How to Calm Down and Destress a Bearded Dragon

The bearded dragons are very prone to stress, and so are their owners if they are new to handling a bearded dragon. These captivating reptiles are much inquisitive about nature, and the change in their surroundings raises the level of stress in them.

When you bring your beardie home, the change of environment and their living space makes them irritated. At that point, you need to check if the little reptile is giving indications of being stressed.

To comprehend and perceive the symptoms of stress, you need to discover somewhat more about the bearded dragon. These charming animals are touchy and need some effort and time to adjust, and can be known as the time required for adjustment. On the other hand, the owners also find this time, for which their beardies are adjusting to the new environment, quite challenging.

What is stressed bearded dragon like?

Bearded dragons are unique and complex creatures who can feel stressed when they are intimidated or agitated by anything in their surroundings. Some of the behaviors that a beardie might exhibit while it’s stressed are given below.

Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite is also a sign of stressed beardie. If your beardie is eating just fine one day and stops eating the other day, then it’s a clear indication that your beardie is stressed out. One of the reasons might be feeling of threat around them. As animals eat without even thinking about their surroundings, eating time is very vulnerable for them.

Check the cage and other cage parameters to find out what’s threatening your dragon to lose its appetite. Furthermore, another reason for loss of appetite might be dehydration. Provide enough water to your dragon to have him back on a healthy eating routine.

Dark coloration

Bearded dragons change their colors according to the circumstances of the environment around them. This is very natural for the beardies when they are in the wild or captivity. Some of the many reasons could be shedding, temperature regulation, and communication with other beardies.

These reasons are not worrisome; however, you must strictly monitor; if your beardie is changing into darker tones, it’s an indication of stressed beardie.

Not basking

Basking is a natural act of bearded dragons. They like to bask in the sun in the wild, whereas they are provided with a platform to absorb energy and heat in captivity. However, if you find that your bearded dragon is not basking, it is a sign that your dragon is stressed.

The dragon might be feeling in danger or threatened, which causes him to stay away from the basking platform.

Glass surfing

Most of the dragon owners often neglect this behavior, as it seems entertaining and considered one of the many quirks of the beardie. The dragon, while being stressed, tries running back and forth to the glass walls of the terrarium. This is a sign of stress in your bearded dragon, which shows that the bearded dragon is trying to run out of the tank.

One of the reasons to show this symptom is that your beardie might be feeling threatened within the tank. It can cause injuries to your as in its attempt to climb the glass; the beardie can fall and hurt himself. Once you see this symptom, check the enclosure to find out what’s intimidating the beardie.

Lack of movement

If a bearded dragon is stressed out and feels threatened or intimidated, it will reduce the movement across the terrarium. Less movement of a beardie is an indication of stress or sickness.

Observe closely to check all the symptoms of why your beardie has reduced physical activity.

Stress marks

The dark lines on the belly are the stress marks on the beardie, which is a clear sign of a stressed beardie. Observe your beardie closely to trace these signs, which can be found on limbs and tail as well.

The reason for these stress marks could be both internal and external. Check your beardie for sickness, if any. Trace the surroundings for anything that is causing stress in your beardie. The signs of stress will disappear if the situation is controlled.

Tail twitching

The bearded dragon twitches its tail to show that it’s stressed or irritated by something in the surrounding. This can be caused while you try to handle your beardie or given something live to eat.

It could indicate that your beardie doesn’t feel comfortable about the way you are holding it. Try socializing with your beardie more often to build a relationship with him; that will eventually reduce the level of stress while you hold the beardie.

Fluffing their beard

The bearded dragon fluffs up their beard to show aggression or dominance. If you find your beardie fluffing up its beard, it means that they see you as intimidating and dangerous as an owner. Furthermore, in the case of two beardies in one terrarium, this is a sign of showing dominance over the other bearded dragon in the same cage.

Hissing

The bearded dragon shows the sign of hissing when they are threatened by something around them. The beardie verbalizes their feeling of discomfort through hissing.

Biting

This sign shows the aggression in your beardie. Moreover, it is an indication that your beardie has not well adjusted with you. To avoid this, try handling your dragon more often to build a positive relationship between yourself and the beardie. Use guarding gloves to protect yourself from being bitten by the beardie.

Head Bobbing

This is a sign shown by the beardie to exhibit dominance. The beta male shows this sign to challenge the alpha male in the wild. However, the exhibition of this sign in captivity means that your beardie finds you as a challenger. Working on the bond between you and your beardie is going to remove this problem.

Causes of stress in bearded dragons

Once you realize your bearded dragon is stressed, you might want to find the causes of stress. This will eventually build up to finding ways to calm down your bearded dragon. The beardies get stressed out for many reasons, and one of the most important is that they find uncomfortable in the environment they are introduced to.

Furthermore, the reasons for stress could be internal too. Internal reasons include sickness, which some external source could cause. So it’s crucial to find the reason for stress in the beardie and remove them as soon as possible.

Following are a few reasons why your beardie might be feeling stressed.

Not having their habitat set up correctly

This is the primary reason for stress in your bearded dragon. So, if your beardie is showing symptoms of being stressed, you must check their habitat first. When brought home to be kept in another terrarium, a newly bought bearded dragon will cause stress in the beardie. As they are very sensitive about their habitat, they take time to adjust to the new environment.

Also, you must ensure that all the essentials are being provided to your beardie as the nearest possible imitation of nature. If the parameters are not set up ideally like nature, the beardie would be more stressed than you can anticipate.

Temperature Issue

Temperature is very important when you’re talking about keeping a beardie. Bearded dragons are originally from hot and dry areas and need the same temperature adjustments when in captivity. The bearded dragons brumate during cold temperatures, which is similar to hibernation.

The reason behind brumation in colder temperatures is the comparatively low metabolism caused by the low temperature. So if your dragon is sleeping most of the time and showing stress marks on its body, then you might want to look at the thermometer to verify the temperature provided in the terrarium.

Rapid change in lighting

Ensure that the enclosure of the bearded dragon has a steady and consistent supply of light. The bearded dragon might feel anxious; if the light is fluctuating or the light setting is inappropriate, the difference in lighting will cause agitation in the beardie. Learn more about bearded dragon cage lighting.

Tapping on walls:

One of the reasons why your dragon gets exhausted and stressed is the tapping on the glass walls of the terrarium. This is often done by the overly excited kids at your home, who tend to run around the beardie’s cage and tap it to see the bearded dragon moving around. The bearded dragon responds to the taps; however, it gets very stressful for the beardie.

Shrill Sounds

The sounds around your bearded dragon’s cage can raise the level of stress for your beardie. As the loud or shrill sounds make the beardie feel intimidates, hence causing stress in him.

Feeling Hot

The temperature regulation is very crucial while handling a bearded dragon. If you have a bearded dragon, you must check the temperature at all times. The bearded dragon does need a nice and warm temperature to live in and enjoy basking in the warm temperature. However, too high a temperature can disturb your bearded dragon.

Unwelcome Roomies

The bearded dragons in the wild enjoy a solitary life because the dominant bearded dragon has an approach to all the required natural resources and quite an ample space to bask around in the sun. However, in captivity, the bearded dragon is already adjusting to many things; introducing other bearded dragons in the same terrarium will cause stress in the bearded dragon.

If the new beardie is young, it will eventually be hit up your adult beardie, whereas having dragons of the same age level will have a constant war going on in the terrarium. So you must not introduce two or three dragons in one cage to avoid inconvenience.

Tips for dealing with stress in your bearded dragon

The following tips will help you destress your bearded dragon.

Reduce Handling

If you see the signs of stress in your bearded dragon, it is better to leave him alone for some time. Handling a stressed dragon would elevate the level of stress, and the dragon might show signs of aggression in response to the act of handling.

Give your bearded dragon some time alone; if the beardie has newly moved into the terrarium, then give him at least a week to adjust to the new environment. Start handling by only entering your hand in their cage with palm facing up for several minutes. This will ensure your dragon that you’re not going to hurt him. It indicates

Minimize sensory overload

Bearded dragons get overly exhausted and overwhelmed because of the commotion around them. Being surrounded by a crowd, noisy environment and other excessive sensory intakes make your dragon stressed.

Reduce the sensory load by covering the cage with a towel or cloth or keeping the cage in a calm and quiet place not to threaten your bearded dragon.

Get them used to your scent

To help your dragon get rid of stress is by making them used to your scent. Making the beardie comfortable with your existence will help to remove half of the burden. Good bonding with beardie will reduce the level of stress in your pet. This can be done by introducing an article or piece of your clothing into the dragon’s cage.

Give them a warm bath

Giving a nice and warm shower to your dragon will reduce the stress level in the beardie. It is suggested to provide your beardie a warm bath once you bring it home; this will help in keeping the beardie hydrated and clean.

Do not pick your dragon from above while taking them for a bath. This will startle the beardie and stress him further.

Offer food daily

Offering food to your beardie regularly can reduce the level of stress. Offer greens as well as other threats to your beardie, even if it is not consuming all of them. Remember to remove uneaten or leftover insects and food from the cage.

No Roommates

Keeping your bearded dragon who you just brought home with other bearded dragons is not recommended at all. Sharing one enclosure can cause dispute between the roomies and result in elevated stress levels.

Use a pleasant tone

Bearded dragons have an excellent sense of hearing, so it is a great approach to speak to your dragon in a pleasant tone. This will remove their shyness and eventually making them feel comfortable with you and the environment.

Stroke the head

Stroke the head of your bearded dragon with a finger starting from the nose to the crown of its head. However, you must make sure not to touch his eyes to avoid agitating him.

Things to avoid

There are a few things that you must avoid while dealing with your bearded dragon, as you might be doing it unintentionally and hence causing stress to your bearded dragon.

Don’t approach from behind:

Bearded dragons, apart from the two eyes, have a third one to detect light and shadow. Approaching a bearded dragon from the top or behind might intimidate your beardie as they see and interpret the shadow as something threatening.

Reach out to your dragon from front to keep him calm and happy while handling him

Don’t Put your bearded dragon with other beardies

It’s recommended to keep the beardie alone, as it enjoys a solitary life. Keeping two or more bearded dragons in a cage just because it’s more significant is not an intelligent choice. As the adult or larger beardies will dominate the young bearded dragons causing disruption in the whole cage.

Don’t use a small tank

If you’re buying a young bearded dragon, there’s no need to buy a small cage as the bearded dragon will grow up and need a bigger terrarium for its physical activities. Most of the newbies make the mistake of opting for a smaller terrarium and do not change the cage as beardie grows.

Ensure enough space and a significantly large cage for your beardie to allow him to move around freely. Otherwise, the bearded dragon will feel stressed in a small cage. List of recommended bearded dragon cages.

Don’t let the bearded dragon habitat be boring

Keeping the bearded dragon entertained will keep him healthy and stress-free. Try introducing sticks, stones, or other accessories in your bearded dragon’s cage to keep him entertained. Add spacious basking areas in the cage; moreover, your bearded dragon should have an approach to the water.

Here is a list of accessories and decorations you can use in your bearded dragon enclosure.  

Don’t hold only one part of the reptile

While attempting to hold your dragon, make sure to handle it completely. Do not let your bearded dragon dangle, or it will feel stressed out and unhappy. Ensure to hold your dragon safely.

Not Avoiding loud noises

The sense of hearing of a bearded dragon is very sharp. Try to arrange a peaceful environment around them. It makes them happy and healthy.  They can also sense slight vibrations so minimize the movement around them.

Additional Factors that Contribute to Undue Stress

1: try to arrange the temperature well maintained. Very high or very low temperature can be stressful for the bearded dragon.

2: feed the bearded dragon on time. Hunger can make the dragon stressed.

Wrapping up :

The bearded dragons are very sensitive creatures and can feel stressed very easily. Keep an open eye for the symptoms that your beardie is exhibiting. Loss of appetite, less movement, and no physical activity indicate stress in the beardie. At the same time, the primary reasons for being stressed can be feeling of threat and danger.

Keep the environment around your dragon as calm and quiet as possible to keep him healthy and happy.

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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