Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads? 7 Reasons To Know (2024)

Are you wondering, “Why do bearded dragons bob their heads?”

I freaked out the first time I saw my beardie bobbing and went straight to the vet because I was worried my beloved pet was sick.

But it turned out to be a common behavior, so I’m here to talk about why it happens and when you should worry.

Just keep reading.

READ MORE: 10 Fun Facts About Bearded Dragons

Table of Contents

7 Surprising Reasons Why Bearded Lizards Bob Their Heads

While beardies are friendly lizards, it’s hard to interrupt their body language, especially if you’re a novice bearded dragon owner.

So, why do bearded lizards bob their heads?

Usually, bearded lizards bob their heads as a reaction to something in or out of their tank that scares or stresses them. It can also be a mating sign or a way for your pet to express submission/dominance.

But let’s talk in detail about all the possible reasons for this strange bearded dragon behavior.

1. Sign of Dominance

Is your bearded dragon head bobbing fast at another animal or an unfamiliar person? Then, your pet is establishing its dominance and trying to protect its territory.

Wild dragons must be on constant guard against predators and threats in the harsh Australian desert, so they have defensive mechanisms to protect themselves.

Head bobbing is how your beardie makes itself look scarier to warn potential threats to stay away. It’s an instinctive behavior, similar to beard puffing.

A bearded dragon can even bob its head at toys because they’re trying to scare them and appear dominant.

Check this video to see an aggressive dragon bobbing its head:

2. Mating Ritual

Surprisingly, head bobbing is a mating display. It’s how male bearded dragons try to attract the attention of female lizards and signal their desire and readiness to mate.

Black beards and stomping feet are the other signs that indicate your pet lizard is looking for a mating partner. This type of head bob is more noticeable in males, but females also do it.

Check this video to see what mating head bobs look like.

The mating season for wild bearded dragons is between September and March. But in captivity, you can breed your pet reptiles all year round.

3. Sign of Submission Towards Other Dragons

Is your smaller beardie head bobbing at larger bearded dragons or other intimidating creatures? Then have you noticed your beardie doing a slow arm wave? Then it’s all about submission.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads? 7 Reasons To Know (1)

As experts from the VCA explain, “This purpose of this action is not entirely understood, but it is believed to be a form of communication, possibly indicating submission to a larger or more dominant animal.” (1)

Unlike the quick head bob, which shows dominance, the submissive head bob is slow and expresses, “I’m submitting to you. I’m not a threat.”

Such submissive behavior is common when you place one submissive and one dominant lizard in one tank. Reptiles aren’t the most social creatures, so they don’t get along very well.

Specialists from PetMD recommend keeping your pets in separate tanks to avoid dominance displays and aggressive behavior. (2)

If you must keep two beardies in one tank, ensure enough space to prevent conflicts.

Related: Why Does My Bearded Dragon Wave?

4. Submissive Behavior Towards Humans/Other Pets

Bearded dragons can be submissive to humans and other pets and show it by slowly bobbing their heads. It’s how your pet lizard says, “I don’t want to fight with you.”

Since your beardie needs time to get used to you, it’s normal for them to express submission in the first few weeks with you. But once you gain their trust, it should disappear.

5. Form of Communication

Head bobbing is a common form of body language that bearded lizards use to acknowledge nearby lizards, animals, or their pet owner and communicate with them.

Some bearded dragon keepers think this slow, non-aggressive head bobbing says, “I have my eyes on you, so don’t try anything.” But it can also mean, “Hey! Pleased to meet you!”

CHECK: Why is My Bearded Dragon Opening His Mouth?

6. Seeking Attention/Help

Some bearded lizards have expressive personalities and actively seek human attention. In this case, head bobbing is how your beardie asks you to spend more time with it.

Head bobbing is also a way for your lizard to signal stress or show something in its environment is wrong. It can be related to the heat source, humidity, or water bowl.

7. A Sign of Disease

Usually, head bobbing doesn’t indicate a sickness. However, frequent head bobbing in combination with other symptoms is something you should discuss with your reptile vet.

Metabolic bone disease is one of the most common bearded dragon diseases, usually caused by nutritional deficiency. It can cause shaking, swelling, muscle weakness, and lethargy. (3)

MBD can be fatal, but noticing the signs in time can increase the recovery chance if your dragon gets medical attention.

But what about a bearded dragon head bobbing in its sleep? You’d be surprised!

Why Do Bearded Dragons Head Bob While Sleeping?

It’s normal for some pet lizards to bob their heads while sleeping. It’s because your beardie is falling in and out of sleep. However, it can also mean bright light disturbing your bearded dragon’s sleeping routine.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads? 7 Reasons To Know (2)

Bearded dragons need total darkness to sleep, so artificial or natural sunlight can affect their sleep cycle and cause head bobbing.

And now, let’s talk about whether all bearded lizards bob their heads.

Do All Bearded Lizards Bob Their Head?

Head bobbing is more common in male dragons because it’s part of their mating ritual and a way to scare/dominate other animals or bearded lizards.

However, female bearded dragons also bob heads, but their type of head bob is slow and calm. It usually signals readiness to mate or submissiveness.

FAQs

Why Does My Beardie Bob Its Head At Me?

Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads? 7 Reasons To Know (3)

If your bearded lizards bob its head slowly at you, it’s showing submission. Fast and quick head bobbing means your dragon thinks it’s the dominant creature and tries to scare you into submission.

How Do Bearded Dragons Show Affection?

Bearded dragons show affection by remaining relaxed when you pick them up or sitting still. Lack of signs of aggression, such as hissing and biting, also means that your pet lizard likes you.

Why Is My Bearded Dragon Head Bobbing at Nothing?

Since bearded dragons have excellent sight, they notice things you don’t. So, when your pet reptile is bobbing its head at seemingly nothing, it is reacting to something you don’t see.

Why Do Bearded Lizards Turn Black?

A change in your pet’s body color indicates that your beardie is upset or stressed. A darker beard also shows that your lizard is afraid and trying to scare you away.

Conclusion

Head bobbing is a normal behavior for bearded lizards, so it should not freak you out. In most cases, it’s about scaring or acknowledging other animals/beardie.

But if you’re worried about your pet’s health or notice any signs of distress, you should consult a vet as soon as possible.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads? 7 Reasons To Know (4)

What do you think about this topic? Why do bearded dragons bob their heads? Share your guesses in the comment section.

Resources:

  • 1. Bearded Dragons – Owning [Internet]. vca_corporate. Available from: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/bearded-dragons-owning
  • 2. Adding a Second Reptile to Your Tank: Dos and Don’ts [Internet]. www.petmd.com. Available from: https://www.petmd.com/reptile/slideshows/adding-second-reptile-your-tank-dos-and-donts
  • 3. Quigg M. MBD In Bearded Dragons | Animal Care Hospital [Internet]. animalcarehospital.org. 2021 [cited 2022 Nov 28]. Available from: https://animalcarehospital.org/2021/11/01/marion-ia-mbd-in-bearded-dragons/

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Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads? 7 Reasons To Know (2024)

FAQs

What are the reasons for bearded dragon head bobbing? ›

Bearded dragon head bobbing is usually a reaction to something in its environment that is making it feel uncomfortable or uneasy. It may be feeling stressed, trying to defend its territory, or maybe it's looking to find that perfect love connection.

Why does my dragon head bob? ›

Males will bob their heads when performing a mating display to initiate courtship. Females show acceptance by bobbing their heads back. Head bobbing can also be a form of aggression and dominance. You may see head bobbing in your pet as they try to establish dominance in their tank.

Why is my bearded dragon head bobbing and glass surfing? ›

Glass surfing is thought to be a result of stress and a bearded dragon may be stressed for several reasons: An enclosure or tank that's too small for it can stress a bearded dragon out. Another bearded dragon, even if they're not housed together, may be interpreted as competition for a bearded dragon and cause stress.

What does bobbing head mean? ›

to move your head down and then back up again in a short quick movement as a way of greeting someone or showing agreement or respect.

How do Beardies communicate? ›

Communication. Apart from a low hiss when threatened, Bearded Dragons do not vocalise. Communication is achieved through posturing, colour display, head bobbing and arm waving. A distinct hierarchy can be seen when these usually solitary lizards congregate at prime basking sites and at times of abundant food.

How do I know if my bearded dragon is dehydrated? ›

Signs of Dehydration in Your Bearded Dragon
  1. Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  2. Wrinkly, dry-looking skin.
  3. Loose skin.
  4. Sunken eyes.
  5. Fatigue.
  6. Constipation.
  7. Thick, sticky saliva.
  8. Retained shed (if your dragon is shedding)
Dec 21, 2022

Does bearded dragons like to be held? ›

Also known as “Beardies” they are not particularly lazy pets. It's just that they are known to enjoy cuddling up with their owners while they watch TV. Yes, they're cuddly!

What does it mean when a bearded dragon licks you? ›

It's A Sign Of Affection Or Comfort

It does seem to be true that a bearded dragon is more likely to lick you if it trusts you and feels comfortable with you. However, this licking is not necessarily a sign of affection. It could be that it likes the way you smell or feels a sense of safety to have you around.

Why do bearded dragons close their eyes when you rub their head? ›

It's not to express contentment or happiness. It's usually to show discomfort! Believe it or not, bearded dragons typically close their eyes when you pet or hold them because they're scared and want to get out of the situation. It's a coping mechanism and often acts as a warning to back off.

Why is my bearded dragon staring at the ceiling? ›

Some bearded dragons with ADV can experience neurological symptoms such as body twitching and seizures. It may arch its neck and look up at the sky (stargazing) due to what the virus does to its nervous system.

Can bearded dragons see glass? ›

They See Their Own Reflection

In some cases, these reptiles will even notice their own reflection off the glass. This can sometimes startle and confuse your little pet. Many times, they will believe their reflection is another beardie that's getting too close for comfort.

Do bearded dragon bites hurt? ›

Bearded Dragon Bites

Dragons rarely bite. When they do, it's rarely serious. A dragon bite may be painful because their teeth are sharp. If you are bitten, the site may swell and bleed.

Can head bobbing be normal? ›

In most cases, head shaking is a normal, developmentally appropriate behavior that shows that a baby is exploring and interacting with their world. If a baby has any accompanying symptoms or seems distressed, it is important to take them to see a doctor.

What causes constant head bobbing? ›

It's most commonly associated with neurological disorders. Titubation is a type of essential tremor, which is a nervous system disorder that causes uncontrollable, rhythmic shaking. Head tremors are linked to involuntary muscle contractions.

What is head bobbing diagnosis? ›

Disease at a Glance

Bobble-head doll syndrome (BHDS) is a rare neurological condition that is typically first seen in childhood. The signs and symptoms of BHDS include characteristic up and down head movements that increase during walking and excitement and decrease during concentration.

Are bearded dragons smart? ›

Anyone who owns a bearded dragon knows that they are fairly smart reptiles. But did you know that they are smarter than you may have previously thought?

Are bearded dragons happier alone? ›

Do bearded dragons prefer to be alone? Bearded dragons are territorial creatures, so prefer to be kept on their own in their enclosure. They enjoy having the warmth of their light and the whole food bowl to themselves. Essentially, they like not having to compete for resources.

What color is a stressed bearded dragon? ›

Darker Coloration

A bearded dragon can sometimes appear to be a bit darker in color. This could be a typical sign of some stress, but it could also signify that it is getting ready to shed.

How do you calm a scared bearded dragon? ›

How to Calm a Stressed Bearded Dragon and Make Him Happy Again
  1. Reduce handling to a minimum.
  2. Minimize Sensory Overload.
  3. Get Them Used to Your Scent.
  4. Give Them a Warm Bath.
  5. Offer Food Daily.
  6. NO Roommates.
  7. Use a Pleasant Tone.
Jan 17, 2019

How often should you hold your bearded dragon? ›

You can hold a bearded dragon for as long as it will tolerate being held. Start with 15 minutes once a day and as it gets used to being handled, you can hold it longer. Some dragons enjoy being held several times a day for several hours. When the beardie becomes restless, it is time to put him back.

How do bearded dragons see you? ›

Bearded dragons have poor depth perception, but sharp long-distance vision. Because their eyes don't see straight ahead, bearded dragons have limited ability to focus on what is directly in front of them. They can see far into the distance, though, which helps them hunt insects.

What sounds do bearded dragons respond to? ›

If you want to listen to the radio with your bearded dragon, choose a station that plays classical or instrumentals. Rain and sea waves (or any other type of white noise) are beloved by bearded dragons. If you have the ability, play your bearded dragon's favorite music as often as possible.

What is the fastest way to hydrate a bearded dragon? ›

Moderate symptoms: For more moderate symptoms of dehydration, you may need to assist your dragon in rehydration by manually offering them water. Dripping a few drops on their nose from a spray bottle will often get a thirsty bearded dragon interested in licking up some water.

How long should I put my bearded dragon in water? ›

Let your beardie soak for about 15 – 20 minutes. Once bath time is over, gently pat your pet dry with a soft sowel. This is very important! If he's still damp when you put him back in his tank, the substrate may stick to him.

How do I know if my bearded dragon is too hot? ›

Here's one final piece of advice from Molesey Vets' team – it's not normal or healthy for bearded dragons to sleep all day in the summer as they can miss vital basking time. If your pet has become lazy, lethargic, and isn't eating, this could be a sign of being too hot (or something else).

Where should you not touch a bearded dragon? ›

Baby beardies are more skittish and can panic when they are picked up. Try to keep the baby calm and keep one finger under its chin while holding it. Never grab or hold a bearded dragon by its legs or tail.

What kind of attention do bearded dragons like? ›

Beardies love their owners. They'll recognize you, look in your eyes, beg for food, and sometimes want to be held. Unlike furry friends, beardies don't need constant attention or handling. They need alone time but will miss you if you're gone for too long.

Do bearded dragons get bored in their cage? ›

Yes, bearded dragons can get bored.

Of course, glass surfing, like many other bearded dragon behaviors, can be caused by a variety of factors, so it's best to know your dragon and always be on the lookout for changes in behavior.

When should you not handle a bearded dragon? ›

Hold Bearded Dragons Until They're at least 6-inches Long

As a rule of thumb, you'll want to avoid any unnecessary handling until your bearded dragon is about 6 inches long or so. By this time, they're usually sturdier and less likely to become injured during handling sessions.

What does it mean when a bearded dragon looks at you with its mouth open? ›

It's A Sign of Aggression. Bearded dragons are generally calm and docile lizards. However, if they feel threatened, angry, or afraid, they may open their mouths as part of an aggressive stance. When an animal feels threatened or afraid, it will go into a fight or flight response.

Why do bearded dragons flatten out? ›

If their terrarium is too cold, bearded dragons may attempt to regulate their body temperature by flattening out in order to absorb as much heat as possible. If you notice your dragon pancaking a lot in his tank, this is likely the cause.

How do bearded dragons show anger? ›

Beardies show anger in a number of ways, including trying to escape their enclosures, twitchy tails, fluffing their beards, and even biting.

Do bearded dragons sleep? ›

Bearded dragons are diurnal and sleep up to 12 hours daily. People often ask if bearded dragons are nocturnal or diurnal. These reptiles are diurnal, so they are active during the day and sleep at night, similar to humans. If you have a bearded pet dragon, it will be awake during the day and rest when you do.

Do blankets keep bearded dragons warm? ›

Wrapping them up in a blanket is not going to help them – if anything it will insulate them from outside heat, like a cold drink in a thermos flask – and prevent them from warming up. And that's why you don't put a blanket on a sleeping lizard.

What are some fun facts about bearded dragons? ›

They can hold their breath for up to two minutes at a time. Bearded dragons have amazing vision and hearing—they can see in color, and can even see things that are moving behind them by using their “parietal eye” (a small gap in their skull). Bearded dragons are omnivores—they eat both plants and meat!

Why does my bearded dragon look like he's smiling? ›

WHY DO BEARDED DRAGONS SMILE? The bearded dragon often sits with a gaping mouth, which makes it appear as if it is smiling. But the lizard actually opens its mouth to help it regulate its body temperature. Unlike people, the bearded dragon cannot sweat and so expels excess heat through its open mouth.

How do you read a bearded dragon's body language? ›

Beard flexing is also a normal behavior in the morning, as they do it to stretch. “Sexy Leg” — An endearingly cute behavior that is nothing more than a good stretch. “Pancaking” — If your bearded dragon suddenly flattens against the ground, spreading out his/her body, s/he is feeling frightened.

Why does my bearded dragon jump at the light? ›

They're stressed out

There are a number of factors, but common ones include an enclosure that is too small, improper temperatures, rearranged decorations, and a perceived threat from a reflection or another dragon nearby.

Why is my bearded dragon running around so much? ›

This is strange behavior that bearded dragons exhibit in times of boredom and stress. Beardies will run back and forth alongside their enclosure (often a glass tank) and stand on their hind legs trying to run up the side.

Why is my bearded dragon turning black? ›

Anger, stress or anxiety

A bearded dragon may turn black to let you know he is upset. Many factors can contribute to a bearded dragon's stress—shedding; a new terrarium; frightening decor; or noise such as loud traffic, music, or a blaring TV.

Can Beardies eat carrots? ›

What vegetables do bearded dragons eat? There are a handful of vegetables that are considered safe for your bearded dragon to eat including, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, celery, kale, and asparagus.

Do bearded dragons tails fall off? ›

It takes time to recover and regenerate the appendage, but it doesn't have much effect on the animal. So, do bearded dragons have the ability to drop their tails? Unfortunately, they do not. Contrary to what you might hear, bearded dragons cannot drop their tails at will and grow them back.

Do bearded dragons eat everyday? ›

Most young bearded dragons should eat once or twice daily, while older lizards may only eat every 24-72 hours, depending upon each pet's individual appetite.

Why is my bearded dragon opening his mouth and shaking his head? ›

Bearded dragons shake their heads due to dominant behavior, calcium deficiency, neurological issues, mating response, respiratory infection, and stress. Usually, head shaking is associated with dominance, however, if the behavior is habitual it may be a cause for concern.

Why do lizards bob up and down? ›

There are three main reasons why many species of lizards sometimes bob up and down in a “push-up” motion. These include: Displaying dominance towards another lizard and/or assessing their physical size and strength (usually between males) Courting another lizard for mating (usually done by males towards females)

Why is my bearded dragon puffing his neck in and out? ›

They're Scared or Stressed. This is probably the most common reason why bearded dragons puff up. The use of a defense mechanism is a widespread behavior within the animal kingdom. By looking larger and more threatening, the animal tries to frighten off a would-be predator.

Does soaking bearded dragons hydrate them? ›

In addition to providing a water dish and hydrating foods like cucumbers and grapes, baths can be a great way to keep your dragon hydrated. Many dragons refuse to drink from a water dish but will drink from their bath (maybe yours is one of them!).

What are the emotions of a bearded dragon? ›

Bearded dragons have an underdeveloped hypothalamus and doesn't give the same range of emotions as we humans have. They have three basic emotions which are fear, aggression, and pleasure. These three emotions are all triggered by their natural instincts depending on the environment around them.

Why is my bearded dragon bobbing his head at nothing? ›

If you're wondering why bearded dragon head bobbing happens, you can pretty much chalk it up to 2 things, either a show of dominance or mating behavior, both of which can be more commonly seen in male bearded dragons.

Do lizards recognize people? ›

However, most reptiles do seem to recognize people who frequently handle and feed them. “I don't know if it is love,” says Dr. Hoppes, “but lizards and tortoises appear to like some people more than others. They also seem to show the most emotions, as many lizards do appear to show pleasure when being stroked.”

Why do lizards do push-ups when they see you? ›

Well, the visual communication can be a way to establish dominance and assert territory. Male lizards do pushups to display strength and send messages to potential rivals or threats.

Why does my bearded dragon hold his mouth open while in his cage? ›

When a bearded dragon reaches its thermal maximum, it will often sit with its mouth open. This behavior, called gaping, shows that the lizard is at its optimal temperature for basking. This gaping will allow a bearded dragon to dissipate extra body heat.

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