen periodically, not often. But when your beardie is uncomfortable or feels threatened, you will see him wave excessively.
Here are some reasons for excessive waving;
Too many bearded dragons in the same enclosure
You might have done your best to give all your beardies a large and comfortable enclosure, but these creatures are not social. They prefer to live alone.
However, space can be an issue in captivity, so you’ll find some owners housing multiple bearded dragons together. Housing male bearded dragons can lead to territorial behavior such as aggression. But a female beardie group can live together with proper care. The same case with two females and one male, although we don’t recommend keeping multiple beardies in the same enclosure. They are better kept in separate tanks.
So, if you have several beardies in the same tank and notice one or two of them waving consistently, it could be a sign they’re uncomfortable or feel threatened by the dominant one. And it would be best if you separated them.
Wrong tank setup
The way you set up the tank may be causing your beardie to wave excessively. Here are some of the issues with your tank setup that may be causing this:
- Wrong size: If the tank is too small, it could make your beardie feel confined or trapped. On the other hand, if the tank is too big, it could make them feel open and vulnerable.
- Window view: you might see it as a good idea to give your beardie a nice view, but it’s not. What they see outside might leave them feeling scared. For instance, birds of prey generally are natural predators of bearded dragons in the wild. So, your beardie might feel scared when he sees birds from the window space. Therefore, you might need to cover the space or reposition the tank away from the window.
- Space to hide: Bearded dragons find places to hide rather than fight off predators in the wild. Does your beardie have a hiding spot? If not, they might get stressed, scared, or threatened and wave excessively.
Bearded dragons make great pets. They express themselves mainly through body language. Therefore, it’s important to recognize and understand what they’re trying to tell you.
Although not all bearded dragons can wave, some of them do. They wave for different reasons, from a simple gesture of submission or recognition to expressing that they feel threatened, scared, or stressed. While you shouldn’t consider waving dangerous, it might be a call to action because no one wants their pet to live under stress.