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Why Do My Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads?

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Bearded dragons are popular pets who display a range of territorial, social and health-related behaviors. They do not communicate by sound, other than an aggressive hiss, but they use a range of posturing, physical gestures and color displays to communicate with their owners and other beardies. Understanding their gestures can help you know what mood your pet is in. Head-bobbing is common in all bearded dragon species.

Fast Bobbing – I’m The Boss

Fast head-bobbing is mainly observed in males. It can indicate aggression, territoriality and dominance. Males will often quickly bob their heads up or down toward younger males and females. If the other dragon returns a fast head-bob, it is a challenge -- they will fight to establish territory. If the other dragon responds with a slow head-bob or a slow wave, or both, then he is recognizing the dominance of the initiating bearded dragon.

Jerky Bobbing – You’re Sexy

During the mating season, your dragon may exhibit a violently jerky head-bob, often combined with darkening of his beard. The jerky movement can make his whole body move. This is his way of showing a female that he’s interested in her -- and at the same time, he is telling other males to stay away as he is intending to mate. The female will give a slow arm wave if she is receptive to him.

Slow Bobbing – You’re the Boss

A slow head-bob returned in response to a fast head-bob is a way of acknowledging the initiating bearded dragon in a non-challenging way. It is usually accompanied by a slow wave indicating the dragon accepts the dominance of the lead male. Females will also sometimes give a slow head-bob when they are ready to mate.

Bobbing to Owner – Hello

Some dragons do a fairly slow head-bob when the owner approaches their living environment. Anecdotally, it appears to be a way of acknowledging the provider's presence, like saying hello. Younger dragons can sometimes be seen nodding to each other without any aggression following, and this also seems to be an acknowledgment of each other.