Bearded dragons can puff up because of many environmental or behavioral factors. These include being stressed, feeling threatened, attracting a mate, appearing more intimidating to either their prey or their predator, shedding, or simply if the water for the bath is too deep. It is a natural instinct for healthy bearded dragons to puff up under any of the previously mentioned circumstances.
What Does Puffing Up of Bearded Dragons Mean?
Bearded dragons have spikes under their chin that look like a beard. Incidentally, that is how they also happen to get the adjective “bearded”.
Whenever a bearded dragon is triggered by an environmental factor, it can feel stressed or threatened. At these times, the bearded dragon will puff out their scaly chin and open their mouths slightly to look more menacing.
The puffing up of their chins is supposed to make them look bigger and more threatening. This is a natural behavior for bearded dragons to defend themselves.
However, they can also puff out for various other environmental or psychological reasons.
You might be interested in checking out this female bearded dragon puffing out her beard!
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Beard Puffing? Top 8 Reasons
The most commonly observed reason why bearded dragons puff out is whenever they feel intimidated or stressed out. However, this is just one of the many reasons. Let us understand each of the reasons in detail.
- Detecting Sense of Threat
In wild habitats, bearded dragons fend themselves off on their own. Their natural way of defending themselves is to puff out their beards. Bearded dragons also have good hearing abilities, not only that but the ability to detect vibrations.
The puffing out makes their spiny projections look prominent and can scare away the threat of other reptiles or animals. This instinctive behavior is imitated even when they are in a domestic environment.
So whenever they feel threatened by the presence of some other pet or any other bearded dragon in the same terrarium your pet bearded dragon may puff out. While puffing up under threat their beards may also turn dark or blackish in color.
- Experiencing Stress
Stress is another major reason why bearded dragons may puff up.
If your bearded dragon is recently brought to your home, it will take some time to adjust to the new environment. The new bearded dragon may be under stress due to this. At such times you may often notice it is puffing out its chin. The darkening of the chin can also confirm that it is under stress.
Another reason could be any changes you have recently made to the pet enclosure. Your pet could get stressed due to the new environment. Relocation and an unhealthy diet could also induce stress in your pet bearded dragon. When your pet bearded dragon is new, there is also a chance that it perceives you as a threat. This could add to the stress of your bearded dragon and make it puff up often.
- Guarding Their Territory
Bearded dragons are territorial in nature. If two or more bearded dragons are housed in the same pet enclosure, territorial fights may erupt. In order to dominate the other or look more frightening and larger for the other, each bearded dragon may puff up.
Puffing up in this case is an indication of aggression and a defense mechanism to protect their territories.
Shedding is a natural and regular process for bearded dragons. Your bearded dragon will know when their shedding is due.
In order to make the process easy and faster, they will puff up their necks to loosen up the skin around their neck and bodies a little. This helps them with the shedding process.
Your bearded dragon may also puff up during its bath time. While giving a bath to your bearded dragon, if the bath dish is too deep and full of water, your pet may puff up.
This is because it will perceive the deep water as an indication of drowning and will puff itself up to keep itself afloat.
Surprisingly the puffing up of your bearded dragon could also mean that your pet is happy and in a playful mood.
This behavior can be observed especially while your pet is having a good time with your other pets or simply because it is content and at peace.
- Before Meals
During meals, your bearded dragon can puff itself up probably to make more space in its stomach. The puffing up is also observed if you offer your bearded dragon live insects.
In a wild habitat, bearded dragons hunt down their food and in order to intimidate their prey they puff up. This behavior is instinctively followed by pet bearded dragons as they perceive live insects as a hunting mission.
- Signaling to Mate
Bearded dragons can also puff up to look more attractive to the opposite gender and signal them for mating.
Male bearded dragons commonly puff up more than female bearded dragons. The puffing up is usually followed by some light bobbing of their heads, and slight twitching of their tails.
Should You Be Worried about the Puffing up of Your Bearded Dragon?
Puffing up is a normal behavior for bearded dragons. You can tell the reason behind the puffing-up by observing your pets’ environment and overall behavior.
However, if you observe that your bearded dragon is puffing up often, it could mean that your pet is experiencing some kind of stress.
In this case, you may need to investigate further and fix the cause of stress.
How to Remove Any Factors That Can Cause Stress to Your Bearded Dragon?
Stress is the most common reason for domesticated bearded dragons to puff up.
If the stress is caused by the pet enclosure environment, you may want to consider making some changes to it.
- If you have housed two bearded dragons together, you might want to get them independent enclosures to avoid any territorial fights they might get into, which eventually could cause stress.
- Other pets like cats and dogs can also increase stress as they may seem threatening to your bearded dragon. Cats especially tend to attack bearded dragons. If other pets seem to be the cause of stress for your bearded dragon, it is best to maintain a safe distance between other pets and your bearded dragon.
- An illness or some infection, either bacterial or fungal, could also increase the overall stress of your bearded dragon. If your pet shows any physical symptoms of disease or illness along with frequent puffing-up, it is best to consult a veterinarian doctor.
- If your bearded dragon is newly brought and is stressed around you, giving it some time to adjust itself and get acquainted with you gradually will help ease the stress your pet is facing.
- Lastly, providing your bearded dragon with a good habitable big enclosure, along with a nutritious, healthy, gut-loaded diet, will avoid the occurrences of infections and diseases in your pet, thereby preventing any illness-induced stress.
Puffing up is a natural mechanism for bearded dragons to respond to their environmental stimuli. It can be confusing at times to tell immediately, why your bearded dragon is puffing up.
However, investigating your pet’s environment and behavior with a keen eye can help you understand the reason behind the puffed-up neck of your pet. In case it is stress-induced, it may also help you to fix any environmental problems causing the stress in your bearded dragon.
Are Baby Bearded Dragons Able to Puff Up as Well?
Yes, baby bearded dragons can puff their necks due to stress. This can usually occur when the baby is new to the surroundings. Letting it take its own time to adjust to the environment will help them to get calm.
Remember do not stress out the new baby by trying to handle it often as it may perceive you as a threat. Let it take its time. Also, ensuring that the pet enclosure simulates the natural habitat of a bearded dragon will help your baby bearded dragon to ease up and become more comfortable with its environment.
Can Bearded Dragons Puff up Their Bodies Too?
Bearded dragons can puff up their bodies along with their necks. This is commonly observed while facing a predator. By puffing up their whole body they may try to look larger and intimidate their threat. It is also observed when they are taking a bath in deep water.
By puffing up their body they are trying to stay afloat. It is advisable to bathe them in a shallow water dish only.