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Are Bearded Dragons Smart? Facts & FAQ

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By Nicole Cosgrove

male hypo leatherback bearded dragon on a branch

Bearded Dragons are native to Australia. They live in the desert and arid regions where they live primarily on insects and some vegetation. There are numerous species and subspecies of Bearded Dragon, and it is the Central Bearded Dragon that is most commonly kept as pets. Although it is illegal to export Bearded Dragons from Australia, millions are bred and traded legally on the pet market in countries across the world.

They have become the most popular pet lizard species because they are low maintenance, easy to care for, and tolerate being handled while being difficult to injure. They are also known to be intelligent lizards. While you won’t be able to teach yours to play fetch or to sit or roll over on command, you may be able to train a Beardie to come on command and even train some level of litter training.

Below, we look at Bearded Dragons in more detail, including information on how intelligent they are and how you can take advantage of this intelligence.

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About Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragons have become one of the most popular pets, and almost certainly the most popular pet reptile or lizard, in the world. They are big enough that they can be easily handled and small enough that they are easy to care for. They can also tolerate handling, although you will need to get a Bearded Dragon accustomed to being picked up and handled for it to be comfortable with the process.

They do, however, need live feeding but most species only need to be fed insects like roaches and mealworms. Some do benefit from being fed pinkies, or baby mice, though, and Bearded Dragons will not usually take frozen mice. Owners also need to ensure that their Bearded Dragons have suitable living conditions which means providing a suitable enclosure with appropriate heating and lighting.

bearded dragon
Image Credit: Robert Keresztes, Shutterstock

Are Beardies Smart?

Beardies are considered social by reptilian standards. They will mingle with other Bearded Dragons and usually not only tolerate human company but actively seem to seek it out. But are they intelligent?

They are considered intelligent compared to other reptiles. They can learn patterns and routines. They can even learn actions by watching other reptiles and effectively mimicking their actions. They can learn to recognize individuals and they will react to stimuli such as positive and negative experiences.

And different Bearded Dragons have different levels of intelligence, with one study suggesting that those that are exposed to higher temperatures after they are born tend to be less intelligent than others.1 The study looked at how global warming would affect the Bearded Dragon species.

How To Potty Train Your Bearded Dragon

It is possible to litter train Bearded Dragons, although not all owners will have success with all Bearded Dragons. Try the following steps to see if you can litter train your little one—it will make it easier to keep the enclosure clean.

Central Bearded Dragon
Image Credit: Joyce Mar, Shutterstock

1. Identify the Toilet Spot

Watch your Beardie over a few days or a week and see where they prefer to poop regularly.

2. Lay Paper

After a week or so, add a piece of paper in the area where they poop. You should find that they continue to poop in this area, even on the paper.

3. Add a Litter Tray

After a couple of weeks, add a small litter tray where the paper is but place the paper in the tray. Don’t add anything else to the tray at this point. Hopefully, your Bearded Dragon will continue to poop on the paper, in the tray.

4. Add Chips

After another 2 weeks start to add a small amount of litter chips to the tray, leaving the paper in the bottom. Initially, the litter shouldn’t completely cover the paper. Over the next 2 weeks, keep adding a little more litter until the paper is completely covered.

5. Gradually Move the Tray

Once the paper is covered and your Beardie is still using the litter tray, you can remove the paper. At this time, you can also start to move the tray an inch or so every day until it is in the area of the enclosure you want it.

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Do Bearded Dragons Know Their Owners?

Bearded Dragons will usually get to know the voice and the smell of their owner, and they will react positively when they hear their owner talking to them or approaching their enclosure. This is especially true because they will associate your voice with being fed and receiving other treats.

Do Bearded Dragons Get Attached to Humans?

Bearded Dragons do not become emotionally attached to their humans, but they do recognize them, and they do associate them with positive actions.

woman handling her bearded dragon
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Do Bearded Dragons Want Attention?

Bearded Dragons are happy spending time alone, and they need this solitary time each day. This is one of the reasons that many people enjoy owning independent Bearded Dragons. However, some also enjoy spending time with their owners, and they may start to demand attention. They will approach the enclosure door, waiting to be let out, or they will try and hop on their owners’ hands when they open the enclosure to put food in or change the water.

Is It OK to Kiss Your Bearded Dragon?

When handling your Bearded Dragon, you do need to take certain precautions. You should wash your hands before and after handling, and you should never snuggle or kiss a Bearded Dragon. They carry Salmonella, which can make you sick. Even if you put your hands near your mouth when you have handled your Beardie, this may be enough to transfer the bacteria, if you haven’t properly cleaned them.

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Bearded Dragons can make excellent pets, even for those that have never owned reptiles. They are relatively low maintenance, and they tolerate and enjoy handling more than other reptile species. They are also considered among the more intelligent species of reptile and many owners have reported success in potty training their pets.

Bearded Dragons can also learn routines and may repeat tasks, especially if they believe there will be some kind of positive outcome at the end of the task. Your Bearded Dragon will likely learn to hop on your hand, for example, and will approach the door of the enclosure when they know it is time for some tasty roaches and crunchy greens.

Featured Image Credit: Ery Azmeer, Shutterstock

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