Why Is My Bearded Dragon Suddenly Scared of Me?

There can be a number of reasons why a bearded dragon suddenly becomes scared of you. We look at some of these reasons in this post

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About 18 min reading time

There can be a number of reasons why a bearded dragon suddenly becomes scared of you. This can happen occasionally even with bearded dragons who were previously quite happy around you.

So, firstly you’ll need to think about what has changed recently. Here’s some things that could cause a bearded dragon to suddenly become scared of you.

  • Something has moved inside their enclosure
  • Something has changed in their diet
  • Have you changed your deodorant or perfume recently?
  • If you’re female, are you having your period? Your pheromones can change during this time.
  • A new child has arrived in the house – perhaps you’ve just brought home your new baby?
  • A new pet has arrived in the house.
  • Your bearded dragon is pregnant and wants to lay eggs
  • You’re pregnant and your bearded dragon can smell the changes.
  • Your bearded dragon is just having an off time.

Reasons Why A Bearded Dragon May Become Scared of You

Something has Moved Inside their Enclosure

Bearded dragons are creatures of habit and they’re also very territorial. They don’t like to share their territory with anyone. Indeed, bearded dragons will eat each other, or fight to the death at least, if they’re forced into living in close proximity with each other.

So, any time something is moved around in their vivarium, they can potentially get stressed and when they’re stressed they may become scared of you. If you’ve moved something recently in their vivarium you have a couple of options to help them stop being scared.

You could move the objects back into their familiar place. This might work if you do it fairly soon after the original move, or it might make your bearded dragon more stressed if it’s been a few days since it moved. This is because if it’s been a while since the object moved, they’ll be starting to get used to it and then you move it again…

Which leads us to the second option which is to just leave the object in its new place and let your bearded dragon get used to it. They will eventually and they should usually calm down enough to let you near them again. If they don’t come around, keep reading for how to calm down a scared bearded dragon later in the post.

Something has Changed in their Diet

Some bearded dragons are fussy eaters and don’t like changes to their diet. It’s fairly unlikely that this one will be the cause of your bearded dragon suddenly becoming scared of you – but if you’ve ruled out everything else and this is all that’s left then this could be it.

To fix this, just like when you’ve moved something in their habitat, you have two options. You can revert their diet, or you can wait until they get used to it again. They’ll usually come around. You could try offering some of their original diet hand fed if they’ll come to you – but if they’re scared of you at the moment then you’ll need plenty of patience.

You Smell Different

This might be because you’ve changed your deodorant or perfume recently or it might even be because you’re going through your period (if you’re female) or even the menopause. These changes can make you seem completely alien to your bearded dragon who relies on smell as well as sight to decide if you’re friend or foe.

Bearded dragons use pheromones to detect each other – these pheromones smell different and from these bearded dragons can tell, to some extent, whether you’re a threat to them or not. So if your pheromones have changed – or you’ve masked them with a different fragrance recently, then your bearded dragon may become confused and as a result be scared of you. If you’ve not deliberately changed your smell recently then check the section below about how to calm down a scared bearded dragon.

If your bearded dragon is reacting to other members of the household normally, but is suddenly afraid just of you – then this is a likely cause. Unless you’ve done something specifically to upset it of course.

A New Child or a New Pet Has Entered The House

Bearded dragons can be quite stuck in their ways. They like their life to be a little bit of a routine. They get up as the heatlamp comes on, and they go and bask for a few hours. Then their breakfast turns up – either in the form of vegetables or insects, depending on which day it is. And then they potter around listening to the world, smelling the world and seeing what’s going on in their kingdom…

And suddenly there’s new smells or new noises happening around them. They don’t know what’s going on – where are these smells and noises coming from? They feel threatened – they’re only small after all and these noises are so big and the smells so strong.

“Is that….. A DINGO?!? Eeek – I’m gonna get eaten if I go out there.”

And so your bearded dragon becomes scared of you because it’s become scared of lots of things suddenly since everything around it seems to have changed.

Clearly you’re not going to be sending a newborn baby back to where it came from, and you’re probably not going to be getting rid of a new pet you’ve brought home either. So the only option then is to learn to calm your bearded dragon when they’re scared. We’ll talk about that in a later section.

Your Bearded Dragon is Pregnant and Wants to Lay Eggs

We have a whole page dedicated to how to help your bearded dragon if she’s pregnant – but when it comes to them suddenly being scared of you, this is quite a natural instinct. She knows she needs to lay her eggs soon and she knows her eggs will be vulnerable while she’s laying them. She won’t know how she knows but she’ll know.

This may be accompanied by sudden unexplained digging in the corners of her vivarium, or hiding away.

If she’s pregnant and scared of you now, give her space. Leave her be. The more you try to calm her down the worse you’ll make her because all she’ll be focussed on is deciding when the time is right to lay her eggs. And if she’s feeling stressed and scared of you then she may hold on to her eggs and become egg bound, which is a dangerous medical condition that potentially needs veterinary help.

Your Bearded Dragon is Having an Off Day

Finally, your bearded dragon might just be having an off day. Perhaps the humidity is a little higher today, or the temperature a little lower. Perhaps the moon is in the wrong phase. Whatever the reason, bearded dragons, like humans can have off days. Some might have an off couple of days.

If your bearded dragon has become scared of you recently and you can’t find an explanation – and this post hasn’t helped, you can speak to the Vet. Click the Vet icon at the bottom right corner and we can put you in touch with one today, who’s a specialist in reptiles and bearded dragons.

Are Bearded Dragons Scared of Humans?

In general no, bearded dragons are not scared of humans, at least not ‘domesticated’ bearded dragons. We use the term domesticated loosely because it’s hard to consider a bearded dragon domesticated – but the ones in captivity these days are generally much more likely to be friendly toward humans than their wild cousins.

Bearded dragons in captivity these days are bred in captivity and so they get used to humans pretty much as soon as they exit the egg. Wild bearded dragons on the other hand probably never see humans regularly and to them, anything that moves and is bigger than them is something to be rightly scared of.

So your domesticated bearded dragon shouldn’t be scared of you. If they are, then there’s a few things you can do to help.

How do you Tell If Your Bearded Dragon is Scared of You?

If your bearded dragon is scared of you they can show this in a number of ways;

  • They become stressed and you’ll see dark markings on their tummy.
  • They run away from you when you approach them
  • They hiss at you with a puffed up beard and an open mouth
  • They wave at you
  • They try to bite you (rare).

Stress Markings If Your Bearded Dragon is Scared of You

There’s many reasons why bearded dragons might develop stress markings – and only one of those reasons is that they’re suddenly scared of you. You might need to look into other reasons first. For example a change of scenery can cause bearded dragons to become stressed. They like to know where they are and their place in their environment.

If you’re seeing stress marks on your bearded dragon and getting other signs as well – such as running away, hissing or trying to bite you then it’s likely that they’re scared of you. We’ll go into some ways you can help calm them down later in the post.

Bearded Dragon Runs Away From You

Just because your bearded dragon runs away from you, it doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily scared of you. This has to be taken in context of when they’re running away. Many bearded dragons will happily let you take them out of their enclosure, but will run away from you when you try to put them back in.

This type of running away from you isn’t because they’re scared of you – it’s because they’re cheeky and they like being able to roam around outside of their enclosure. Of course we can’t always let them do that for too long because they’ll get too cold or not get enough UVB light. But they don’t know that, so they run away.

If they used to be fine with your handling them but suddenly and recently run away when you approach them did you do something last time to scare them? Or a few times before that – you may have simply spooked them at some point and now they think you’re a threat. You’ll need to be patient and use some of the methods below to try to calm them down.

Bearded Dragon Hisses at You

There’s a couple of reasons why a bearded dragon might hiss at you, one of which is that they’re scared of you and have nowhere to escape from you. Generally, a scared bearded dragon will do everything it can to get away and hide from you before trying to trying to enter into combat with you. It knows you’re bigger than it is and it’s likely to lose if it tries to fight you. So generally they hide away.

If a bearded dragon hisses at you it feels threatened for some reason, or it feels that its best chance of survival is to fight you. You’re going to need lots of patience here – particularly if your bearded has recently suddenly changed to be afraid of you like this. If they’ve always been like this then the same ways to help calm them down should help.

Bearded Dragon tries to Bite You

This symptom of a bearded dragon being scared of you is very similar to the one above but with a more extreme reaction. If your bearded dragon is trying to bite you it’s because it thinks it can win a battle with you. It’s either scared of you and thinks it’s best chance of survival is to knock you off first – or it’s become so dominant over you that your presence offends it enough that again it feels it can win a battle with you.

Fixing this behaviour, whether because it’s scared or simply aggressive will take patience and time. You can use some of the techniques in the next section to help – but you may need specialist help on this one and if so you can chat to the Vet using the chat box at the bottom right of the screen.

Bearded Dragon Waves at You

Usually this isn’t a sign that they’re scared of you, but they are waving to you to respect your position in the hierarchy. They know you’re higher up the pecking order than they are and they wave at you to signal this.

If instead they start headbobbing you quickly or violently then they’re trying to tell you that they think they’re the boss. Eventually they’ll figure out they’re not.

How Do you Calm Down a Scared Bearded Dragon?

Most bearded dragons are placid and calm – it’s pretty much their natural state. This is especially true for domestic bred bearded dragons – which should be all of them these days.

So if your bearded dragon has become scared of you, here’s some ways you can calm them down again;

  • Let them be – but place something of yours into their enclosure
  • Try hand feeding them
  • When approaching them, always approach low and slow
  • Learn to pick them up properly

Calming a Scared Bearded Dragon by Letting It Be

Often a bearded dragon becomes scared because it’s over stimulated. This is particularly true if there’s lots of noise around, or children keep wanting to pick it up.

Children should only ever approach your bearded dragon while they’re supervised and should never be left alone with them.

So, if the bearded dragon is over-stimulated and become scared, often the best way is to leave it be for a few days. Of course you’ll still need to feed them regularly – but when doing so, just ignore them. Put the food in and don’t try to interact with the beardie at all.

If the room they’re in is noisy and over-active then you could try relocating the vivarium to a quieter room. But bear in mind this move could cause them further anxiety and stress in the short term as they’ll now have to get used to looking out at different scenery.

Let them be and Add an Item Of Clothing to the Tank

If they’ve become scared of you specifically then you can leave an item of your clothing in the tank with them. Make sure it’s something you’ve worn and not washed before putting it in. It may sound odd but this item of clothing needs your pheromones on it, not your washing powder. Put the item somewhere away from your bearded dragon to start with – but do keep your eye on it to make sure it doesn’t become aggressive with the item. Giving a good distance between the item and where your bearded dragon hangs out should help with this.

Over the course of the next few days you can move the item closer to where your beardie normally hangs out. Do it gradually and slowly so you give your beardie time to adjust each time it moves.

After a while, your bearded dragon should have recognised that the item isn’t going to hurt it and since the item smells like you, this can often be enough to convince them that you’re not going to hurt them either.

But do keep an eye on the item to make sure they don’t try to attack it or eat it. If they do, you’ll need to remove it and think of something else.

Calm a Bearded Dragon by Hand Feeding

You can hand feed a bearded dragon and this is often a great way to calm down a bearded dragon who’s scared of you – as they come to trust you because you’re offering food.

You can decide whether you want to hand feed them insects or vegetables and to a large extent this will depend on how keen they are to take one or the other from you. If your bearded dragon is very scared of you then you may need to start hand feeding insects to them (as these are a higher value food to them so they’re more likely to want it) using tongs. Using tongs can help them overcome their fear because your hand is still far enough away for them to be able to escape if you went to hurt them. Of course, you won’t, but they don’t think like that.

As your bearded dragon becomes used to you hand feeding them with tongs, you should try feeding them directly from your hand. You can put the insect in the palm of your hand if the insect is slow enough to not escape or jump from there (cool insects move slower so you could put a few in the fridge for 5 – 10 minutes in a sealed container to cool them down). Or you may need to hold them between your fingers.

Below is a video of us hand feeding Billy (our bearded dragon) to give you an idea of how it’s done.

Billy the Bearded Dragon being hand fed a locust

Always Approach LOW and SLOW

One of the bearded dragons main predators in the wild – indeed and in captivity if they go outside – are birds. Bearded dragons have a light sensitive spot on top of their head which helps them see threats coming from above. If you approach your bearded dragon from above then your hand creates a shadow on this light sensitive spot and triggers an instant fear reaction in them. It’s built in as a survival mechanism.

To make sure you don’t trigger this reaction, always approach your bearded dragon with your hands low so that they’ll slide under their chin and front legs when trying to pick them up.

Which leads us on to;

Learn how to Pick Them Up Properly

One of the last reasons that your bearded dragon might be scared of you is because you’re picking them up wrong. As we mentioned in the section above, always bring your hands to them low and slow. This is to avoid startling them in the first place and/or triggering that fight or flight response from the overhead shadow.

So, the best way to handle your bearded dragon is this;

  1. Move your hand, with the palm facing upwards, towards their chin and slowly slide your hand under their chin.
  2. Once under their chin, wiggle your fingers a little bit and ‘walk’ your hand under their front legs.
  3. Continue wiggling slightly and walk your fingers under their belly and back legs.
  4. Keep your bearded dragon low to the ground (or whatever surface they’re presently on) until your index finger and middle finger are able to be placed one each side of their tail.
  5. Once your fingers extend beyond their back legs and can be raised up either side of their tail you can lift them up.

At this point, their head will be somewhere near your elbow (or, in medical terms, your anterior cubital fossa) and their whole body will be supported by your forearm. Your fingers will be under their back legs and their whole body weight is supported.

It’s really important to your bearded dragon’s comfort that when you pick them up their whole body weight is supported and they feel safe and stable. Using the method above will help them feel this way and they’ll be less likely to fear you picking them up.

Once they’re used to being on your arm, you can use your other hand to gently move their body around so that their head is now just above your hand. Then you can hold their head if you need to do something to them medically such as syringe feeding them. But whenever you first pick them up, use the method above to keep them stable.

Summary

There’s various reasons why a bearded dragon is suddenly scared of you and you’ll have to ask yourself what is it that’s changed or you’ve done to make them this way. Fortunately, with patience and understanding you’ll be able to undo whatever it is that’s made them scared and unless they’re just super aggressive or super timid naturally then you should be able to interact with them again soon.

In this post we’ve shown the reasons why they may suddenly become scared of you and how to fix those things again. We hope you’ve found it useful and hope that with patience and time you’ll be bonding with your baby again soon.

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Featured Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay