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How To Hold A Bearded Dragon

As a pet parent, knowing how to hold and handle your beardie can be beneficial in improving the bond you share with the pet. These reptiles enjoy being held and are pretty laid back, so they are not likely to hurt you, at least not intentionally.


It is crucial to remember that bearded dragons are not cuddly pets like cats or dogs. These lizards may bite if you startle them or don’t pick them up correctly. The bites can be painful and even cause injuries if you have an adult bearded dragon. Fortunately, the venom is not poisonous to humans.


But learning proper handling isn’t just about preventing aggressive behaviors. It is also to protect your pet lizard from getting hurt.


This article explores how to correctly hold a bearded dragon during bonding time. You will also learn how long you should hold your pet and when to leave your beardie alone.


How to Hold a Bearded Dragon


Once your bearded dragon is comfortable in its home and used to your presence, you can safely hold and pet it. Here are the steps to hold your lizard friend.


Wash Your Hands


First, wash your hands to ensure that your pet doesn’t get infected by any germs.


Approach from the Front or Side


Stay in the pet’s line of sight. The best place to approach your lizard companion is from the front. The second-best place is from the side. You want the dragon to see you slowly approaching, so it isn’t caught unawares or startled. Whatever you do, don’t approach from above, as that will make your pet skittish.


Pet the Dragon


Before scooping up your animal, it is a good idea to pet it first. You can do this by rubbing under its cheeks or chin to set the pet at ease.


Support and Scoop the Animal


In most cases, you can tell your pet is in the mood to be picked up when it starts to close its eyes. Gently slip your hand under the chest areas for full support and gradually lift it.


Hold Your Beardie Firmly but Don’t Squeeze


It is normal for bearded dragons to wriggle in an attempt to escape, especially in the first few times you pick them up. Hold your pet firmly if this happens, but do not squeeze it. Your pet should stop wiggling after a short while.


Put the Pet Back in Its Enclosure


After spending quality time with your pet, simply lower it back in its tank. Make sure to fully support its body with your hands as you place it back in the enclosure.


Keep in mind that regularly handling your bearded dragon will make the pet get used to you and even enjoy the activity better.


How Long Should You Wait to Hold Your Bearded Dragon?

yellow bearded dragon sit on owner hand

If you adopt a new pet bearded dragon, it is normal to be excited and want to start holding it immediately. But this may not be a good idea, especially since the pet has just arrived in a new environment.


Before you attempt to pick up and pet your new animal companion, it is important to figure out:

  • The age (hatchlings and baby bearded dragons are very fragile and require a lot of care when handling)

  • The personality (not all bearded dragons like to be held)

  • What experiences they’ve had with previous owners

It takes a long time for pet dragons that have not been socialized to get used to handling. In any case, it is usually a good idea to let hatchlings get to two or three weeks old before attempting to hold them.


If you have an older pet, a good way to introduce yourself is to do it slowly. Let it stay in its vivarium for a few days to a week to get used to the new bearded dragon habitat. Then, open the lid and place your hand inside the tank next to the pet. Do this for up to 10 minutes a day.


Don’t attempt to pick the pet up at this time. Just let it get used to the smell of your hand and your presence. It won’t be long before you can successfully pick up your pet without upsetting it.


How Long Can You Handle a Bearded Dragon?


Although they are generally friendly and like being held, each bearded dragon has a unique personality. In other words, you can hold your dragon pet for as long as it is comfortable being held.


A good rule of thumb is to start with about 10 to 15 minutes daily and gradually increase the time. Some bearded dragons enjoy spending time in their owner’s hands for long periods several times a day. Others may prefer to be held only once a day for short periods. Whatever the case, find out what your pet’s preferences are by observing its behaviors while holding it. If your exotic pet shows signs of restlessness (as discussed below), you should put it back in its tank.


When to Leave Your Bearded Dragon Alone


Indeed, most bearded dragons enjoy being held. However, your pet may not be in the mood for a cuddle at all times. Watch out for the following signs when handling your pet. If you notice one or more of these, it is time to gently return the animal to its enclosure and let it rest for a while.

  • It starts to wave its limbs.

  • Your dragon continuously bobs its head.

  • The beard becomes inflated or darkened.

  • Your pet raises its tail.

  • Your bearded dragon has its mouth open (gaping).

Any of these signs indicate that your pet is getting restless, and you should put it down.


What to Avoid when Holding a Bearded Dragon

man handling his pet lizard with hand

Whether you or your kids are handling your lizard friend, it is essential to avoid the following mistakes or behaviors.


Avoid Making Loud Noises or Sudden Movements


Bearded dragons are docile, making them calmer and friendlier than most other pet reptiles. If something upsets their rather laidback temperament, they may interpret it to be a threat.


For this reason, it is important to avoid making jerky or sudden movements when you handle your pet reptile. If you need to call out to someone, gently put down your beardie before doing so. Loud sounds or noises can scare your pet and make it struggle in your grip. Worse still, it can lead to bites.


Keep Your Bearded Dragon Away from Other Pets


If you have other pets, such as cats, dogs, or even snakes, it is best not to introduce your dragon friend to these other animals.


Trying to cuddle your pet bearded dragon while also holding or playing with other pets is never a good idea, no matter how friendly those other pets are and regardless of how docile your beardie is. The experience is almost always stressful and upsetting for your pet dragon.


Do Not Hold a Bearded Dragon on Its Back


Whatever you do, never hold your exotic pet dragon on its back. It is stressful for the reptile and may even cause it to suffocate.


In addition to being discomforting, flipping your beardie on its back can put a lot of pressure on the pet. The weight of its internal organs, when turned upside down, will cause pain for the bearded dragon.


Do Not Grab Your Beardie by the Tail or Limbs


Make sure to support the lizard’s entire body with your hands when you pick it up. Do not grab it by the tail or limbs, or else you risk hurting it.


Also, never squeeze the pet. Remember, it is not a cat or dog. If you have younger children, ensure they understand this.

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