Bearded dragons are a joy to keep as pets, and understanding their behavior makes it easy for a pet owner to interpret their states of mind. While beardies display some behaviors in the presence of owners, certain behaviors are reserved only for the company of other bearded dragons. They display a range of territorial, social, and health-related behaviors, with some indicating intense emotion. Bearded dragon behavior can be easily understood by interpreting visual cues, such as an inflated beard, head bobbing, and arm waving. Circling, hissing, and piling up are some other behaviors that beardies engage in.
The inflated beard, or bearding, is a widely recognized bearded dragon behavior. The beardie expands the bony appendage under its neck, which makes it look like it has a beard. While this is seen in both sexes, males display it more often to assert their authority over younger beardies and females. The beards may turn black when displayed in this way, and the color may spread down to the shoulder in the case of males. While males show off by blowing out their beards for the females during breeding season, females usually puff up their beards as a sign of aggression.
In addition to puffing out the beard, the beardie may additionally start bobbing its head. Sometimes, they will bob when the owner approaches the cage as though they are saying hello. In the presence of a female dragon, though, a fast, intense type of bob indicates the dragon's readiness to mate. The speed and intensity of the head bob indicates the dragon's emotions, and it typically involves a show of power or desire. A slow head bob, which resembles a nod, could be a sign of submission, while a faster bob indicates aggression.
Another very common bearded dragon behavior that many pet owners find amusing is their tendency to wave their arms. The beardie lifts its front leg and waves it in a circular motion. They balance themselves on their other three legs and may also swap legs at times. Female and younger dragons display this behavior when males enter their territory as a sign of submission. In the case of females, it may also signal a willingness to mate or a desire to keep away from aggressive males.
Hissing may be a startling bearded dragon behavior for pet owners, but it is simply a defense signal. Beardies may also circle and chase each other, and this behavior is seen during breeding or fighting. Dragons who circle each other with their mouths open are spoiling for a fight and will bite if the opportunity presents itself.
Sometimes, beardies will pile up on each other, and while this behavior looks affectionate, it is anything but. The dragon on top is asserting its dominance by covering the other. Another typical bearded dragon behavior is the tail-up position, which is seen when the beardie is in a hunting mood.