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Why (And How) to Play With Your Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons are inquisitive creatures who like to explore. In a loving home, they don't need to to hunt their own food and can't roam as freely as they would in their natural environment, and may become sedentary if they don’t have a strong exercise and play routine.

Incorporating regular activity into your bearded dragon’s daily routine helps get them up and moving and allows them to tap into their innate curiosity, all while bonding with you.

Luckily, getting your bearded dragon started on an exercise and play routine isn't difficult. To help you out, we are sharing some tips.

How to Keep Your Bearded Dragon Active in Their Habitat

Ready to start playing with your bearded dragon? Here are some ideas for adding activity into their routine while they are in their habitat:

  • A small lightweight ball, like a ping-pong ball, placed in their habitat can provide mental and physical stimulation.
  • Chasing insects for exercise is great for your pet's physical health. Try placing insects several inches away from your bearded dragon to encourage activity at mealtimes.
  • If your bearded dragon seems bored, try rearranging items in their tank to discourage them from becoming destructive due to lack of mental exercise.

How to Keep Your Bearded Dragon Active Outside Their Habitat

If you want to play with your adult bearded dragon outside of their tank, consider outfitting them in a lizard-sized harness and going on a leashed excursion. Whenever outside, stay alert to any potential predator attacks from loose dogs, cats or large birds in the area.

If you have only walked dogs, reptile walking will likely be an interesting change of pace. Choose  hot sunny days for your walks and start with small sessions in your yard. Watch how your bearded dragon reacts before building up to longer periods away from their habitat. Pique their curiosity by exposing them to several types of terrain from rocks and grass to soil, sand and wood for instance. Just don’t let them ingest any of it.

Where to walk? If you have the space in your yard, consider filling a hard plastic kiddie pool with warm water and inviting your bearded dragon to take a look.. Bearded dragons often take to water easily and can swim. Let them decide if and how much of this activity they want to experience. Never push or toss them in, and consider adding a ramp to help them walk in and out of the pool safely.

While getting out of their habitat is great, it’s important to remember that bearded dragons must maintain a body temperature of approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and require UVB exposure and the appropriate humidity. Depending on the outdoor or indoor conditions, a bearded dragon should not be out of their recommended temperature, humidity and UVB exposure for more than about 15 minutes. They should always be closely supervised.

How to Incorporate Other Activities 

  • Your bearded dragon might not have much in common with your cat, except when it comes to toy preferences. While your bearded dragon won’t be impressed by a catnip mouse, a laser beam toy can tap into their natural hunting instincts.
  • Get creative with household items such as paper towel tubes and cardboard boxes and make caves and tunnels for them to explore. Remember, bearded dragons are smart and inquisitive, so this type of exploration can help keep their mind sharp.
  • Similarly, the images on your TV, computer, phone or tablet screen could attract their attention and give them the mental stimulation they crave.
  • If your pet is just looking for some new ways to move around, they might like to crawl on and bask on a reptile hammock. Be sure to use a secure reptile- or bearded dragon-specific hammock, and never place it more than a few inches above the ground as a steep fall could cause injuries.

Tips for Safe Exercise and Play for Bearded Dragons

Incorporating more activity into your bearded dragon’s life can be a recipe for fun and better health as long as you keep safety at top of mind. . 

Wash your hands before handling or picking up your reptile, then wash them again once your pet’s securely back inside their enclosure. If you are a new reptile parent, educate yourself on the preferred ways to approach and lift a bearded dragon. Support the belly, tail and all four feet. To establish trust, be consistent in your interactions and do not grab, chase or surprise them. Refrain from squeezing or tightly restricting them, don’t force play and never leave them unattended with children.

It is also important that you have set your bearded dragon up with a habitat that encourages optimal exercise and play. Check out our guide to setting up a bearded dragon habitat to learn more.