Many new Dragon Keepers want to know: how do you play with a bearded dragon? After all, they don’t fetch like a dog or claw at yarn like a cat. And they aren’t quite as affectionate as other pets you may be more familiar with. So you’re wondering, how do you play with a bearded dragon? Do they get bored? Do they need enrichment in their lives, such as new decor or regular exercise outside the tank?
If you’ve been wondering about bearded dragon playtime, exercise activities, and enrichment, this guide will give you tips and ideas to keep your bearded dragon’s life fun and interesting (all while helping the two of you bond).
Do Bearded Dragons Get Bored?
Yes, bearded dragons can get bored. But unlike little kids, they can’t say, “Mom, I’m BORED!” The only way to know is by your dragon’s behavior, particularly glass surfing.
Glass surfing is a common sign of boredom. If your bearded dragon seems restless and frequently pulls himself up on his hind legs, pawing against the glass, he may be bored.
Of course, glass surfing, like many other bearded dragon behaviors, can be caused by a variety of factors, so it’s best to know your dragon and always be on the lookout for changes in behavior.
But if you narrow it down and you have ruled out any health concerns, you may just need to spend a little more time playing with and entertaining your dragon.
Dragons need to climb, run, bond with you—they need stuff to do, just like people.
Why Play with Your Bearded Dragon?
Of course, there’s the bonding aspect of playing with your bearded dragon. Sure, your dragon is not a cute and cuddly dog who will run back and forth fetching a ball and tackling you with wet kisses, but there can still be a meaningful bond formed between you and your dragon.
And then there’s the aspect of preventing boredom. Playing with your bearded dragon keeps her life exciting and fun.
But there are also two important health reasons to make sure your dragon is getting active playtime:
- Preventing obesity. Unfortunately, it’s easy for pet bearded dragons to become obese. Well-meaning but ill-informed owners may not give them enough exercise and may overfeed them. Regular playtime, especially playtime that involves physical activity, can help your bearded dragon avoid obesity. That and a balanced diet, of course.
- Giving your dragon exercise. In the wild, bearded dragons are very active. While your pet won't move around as much as a wild dragon, she still needs to get some exercise each and every day. This will help her stay healthy and happy.
What Do Bearded Dragons Like to Play With?
Bearded dragons often enjoy a variety of toys, sometimes even toys that are popular favorites among furry pets. So yes, you can shop the dog and cat toy aisle at the store and find some goodies for your bearded dragon!
Here are some toys that your bearded dragon might enjoy:
- Balls. Many bearded dragons are especially drawn to slotted balls like hamster balls or cat toys. Never let them play with marbles, small rubber balls, or anything else they could choke on.
- Mirrors. Some bearded dragons really enjoy mirrors, but others get stressed at the sight of their reflection. Obviously, if your dragon tends to get upset by mirrors, this wouldn’t be a good way to play. But if your dragon seems curious and energetic rather than stressed, it can be a lot of fun to show her a little mirror and watch how she interacts with her reflection.
- Stuffed animals. Some dragons like to play or cuddle with plushies. Not only is this adorable to watch, but it also creates some great photo opportunities.
- Toy cars or little riding toys. Your dragon may enjoy riding on a little car, a toy horse, or even a little skateboard. A remote control car can be a lot of fun for them if it doesn’t stress them out!
- Rubber duck. Bath toys are a lot of fun for bearded dragons, both in and out of the water. Your dragon might nuzzle it, climb on it, or push it around.
- Wrapping paper and paper scraps. Although bearded dragons usually don't enjoy loud noises, they might enjoy the crinkly sound of paper as they explore and scurry through it.
Activities to Play with Your Bearded Dragon
What kind of activities do bearded dragons enjoy? First time bearded dragon owners, in particular, often scratch their heads over this question.
Here are some activities you can try with your dragon for exercise, play, and bonding time.
- Watch some TV. Yes, bearded dragons actually enjoy this! They may not understand the plot of the drama you’re watching, but they enjoy spending time with you and watching the stimulating screen. Just be aware that dragons tend to dislike loud noises, so it’s best not to have the volume up too high.
- Cuddle with your dragon. Many bearded dragons absolutely love cuddle time with their people. Enjoy that beardie love!
- Do a beardie burrito. Nope, this doesn’t mean you should give your beardie a burrito! Just wrap her up in a cuddly soft towel or blanket as you sit together. She'll love it (and so will you).
- Go for a walk. If the weather is warm and sunny, let your dragon play outside! Depending on where you’ll be walking, a leash might be a good idea. If you have an enclosed area in your yard, or can perform hawk-like supervision, you don’t necessarily have to use a leash; but if there is any chance of your dragon running away or somehow getting into harm's way, you should use a leash.
- Let your dragon run around the house. This requires sharp supervision, of course. Make sure there are no items that your dragon can choke on and keep the atmosphere low-stress (for example, don’t let them run around in the same room where you’re watching a scary movie with lots of noises and flashing lights). Try to let them out after they go to the bathroom so they don’t poo on anything. It’s usually a good idea to avoid letting your other pets roam around in the same room. Additionally, you might want to block off an area specifically for your dragon, or at least block off crevices and areas where they could get stuck, get lost, fall down stairs, run outside, etc.
- Go swimming. Some dragons really love to swim. If your dragon is one of them, you can let her swim outside or inside, depending on the weather. To make it an even more exciting experience, you can use cute accessories and bath toys such as inflatable donuts or squirty toys.
- Give your dragon a bath. Similarly to swimming time, give your dragon a bath if you know he loves it.
- Make feeding time interactive. Live feeding can be a very active time for your dragon! Drop a few feeders in the designated bin, or one at a time in the tank. Or put a feeder into a hamster ball and roll it around for your dragon to chase—be sure to reward your dragon after a few moments so they don’t end up frustrated.
- Use a laser pointer. Some dragons might enjoy playing with a laser pointer by chasing the light back and forth. Just be sure to feed them after because they may think that the little red light is an insect.
- Coax them to scurry and climb. Use tweezers to hold a Dubia roach or a raspberry or some kind of edible incentive, and coax your dragon across the terrarium or a little obstacle course that you could set up. This could just consist of some rocks and logs for them to scurry over and can be very entertaining and a great idea for outside.
- Let them climb on a cat tower. Climbing can be great exercise for bearded dragons as well as invigorating, as it channels their wild side. You could get a small cat tower for your dragon to explore, and they may never want to stop playing on it!
Pro Tip: If you have children who play with your bearded dragon, make sure they know how to safely handle the dragon, including washing their hands thoroughly afterwards. Once playtime is over, be sure to clean your dragon's toys and any surface area they are playing on to prevent salmonella poisoning.
Tips for Bearded Dragon Enrichment
To keep your dragon’s life exciting and enriched, there are a few things you can do in addition to playtime and exercise, specifically to enrich their living environment.
- Change up the terrarium. It can be enjoyable for your dragon (and for you!) to switch up their terrarium every once in a while. Rotate decor and upgrade the substrate, for example. Just don’t switch things up more than every four months. Bearded dragons need time to adjust to changes in their home.
- Add some interesting decor. Add a hammock, wooden bridge, and other decor to the terrarium.
- Use excavator clay. You can use clay to create caverns, crevices, tunnels, bridges, and more for your dragon to explore. You can even change the setup on occasion to make it exciting.
Hopefully this provides you with lots of ideas to have fun with your bearded dragon, keep him from getting bored, and enrich his life!
How do you play with your bearded dragon? We’d love to hear about it! If you have questions or would like to give feedback, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org