Bearded dragons have exploded in popularity as a pet--even celebrities like Chrissy Teigen are discovering the joys that a beardie can bring to a home!
But you might be wondering if this exotic reptile can get along with your resident canine?
With preparation, patience, and persistence, the two animals can absolutely get along.
Below, we have compiled a guide outlining seven essential steps for safely introducing a bearded dragon to your dog.
Hopefully, you have been teaching and reinforcing good behavior in your dog well before you try to bring a new reptile into the home. Your dog should be able to respond to the basic commands Sit, Stay, and Leave it/Off.
Dog owners who don’t take the time to properly train their pups risk dangerous situations on a daily basis, and especially when trying to introduce new animals.
‘Don’t forget that dogs’ personalities and behaviors can be as extremely varied. When trying to introduce a bearded dragon to a dog, one of the biggest mistakes a pet owner can make is not taking into account the dog’s temperament.
Ask yourself how your dog responds to new people, animals, and situations. Are they adaptable? Timid? Defensive? If you have been out on a walk with your dog and seen small reptiles or other prey-like critters, how did your dog react--by barking, trying to chase the animal, or ignoring it?
Of course, you will never fully be able to predict a dog’s behavior in a new situation, but by asking yourself these questions and being aware of your dog’s temperament, you can make a decision about how--if at all--to introduce a beardie to them.
Just as important as knowing your dog is knowing common behaviors and body language of bearded dragons and what they mean.
Bearded dragons get their name from how they fluff up their beards (also called “bearding”) as a defense mechanism, to make themselves seem bigger.
If you see your bearded dragon fluffing their beard around your dog, this is a sign that they are feeling threatened.
Other common behaviors to look out for are hissing, head bobbing, and tail twitching.
Set up your bearded dragon’s tank in a non-main area of the house: a spare bedroom or office, for example. The tank should be high up on a table or desk where the dog will not be able to jump up and knock it over.
If you make the mistake of setting up the reptile’s habitat in an area where the dog spends much of their time, this could make both animals uncomfortable and threatened, and increase the risk of an accident.
In a neutral, calm setting, begin by keeping the bearded dragon in its tank and seeing how the animals react.
The best outcome at this stage is no drama--ideally, neither animal will show too much interest in the other.
This is where steps 2 and 3--being able to recognize the animals’ body language--become really key. Look out for signs of anxiety or fear in your bearded dragon, and for signs of nervousness, over-excitement, or predatory instinct in your dog.
If either one of the animals is not responding well to the other, you should end the interaction and try again later.
It’s normal for the animals to take some time to warm up to one another. If the first introduction does not go as you’d hoped, all is not lost.
Keep trying short, controlled interactions every day so that the animals get accustomed to one another’s presence.
Outside of these controlled interactions, keep reinforcing your dog’s training and socializing them to other animals and situations.
When your dog is not around, you can let your bearded dragon out of its tank to get comfortable moving around in the open, and prepared for the next step.
For at least the first few interactions where your beardie is out of its tank, you should have your dog on a leash so that the animals can be easily separated if need be.
This is a better and more controlled alternative to trying to hold the bearded dragon in your hands--if they wriggle, jump, or fall on the floor near your dog, you could be set up for disaster.
Even if your dog no longer needs to be leashed around your bearded dragon and both animals seem comfortable around one another, you should never leave the two alone together.
Being there to supervise not only makes the situation safer--it will be fun for you to watch the two species get to know one another!
Following these steps will help you facilitate a safe and smooth introduction between your dog and your bearded dragon. In time, your pets might end up being good friends! But you know your animals best and you will be the best judge of whether or not they are able to safely be around one another.
Have you introduced these species before? Let us know in the comments!
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