Bearded dragons usually puff up their beards to show aggression towards someone or something, similar to the hair that stands upon a cat’s tail or a dog baring its teeth when it’s threatened.
They typically attempt to intimidate something they perceive to be threatening by blackening and puffing up their beard. When they “look bigger and scarier,” they think they can ward off the threat.
But, they can actually also puff up without their beard actually turning black. They can choose how they want to deal with the threat.
If they’re either puffing up or turning black, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re scared. They can even do it when they’re in a comfortable or in an atmosphere that isn’t threatening in any way.
Interestingly, with dragons exhibiting this perplexing behavior in both difficult and not difficult situations, it begs the question, “Why do bearded dragons puff up?”. Knowing the answer to this will ensure that you as a beardie owner can tell when their pet needs help and when it doesn’t.
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Understanding Puffing Up in Bearded Dragons
An aggressive cat will generally hold its tail upright, hair raised, and pupils dilated. A cat that displays these signs warns you to stay away because it may be dangerous.
Just like cats, bearded dragons will also demonstrate their aggressiveness through their behaviors. If you’ve ever seen a dragon expand its beard, it’s just puffing up, but knowing what the other signs mean can help figure out what is really going on with your beardie.
A bearded dragon puffing up could be caused by a number of factors, they could be in a stressful or non-stressful situation. Since the beardie can puff up in a non-threatening environment makes this behavior even more confusing.
Bearded dragons will puff out other areas of their bodies too, including the abdomen, in addition to their beard. With that in mind, let’s look at the scenarios in which bearded lizards are likely to puff up.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Puff Up?
If you are new to caring for bearded dragons, you might be frightened the first time you see your pet displaying this activity! Just like you, many owners also worry if something is wrong.
To clarify, as this happens, there is normally no cause for alarm. This behavior does not affect the animal and may simply be their instinctive way of feeling protected when they are threatened.
Bearded dragons puff up a lot when they’re nervous. A bearded dragon puffs up to look bigger and menacing in order to ward off predators, almost like a cat fluffs up its tail and arches its back in the familiar “Halloween” pose.
A bearded dragon’s beard can turn black when it tries to appear hostile. When the beard puffs out, it does not always turn dark. There are some possible explanations for this, but one common one is that they are in a good mood!
If you have a baby bearded dragon, you can find that it puffs up from time to time. One common theory for this is that they are not yet at ease with their new surroundings.
As a result, you can try to assist them in adjusting to their new surroundings. Be certain that you provide them with an ecosystem that is similar to their natural habitat.
First and foremost, they would need a suitable enclosure. Second, provide them with a nice substrate and incorporate trees, rocks, and other accessories to help them feel more at ease in these natural-looking surroundings.
Once you’ve ensured that your bearded dragon’s tank is well set up and that you’re fed them well, make an effort to bond with them so they’ll embrace you as a buddy.
Speak to them gently, and give them a treat from your side. They should eventually feel better in their house, and ideally, the puffing caused by pain will end.
Aside from stress, there are some other explanations why bearded dragons puff up. When humans and other animals wake up from a nap, they sometimes yawn and stretch. That’s what the bearded dragon is doing as it opens its mouth and puffs up! No one likes to be rigid, and bearded dragons are no exception.
If their mouth is open and they are puffing out, they may be attempting to “pop” their ears by relieving pressure on their ear canals, similar to how we do when climbing a slope.
There are tons of other reasons why bearded dragons puff up too. Let’s look at some of the reasons in more depth!
To Show Dominance
While both male and female bearded dragons will puff up to the opposite sex, the male is more likely to do so to impress the female and let her know he’s ready to mate.
By puffing up, the male often communicates to the female that he is dominant and makes his motives obvious. Some females will puff up in the presence of males, while others will simply react by bobbing their heads or waving their arms.
Unlike many other animal species, bearded dragons do not have a breeding season that occurs at a certain time of year. Instead, they’re ready to mate around a month after brumation, a hibernation-like time of low movement and sleep during the cold or rainy seasons.
Female bearded dragons will puff out their necks on rare occasions where they are attracted to males, although this has always been seen as a male tactic.
Meal Time or After Meal
While there hasn’t been any study on why bearded dragons puff up before or during a meal, there are a few ideas as to why this may be the case.
The first is that by puffing up, the bearded dragon creates more space in its mouth, allowing it to consume more calories. Remember that wild bearded dragons always compete for their food, which can be difficult to come by at times. So, they consume just enough food to last them before the next meal.
If you see a connection between puffing up and mealtime, give them a smaller portion for the next meal and watch to see if they puff up. When you’ve given it a shot to see if it makes a difference, serve the remainder of their daily part a few minutes later.
Another theory is that bearded dragons puff up to intimidate their prey as well as to look bigger and more aggressive to a predator that would challenge them for food. This behavior is more common in captivity when bearded dragons consume live food, such as crickets.
Sign of Shedding
Bearded dragons are intelligent lizards who are still conscious when it is time to shed. So, when the beardies are about to shed their old skin, they begin to puff up in order to relax their skin and speed up the shedding process.
When the lizards start puffing up their neck and body more often and then start shedding, they shed quickly. This demonstrates that puffing up can be helpful in the shedding process.
However, not all bearded dragons puff up before losing their skin. Don’t be concerned if you haven’t seen your pet puffing up during this time; it’s perfectly natural.
Bathing is another popular reason for bearded dragons to puff up their beards. If the dragon puffs up after taking a bath, it could mean that the water was either too cold or hot for it.
Keep in mind that a bearded dragon does not bathe in water that is too hot to submerge its shoulder, in case you didn’t already know that.
When the beardie puffs up in the water, it could be struggling to find a place to float. Fortunately, puffing up allows bearded dragons to draw more air into their bodies, making them light and able to float.
If you find your pet puffing up when swimming, consider lowering or raising the bathing water temperature and the water level, appropriately.
It’s normal for bearded dragons to bask in the morning to warm their bodies after being exposed to cold temperatures. Since beardies have cold-blooded animals, they warm themselves up by basking.
When the dragon’s body temperature rises above a certain point, it usually opens its lips, which is often followed by puffing up the beard. If your pet is acting this way, you can check to see if the temperatures in the tank are within the normal range of 95-110°F. If they aren’t, adjust accordingly.
Using a defensive mechanism is a common behavior in the animal kingdom. The animal attempts to frighten off a potential predator by being bigger and more aggressive. For instance, a cat arching its back and puffing out its tail, or a dog growling and flashing its teeth.
If your bearded dragon has a habit of inflating their beard in a certain area or room, position yourself in their shoes and watch for something that may be threatening to them.
An item that seems completely harmless to you, such as a piece of clothing, furniture, or even a toy, may appear to your bearded dragon as a predator. Remove any objects that might be bothering them to see if they calm down.
It is important to prevent excessive handling during this process. Though it is uncommon, their increased stress levels can increase their proclivity to bite you out of fear.
Another pet looking intently at your bearded dragon’s tank might cause the reptile to puff up as well. This is due to their fear of this large animal.
They might also feel intimidated by your presence if you are a new bearded dragon owner. To get them used to you, try a few quick moves.
First, make them more at ease with being handled. Begin by putting your hand into the cage and holding it there for a minute or two. It may take a few attempts, but they can eventually become used to the smell and proximity.
When the bearded dragon encourages you to bring your hand closer to him, position it under his torso, supporting the legs and tail. Stop if they puff up, but if they encourage you to pick them up, keep a strong but gentle grip on them.
If they start to squirm, it’s best to give them a rest and try again later. They should stop squirming and encourage you to treat them more easily over time.
Try to spend at least 30 minutes a day with your pet lizard for the first month or so (even more if you have the time). Spending quality bonding time with your bearded dragon on a regular basis will finally lead to them accepting you as a caring owner!
When a bearded dragon is relaxed, it will puff out. This is a positive indication that bearded lizards can puff up not only in dangerous environments but also in pleasant ones while they are engaging in their favorite hobbies.
If it’s reward or playtime and you catch your friend puffing up, the beardie is trying to reassure you that it’s happy, but some owners mistake it for bragging. After all, the beardies can only communicate with you by their actions.
When the beardie puffs up and nothing stresses it, and it is not shedding, your friend is simply happy. It does not bother you at all if the beardie is in good shape.
Sign of Stretching
After a long period of resting, sleeping, or relaxing, you will need to stretch up the body to improve muscle function. The same holds true for bearded dragons, who would stretch their bodies in order to feel comfortable.
We yawn to wake up our bodies, increase blood supply, and become more conscious. Yawning also tends to pop our ears while sitting in an elevator in a high-rise building or on a plane. Bearded dragons, too, puff out and relieve themselves by pressuring their ear canals.
When the beardie is stretching and puffing, you may see it opening its mouth. It can do this even while relaxed in a peaceful environment.
Why Do Baby Beardies Puff Up?
Puffing up the beard is common in baby bearded dragons, particularly when they enter a new home where everything is foreign to them. They will do this to show you that they do not feel safe in their new surroundings.
However, you need not be concerned; give the beardie a few days to explore its new habitat, and it will finally adapt. When the pet realizes that you are not a predator and that the world is healthy for it, the puffing of the beard should decrease.
You will want to interact with your new dragon more easily and get it settled into its enclosure as soon as possible. You can do this by purchasing the appropriate tank size, as well as including bearded dragon safe plants, decorations, and other items to make the tank look like a natural home for bearded dragons.
Within a few days, if anything is in order, your pet will be at ease. It would also make them happier and make them feel secure.
However, if the baby beardie continues to puff up and shows other symptoms such as black bearding, refusing to go to the toilet, declining food, and becoming sluggish, you should be worried. Don’t keep quiet about it; speak to your reptile vet immediately to get their take on it.
Should I be Worried about Puffing Up?
The easy answer to this question is No. You generally do not need to be concerned with puffing because It helps them in dealing with predators, saving themselves while in deep water, supporting certain ecological processes, and resolving any perceived issues.
However, if your pet is always puffing, you should be worried. It may mean that something is stressing it out. If it’s something in the tank or in your surroundings.
Be sure you inspect the vicinity for something that may be disturbing your lizard. Remove all suspected things until you see the beardie stops puffing permanently.
It is important to understand that bearded dragons can puff up not only when something is wrong, but also when something is right. This means that if you see your pet puffing, it’s usually nothing to be worried about.
However, this doesn’t mean you don’t keep an eye on them and keep track of their behavior. You should always try to understand the various behaviors of bearded dragons and their causes in order to react appropriately in cases that will need to be addressed. This way, you’ll save yourself from always worrying, and will still be able to act quickly if there is something to worry about!