The reasons that your bearded dragon might be hissing at you or around their environment, are all pretty much intertwined. Bearded dragons are not aggressive creatures and so when they feel threatened and uncomfortable, they try to appear aggressive in order to appear more intimidating. They don’t want to fight or engage in anything tense, but they will do everything they can to seem like they are tough enough to get you to back off.
They do this by puffing up, blackening their beard, and oftentimes hissing. For bearded dragons this is the perfect combination of cues to clue the other creature in to back off. The puffing up makes them appear bigger than they are, the blackening is a visual sign of danger, and the hissing is an auditory call to leave them alone.
So what situations will cause a beardie to start hissing?
Feeling Threatened or Exposed
This is the most obvious reason why your bearded dragon is hissing. They are very territorial about their environments and covet them above most things. They don’t like when unauthorized people or creatures make their way into their space, even if they aren’t actually threats.
Beardies can get very confused when they see their own reflections, or things that are outside the window so it is recommended that you try and minimize those things to keep them feeling calm and safe in their environment. They may also feel threatened if someone other than you tries to pick them up and may lead to more than just hissing, which can be dangerous. It is advised that if you do introduce your little one to someone new, you should be the one to lift them and try to get them accustomed to the new person slowly and calmly. Learn more about introductions here.
They are also the type of creatures who very much like to be in control of their own bodies and their own spaces. Never put two beardies in the same enclosure for very long unless you intend for them to mate. Male beardies especially feel threatened by other male beardies and they will get aggressive and hiss as a warning to get the other to leave their environment.
If they feel like there is no place for them to be alone in their tank they may also feel rather uncomfortable. Hides, rocks, plants, and other decorations, can really spruce up your beardie’s habitat while giving them places they can go to be alone. They like their solitude and enjoy having places to hide so they can get some of their much needed alone time.
Does My Beardie Feel Threatened By Me?
At first, they might just feel threatened by you. You are much bigger than them, so they know very well that you could kill or harm them easily and they have to learn that you are safe. Once they are aware that you are their caretaker, they will warm up to you easily enough.
Bearded dragon hissing is just a much needed warning for you to watch yourself and don’t try anything funny while they’re still getting adjusted to your presence. They may also need time to get adjusted to their environment and may hiss at you when you try to take them out of it. This is perfectly normal and shouldn’t be seen as a big warning sign.
Your little one may even feel uncomfortable with the other presences in your home like dogs or cats, or even other humans. It just takes a little bit of time for them to get used to all of the things they will be seeing every day in their space. The hissing should cease once they know who everyone is and can expect that they will see you and them again nearby.
They may also be uncomfortable because you’re not handling them correctly. Beardies should be lifted gently with two hands and you should never grab hold of their legs, tail, or coming in from above. This can be painful and disorienting for them and proper beardie lifting technique is incredibly important so you don’t scare them.
Hissing is that first warning sign before a claw, slap, or a bite, so you should pay mind to it and be sure that you don’t make it worse. Never try to coax a beardie out of a hiding spot to lift them if they don’t want to be lifted. They will only resist and you will make them even more angry or uneasy by trying to pull them out.
That is the fastest way for the warning of a hiss to turn into a bite.
If your little one is hissing at you regularly, you may need to ultimately adjust your approach to them. It can take time for them to get adjusted to your presence and the environment you’ve placed them in. Like any new house or group of people that we as humans come across, we need time to get used to it and so do Beardies with new owners and habitats.
Just be aware of your Beardie’s surroundings and what might be contributing to their stress. The quicker you can remove it, the easier they will adjust. The key is to be patient and intuitive to their needs and comfort levels.
Once their environment is optimal, they will easily and eagerly learn to relax and enjoy their habitat with little to no fuss. Find out what other type of actions you need to look for.