Bearded dragon waving is one of the most interesting behaviors you’ll see in pet reptiles. And at first, many owners assume it was just a coincidence.
But then they do it again (and again).
So what’s going on? Are they actually waving or does the movement serve another purpose?
This guide will help explain the strange world of bearded dragon waving. You’ll learn why they do it, what it means, and if any action is required from you as their owner.
Table of Contents
- What Does It Look Like?
- What Does It Mean When A Bearded Dragon Waves?
- What If They’re Waving A Lot?
- Extra Info
What Does It Look Like?
Before we jump into the possible causes and reasons that a bearded dragon might wave, we should formally identify this behavior first.
The reason it’s important to do this is that many owners actually misinterpret other forms of arm movement for waving. While this is mostly a harmless mistake, we think it’s important to know what kind of behavior you’re dealing with (especially since some might result in you making adjustments to the care you provide).
Thankfully, a waving bearded dragon is actually pretty easy to identify when you know what to look for.
When a bearded dragon waves they will very deliberately (and sometimes slowly) raise one of their hands high above their head. Then they will gradually move it back down to the ground.
Expert Tip: It’s rather robotic and there isn’t any side to side motion. Unlike humans, bearded dragons don’t have a lot of fluidity when it comes to this kind of arm motion.
They might only wave once, but there’s also a good chance they’ll do it a few times in a row. Once you know what to look for it’s really hard to miss!
What Does It Mean When A Bearded Dragon Waves?
Now that you know what it looks like, what does it mean when a bearded dragon waves? Is it a random behavior that has no meaning at all?
Or are they trying to tell us something?
The high-level answer is that a waving bearded dragon is using that as a sign or signal. The trick is finding out what it means!
You see, there are a variety of different reasons for why a bearded dragon might wave. Some of them won’t require you to do anything, but others might mean you need to adjust the kind of care you’re providing.
Below are the most common reasons to consider.
1. It’s A Sign Of Submissiveness
One of the most common reasons a bearded dragon might be waving is it’s a sign of submissiveness. In the wild, these lizards use this as a way of showing they understand that they’re not the strongest creature in the area.
Sending this signal is a way to demonstrate that they’re not interested in challenging the other animal for dominance. This helps them stay safe and avoid unwanted encounters.
Unlike other animals that might endlessly bluff to try and appear strong, bearded dragons have a very practical approach. If they are around an animal (or person) that’s clearly stronger, they don’t see any point in picking a fight.
This applies to people too. When a bearded dragon waves at their owner, there’s a good chance it’s an acknowledgment that they know their owner is in charge.
While you obviously know this already, your beardie might have the urge to communicate this from time to time. There’s no harm in it, and it’s rather cute!
If your bearded dragon waves at you (and there are clearly no other sources of stimulation around), there’s really nothing you need to do. Just enjoy the quirky behavior!
It’s kind of neat to know that your beardie is trying to communicate in its own way.
2. They’re Scared Of Other Pets (Or Kids)
As we’ve mentioned in other articles, a bearded dragon can easily get spooked by another overly curious pet you own. If there’s a cat that’s getting too close to the enclosure or a dog that’s constantly running around, your beardie might get nervous (understandably).
Expert Tip: This is also possible if you have young kids in the house. The random movements, loud noises, and potential glass-smacking are all things that make bearded dragons uneasy.
There are many ways they can react to this, and waving is quite common (turning their beard black or puffing up are too). By waving, your bearded dragon is trying to show the other animals or people that they’re not a threat and just want to be left alone.
This is a bit different from the situation where your bearded dragon is waving at their owner. In that situation, there’s usually a clear understanding from these reptiles that the person they’re waving at is a friend who takes care of them.
This means the waving behavior is kind of like a sign of respect. But when it comes to other beings that scare them, it’s fear-based.
The beardie is waving because they’re genuinely concerned that these other large creatures might hurt them. That means this aspect of their living environment is suboptimal.
If you see this happening it’s your job as an owner to find a way to remove this stress and fear from their lives. Make sure their enclosure is in a part of your home where it won’t be disturbed, and keep animals away.
3. Their Reflection Is Tricking Them
This is a funny cause of bearded dragon waving that actually happens all the time.
Most of the best bearded dragon enclosures or cages have some glass or plastic sides. While this is obviously a great design when it comes to housing these lizards, there is an unintended side effect…
On occasion, these creatures will see their own reflection and think it’s another beardie. When this happens they might decide to wave as a sign or acknowledgment or to show they don’t want to fight (it would be a stalemate after all).
So if you see your bearded dragon waving off into the distance, this might be the reason (the same thing goes for glass surfing). This usually isn’t anything to be worried about since the chance of your beardie being legitimately afraid of their reflection isn’t that great.
However, if you want to try and stop this from happening you can experiment with making subtle tweaks to the light positioning in their habitat and how the light in the room falls on the enclosure.
Expert Tip: When you see your bearded dragon waving to itself it’s a good idea to double-check the temperature, lighting, and humidity in the environment. On a rare occasion, this behavior can demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the condition they’re living in.
4. Mating Behavior
Another reason you might see a bearded dragon waving is that they’re engaging in mating behavior. In the wild, female beardies will sometimes wave at a male to signal that she’s interested.
If you have a male bearded dragon or only own one, the chances are pretty slim that this is the reason for waving. However, if you have a female and more than one beardie it’s possible that this could be the cause.
Most of the time you’ll also see other kinds of mating behavior as well (they won’t just wave). There will probably be some head bobbing and methodical movement around the enclosure on the part of the female as well. If you don’t see any of that occurring then mating behavior is likely not the reason for the waving.
5. They’re Acknowledging Other Pets Or People
This is kind of a hybrid between number 1 and 2 on our list. If there are passive house pets or other people who regularly come and go (without disturbing the beardie), they might be waving to show that they acknowledge their presence.
The trick is figuring out if this is a fear-driven wave or simply an “I know you’re there” signal.
To figure this out you’ll need to look at the context a bit and err on the safe side. Are the pets or people that your beardie is waving at doing anything that might frighten them? Moving quickly, coming right up to the enclosure with fast movements, or making loud noises are all things that might scare your beardie.
If they’re simply passing through or minding their own business then there’s a better chance that your beardie isn’t scared (although it’s not a guarantee).
The frequency of the waving matters too. If it’s just an occasional wave it’s less likely that your bearded dragon is actually scared. However, if it’s happening repeatedly then the opposite might be true.
Expert Tip: We recommend preventing other people or animals from getting near the enclosure to help you diagnose the problem too. If your beardie continues to wave then that’s obviously not the cause!
What If They’re Waving A Lot?
Like we hinted at earlier, if your bearded dragon is waving constantly there’s probably an issue that needs to be resolved.
If your bearded dragon is comfortable then any waving will likely happen periodically, not regularly. When there’s something bothering them then you’ll see this happen far more often.
Here are the two most common causes of frequent waving:
- A nervous beardie
- A suboptimal habitat
If your bearded dragon is constantly afraid of people or animals that are passing by their enclosure, waving will probably happen more often. Living in a constant state of stress is not fair to your beardie and might even lead to health complications in the long run (it might also result in a bite).
To fix this, do whatever you can to reduce outside causes of stress or fear. Put their enclosure in a safe spot where it will be undisturbed and don’t allow other people or animals nearby until the beardie gets more comfortable (which might never happen).
To figure out if the issue is with a suboptimal habitat you’ll need to do an audit of your setup.
Is the enclosure large enough? Are there any issues with heat, humidity, or lighting? Is there a sufficient place to hide?
Be critical and honest with yourself to see if improvements can be made. This will allow you to improve anything that might be bothering your beardie and causing them to wave excessively.
Expert Tip: Fact-check your existing hygrometer, thermometer, and thermostat with new gear. They might be giving you inaccurate readings!
This catch-all section will cover some of the random details about bearded dragon waving that many owners don’t know about. For whatever reason, there’s actually a lot of misinformation floating around when it comes to the points below!
Both Males And Females Wave
There are a handful of uninformed people who have spread the notion that only female bearded dragons wave. This might come from the fact that when it comes to mating behavior, females are the ones who initiate the waving.
But make no mistake, both males and female bearded dragons will wave. Outside of mating behavior, all the other potential reasons for waving are shared by both genders.
Your Beardie Might Never Wave
It’s entirely possible that your bearded dragon might not be into the whole waving thing!
And that’s totally fine.
Some inexperienced owners think that waving is something all bearded dragons do, and the absence of it is an indication of an issue with their pet.
In reality, this doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them. They simply don’t feel the need to wave.
It’s Not A Greeting
As cute as it would be, a waving bearded dragon is not saying hi.
As we’ve described above, waving is a clear signal that these reptiles have been doing long before they were considered viable pets. They are simply trying to use it in a captive setting.
Expert Tip: The closest waving gets to saying hi is when it’s being used to show they acknowledge your presence or dominance.
As you can see, there are many reasons why bearded dragons wave. This interesting behavior has fascinated owners for ages, and it’s really fun to watch!
This interesting behavior is yet another reason why beardies are such a unique and fun pet to own. There are so many layers to them!