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  • Writer's pictureIan Bromham

How to Train Your Dragon

Updated: Mar 31, 2023


Central Bearded Dragons can turn their beard black and flair it out as a defensive posture.
Defensive Bearded Dragon

We have all seen pictures of a bearded dragon flair out and blacken his beard, but have you ever been up close and personal with a cranky dragon that wants a piece of you. Don’t be complacent thinking that all bearded dragons are placid and well behaved. Even the most well-mannered dragon can bite.


A bearded dragons bite can easily break the skin and seriously hurt. 4 reasons a bearded dragon may bite include:

1. Accident, biting by accident may be a result of a feeding response. If your dragon is accustomed to being hand fed than it may be a simple mistaken identity. Painted nails can sometimes be mistaken for some sort of food.

2. Pain and discomfort.

3. Fear.

4. Seasonal hormone change.

If a bearded dragon is displaying the following signs, a black beard, mouth open, body flared to look bigger, hissing, and lunging at your hand, it is likely protecting itself due to a perceived fear or it could be seasonal hormones.


Cranky Juvenile Central Bearded Dragon
Angry Bearded dragon

A bearded dragon staying very still or running away are also signs of fear.


We have put together a list of 5 tips that we use to train our dragons. before we start though, if your dragon is new to you, please allow it to settle into its new environment for 1-2 weeks before handling.


1. Scent familiarisation


One of the easiest and most effective ways to tame a bearded dragon is to leave it with your scent over time.

* Cut up an old t-shirt that has been washed in just water and doesn’t have any scents from detergents. Make sure there are no loose threads that the dragon can choke on.

* Keep the cloth on your body for a few hours until it has your scent.

* Place the cloth in the beardies enclosure.

* Repeat this process as many times as needed over the next few days or weeks, replacing any cloth that becomes dirty.


Bearded Dragon Snuggling in a blanket
Bearded Dragon Snuggling

2. Food and Treats.


Hand feeding is a useful technique for taming bearded dragons. Insects are more likely to provide interest during hand feeding than vegetation.

In the beginning it is recommended to drop the food item close to the beardie without causing it unnecessary stress, gradually move the food item closer before releasing.

Using feeding tweezers is a great way to get closer to the beardie and build trust, over time you can ditch the tweezers and feed directly from your fingers.


Bearded Dragon Eating Crickets
Bearded Dragon Eating Crickets

3. A Safe Place


Some bearded dragons are kept in small glass sided enclosures. Glass enclosures provide limited to no privacy for the beardie.

Privacy equals safety.


If the enclosure hygiene is kept to a high standard, glass can be highly reflective. It is this reflection that can make the bearded dragon believe that is under attack from another dragon.


Install some backgrounds and provide hiding places in the cool side of their enclosure. These hiding spots will help to keep stress levels down.


Speak to a professional Reptile Store to get the right advice on the appropriate reptile enclosure.



Bearded Dragon in an artificial hide
Hiding Bearded Dragon

4. Easing into Touching


After a few days to a week of sharing your scent and perhaps hand feeding, the bearded dragon should be tame enough to touch. If you are concerned with being bitten, protect your hand using a hand towel or gloves.

Always approach your dragon from the front and keep all movements slow and deliberate. If the dragon is displaying defensive behaviors, place your hand on the substrate and wait for the dragon to calm down. Continue to move forward at a pace that is comfortable with the dragon.

Once you have picked up the dragon, make sure that you have a good firm but gentle grip and make sure that their legs are supported. Handing a potentially stressed dragon should be done in a place that is safe for them if they escape your grip and jump. Falling from heights can cause serious injuries to dragons of any size.

I always aim to end a handling session shortly after the dragon has calmed down. I try to train my beardies that being calm will be rewarded with going back to the enclosure and even some treats.


Ending a session prematurely will only reward negative behavior and reinforce the defensive/aggressive displays.

Multiple sessions a day over a few weeks may be required.

Persistence and patience are the key here.


5. Pleasurable Experiences

There are lots of little things that bearded dragons enjoy, one of those is a little scrub using a toothbrush. This can also be done during bathing time. Another option is spending some time outside in the sun.


Positive reinforcement will strengthen the bond and trust between you and your dragon.


Juvenile Bearded Dragon enjoying time in the sun and eating Dandelions.
Juvenile Bearded Dragon in the Sun

Final Thought.


Before starting a training/handling session, be aware of all surroundings including yourself. Are you wearing perfume, deodorant, have you been working on your car or laying concrete? Strong aromas may confuse or be offensive to your bearded dragons’ senses and will mask your natural smell.


Bearded dragons have adapted to being able to detect pheromones and scents that it is a part of their own communications. Continue reading about bearded dragon’s femoral pores here.


Please feel free to leave us some feedback


15/01/2020


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