Most people will opt for docile and calm pets. After all, no one wants to live with an animal that carries the risk of hurting him/her at some point. Bearded dragons are among the best choices for docile pets.
Even so, these pets can become aggressive. This is nothing that should make you steer clear of getting a pet bearded dragon because you can effectively handle the aggression if you understand its causes.
Below is some expert information to help you understand the causes of aggression in a bearded dragon and how to manage it.
Reasons for Aggression in a Bearded Dragon
The following are the typical reasons for aggression in a bearded dragon:
Mistakes in the setup of your bearded dragon’s environment can make it stressed and cause its aggression. If, for example, you have the wrong lighting type or excessively bright lights, this can upset your pet reptile and make it aggressive.
When it gets too hot in its enclosure, a bearded dragon will often become moody and angry because it cannot regulate its body temperature. Therefore, be careful to maintain the right temperatures for your bearded dragon’s age.
Children and other household pets that bang excessively on the glass of your bearded dragon’s enclosure will also bother the reptile and make it quite aggressive. If a bearded dragon cannot see you when approaching, it might get startled and scared.
This often happens when you slowly approach a relaxing or bearded dragon from its back or touch it when it is almost asleep or relaxed. In these cases, the startling makes your pet reptile stressed and starts running around its cage where it might injure itself.
– Health Problem
Bearded dragons are quite adaptable and will not fall sick frequently. When they do, however, they can become aggressive just like most humans do. When battling an illness, the reptile is uncomfortable and is trying to understand the many changes happening in its body.
This causes it to become angry, aggressive, and scared. Some of the common signs you will notice in a sick bearded dragon are a lack of appetite, constipation, lethargy, and strange behaviors.
Some of the common diseases in a bearded dragon include metabolic bone disease, eye issues, vitamin toxicity, impaction, mouth rot, respiratory infections, egg binding, and endoparasitic infestation.
– Breeding Behavior
Bearded dragons sometimes become a bit aggressive during their breeding season. In most cases, aggression during breeding happens when two males fight each other for a female’s attention. In this instance, the males will bob heads, run around and bite each other.
At this point, if you try handling your male dragons to separate the fight, they can bite you. Another cause of aggression during the breeding season is a male that wants to mate a female that is unwilling to do so.
The male at this time can significantly stress the female bearded dragon. Most female bearded dragons will reach their sexual maturity at 6-8 months old. At this point, the reptiles are also quite aggressive because of the hormonal changes they are experiencing.
– New Environment
When your bearded dragon is new, many things in its environments might scare it and leave it stressed. This is particularly true for a baby bearded dragon as it tries to adjust to its new environment.
Bearded dragons will react differently to change. While some will take the change in a stride, others feel intimidated and often become angry to help them cope with the change. Even seemingly small changes in the setup of a bearded dragons’ enclosure can make it aggressive.
For example, adding or removing items in their cages, and changing the items’ positions in its cage often affects your pet reptile negatively.
Sometimes, even changing the curtains or wallpaper or including mirrors around the bearded dragon’s enclosure can make it aggressive, so be careful.
Unlike in humans where the skin stretches to accommodate growth, the structure of a reptile’s skin is quite different. The animal will shed its skin every few months to accommodate its growing body.
The frequency of shedding in a bearded dragon depends on its age. A young bearded dragon will shed its skin more frequently than an older one because it grows faster than the adult reptile.
The animal will often become aggressive during the shedding, and a few days before the process starts. This is because the process can be itchy, painful, and irritating for your pet reptile.
Resist the urge to pull on the skin that looks like it is barely hanging on so that you do not upset your reptile and cause it to attack you.
– Feeding Behavior
A hungry bearded dragon can try to attack you. This is because hunger causes aggression in the reptile, much like some people become fussy when hungry, so be careful to stick to mealtimes.
Aggression in hungry bearded dragons is more common in young reptiles since these love eating a lot to supply the necessary calories for their rapid growth. A young pet reptile that is up to seven months old can sometimes eat every twenty minutes and become quite aggressive when feeding is delayed.
However, be careful not to overfeed your bearded dragon since this can lead to obesity and other lifelong issues that will minimize your pet’s life quality.
– Pre Brumation
Before the start of their brumation, most bearded dragons will become quite grumpy and sometimes aggressive. The reptile often starts refusing food, slowing down, sleeping a lot, and hiding just before it goes into brumation.
Bearded dragons start brumation when they are 12-18 months old in winter months just like they would in the wild to conserve their energies. If your pet reptile is healthy and shows no alarming signs, allow it to brumate comfortably.
This will mean reducing the tank’s temperatures and dimming the lights. Moreover, do not handle your bearded dragon. Provided it has the right conditions for brumation, the animal will not be so aggressive.
Bearded Dragon Signs of Aggressive Behavior
Like humans, there is specific body language in a bearded dragon that will indicate its mood, health, and feelings. Bearded dragons do not mimic the behaviors of other animals, so you can be sure that their body language is genuine. Some of the signs of aggression in a bearded dragon include:
- Hissing: This is often a sign that the reptile is feeling threatened or uncomfortable.
- Puffing of the beard: This sign makes the bearded dragon look scarier and larger. It is a way of protecting itself when the reptile feels threatened.
- Staring so that it scares away a threat.
- The formation of stress marks that look like straight black lines.
- Blackening of the beard to camouflage itself from threats or to conserve its heat when going into brumation.
- Head bobbing often in quick jerks: This is usually seen when you house two males together as each of them tries to mark its territory. It can also happen when the dragon sees itself in a mirror.
- Biting when the reptile is handled.
- Tail lashing.
- Attacking tank furniture and anything that comes near it.
- Glass surfing. This is generally clawing at the enclosure trying to get out of it.
- Running away
- Open mouth display to make the reptile look bigger and scare away anything it deems threatening.
Dealing With an Aggressive Bearded Dragon
When dealing with an aggressive bearded dragon, your first step should be trying to remember what was going on around it so that you can pick the general reason for the aggression and deal with it appropriately. Below are some ways to manage aggression in your bearded dragon:
- Cover all reflective surfaces so that the animal does not think it has a rival in the tank.
- Separate your bearded dragons into separate cages if you are keeping more than one.
- Reduce the lighting in the reptile’s enclosure so that you trick it into thinking it is the wrong time to breed if breeding seems to be the reason for its aggression.
- Avoid handling the animal frequently. This will give the animal time to get used to handling when it is new. Wear gloves when handling the bearded dragon so that you are not injured. Completely negating handling will make it hard to tame your pet bearded dragon.
- Use soft tongs to offer food and treats to the lizard so that it slowly becomes comfortable with you and does not see you as a threat.
Aggression in a bearded dragon is thankfully transient. When you negate the causes of aggression covered above, promptly recognize the signs of aggression, and manage it appropriately, your pet bearded dragon will be one that brings you a lot of joy.
Even so, remember that pets have different temperaments just like humans, and you might end up bringing a naturally aggressive pet home.
Be careful when picking your pet bearded dragon to get one from a lineage that has been tamed. This is generally calmer compared to one that has just been picked from its natural habitat.