Why Does My Bearded Dragon Wave?
Have you noticed your bearded dragon stand on its hind legs, lift its arm in the air, and move it in slow circular motion? They often make this methodical motion predominantly with one arm, but they may change to the other arm.
As a bearded dragon owner, you may well up with excitement when you first notice this motion. It is cute, and you assume that the bearded dragon is waving at your or other pets. But, is your bearded dragon greeting you, and is this normal behavior?
Unfortunately, the bearded dragon is not simply saying hello, and the wave may mean different things. Below is a look at the top reasons for a bearded dragon waving.
Top 7 Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Wave
1. As a Sign of Submission to the Owner
Bearded dragons are quite territorial, and they tend to dominate any smaller animals, such as younger beardies, smaller bearded dragon species such as central bearded dragon (pogona vitticeps), crested gecko, and feeder insects. However, they are submissive to creatures that are bigger than them. Therefore, the little bearded dragon arm raised to you or your child is a sign of submission to let you know that they are not a threat.
If your bearded dragon is waving as a sign of submission, it would be nice to wave back to her. If she was anxious about your dominance, your waving back puts her at ease.
2. As a Sign of Submission to Another Bearded Animal
If there is another bearded dragon nearby, either in the same or separate tank, it is common for a baby bearded dragon to wave at the bigger one as a sign of submission. In some cases, the wave is simply an acknowledgment of the presence of the other beardie, while in other cases, it is an indication of fear and intimidation. In the former scenario, the juvenile bearded dragon raising its arm is how it says, “please don’t hurt me”.
If you have two bearded dragons in the same tank and one regularly raises its arm, you should separate them. It is an indication that the smaller beardie is in constant fear of the dominant one. In most cases, the dominant one tends to take up basking spaces and eat up most of the food. They may also exhibit aggressive behavior towards the smaller ones.
The unfavorable living conditions and intimidations cause physiological, emotional, and environmental stress on the smaller bearded dragon, negatively impacting your pet’s wellbeing. If you do not have enough space in your house to keep the two dragons separately, you may have to give one away.
3. As a Sign of Submission to other Household Pets
If there are other pets in your house, such as dogs, cats, or birds, you may occasionally notice your bearded dragon wave at them. Like in the case of other beardies, it may be an acknowledgment of presence or a sign of fear.
If the waving is accompanied by other signs, such as retreating, puffing, black beard, aggression, head bobbing, or glass surfing, then the bearded dragon is scared. In this case, it is best to move your exotic pet away to a different room where you keep off other pets. You could also incorporate accessories such as driftwood, small logs, twigs, and rocks in the tank that serve as a haven for the lizard to hide. That way, it does not have to see other pets if they scare it constantly.
With that said, the best option would be to socialize your pets to get along with each other. Bearded dragons are one of the friendliest reptiles. They are usually easygoing with a balanced temper. Therefore, they easily get along with other pets.
Introduce your other pet to your beardie slowly and carefully. Dogs can be quite excitable or aggressive, so you want to introduce your bearded dragon when the dog is calm. On the other hand, cats tend to warm up to bearded dragons quickly.
Allow your pets to acclimate to each other. There might be some tiffs in the first few instances, but with proper instructions and close monitoring, the animals will get past these issues.
4. Change in Environment
Suppose you have recently brought a bearded dragon home or changed the position of its tank from one spot in the house to another. In that case, it may feel uneasy, resulting in regular or occasional arm-waving. Don’t worry, the bearded dragon arm-waving will settle once your beardie has adapted to the new environment. However, monitor how long the behavior goes on as there could be other stressors.
5. Your Beardie is Seeing its Reflection
If your bearded dragon is frequently waving and can’t seem to figure out the trigger, it could be seeing its reflection in the tank glass walls. Since they do not understand the concept of reflection, they most likely think that it is another beardie. Therefore, as discussed above, they raise their hand in acknowledgment or submission.
Consider changing the lighting set up in your house and inside the tank to prevent reflections from forming.
6. They Could Be Seeing Animals or Objects Outside
If you have placed your bearded dragon’s vivarium near a window, they may be seeing other animals or objects outside that they may perceive as a threat. For instance, a bird that flies by or the swinging of a nearby tree may scare them, causing them to wave in submission.
You may also notice that arm-waving changes with seasons and weather. For instance, on a stormy or rainy day, your beardie may tend to wave more frequently.
Therefore, be mindful of where you place the bearded dragon enclosure. While a good view of the outside may offer a refreshing sight for your pet bearded dragon, it could also cause stress.
7. Mating Behavior
Waving as a mating behavior is predominant in wild bearded dragons. Whereby females wave at males to signal an interest in mating. It is unlikely that you will see a male bearded dragon waving for mating purposes. Also, if you have one female bearded dragon, it is unlikely to be waving for mating purposes.
The bearded dragon waving is not bad or harmful to its health. It is a natural behavior in response to its environment. However, it can be an indicator of stressors or threats in the nearby surroundings that could be detrimental to your beardie’s wellbeing.
Select incidences of waving are no cause for worry, e.g., reflection in the mirror. However, if the behavioral response is regular, it is evidence that the reptile is constantly under stress.
Do all Bearded Dragons Wave?
Some people say that only female bearded dragons wave and males bob their heads. This conclusion is only true for mating behaviors. If there are no triggers, a bearded dragon may never wave in its lifetime. Otherwise, both male and female bearded dragons can wave for any of the above reasons.