Bearded Dragon Arm Waving? Why They Do it?

You might be wondering why your new bearded dragon seems to be waving at you if you’re a new beardie owner. It may be their way of greeting you when you walk into the room, but that’s usually not the case. Beardies wave for many reasons, but not all of them are as simple as saying hello.

Although some of these are pretty normal, you should try to figure out what is the exact reason so you can ensure your beardie is at ease in its surroundings. Let’s take a closer look at each of the reasons why your bearded dragon might be waving its arm.

What does it look like when a bearded dragon waves its arm?

Understanding what a bearded dragon waving its arm looks like can help you find out why exactly it’s doing it in the first place. Many people misunderstand arm waving for other kinds of arm movement.

Even though this doesn’t really matter, you should know what you’re dealing with to give your beardie the best care possible.

Fortunately, it’s easy to tell when a bearded dragon is arm waving, if you know what you’re looking for! When they wave, dragons lift one arm high in the air, then slowly move it back down.

They don’t really move their arm back and forth, but they might wave it a couple of times if you’re lucky.

Why do they wave their arms?

There are a bunch of reasons and scenarios that could be causing your Bearded Dragon to wave its arms. When a Bearded Dragon shows this behavior, it will be harmless and normal in some contexts, but it might need your attention in others.

Let’s look at each of the possible causes of your Bearded Dragon arm-waving and see if it’s worth minimizing or even removing the problem entirely if needed.

They’re being submissive

A bearded dragon’s most common cause for waving is that it’s a sign of submission.

Waving is a submissive indication typically given by dragons that see themselves in a subservient or beta position, while head bobbing demonstrates dominance and is normally done by alpha males or females. 

When your bearded dragon waves at you as you approach its tank, it’s actually showing you in a visual demonstration that it sees you like the bigger or alpha dragon and is surrendering to your authority.

A low-ranking male or female can confront the ‘superior’ dragon to claim this position and assert their status. As a display of aggression and challenge, the dominating dragon will bob its head.

If the lower-ranked dragon determines that fighting isn’t the best option, it can show submission to the higher-ranked pogona by waving an arm, signaling the end of the combat.

If the challenged dragon does not make this move, or simply bobs its head back, a battle for dominance will start.

They’re Scared of Something

While your beardie waving at you every now and then is normal and nothing to worry about. If your dragon is waving at you every day and has been for several weeks, your dragon is most likely trying to tell you that it feels threatened.

It’s not a good idea to put any pet under a lot of stress for an extended period of time because it can lead to stress-related health problems like loss of appetite or weight loss in your beardie.

The presence of other bearded dragons in the same cage isn’t the only factor that might make your bearded dragon feel threatened.

If you already have any house pets, like a dog or cat, and they might get close to your bearded dragon’s cage, which could make it extremely nervous.

Your bearded dragon will recognize these big animals as predators and it will start waving its arms in surrender to the other house pet.

If you notice this with your bearded dragon, place their cage somewhere your pets cannot reach it.

They’re sharing a tank with other bearded dragons

Bearded dragons are loners by nature, and if they establish a loose group in the wild, they will have the room and freedom to flee when necessary.

In captivity, though, space is typically at a cost. Bearded dragons are notoriously territorial, especially when it comes to males.

When too many male dragons are housed together, their territorial attitude can lead to severe violence, which can often result in the less dominant dragons being attacked or damaged.

It is possible to have a group of females if they are properly cared for and their body language and behaviors are observed during mating seasons. But it’s still not recommended, you should always try to keep each bearded dragon in a separate cage.

If you keep your beardies together and notice one or two of them ‘waving’ at you or other dragons on a regular basis, it’s likely they’re feeling overly threatened by their environment, and you’ll need to separate them.

It’s a baby bearded dragon

Bearded dragons are curious and playful when they are young. It’s important to differentiate between being playful and being stressed out.

When introduced to a new area, baby bearded dragons might wave their arms. This is very normal and can last anywhere from a day to a week. If your baby bearded dragon’s arm waving lasts more than a week, it’s not because of the new environment.

It’s very important to figure out what’s causing your baby bearded dragon’s arm waving especially since anxious dragons often lose their appetite. Because bearded dragons develop to 90 percent of their adult size in the first year, this loss of hunger can be damaging to their growth.

They’re seeing their own reflection

Bearded dragons like most animals, cannot recognize themselves when they see their reflection on windows or the glass of their enclosure.

When your bearded dragon is in their cage and sees their reflection, they don’t realize it’s only a reflection of themselves.

Instead, they see this as another bearded dragon in their territory, which, as you can see from the example above, can make your bearded dragon quite upset, especially if they consider themselves as the dominant bearded dragon.

When possible, use a dedicated wallpaper developed for cages to reduce reflections. Or yet better, invest in a non-reflective bearded dragon cage.

It’s Mating Behavior

A reason you could see a bearded dragon waving is if it’s in the process of mating. Female bearded dragons will occasionally wave at a male in the wild to indicate that she is interested.

If you only have a male bearded dragon, the chances of this being the reason for waving are small. But, if you have a female beardie and more than one beardie, this might be the reason.

You’ll almost always notice other types of mating activity as well. The female will most likely be bobbing her head and moving around the enclosure in a calculated way. If you don’t notice any of those, mating behavior is unlikely to be the cause of the waving.

Changes have been made in their cage

New objects, like toys, plants, rocks, or even decorations, can be frightening to your bearded dragon and cause them to arm wave in distress, just like a new place or habitat does.

Few things in the wild drastically change in a few days. 

Besides that, they don’t really know what toys are, so if you put a new one in their cage, especially one that is large or weirdly shaped in comparison to previous toys, they may not realize right away that it is something to play with rather than something that will harm them.

Instead of dumping new items into your bearded dragon’s enclosure all at once, gradually introduce one toy at a time, wait until they get used to the changes to bring in the next one.

They’re Acknowledging Other Pets

This is one of the most difficult situations to understand. It might indicate one of two things if your bearded dragon is waving around another bearded dragon.

To begin with, it’s possible that your bearded dragon is just acknowledging the other bearded dragon’s presence and stating that it sees the other. This is also your bearded dragon’s way of saying they don’t want to hurt you.

Or, it could be an indication that your bearded dragon is stressed out by the new bearded dragon’s presence and is surrendering to the newbie.

The simplest way to tell the difference between these two scenarios is to keep an eye on the situation and look for the context of your bearded dragon’s body language.

They’re In the wrong tank

A tank that is too small for your beardie can make it nervous and drive them to wave their arms excessively. Read our post on bearded dragon cage sizes.

There are many reasons why a dragon would consider their surroundings to be dangerous, and fortunately, most of them can be solved with a little effort.

Your beardie’s safety may be jeopardized because of the size of the tank where its housed. It could make it feel confined or contained if it’s too small, and it could make them feel exposed or vulnerable if it’s too wide with too many open spaces.

Is your bearded dragon able to see out the window? Then It could be seeing birds outside, which could make it scared because birds are bearded dragon’s natural predators. If this is the case, consider repositioning their tank or covering the window.

Is the space in your bearded dragon’s enclosure limited? Have you made certain that they have enough places to hide? Bearded dragons will hide in holes in the ground in the wild to protect themselves from predators or bad weather.

If your beardie feels anxious or threatened, its natural instinct will be to seek cover, and if you haven’t given suitable options, your dragon may become irritated.

What is not bearded dragon arm waving?

There are a lot of misconceptions and theories about why bearded dragons wave their arms, however, not all of them are right. Here are some of the misconceptions about arm waving in bearded dragons.

It’s a Greeting:

One of the most popular myths about why your beardie is waving is that it is simply excited to see you and is greeting you.

While this is a cute idea and most likely the reason why bearded dragon waving videos are so popular, it’s unfortunate to say that this is not the case.

While beardies can recognize their owners and show affection in their own unique way, waving is a human-created social construct used as a form of welcome that your beardie has no understanding of.

Only females do it:

There’s been a lot of speculation and theories about arm waving and gender in bearded dragons. One of the most common misconceptions is that only female bearded dragons wave, whereas male bearded dragons make a motion close to head bobbing, which is an indication of authority.

This is not quite the case 

arm waving and head bobbing are not gender-specific characteristics in bearded dragons. Female bearded dragons will bob their heads, and male bearded dragons will wave.

This is because the two actions aren’t opposites; they’re just two ways for your bearded dragon to communicate, and which one they use depends on both their personality and their situation.

Is arm waving bad for your bearded dragon?

One of the most important things to remember is that arm waving is not an unhealthy activity itself.

Instead, this is a natural instinctive response that helps your bearded dragon in coping with their discomfort and worry.

Rather than focusing solely on preventing your bearded dragon from arm waving, it’s essential that you concentrate on identifying and eliminating whatever is causing the behavior.

You are limiting your bearded dragons’ way of showing their distress if you simply focus on stopping the arm waving itself.

This is a major aspect of their body language, as well as how they communicate and connect with others.

Why is my bearded dragon waving at insects?

Bearded dragons are known to wave at bugs, especially when they are babies or juveniles, which is both interesting and alarming.

The beardie usually looks at the crickets, shakes its arm at them, and then attacks. We know that arm-waving indicates submission, acknowledgment, fear of other pets, humans, and toys, or its own reflection.

However, when it comes to eating, things might be different. Of course, it is unclear why beardies behave in this manner, although it can be because of many factors.

When a beardie gestures at crickets, it is posing as a friend and then attacks when the cricket is least expecting it.

Also, seeing a lot of crickets rushing about can scare a bearded dragon, which is probably why it’s waving. When you feed too many crickets at once, this can happen. If that’s the case, start with a few crickets and slowly increase them when the dragon consumes them.

You could also be feeding the beardie crickets that are too big for it to eat, or the lizard isn’t happy with the way you’re feeding it.

Consider purchasing a feeding bowl with a lid and cutting a hole in the lid for the beardie’s head and front legs. The crickets will be happily devoured by the beardie.

Conclusion

Overall, bearded dragon arm waving is a rather normal thing that shouldn’t cause you too much stress. Most of the time, your bearded dragon is only showing that they are aware of your presence and do not intend to hurt you. You should only be concerned if they keep waving for extended periods of time!

About Tariq Aziz

I am working as Chief editor at MY BEARDIES. I have been working in the publishing business for over a decade now. I love reptiles and I love talking about them. I have years of experience in herpetoculture. I have cared for many reptiles including bearded dragons, geckos, and skinks since childhood.

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