Adult bearded dragons enjoy human interaction if they are handled from a young age. If you want to encourage your baby beardie to be friendly when it grows up, introduce play time into its daily routine. You can safely start a play routine when your lizard is around four months old. It is not advisable to play with bearded dragons younger than this, and hatchlings under four weeks old should not be handled at all.
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Choose a play time for your bearded dragon and stick to the same time each day. Bearded dragons are sensitive to routine and soon learn to anticipate your play sessions if you handle them regularly.
Place your hand inside the vivarium, palm up, and wait for your baby dragon to walk onto your hand. It will probably lick you at first to pick up your scent so that it can recognise you the next time you put your hand inside its home.
Keep the sessions short at first. When you begin to handle your bearded dragon, stay passive, allow it to come to you and limit each session to about five minutes so that it does not associate human interaction with stress or anxiety.
Handle your baby dragon with care because it is very fragile. Hold it gently and carefully cup your hand around the sides of its body to safely pick it up. Once your pet starts to initiate contact and recognise you when you open the vivarium door, you can progress to picking up your beardie and handling it outside the vivarium.
Allow your baby bearded dragon to chase a food item outside the vivarium. Some beardies love to hunt insects with the added freedom of running across a room to catch their prey. Appropriately sized locusts are a good choice and a tasty snack for the young lizards to chase because they are easy to catch. Release one insect at a time or you may frighten your pet.
Train your baby bearded dragon to come back to you by offering treats at play time. Show your beardie a food item from a distance and when they run to you, offer the food as a reward. When you do this on a regular basis, your beardie should eventually learn to come back to you when you hold out your hand.
Watch your baby bearded dragon at play time, and if you think it is stressed or frightened, return it to the vivarium. Some beardies love large open spaces, and some are happiest sitting on their owner's shoulder. Get to know your bearded dragon with regular play sessions and you will soon learn what your pet likes to do when you take it out of the vivarium.
Tips and warnings
- Move your hand toward your bearded dragon from the side, not above. Predators attack from above in the wild, and if a beardie sees a shadow over its head, it may become frightened.
- Always wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after handling reptiles because they can carry bacteria that is harmful to humans.
- Never let a reptile crawl across your face or near your mouth and do not rub your eyes or eat when playing with your pet.
- Avoid squeezing or gripping your baby bearded dragon and never hold it by the tail.
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