Head bobbing is a behavior where bearded dragons will lift and lower their heads up and down.
Bearded dragons bob their head for various reasons, including territorial, courtship, and dominance.
Though head bobbing may be a common behavior, don’t underestimate the value that it can offer! Head bobbing behavior can provide you with important information about your pet.
By understanding this information, you can better provide for your beardie. For example, bearded dragons may head bob when uncomfortable with something in their environment. If this is the case, you can relieve the source of your beardie’s stress.
Reasons Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads
There are four main reasons why bearded dragons engage in head bobbing:
- Social Status
- Environmental Stimuli
Bearded dragons are territorial. By bobbing their heads, beardies show their dominance over other bearded dragons that might enter their territory. Your pet’s enclosure is its territory. If you keep more than one bearded dragon in an enclosure, head bobbing may indicate a potential problem.
As mentioned earlier, bearded dragons are territorial, so keeping two beardies together may create conflict. The dominant lizard will try to intimidate its cage mate by bobbing its head vigorously.
This kind of conflict can cause stress for both lizards. The dominant lizard will feel stressed from protecting its territory, while the other will feel stressed from being threatened. I recommend that you keep only one bearded dragon in an enclosure.
If you keep more than one dragon in a cage, it may cause defensive behavior. The intensity and speed of head bobbing can vary. When head bobbing is done vigorously, it may escalate to aggression. I advise you to separate them before they get into a fight.
Bearded dragons are no social animals. In its natural habitat, they avoid contact with each other except when mating. When they encounter each other, bearded dragons use head bobbing to communicate.
To Display Dominance
Being territorial, bearded dragons head bob to express their dominance to intruders. This is especially true with males. The head bob is characterized by strong, sharp neck movements when expressing dominance.
In captivity, you will likely see this happen if you put a new bearded dragon in a tank already occupied by another beardie. The established beardie will head bob at the new arrival.
The established lizard may take it further if the new arrival does not retreat. It may feel threatened and display other behaviors. The established beardie puffs out its beard and head bobs; you will know it is angry! Besides head bobbing, bearded dragons may do the following when feeling threatened:
- Open their mouths.
- Flatten their bodies.
These behaviors make them look bigger and more threatening to potential enemies.
I recommend that you keep bearded dragons alone. If you need to place them in the same enclosure, introduce them to the enclosure simultaneously. As neither lizard will have a chance to establish their territory, it may help reduce aggression.
Both dominance and courtships involve head bobbing, but you can tell the difference between them. The head bobbing used in dominance is more defiant and controlled than during mating.
To Display Submission
When showing dominance, bearded dragons may vigorously bob their heads. However, head bobbing is also used to show submission. In this case, the head bobbing will be done more slowly and for a short period.
The submissive head bob communicates to the dominant lizard that it is not a threat. If the dominant lizard accepts the messages, there should be no escalation in behavior. Sometimes, submissive head bobbing is accompanied by arm waving.
When a bearded dragon takes on submissive gestures, it helps prevent conflict from escalating. Your beardie is waving a white flag, signaling, “I give up.” You can help gain your pet’s confidence by using positive reinforcement.
Using positive reinforcement is simple: Make your beardies’ encounters with you a positive experience. Be patient with your bearded dragon and handle it briefly until it gets used to you.
Also, never grab your bearded dragon or use force to pick it up. Instead, gently slide your hand underneath it. Let it climb onto you. With patience, your bearded dragon will stop its submissive behaviors.
To Display Aggression
If displays of dominance do not work to ward off an intruder, bearded dragons may escalate their display! They will go from aggressive head bobbing to displaying their black beard. The neck area can change from normal color to black quickly!
Male bearded dragons will engage in head bobbing during the mating season. They may be performing this behavior to gain female attention. Some experts believe that male head bobbing may be intended to show dominance over females.
When males bob their heads for reasons of courtship, their behavior has a variation to it. Simultaneously with the head bobbing, they will bounce their shoulders and front legs. They will appear overly excited when doing these movements. Head bobbing in males, who are courting females, will look like aggressive gestures.
Bearded dragons may bobhead to pets, such as cats and dogs. They may even do so toward toys. Head bobbing behavior that occurs frequently may indicate a stressful environment. This response to such environmental stimuli may be due to your beardie feeling threatened.
If your bearded dragon engages in head bobbing frequently and does not have a cage mate, it may respond to environmental stimuli. I recommend that you keep the room quiet and free of disturbances. Giving your bearded dragon time to relax should decrease its head bobbing.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads at Humans?
If your bearded dragon is new, it may bob its head at you! If your beardie behaves this way to you, it may mean it sees you as a threat, given that you are much larger than it. In this case, head bobbing is a sign of submission.
On the other hand, head bobbing could be a sign that your bearded dragon is showing its dominance toward you and is taking a stand! Whether it is out of showing dominance or submission, this behavior will diminish as your beardie gets to know you.
Do Female Bearded Dragons Bob Their Head?
Male bearded dragons normally perform head bobbing. However, female bearded dragons may also engage in this behavior. The head bobbing by females is less common than in males. Additionally, it performed in a calmer manner than when males do it.
Head bobbing in females looks like that of a submissive beardie. It may be a way to demonstrate submissiveness to a male. Head bobbing may also be used to show dominance toward another female. During courtship, females will also engage in head bobbing. Their head bobbing will be deep, slow, and generated from their forearms and upper body.
Why do Baby Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads?
Head bobbing is instinctual, so you may see baby bearded dragons doing it. Head bobbing by babies may be a sign that they feel fearful, especially if they are unfamiliar with their surroundings.
Head bobbing in babies will likely disappear as the babies feel more comfortable with you. Until then, provide baby beardies with a quiet place and give them plenty of space. Also, do not let others handle it until it feels more comfortable.
Why do Bearded Dragons Head Bob in their Sleep?
Some beardie owners have seen their pet head bobbing while sleeping. It is theorized that this bizarre behavior may be simply a case of sleep interruption. Think about yourself and how sometimes you may wake up in the middle of the night!
You can help prevent this behavior by making its enclosure more sleep-friendly. Keep the enclosure quiet and turn off any bright lights at night. Leaving on bright lights at night may cause sleep disturbances. Turn off the lights so that it can experience darkness.
Should I Be Worried About Frequent Head Bobbing?
Some express concern that their beardies bob their head too frequently. I would not worry about it if they appear healthy and eat well. It may be the case that your pet is being stimulated by something in its environment.
Assess the situation to see if you can determine the cause:
- Does your beardie share its enclosure with a cage mate? If so, do you notice aggression between them?
- Is the exhibit in a high-traffic area? Do people or pets frequently walk by the enclosure?
- Are there other bearded dragons that are in your pet’s view? If you have two enclosures given each other, it may be a source of stress.
You can try moving the enclosure to a quieter place or tape newspaper over the enclosure’s glass. Doing this will give your pet a greater sense of privacy. If your bearded dragon shows any other signs of concern, I encourage you to see your beardie by a vet.
Having your bearded dragon seen by a vet is important. If your bearded dragon is bobbing its head due to stress, not addressing the problem can be life-threatening. When your pet is under stress, its body releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that prepares your beardie to fight or flee.
If your bearded dragon is always stressed, the cortisol level in its body will remain high. If this happens, then your lizard’s body will not function properly. It will have trouble digesting its food and sleeping and be more susceptible to illness.
We hope that you enjoyed this article. Head bobbing is a common behavior among bearded dragons. By trying to understand what is causing this behavior, you may find ways to improve its living conditions. Use this article as a guide to meet your pet’s needs better. We would enjoy reading your comments. Please share this article.