Just like any pet, bearded dragons require attention and care. Unlike cats and dogs, however, these beautiful creatures don’t take up as much of your time with their care needs.
Bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptiles that are kept as pets. There has been a surge in popularity recently, which could be down to their inquisitive and gentle nature as well as ease of care. One thing that I get asked frequently is “will a bearded dragon run away?” Let’s take a look.
Will a bearded dragon run away?
The short answer is Your bearded Dragon may try to run away. However, there are many things you can do to prevent this from happening and to help your bearded dragon feel safe and secure in its environment so that it is happy to stay with you.
Let’s take a look in more detail.
Why does my bearded dragon try to run away?
If you notice your bearded dragon tries to flee when you approach or runs away from you, this is quite common. There are many reasons why your pet might be running away from you. Most often, this is because they are fearful or startled. Have a read of my guide about bonding with your bearded dragon for more help.
Here are some more detailed explanations:
He feels threatened
One reason why your bearded dragon might be trying to flee is that he perceives you as a threat. This is normal – think about your size in comparison to his, of course his first thought is escape! Why he feels threatened might be for other reasons though. It doesn’t take a lot for these creatures to feel stressed and try to run. Things that can raise their stress levels include:
- Light changes in the environment
- Unexpected environmental noise
- Other pets (think cats/dogs) that might be coming close to the cage)
- Needing to empty their bowels.
- Being hungry (check our Bearded Dragon feeding guide)
- Wanting to mate
If you check your pet for all of these common stressors, you might be able to eliminate the problem of him running away relatively quickly.
Your approach wasn’t right
Will a bearded dragon run away when your approach isn’t right? There is actually a right way to handle your bearded dragon. If you open the cage, go into his space and try to feed or pick him up in a certain way, you can trigger his defence mechanism, which makes him run.
Your pet has an extra ‘eye’ on his head, which is able to sense light and shade changes. This “third eye”, while not being able to focus and define its surroundings is there for defence.
Even though bearded dragons are predators, they are still vulnerable as prey for larger animals and need to be aware of potential attacks coming from above and behind. Their “third eye” perceives a shadow approaching and triggers their threat response, which is to run.
Your pet is not yet accustomed to you
Will a bearded dragon run away when he is not yet accustomed to you? If you haven’t had your pet for long, he might be trying to run away because he isn’t used to you being around. When these animals exist in the wild, there are no human-sized predators around so bearded dragons are not accustomed to dealing with you.
His habitat isn’t perfect
Will a bearded dragon run away, because he doesn’t like it’s habitat? Bearded dragons need a habitat that is perfect for them. If the enclosure temperature isn’t right or there is too little or too much UVB, your bearded dragon might have too little (or too much) energy.
If this is the case, you will see your beardy be either over-active or lethargic. Typically, when you enter their space in the tank, you can trigger their over-activity, which results in them running from you.
If your beardy hasn’t previously had problems with running away, check the basking and temperature settings and this could be a quick fix! If you want to know more about the care for your bearded dragon, you can read here.
You’re not handling him right
Will a bearded dragon run away when you are not handling him right? Your bearded dragon’s behaviour might be indicative of a problem that it’s trying to communicate to you. If you notice that he runs away whenever you try to handle him, it might be that he doesn’t like the way you pick him up and has learnt to fear it.
To avoid this, ensure you always support your bearded dragon’s entire body. If you don’t support everything, he might think he is about to be hurt or dropped. Over time, incorrect handling can create a negative association and he might start trying to run away when you approach.
Can you train a bearded dragon not to run away?
Yes! The good news is that for whatever reason your bearded dragon is running away, you can train him not to. Firstly, as we’ve listed above, you need to work out why he is running away and eliminate the stressors.
There are also numerous tactics you can try to build your bearded dragon’s confidence around you and create a great bond.
Ways to get your bearded dragon to trust you so that it does not run away
There are lots of ways you can help your bearded dragon to trust you and be less skittish. Once you’ve eliminated stressors, you can work on building your bond.
Firstly, try always having something for him to eat whenever you put your hands into his cage. This will help him to realise you’re providing him food and he will associate your presence as a positive experience for him.
Also, don’t handle him if your hands smell of anything particularly pungent. Before handling him, wash with fragrance-free soap.
Secondly, you can socialise your bearded dragon by talking to him and keeping him in a location where there is lots of activity. If he’s alone for long periods, you could even keep the TV or radio on so he is listening to human voices.
Finally, patience is really important! Unless your bearded dragon is running away for a reason that’s easily fixed (hunger/temperature etc.) then it will take time to tame him.
Trust will take time to be established. You can earn trust with patience and spending time with your pet.
Is it ok to let my bearded dragon run around the house?
Yes! Bearded dragons aren’t fast-movers, which makes it easier to catch them after they’ve been roaming. There are a few considerations to bear in mind before letting your beardy loose.
Firstly, ensure that the room doesn’t have anything that could present a danger to your pet. It’s also wise not to leave him unattended.
The room should be clean and pet-free – the last thing you want is your pet cat chasing him! It’s also not wise to let him loose with another bearded dragon as this could cause him a lot of stress and they could end up fighting.
In general, bearded dragons will enjoy being able to roam the house but they might come across as timid at first as they won’t know where they are. With frequent exposure, they will begin to feel more comfortable around the house, which has great benefits.
In the wild, bearded dragons get a lot of exercise as they watch for predators and hunt. It’s nice for them to have time outside of their cage to be able to stretch their legs as they would in the wild.
Exercise around the house provides bearded dragons with healthy stimulation allowing them to learn new things – they particularly like to climb curtains!
Will a bearded dragon run away? To summarise, bearded dragons do often run away from their owners but there are lots of things you can do to stop this from happening.
The most important thing is to ensure their environment meets their needs: make sure they’re not too hot or cold, they’re not hungry, they’re not frightened by other pets and they have everything they need.
With all their needs met, you can begin working on bonding. Spend some time with your pet, handle him correctly and you’ll be fine!