Reptiles/Bearded dragon

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Question
Hi, I hope you can help me as I am going mad with the banging and scratching my beardie is doing.  I have had it for about a year now, as soon as I put it in the vivarium it started to scratch and jump up at the glass, I try to get it out most days, it still does not like being held and will scratch and bite all the time I hold it. I am at the end of my tether, I just don't know what to do. it eats well and poops well. it is in a 4ft vivarium with a log to hide under or sit on, I have a rock near the day lamp, a ultra violet tube in the middle and the food and water the other end to the light.  If you could help me I would be most grateful as I just don't know what else to do.   

Thanks Tina

Answer
Hi Tina,

Oh dear. It appears your particular bearded dragon did not get the instructions on how to behave like a typical bearded dragon in captivity.

As you know, they are hugely popular as pets because of their *normally* calm, docile behaviour and high tolerance for being handled. Unfortunately there are always going to be a few individuals that to not comply to this standard and remain hyper and somewhat aggressive.

Make sure your heat source is on one end of the tank to provide a choice of temperatures. Escape behaviour can be triggered by an enclosure that lacks a cool end to move into. I will mention this but it really doesn't sound like the cause here, as your tank is sufficiently sized.

Although it is usually not a problem with beardeds, some reptile species do not deal with the concept of glass very well and constantly try to get to the other side. The only real solution is to run a visual barrier about 5 or 6 inches high around the bottom of the tank. Something as simple as black paper will work.

The aggression outside the cage is another matter. Your bearded is eating and moving well so we can rule out pain as a potential cause. It sounds like you are unsure of the gender. I  suspect  you are dealing with a sexually mature male with  high level territorial and defense behaviour. This can become more extreme during seasonal hormonal fluctuations as any owner of a male iguana can tell you.

You may be inadvertently triggering defense behaviour as well, when you pick him up. Beardeds are preyed on from above in the wild and can react aggressively to anything "swooping" in from above, like human hands. Try to approach him slowly and from ground level as much as possible with your hands. Handle him close to the ground if falling is a danger but also avoid actually clutching him, allowing him rather to sit in your open hands or on your lap. Being restrained can also trigger aggressive defence/escape behaviour.  

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Expertise

I can answer questions on the proper husbandry and diet of Iguanas, bearded dragons, geckoes, skinks, chameleons, tortoises, box turtles, treefrogs, non-venomous snakes and tarantulas. Also the breeding of some species of feeder insects. I have no experience with venonmous snakes and only limited experience with aquatic turtles.

Experience

I have been keeping and breeding reptiles for over 30 years. In addition to my regular job in the medical field I also worked for several years in a pet store that specialized only in exotics. The job entailed both caring for and answering questions on innumerable species. It required constant, extensive research into a wide range of reptiles. I have been called to appear on televised national media (CBC, CTV and Life Channel) as well as CBC radio to discuss the proper care of reptiles and other exotics in captivity. I currently own one or more species of those listed under my expertise with the exception of chameleons. I owned chameleons for years but keep none currently. I keep over 20 snakes comprising 5 species, both Colubridae and Boidae. I bred corn snakes for several years. I have a particular interest in treefrogs and currently have 5 different species. I've raised redfoot tortoises for 10 years and have two iguanas, one for 12 years.

Publications
A small and now defunct local magazine called "Pet Vue"

Education/Credentials
Diagnostic medical microbiology with some parasitology experience.

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