With patience, it is very possible to create a situation where the two species become best friends. However, some pet owners instead try to rush introductions and bring the animals into contact before they are ready. This can lead to unneeded stress, and even serious injury for your beardie.
Below are some of the most common mistakes pet owners make when introducing dogs and bearded dragons, and seven steps you can take to help your dog welcome your new reptilian family member.
Step 1: Teach your dog basic commands
Don’t be the pet owner who doesn’t have their dog well-trained to respond to basic commands before bringing a new reptile into the household.
Step 2: Create a calm environment
When you are setting up your new bearded dragon’s habitat, you will want to make sure that the tank is placed outside a main area of the house, in a room where the dog does not usually spend time.
This step will help keep your dog from becoming territorial, and help keep your bearded dragon feeling comfortable and non-threatened.
There should be a door you can close to keep the dog out of the room if your beardie is a little timid at first.
Step 3: Know your dog’s temperament
Is your dog curious? Aloof? Timid? Playful? Can you trust your dog to listen to you in routine and new situations?
One of the most important things that pet owners overlook when bringing a new species into the home is their dog’s temperament.
If your dog tends to have a high prey drive, is easily scared, or is territorial of your home or family, these are all factors you need to consider before introducing them to your new beardie.
Step 4: Start slow
Start off by introducing your dog to the bearded dragon in its tank. Carefully watch both animals to see how they react.
If your beardie shows any signs of fear or nervousness (puffing up or hissing), end the interaction and remove your dog from the room. If your dog starts barking, whining, or acting aggressively as if the beardie is prey, end the interaction and remove the dog.
Don’t worry if the meet and greet is cut short--it’s normal for both animals to need time to warm up to one another. Worse is to make the mistake of rushing this process, and keeping animals who are communicating they are uncomfortable together.
Be patient. Try short, controlled interactions like this every day to get the animals acclimated to one another.
Once it seems that both animals are comfortable in each other's presence, you are ready to move onto the next step.
Step 5: Out of tank bonding
Before you know how the animals will react to one another out in the open, it is a good idea to have your dog on a leash so that you can quickly separate them if things start to go downhill.
Ideally, your dog and your beardie will sniff, investigate, and show curiosity toward each other.
Praise your dog for sniffing and for acting calm--this will communicate that just sniffing is okay, and the beardie is neither a toy nor prey.
Try not to be nervous at this stage. The animals will be able to sense if you are tense or anxious, and this may affect their behavior.
Step 6: Be aware of the risks
If you do a little searching, it won’t take long before you come across horror stories of pet dogs attacking, injuring, or even killing bearded dragons. Even if your dog is just trying to play with your beardie, they could accidentally seriously wound the reptile.
This is why it is so important to know your dog and recognize their body language (see step 3).
If you are not 100% confident in how your dog will behave, it may be best for the animals to stay long-distance friends.
Step 7: Supervise every interaction
Even if every interaction has gone well, and your dog and bearded dragon seem to be the best of friends while you’re in the room, you should never leave them alone together.
Animals can be unpredictable, and accidents, unfortunately, can happen. You can avoid any unfortunate incidents by making sure that you or a trusted family member is always there to supervise.
Following these seven tips will give you the best shot at helping your dog and bearded dragon bond.