Do Bearded Dragons Have Emotion?

Bearded dragons have an underdeveloped hypothalamus. And does not give the same range of emotions as humans do. Hence, they have three basic emotions. Which are:

  • Fear
  • aggression, and
  • pleasure. These three emotions are triggered by their natural instincts. Depending on the environment around them. For instance, if you take your dragon outside with you, they tend to act much more aggressive towards you than they would be indoors. This is due to their natural instincts kicking in.

Do bearded dragons have emotions? Yes, bearded dragons have emotions. Bearded dragons do have a hypothalamus. Hypothalamus is a region of the forebrain below the thalamus. It coordinates both the autonomic nervous system and the activity of the pituitary. Thereby, controlling

  • temperature
  • thirst
  • hunger, and
  • emotional activity.

Some very important information on emotions among bearded dragons and reptiles. In general, are as follows:

  • bearded dragons behaviour
  • reasons for certain behaviour among bearded Dragons
  • list of bearded dragons behaviour
  • bearded dragons’ signs of aggression
  • signs of aggression among reptiles
  • factors of personality among reptiles
  • emotional feelings among reptiles
  • reptiles irritation state, and
  • trust building among reptiles

Bearded Dragons Behaviours

Like humans, bearded dragons have specific body language that indicates their

  • mood,
  • health, and
  • feeling

As a result, this specific body language facilitates good communication with

  • other reptiles, and
  • humans

Reasons for Certain Behavior among Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons do not mimic other bearded dragons. That is, their behavior is always genuine. Likewise, most bearded dragons display certain behavior whenever

  • there is a female around
  • another bearded dragon comes near them, or
  • a larger animal approaches them or something unknown.

List of Bearded Dragon Behavior

Arm Waving

Arms waving occurs when the bearded dragon stands high on three legs. Then raises the remaining leg in the air, and wave it in a circular motion. In short, bearded dragons wave arms for the following reason

  • species recognition, and
  • submission to a larger species

Bearded Dragon Head Bobbing

Head bobbing is more common in males. This is when a bearded dragon raises and lowers their head in repeated manners. In short, head bobbing represents a sign of dominance between two dragons. In general, the faster the head bob the more threatening the bearded dragon becomes

Likewise, if a bearded dragon is head-bobbing another dragon in quick succession, it is generally for territorial reasons. Also, if a bearded dragon head bobs another dragon at a slow rate, it can be a sign of submission.

Bearding – Fluffing Their Beard

Both male and female bearded dragons expand their beards. In general, they do this as a defensive behavior to make themselves seem bigger. Also, it is unusual for a bearded dragon to stretch their beards from time to time without any provocations.

Bearded Dragon Digging

Digging is when your bearded dragon begins digging a hole in his or her tank. In general, bearded dragons dig holes for any of the following reasons:

  • creation of small basking area
  • creating a place for laying eggs by female
  • digging a suitable place to go into brumation

Lying on Top of Each Other

This may look like your bearded dragons are getting along or that they are great companions. But it is actually a sign of dominance. In the animal kingdom, it is the survival of the fittest. As a result, bearded dragons need UV rays to remain healthy. So the dominate bearded dragon will always try to get as many UV rays as possible.

Bearded Dragons Signs of Aggression

In general, bearded dragons are not aggressive by nature (which is what makes them such good pets). Generally, the worst thing you will see is that they will show signs of aggressive behavior. And if you provoke them enough they may try and bite you.

Below are some of the most common signs of aggression in both male and female bearded dragons:

Fluffing Their Beard / Bearding   

This is where the bearded dragon got its name. A bearded dragon will fluff its beard as a threat sign. This makes the dragon seem bigger and more threatening, so it can be seen as a sign of aggression.

Also, sometimes a bearded dragon’s beard may turn to a darker or even black color when they are bearding.


Bearded dragons may also hiss if they feel threatened. Again, this is another sign of being uncomfortable or a sign of aggression.


It is so obvious that biting is a sign of aggression. Therefore, if your bearded dragon tries to bite you when you handle it, you should try and put on a pair of gardening gloves to avoid getting hurt. Because not handling your bearded dragon will not lower their aggressiveness. Otherwise, it will only prevent you from developing a closer bond with your bearded dragon.

Head Bobbing 

Bearded dragons bob their head up and down as a sign of territorial aggression towards other species. Occasionally, they will bob their heads at each other as a sign of communication.

For example, one bearded dragon may bob his/her head four or five times in quick successions. And another bearded dragon may bob his/her head twice slowly in response as acknowledgement.

Signs of Aggression among Reptiles

Aggression is fear taken to the next level, demonstrated by almost every animal on earth. Including reptiles. If

  • running away
  • urinating, or
  • musking doesn’t work, then the response switches from “flight” to “fight.”

Signs of impending attack are diverse and often specific to species.

  • The famous rattlesnake ‘rattle’
  • Bluetongue skinks gape and stick out their tongues
  • Frilled lizards fan out their trademark ‘frill’
  • Bearded dragons darken, flare their beards, and gape
  • Snakes coil into an ‘S’ shape

In general, aggressive snakes and lizards often try to bite. Hence, knowing the warning signals that the aggressive snakes and lizards exhibit, and when to stop provoking them is the first step in understanding your pet’s body language.

Factors of Personality among Reptiles


In general, a reptile’s species determines most of its disposition. For example, bearded dragons tend to prefer laying back and enjoy human attention. Also, blue tongue skinks are

  • inquisitive
  • energetic, and
  • comfortable around humans.

Likewise, ball pythons are nonaggressive to the point of being reluctant feeders.


Conditioning is the second largest contributor to reptile personality. The most common conditioned response is fear or aggression due to neglect.


Any reptile under:

  • environmental stress comes off as afraid or aggressive
  • bad temperatures become lethargic and prone to hiding
  • Inadequate shelter becomes insecure, and
  • Condition of poor feeding becomes snappy.


Sick reptiles often experience drastic personality changes when they become ill. For example:

  • an aggressive iguana may become laid back
  • a calm snake may become aggressive
  • or an energetic tortoise may become lethargic.

The only way to find out for sure is to take him/her to your vet.

Emotional Feelings among Reptiles

Fear and Pleasure

Most people agree that if reptiles can feel emotion at all, fear and pleasure are where it starts. That is, instinct reinforces these emotions. Which means:

  • fear involves the “fight or flight” instinct, while
  • pleasure involves sex drive.

Fear shows in defensive responses. Hence, aggressive species’ defensive responses are warnings which are signaling annoyance. While, passive species’ defensive responses are bluffs, which are signalling fear.

For example, blue tongue skinks pee when it feels threatened. This is a common expression of fear in both reptiles and amphibians.

Pleasure is a bit more complicated than fear, and it is not all about mating opportunities. In my experience, I notice that reptiles derive their highest pleasure from interaction with humans, and this relates to trust.

For example, bearded dragons close their eyes and stay still when humans stroke them.

Reptiles Irritation State

Can a reptile feel irritated? Yes, they do. You can hop online and have a look. There, you will see many pictures of bearded dragons giving their owners the infamous “stink eye” for waking them up or not filling their food dish. But are we only imagining it as part of the human need to bond?

The stink eye could be an ascription of human feature. But other behaviors are unmistakable. Likewise, different reptiles exhibit different irritation signs. For example,

  • iguanas are tail-whipping.
  • snakes prefer to hiss

Trust Building among Reptiles

In humans and advanced mammals, trust is like love. But reptiles lack the brain development for a complex emotion like love. Hence, trust is the next best thing. And they do show it.

If a reptile, particularly a lizard exhibits the following behaviors in your presence, it may be as a result of them feeling a bond of trust with you.

  • sleeping or closing eyes
  • staying near you, even if you’re not petting him/her
  • not squirming or clawing while you hold it
  • climbing into your hand with the voluntary act
  • head bobbing

Likewise, one of our bearded dragons, Deliora, sometimes head-bobs at me when she’s in a good mood. Thus, head bob as earlier explained is a communication style that bearded dragons use to relay messages.