One of the primary reasons bearded dragons are such popular pets is that they tend to have calm, docile personalities. Hatchling bearded dragons may display aggressive postures or attempt to flee their keepers, but most mature bearded dragons tolerate regular, gentle handling over time. Any time you handle yours, be sure to support the lizard’s entire body with your hands to help him feel secure and to prevent falls or injury.
Picking up your bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps) requires a gentle touch. Do not lift your dragon by his legs or tail. Instead, begin by sliding your flattened hand, palm up, underneath your bearded dragon’s body. If he is exceptionally calm, you can insert your hand from the rear, by sliding your hand under the base of his tail, moving toward his belly. However, it is better to approach most lizards from the front. By sliding your hand under his chin and applying gentle upward pressure, he will often climb right into your hand. If your dragon flees repeatedly or acts aggressively, let him relax for a while and try again later.
The Ideal Idea
It is important to support your bearded dragon’s body weight so that he feels secure enough to relax. If you picked him up with your left hand, hold your right hand flat, with your fingers together and your palm facing up. Gently place the bearded dragon on your outstretched hand in such a way that his face is even with the tips of your fingers. His legs may rest on top of your palm, or he may wrap them around the sides of your hand and wrist. His tail will lie against your arm, pointing toward the inside of your elbow. If he is calm, he needs little further restraint, and he will likely sit there patiently. Occasionally he may lick your hand or the air, briefly adjust his position or move his head to change his field of vision. Always hold your bearded over a soft surface if you are not restraining him -- no matter how unlikely, one quick jump may cause a fatal fall.
Against Their Will
Sometimes, it may be necessary to pick up and hold your pet, despite his desires to the contrary. If you must handle a stressed-out dragon, slide a few fingers all the way under his body, from the side, between his front and back legs. Gently press your thumb on top of his back, between his shoulder blades. With your other hand, grasp the base of his tail by using a similar grip. Understand that restraining your lizard in this way may elicit defensive behaviors that can include defecation and biting. Bearded dragons have flexible necks, and they can bite surprisingly hard -- so try to keep your hand as close to his body as possible to avoid defensive bites.
Baby on Board
While adult bearded dragons are suitable for handling and interaction, you must be very gentle with immature ones. Young animals are more nervous and more likely to flee suddenly than their stoic elders are. Avoid handling your bearded dragon any more than necessary until he is at least 6 to 8 inches in length. When handling is necessary, such as during cage cleaning, try to slide two or three fingers under his body and press your thumb to the top of his back gently to keep him from jumping out of your hand suddenly. If you prefer, you can use a plastic container to scoop up the lizard and then move him where you need to put him.