How Do You Handle a Bearded Dragon For the First Time?

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How Do You Handle a Bearded Dragon For the First Time

You just got your hands on a new bearded dragon but don’t know where to start. Or perhaps a friend has asked you to babysit their bearded dragon for a while, and you dread an encounter with their reptile friend. 

Whatever the reason may be, you’ve landed on the right page.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about how to handle a bearded dragon for the first time. Keep in mind that with new pets, not making mistakes is impossible. The more errors you make along the way, the more you’ll improve as a pet owner.

So without further ado, let’s get started!

Step By Step Instructions on How to Handle Your Bearded Dragon For The First Time

Like every new pet, your bearded dragon will be extra cautious and alert. But as a pet owner, you need to be bold and courageous enough to make the first move.

Your and your pet’s safety is equally important, so getting acquainted with the right way to approach a new pet is incredibly important. 

Here’s a step-by-step instruction on how you can handle your bearded dragon for the first time.

1. Get Closer

Start by slowing down a bit. Instead of approaching it with speed, take your time. Get comfortable around the pet first. Instead of getting closer or showing your hands, make yourself get noticed. 

Your first aim is to make your beardie believe you are not a threat. 

We want you to be gentle and easygoing because this will prevent the pet from getting spooked. If the bearded dragon feels threatened, it will become defensive. In a worst-case scenario, it might flee or attack you. 

Reduce the distance before picking up the baby dragon, but be cautious at all times. If you sense that the bearded dragon is moving away or if it is getting ready to attack, move back and wait for a minute or two before trying again. 

Remember, you can always try again, but changing an animal’s mind is tough once it begins to view you as a threat.

2. Move From The Front/Back

Not many people know this, but bearded dragons have sensory nerves above their heads. This enables them to sense that something or someone is approaching them, even if they can’t see it with their eyes. 

Try not to pick up the bearded baby dragon from above. Instead, move at a slow pace from the front or the backside. You don’t want to get scared during your first interaction. 

If you see the bearded baby dragon opening its mouth or a puffed-up beard, take it as a sign and move back. 

Moreover, don’t point things or your finger at them. They might nibble at your finger, believing that it’s food.

3. Picking Up

A young bearded dragon being carried by his owner
A young bearded dragon being carried by his owner

Now that you’re close to your pet, move your dominant hand towards it and use one finger or thumb to uphold its chin. At this point, the bearded dragon will probably latch onto your finger with its front legs. 

If it takes some time for the beardie to do that, have patience. But don’t force its legs. 

Your new pet may also try to flee. Don’t apply pressure or hold it to prevent the beardie from running. Let it go wherever it wants to go. Try again later.

Next, you want to support its lower body to make the pet feel safe under your care. Turn your palm and get it beneath its neck, right towards the stomach area. 

4. Back body

You’re almost there; don’t give up yet!

As soon as it lets you support its stomach, you want to uphold its tail and back legs. At this point, it is perfectly fine to use your other, non-dominant hand. 

Supporting the tail is important. If you let it float freely, your pet might get uneasy. This may allow it to move the tail in circles. 

If the beardie moves its tail vigorously, it might injure itself. 

5. Holding It Close

To hold your pet better, just place it close to your body. This will allow you to have better control while enabling your pet to feel at ease. 

6 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Handling Your Bearded Dragon For The First Time

Now that we have listed the do’s, it is time to pay attention to the don’ts. Remember that new pets have a hard time trusting their owner. If you make a mistake, intentionally or unintentionally, you can put a dent in your newfound relationship. 

Better safe than sorry!

1. Don’t Be Too Hasty

At all times, we want you to move like a turtle. If you make any sudden movements, the beardie might feel threatened. All animals either attack or go on defense if they feel their life is in danger. 

Handling a new pet is a delicate process that requires patience and takes time. But once your beardie begins trusting you, the sky’s the limit.

2. Don’t Let Children Close

It goes without saying, but your best bet is to keep children away from your beardie. For obvious reasons, it can attack and injure them while you’re learning and trying to handle it. 

3. Don’t Lose Your Cool

We’ve listed some of the behaviors that your new pet might exhibit, but we haven’t covered all of them. 

Your beardie might behave absurdly. Don’t lose your composure. Remain calm and let it do whatever it wants.

If the animal wants to flee, then don’t chase it. We also want you to refrain from forcing it to stay near you. You want to make the pet believe it is safe under your care.

A bearded dragon walking on grass
A bearded dragon walking on grass

4. Don’t Forget Warning Signs

Animals have different ways of showing their aggression. Cats, for instance, have pointy ears when they want to let their enemy know they’re ready to attack.

Similarly, bearded dragons are popular for their beards. Once you see its pointy beard, take a step back until you see your pet return to normal. You don’t want to anger a beardie, trust us.

If you have a male beardie, watch out for its head. If your pet begins to bob his head, your actions are probably stressing it out. 

Another sign you want to watch out for is its tail. When a bearded dragon raises its tail, it sees you as prey. That’s never good news.

5. Don’t Hit the Pet

New pet owners often rely on violence to assert dominance to get what they want. This can backfire on you in unimaginable ways. 

Firstly, your bearded dragon will begin to see you as a threat. So it may never trust you again. Secondly, even if you manage to dominate the beardie, the relationship will be built on fear, not love. Thirdly, hitting an animal is never a good option. Like humans, they get stressed out too.

And this, in turn, makes them vulnerable to multiple diseases.

6. Don’t Apply Force

A beardie will take its sweet time to get used to your hands. It only views you as an enemy if you apply pressure to hold it down. The pet might end up hurting or injuring itself while fleeing you. 

How Long Does It Take a Bearded Dragon to Get Used to You? 

It should take less than a week for a bearded dragon to get used to you.

This is not written in stone, though. Animals have different natures. Some are cautious, while others have an easier time getting used to new people. 

But you can make a huge difference on your own. Provide the right environment for your bearded dragon. Make sure you follow the dos and don’ts we’ve listed above, provide it with a lamp to reduce stress, handle it with care, and provide treats and food at regular intervals. 

In extreme cases, though, it may take a few weeks for the new bearded dragon to accept you. But, as we’ve mentioned above, don’t lose patience.

To make the beardie like you more, you can hand feed it. This is a way of developing trust.

How Long Should I Wait to Handle My Bearded Dragon?

All animals go through a period of relocation stress in the beginning. You will immediately notice that your new pet is extremely cautious and alert.

You might get to see a raised tail, a puffed-up beard, or enlarged eyes. Once you see that the beardie is beginning to settle itself, you can start the handling process. 

Once the bearded dragon arrives at your home, let it have some space. The new environment is probably stressing the poor guy out, so be patient. It might take a few days for the relocation stress to go away. 

But once the fear goes away, you can begin to get close to it. By nature, most of them are curious and playful. They like to do silly things, especially young ones. 

A bearded dragon climbing on a rock
A bearded dragon climbing on a rock

How Often Should I Hold My Bearded Dragon?

You should hold your bearded reptile as often as you can. Unlike other reptiles, they like to be held.

Bearded dragons, once settled, would want you to handle them. This will only allow it to trust you better. Moreover, once the beardie sees a caregiver in you, stress levels will plummet, allowing it to get comfortable around other family members as well.

Young beardies appreciate people they trust, so if your pet places its faith in you, then make sure you give it proper time and care. 

But that doesn’t mean you can carry it around for as long as you want.

Initially, you want to keep things normal. Since this experience is new to the beardie, it might not appreciate being held for too long.

A good practice is to hold it for 10-12 minutes during the first few days or weeks. This way, you are training your bearded dragon to accept you. 

However, not all beardies might appreciate being held for too long. Animals have different natures, as we mentioned above. It is necessary to read the room and be careful about its body movements and changes.

But generally, most beardies like being held, assuming you’re holding them properly.

How Often Should You Take Your Bearded Dragon Out Of Its Cage?

Take your bearded dragon out of the cage at least once or twice weekly. Initially, you can keep the number low as the pet is still getting used to the conditions.

But with time, as the beardie develops trust, you can take it out more often.

Initially, letting it out for almost an hour, once or twice a week, is more than enough. You don’t want to overdo it, or else the bearded dragon might feel threatened. 

It is important to create a proper schedule. This way, you will find it easier to follow through with the routine, and it will be comfortable for your pet.

Go easy in the beginning, though. Remember, the situation and surroundings are still new to your young pet. It will remain cautious until it feels that the place is safe and free from predators.

How Do I Know If My Bearded Dragon Wants to Be Held?

There are certain signs and body movements that you need to watch out for at all times. A good way to know whether your new pet wants to be held or not is to see when it goes from normal to alert mode. 

Don’t be surprised if the beardie lets you hold onto it for the first time but gets alarmed when you approach it again.

For instance, a negative sign that a bearded dragon may exhibit is that it may puff its beard to let you know that it feels endangered. 

It may also raise its tail or bob its head to let you know it does not want to be touched. 

On the other hand, a positive sign is that it lets you touch it without backing away or running away.

If your bearded dragon wants you to hold it, it may let out its front legs. In the animal world, this is a sign of submission. It means that the beardie trusts you and wants you to hold it. 

Just follow the handling method we explained above, and you will have one in your arms in no time.

Don’t forget to be gentle and calm during the whole phase.

Here’s how to pick up a bearded dragon


We hope that you are excited about holding your bearded dragon now. Remember that animals are similar to humans. 

Just like us, they take their time trusting new people. But developing a bond can go a long way. You might be surprised at your progress.

Bearded dragons are cute animals, and you can also let them out of their cage terrarium and let them explore your house. 

They can roam and run around, and this might make them happy. Don’t forget to stay on the lookout, though.

Photo of author


Felix Olofsson is a reptile enthusiast and the driving force behind Bearded Dragon HQ, a website dedicated to providing expert advice and resources for bearded dragon owners. With years of experience working with reptiles, Felix has developed a deep appreciation and understanding of these unique creatures, particularly the beloved bearded dragon. Felix's passion for bearded dragons started when he adopted his first dragon, Spike, and quickly fell in love with these fascinating creatures. Through Bearded Dragon HQ, Felix aims to share his knowledge and expertise with other bearded dragon owners, providing them with everything they need to give their pets the best possible care. From nutrition and habitat design to behavior and more. Bearded Dragon HQ is the go-to source for all things related to these beloved pets.