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After bringing a baby bearded dragon home, one of the first things you’ll need to know is how to pick it up and handle it safely. Bearded dragons typically enjoy being handled once they get acquainted with their owners but it can be a little tricky, to begin with, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
How do you pick up a baby bearded dragon? Pick up your baby bearded dragon slowly and carefully by placing your hand underneath its stomach while still supporting all of its limbs. Baby bearded dragons are particularly skittish, make sure you approach from the side or front and not from above.
Below I’ll cover the in-depth basics of handling a baby bearded dragon and some other important considerations you’ll want to know before doing so.
Picking Up Your Baby Bearded Dragon: The Basics
You’ll want to ensure the safety, both of yourself and your baby bearded dragon. With that in mind, there are a few things you’ll need to consider when you handle them.
When you go to pick up your baby bearded dragon. Avoid any fast, sudden movements. If you move too quickly, you’ll scare them, and you may need to wait a few minutes before you try to hold them again if they get spooked.
Also, don’t try to tempt the baby bearded dragon with your finger because it might look like food to the beardie and they could bite it!
Additionally, you shouldn’t approach them from above. Bearded dragons have sensory nerves on top of their heads, which can indicate that something might be attacking them. This is not a good scenario when you’re trying to hold your pet. Instead, move towards them slowly on the same level from their front or side.
If you notice your baby bearded dragon has an open mouth, black beard or a black and puffed up beard, then it’s not the right time to pick them up. These are signs that the bearded dragon feels intimidated or stressed out and you shouldn’t hold them at that moment.
You also shouldn’t grab them if you’ve backed them into a corner because they will most likely feel threatened.
As you move your hand slowly toward the baby bearded dragon, place your forefinger or thumb under the dragons chin, your beardie should hold onto it with their front legs. Don’t worry too much if not, so long as they don’t try to run away you should be fine to continue. Carefully upturn your palm and slide the same hand underneath the baby bearded dragon’s stomach area to support the body.
If the baby bearded dragon tries to get away or starts moving around, don’t hold onto them tightly as you may cause injury. Instead, just let them run off to where it wants to go.
If your baby bearded dragon tries to get away often when you try to hold it, it’s a sign that it is probably not ready to be held yet, or it just doesn’t want to be picked up at that moment so you should try again later.
Once you start lifting the baby dragon, move slowly and support the back legs and tail. You can use your other hand if needed.
If you don’t support their back end properly, they may start moving their tail around in circles. If this is the case, you want to support their rear legs and tail right away because if the dragon keeps circling their tail, they can hurt their spine.
Once you have the baby bearded dragon in your hands, hold it as close to your body as you can. That way, it’s less likely to fall out of your arms, and the baby dragon will feel more secure.
For some reassurance with the process of picking up your baby bearded dragon, I’ve broken down all the steps in detail below.
Picking Up Your Baby Bearded Dragon Step by Step
Here is a step-by-step process for you to follow each time you want to hold your baby bearded dragon.
- First, wash your hands. It’s essential to keep your hands clean before you handle a baby bearded dragon because you don’t want to pass on any germs or illnesses that might get your baby bearded dragon sick. Also, beardies are sensitive to smells and if your hand smells of anything unusual you may get mistaken for food and bitten!
- Some people also opt for wearing gloves. Using gloves will help protect your hands in case the dragon bites (which is unlikely) or accidentally scratches you and it will also prevent passing on germs.
- If you keep your baby bearded dragon in a cage or other type of enclosure, avoid reaching from the top or above their head.
- Move your hand slowly toward the baby bearded dragon until they allow you to touch them.
- Before you pick up the baby bearded dragon, it may help to stroke it softly. By petting the baby bearded dragon, it will put it at ease, and it’ll feel more comfortable when it sees your hand in the future.
- As you pet your dragon, wait until it blinks or has its eyes closed. At that point, you know for sure that it is calm and ready to be picked up.
- To pick up the dragon, place your thumb or forefinger under their chin to support the baby bearded dragon’s front arms.
- Once your thumb or forefinger is under the dragon’s chin or front feet, slowly upturn your palm and move it underneath their body to scoop them up.
- Continue to use your thumb or forefinger to support the baby bearded dragon’s front arms and let their body lay in the palm of your hand.
- It is important to support the back end of your baby bearded dragon when you hold it. Ensure that you are supporting all of their legs and tail too, even if it takes two hands.
- If you have any trouble getting your hand under your baby bearded dragon, then gently grasp him behind the front shoulders with your forefinger and thumb. Then, slightly lift them and slide your other hand underneath them.
- Make sure you don’t squeeze your baby bearded dragon but support them properly so they can rest securely on your hands.
There are other ways to go about picking up your baby beardie. The main thing is that you support the entirety of the dragon, including the legs and tail and that you and your pet feel comfortable doing so.
For another example of how to pick up a baby beardie, see the clip below.
How to Hold Your Baby Bearded Dragon
Once you’ve managed to pick up your baby bearded dragon, here are a few tips that will aid you to hold on to them safely.
Make sure you are comfortable and calm. It helps to sit down with the baby bearded dragon and let it rest somewhere. If you are sitting down, you can let the baby bearded dragon relax on your chest, arm, or lap.
You’ll notice your baby dragon will relax more as you pet it so as long as you keep petting them, they will more likely remain calm and stay put.
Also, as you pet your baby bearded dragon, remember that it’s scales and spikes all point in one direction. It’s best for you to stroke your baby bearded dragon along with his scales rather than against them. If you pet the dragon against the scales, you might anger them and also prick your skin, two things you want to avoid!
Remember, as your baby grows into an adult, it can grow to be as long as two feet. That’s why it’s best to get accustomed to sitting together while they are young.
Keep an eye on the baby bearded dragon’s body language. You’ll be able to tell how comfortable your baby bearded dragon feels as you are holding it. The more attention you pay to this, the better experience you’ll have. If you notice that your pet is becoming stressed, you’ll want to let them rest back in their enclosure.
We already discussed some signals which show that your dragon is stressed such as a dark beard or gaping mouth. Beardies do this to make themselves look more threatening when they feel scared or startled but there are some other behaviors to watch for too.
If your baby bearded dragon is a male and he starts bobbing his head, he’s uncomfortable. This reaction is a sign of dominance among males, and if he’s doing it to you, he’s probably stressed out.
Watch out for arm-waving as well. If your baby bearded dragon holds up one front leg and starts waving it, he’s submitting to you. That means they’re afraid of something, so it’s best to end the petting session.
Another sign to watch out for is a raised tail. Bearded dragons often lift their tails during breeding seasons, but they also sometimes raise their tails when they are hunting prey. Since you don’t want your beardie to be stalking you; if you see them lifting his tail put them back in their enclosure.
How Long and How Often To Handle A Baby Bearded Dragon
In the beginning, you’ll want to start with a slow and consistent process to get your baby beardie used to being around you. It’s best to start with a 10-15 minute session once or twice daily.
Once baby bearded dragons get used to it, they typically love to be handled. Some beardies take pleasure in being held many times a day over many hours. Just remember that you need to pay attention to their body language.
When you notice your baby bearded dragon showing signs of stress or distress, or they start acting restless, then you know it’s time to return them to their home.
As you notice your baby bearded dragon getting used to being held, you can start handling them for longer periods and more often. You can basically keep hold of them for as long as they are willing to tolerate the session.
One of the most important things to bear in mind is that the amount of time the baby bearded dragon can stay out and tolerate a petting session will depend on temperature. A baby bearded dragon is a cold-blooded reptile. So, if the room is too cold, they’ll get cold quickly, and they could stop digesting their food which can cause serious issues.
If you notice that their belly feels cold, they’ll need to go back into their habitat so they can warm up again.
After you’ve returned your baby bearded dragon to its habitat, remember to wash your hands. A bearded dragon is like any other reptile and can pass on salmonella. While it’s normal for them to carry salmonella, it can make humans very ill so this is an important step.
Handling a Baby Bearded Dragon: The Don’ts
To help you get a better feel for what you should avoid when you handle your baby bearded dragon, I’ve created a list of dos and don’ts. First, let’s cover the don’ts below.
- Don’t pick up your baby bearded dragon by the limbs or the tail.
- Don’t move quickly or grab the baby dragon suddenly.
- Don’t ever squeeze your baby dragon so as not to severely injure it.
- Don’t ever place your baby dragon in high places, since they can jump and have very poor depth perception! They can easily break a limb or seriously injure themselves.
- Don’t leave your baby bearded dragon alone in a room unattended.
- Don’t leave a child alone with a baby bearded dragon unattended.
- Don’t allow a child to put the bearded in their mouth!
Handling a Baby Bearded Dragon: The Dos
Below is a list of good practices when handling your baby bearded dragon.
- Use slow movements when approaching the baby dragon so that it doesn’t feel threatened.
- Ensure you’re supporting the bearded dragon’s weight when you hold it. That means appropriately support the baby bearded dragon’s legs and tail using your hands and arms.
- Bring along your baby dragon in a carrying cage if you need to take it to the vet or along on a trip. This way it won’t be able to jump out of the car, injure itself or run under the pedals as you drive!
- Hold your baby bearded dragon regularly so it slowly learns to sit on your chest and shoulders. Make sure you have a hand ready in case they start slipping though!
- Keep your baby bearded dragon feeling as secure as possible whenever you hold them.
- If you notice your baby bearded dragon becomes scared when you are holding it, take your other hand and slowly cup it over the baby bearded dragon. It will feel like it has a hiding place, making them feel more secure. It might help him calm down if they are feeling afraid.
- Feel free to train your baby bearded dragon for petting sessions with food or treats. If you want your baby bearded dragon to respond well to petting sessions, giving it a few treats will let it associate petting sessions with goodies.
Health Hazards when Handling Baby Bearded Dragons
While on the whole, it is very safe to handle your baby bearded dragon, there are a few health hazards you’ll need to consider.
- Occasionally, you might receive a scratch or cut when you handle your baby bearded dragon. Typically when these things happen, they’re accidental and unintentional because baby bearded dragons have long claws.
- If you get any scratches or cuts when you hold your baby dragon, make sure you disinfect them promptly so that you don’t wind up with an infected wound.
- Unfortunately, although it’s rare, you may wind up getting bitten by your bearded dragon if it gets terrified or if it smells food on you. If that happens, you’ll need to make sure you disinfect the wound and keep an eye on it.
- If you notice that the injury looks redder and feels sorer after a few days, then it’s time to see a doctor for some medication.
- Don’t eat or put your hands in your mouth while handling your baby bearded dragon. Remember, all bearded dragons carry Salmonella, which can cause serious illness in humans.
- You can also consider wearing gloves as you keep your baby bearded dragon. However, you should still wash your hands both before and after holding it as a precaution.
When to Start Handling Your Baby Bearded Dragon
When you first bring your baby bearded dragon home, keep in mind that it will take some time before your baby bearded dragon enjoys its petting sessions. Most baby bearded dragons act flighty until they get used to their owners. Don’t be surprised if your baby bearded dragon starts by trying to bite you or puffing up with a black chin.
You need to introduce the idea of being held slowly. As long as you are regular and gentle when you try to handle your baby dragon, it’ll start getting used to you and calming down. Part of the reason bearded dragons are such popular pets is that they are characteristically calm by nature.
To get your baby bearded dragon used to people in general, you should start interacting with it right after you bring it home. That means interaction, which is different from holding and handling it.
You shouldn’t hold your baby bearded dragon immediately because they need a little time to get used to their new homes. Initial interactions should consist of you just being near the baby dragon, so it gets used to you.
After you’ve given your baby bearded dragon two or three weeks to adjust to its new atmosphere and its new handler, you can start interacting more heavily. However, you can’t just jump right into holding your bearded baby dragon. You’ll want to begin by petting it lightly on its head and down its back.
After you start petting your baby bearded dragon, keep an eye on it and look for any reaction. If you notice that they’re jumpy, retreating, or cowering, then your baby bearded dragon might need a little more time to get used to you.
Those reactions mean the baby bearded dragon is still afraid of you. While that might be a bit disappointing to hear at first, it’s nothing that should cause worry. Some baby bearded dragons need more time to adjust and adapt than others. They will get used to you eventually if you take some time out each day to work with them.
Once you notice that your baby bearded dragon is getting used to being petted, then you’ll be able to start picking it up to handle it.
It can take some time to tame a baby bearded dragon, but once you start to tame your new pet, you’ll realize how baby beardies love to be petted and held. As you are taming your baby beardie, remember to keep the interaction consistent throughout the day. Staying regular as you tame your dragon is the essential step to building a great relationship with your new pet.
Once you’ve tamed your baby bearded dragon, you’ll need to be a responsible pet owner if you want to keep handling it. If you interact with your baby bearded dragon often and then stop for a few months, you might need to train them all over again.