Enrichment for bearded dragons: Activities, cage ideas and toys
Just like other pets, reptiles can get bored and even depressed. Here’s our guide to the best enrichment for bearded dragons
Bearded dragons might not like to play the same games as cats and dogs but like any animal kept in captivity they appreciate a rich and stimulating environment. Enrichment for bearded dragons will keep them healthy, occupied and stave off boredom.
These handsome reptiles are solitary creatures by nature and don’t need the company of another member of their species, but they are also inquisitive and can form a strong bond with their owners. Read on for all you need to know about the best toys and environmental stimulation for your pet.
Do bearded dragons need entertainment and what are the signs of stress?
Like any pet, bearded dragons can get bored and need to live a full and enriching life. Spending time with your bearded dragon is a great way to bond with your lizard, however they can be quite territorial and it can take them a while to settle down and get to know you.
Allow your pet plenty of time and space to get used to new playthings and don’t continue with activities if you feel they’re becoming stressed. Signs of stress include lethargy, loss of appetite, frantic clawing at the sides of the enclosure or even ‘stress marks’, temporary dark discoloration on your pet’s underbelly.
Enrichment activities for bearded dragons
Enjoy a view Like most pets, bearded dragons will appreciate a little variety in their environment. You can try moving the tank next to the window for 20 minutes daily so they can see the view.
Take your beardie for a walk Use a harness that’s been specially made for the purpose so that it fits snugly and don’t let your pet walk on any grass that’s been treated with fertilizer or pesticide. It’s also not a good idea to let him eat wild insects as these can carry parasites.
Go for a swim For animals indigenous to deserts, beardies are surprisingly good swimmers! If you’d like to give it a try, put a few inches of warm water in a bathtub or kids’ paddling pool. Most bearded dragons like to swim in short bursts so you’ll also need to add a couple of large stones so they can get out for a rest. The first time you try, just use an inch of water for your pet to paddle in until they get confident enough to swim.
Watch TV Finally, here’s an easy one – let your bearded dragon watch TV with you! Most find the brightly colored pictures and variable sound of TV stimulating. Your pet may even like to get out of his tank for a while and onto the sofa with you. You might like to set some rules around who gets charge of the TV remote though!
Best toys for bearded dragons
Most of the best toys for bearded dragons tap into their need to hunt and climb. Here are a few ideas:
Bearded dragon balls Some bearded dragons love to play with a ball, and it can be a great way to both provide a spot of both exercise and mental stimulation. You can buy specifically designed balls for bearded dragons that you can fill with their favorite food or opt for a bright color to keep them interested.
Thrive Beardie Ball
This enrichment toy can be filled with live insects to provide mental and physical exercise. It’s easy to fill and lightweight and can be washed and reused again and again.
Crinkle balls Opting for a bright color is not your only option when it comes to choosing ball toys for your lizard: sound can also provide stimulation for your bearded dragon. Crinkly balls that are often designed for cats can actually tap into your beardie’s hunting instinct by making a crackly sound when touched.
Leaps & Bounds Mylar Ball cat toy
Made from Mylar crinkle material, the Leaps & Bounds Mylar Ball Cat Toy creates a captivating crinkle sound that intrigues curious pets.
Wands Believe it or not, but cat wands are a great way of interacting with your beardie. Much like our feline friends, bearded dragons can also become easily attracted to dangling objects. Just be sure to avoid the kind with feathers which can be harmful if ingested.
Interactive Cat Rainbow Wand Toys
Made from non-toxic, 100% safe materials, this pack contains two different colored ribbon wands.
Floaties Not every bearded dragon enjoys water, but for those that do, you could consider using floatie toys they can swim or climb on for a little extra assurance. You could even consider a traditional rubber duck, as some beardies like to push or nudge it.
Inflatable Drink Holder
The perfect size for your pet to play or rest on while swimming, this set includes 25 inflatable cup holder floaties so you can ring the changes every time.
For more ideas, head over to our guide on the best toys for pet lizards.
Environmental enrichment ideas for bearded dragons
Your beardie will probably be spending the majority of his time in his tank, so it’s well worth making sure he has plenty of stimulation in there with him. You can keep a few old favorites in there all the time and swap the others around so there’s always something new to discover. Here are a few suggestions for pimping that tank:
Hammock Like most other lizards, bearded dragons love to bask and lounge (is this where the expression ‘lounge lizard’ comes from?!) A hammock is a safe and comfortable place for them to relax. Choose one that’s specifically designed for the job and has a close-knit mesh so that claws and legs don’t go through.
Tunnel In the wild, beardies spend a lot of time hiding in rocky crevices. Make yours his own tunnel by piling rocks up or install a purpose-made option. If your pet is shy, he’ll be glad to have a safe place to retreat to while he gains his confidence.
Bridge Create a climbing frame by installing a bridge. Your pet can climb over it to help increase exercise or hide under it for a little privacy. You can use anything from a custom-made item to a plank of wood as long as it’s secure and stable.
Stuffed animal Believe it or not, some bearded dragons like their own teddy bears! Stuffed animals can help provide additional warmth and comfort. Not all beardies will appreciate them though so introduce them on a trial basis.
Logs and branches Your pet should have a choice of sizes of rocks, logs and branches to climb and bask on. You can change some of these round regularly to introduce a more stimulating environment.
Keeping your bearded dragon stimulated with a rich, interesting environment and a variety of toys and activities will help keep him mentally and physically healthy. Always introduce new toys for short periods of time and never leave them unattended until you’re sure how your pet will react. Every bearded dragon is an individual and will soon tell you whether his new activities are a hit or not!
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Sara is a freelance journalist and copywriter of many years’ experience with a lifelong love of animals. She’s written for a range of magazines and websites on subjects varying from pet care to travel. A horse rider since the age of five, she’s currently a full time pet slave to horse Blue and gorgeous, goofy English Springer Spaniel Olly. Adorable Olly has a huge sense of adventure and no sense of direction, keeping Sara on her toes.