Bearded dragons have many fascinating behaviours but one behaviour that is not talked about often is when bearded dragons arch their backs.
It can be quite confusing to understand why your bearded dragon is displaying this behaviour and what they are trying to say.
In this post, we will explain exactly what your bearded dragon is trying to tell you when they are arching their back as well as sharing the 9 different scenarios that can cause back arching.
So why do bearded dragons arch their back? Bearded dragons arch their back as a warning. The arching of the back is an aggressive posture and creates the illusion that they are bigger than they really are. If your bearded dragon is arching their back then this will indicate they are either stressed and frightened or angry and aggressive.
Read on to learn…
Why Do Bearded Dragons Arch Their Backs? (More Info)
Bearded dragons are amazing reptiles with some of the most unique and fascinating behaviours of all the animal kingdom.
Some of these behaviours are well known and well written about, while others are less known and often leave little to no clue why they display these behaviours.
One such behaviour is ‘back-arching’ as this kind of behaviour is usually something that doesn’t happen very often.
The arching of the back is generally an aggressive posture that bearded dragons use to make themselves look bigger to potential predators in the wild.
If the beardie can make themselves look bigger then the predator will often think twice about attacking a larger animal in case it gets into a fight and gets injured.
Beardies in captivity will usually arch their back for much the same reason.
When a bearded dragon arches their back they can be both scared and intimidated or angry and aggressive but either way, this behaviour is signalled as a warning to stay away.
Back arching will often be accompanied by some other ‘tell-tale’ signs such as gaping or beard flaring but sometimes they might just choose to arch the back.
We have recently shared a guide that covers the 12 reasons why bearded dragons get angry and you can check it out right here…
What Can Cause a Bearded Dragon to Arch Their Back?
Now we’ve established why bearded dragons arch their backs, it’s not important to find out what reasons and situations can trigger a beardie to arch their back.
Here are 9 common reasons that can cause your bearded dragon to become uneasy and either feel stressed or aggressive and therefore want to arch their back as a warning signal.
The 9 common reasons why a bearded dragon might arch their back are…
- Over Handling
- Mating Season
- Injury or Illness
- Unfamiliar Objects
- Other Bearded Dragons
- New Home or Surroundings
- Other Household Pets
Let’s now take a closer look at these reasons and see how they can cause back arching in bearded dragons…
1. Over Handling
It’s great to spend a lot of time with your beardie and give them lots of attention but it’s also important to understand that there is a limit and to the amount of time you should be handling them.
Over handling can often occur then your bearded dragon is new in the home or if friends and family are visiting and lots of different people are handling your beardie one after another.
Even if your bearded dragon is usually really placid and tame, you could find them becoming stressed by all the attention.
Sometimes over handling can also be accompanied by mishandling too if visitors aren’t used to handling beardies.
Either way, you could find your dragon resorting to arching their back as a way to say “hey, stop this! And back off!”
It’s great that owners love to spend time with their beardies and show them lots of love and attention, but always make sure to get the balance right and if you see your beardie arching their back while you are handling them try to figure out if it could be either over handling or incorrect handling that’s causing the problem.
2. Mating Season
The mating season could be another reason why your bearded dragon is arching their back for what appears to be no apparent reason.
During the mating season, bearded dragons experience elevated hormone levels and this can cause them to become more aggressive.
This is true especially for males, who can become aggressive to their owners even when they are usually extremely placid.
Back arching, beard flaring and other dominant acts are used to attract females and show their dominance throughout this period.
If you notice your beardie suddenly displaying this sort of behaviour then there is a possibility that the mating season is to blame.
3. Injury Or Illness
If your bearded dragon is either injured, in pain or ill then they could arch their back as a warning to leave them alone.
This is understandable as if they are feeling pain in a certain area then this is often the only way they can communicate to let you know not to touch the injured or painful area.
The same goes if your dragon is ill, as even most of us humans don’t like to be bothered when we are ill and we just need to be left alone to rest.
It can be hard to tell if your dragon is either ill or injured and you will have to investigate further if you think this is the case or you can’t associate any other reason to the behaviour.
4. The Bearded Dragon Is Untamed
It’s possible that your bearded dragons could be arching their back aggressively due to the fact that they aren’t tame.
This won’t apply to most situations, but with this being said, there are still certain circumstances where you will find an untamed beardie.
This usually happens when your dragon is new to your home and wasn’t shown any human interaction in its last home.
If you have recently brought a baby beardie to your home then there is a possibility that it wasn’t giving proper attention and human interaction by the breeder (depending on how reputable they are)
This means that your new baby dragon could easily be untamed and be arching their back in an aggressive manner towards you.
This will usually calm down pretty quickly once they understand you mean them no harm and you are also a source of food.
Another unfortunate situation that sometimes occurs is that beardies get mistreated by the previous owner.
Therefore if you have a rescue dragon there is a strong chance that they could be untamed and they will also arch their back as a warning to stay away from them as their previous experiences with humans just weren’t great.
5. Unfamiliar Objects
Something that’s often overlooked is the fact that bearded dragons can mistake common household objects for predators.
Objects that look completely innocent to me and you could easily be seen as a threat to a bearded dragon.
These objects may be simple everyday household objects such as ornaments and children’s toys.
When you think about it, if your child left a dinosaur toy next to your beardies tank then it’s actually pretty understandable how your beardie would perceive this as a real-life animal and they would consider this to be a potential predator.
The same goes for ornaments that could be perceived as predators or invaders of their territory too.
This means that sometimes when you see your dragon arching their back for what appears to be for no apparent reason, it’s a good idea to scan the room for objects that they could be seeing as potential threats.
6. Other Bearded Dragons
This one is pretty obvious, but if you have other bearded dragons in your home then there’s a pretty high chance that there will be territorial problems.
We never recommend housing 2 or more beardies in the same tank and here’s a guide that explains exactly why…
Even if you house your beardies in separate tanks and they are in the same room, this can still cause some unwanted territorial issues.
You may notice back arching and beard flaring in order to show the other dragon that this area is their territory.
If you notice this kind of behaviour then it’s a good idea to make sure that the beardies can’t see each other within the room or better still to separate them into different rooms if possible as this behaviour can cause long term stress.
7. Other Household Pets
Bearded dragons don’t just get territorial with other bearded dragons but they get territorial with other pets in your home too.
They can also see these pets as potential predators especially if they are large animals such as cats and dogs.
As we have mentioned throughout the post, your beardie will arch their back as a means to make themselves look bigger towards potential threats such as predators as a warning.
If you have other pets in your home then it’s a good idea to introduce them slowly and if they aren’t comfortable with each other then it might be a good idea to limit the amount of time they spend in the same room.
8. New Home Or Surroundings
Your bearded dragons can become defensive and start arching in tier back
If they are uncomfortable when in a new home or surroundings.
This is true when you first bring home a baby beardie as they will need time to adjust to their new home and surroundings and you as an owner.
This can also be rue if you decide to home to a new home or if you move your dragon to a different room in your home.
Basically, any kind of change in scenery can cause bearded dragons to feel uncomfortable and therefore become defensive and this is when you may see behaviours such as back arching and beard flaring.
Have you ever wondered if your bearded dragons could potentially bite you? Well, we have answered that question right here…
Another situation where bearded dragons might become irritable and even slightly aggressive is when they are shedding.
Shedding can be itchy and even painful in some circumstances for beardies and they often just want to be alone.
This can make them display behaviours such as back arching to warn you to give them some space for a while.
If you want to find out more about shedding then head over to our guide that shares all you need to know about shedding bearded dragons…
Do All Bearded Dragons Arch Their Backs?
Bearded dragons tend to differ in their behaviours greatly from one to another depending on their individual personality.
Some beardies are always calm and social, while others and more skittish and even aggressive in uncomfortable situations.
All bearded dragons have the ability to arch their backs but how much you see this behaviour will largely depend on how threatened or uncomfortable they feel.
Generally, back arching isn’t something you should experience regularly if your dragon is happy and comfortable in your home.
Is It Unhealthy For My Bearded Dragon to Arch Their Back?
In the short term, if you see your bearded dragon arching their back once in a while, then this isn’t going to be a big cause for concern.
Every beardie will come across a situation where they feel they need to defend themselves from time to time and this is only natural.
One the other hand, if you notice that your beardie is displaying this behaviour on a constant basis then you will need to find the route cause and resolve it.
This is because displaying these sort of behaviours is stressful for bearded dragons and if they have to do it on a daily basis then it can actually make them ill.
You may also find that they are hiding more, eating less and becoming more skitting in their behaviours depending on the situation.
The bottom line is that if your dragon is back-arching occasionally then it’s generally fine but if it’s happening regularly then you need to take a closer look at what’s causing the behaviour.
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