Dogs are the most popular pet in America- but the competition is ever growing! Other species, especially small furries and reptiles, are becoming increasingly popular as pets. However these species will be completely foreign to your dog, and so it important to make sure they meet in the right way.
Since their introduction to captivity in the 1990’s, Bearded Dragons have been growing increasingly popular as pets.
They are best kept alone, as members of the same sex will tend to be in serious fights if housed together. However, it is not uncommon for one of these gorgeous reptiles to find their way into a home with a dog in it. Consequently, owners should take steps to introduce them in the right way.
Step 1 – Health Check
Though we try our best to be safe, interaction could be incredibly dangerous if the animals are not all happy and healthy. Bearded Dragons can carry salmonella, as well as other parasites, which can be transmitted to dogs if owners are not careful. A health check is therefore essential to check that no one is carrying anything they shouldn’t be!
Owners should also avoid introducing dogs under two years to a Bearded Dragon as their immune system is not fully developed. Therefore, they should not be allowed to interact with bearded dragons, even with a health check first.
Step 2 – Selecting the Bearded Dragon
Purchasing a Bearded Dragon from the right place will also help with a smooth introduction. A Bearded Dragon from a responsible breeder will have treated their animals correctly to help build a more relaxed temperament.
Equally, bringing a young Bearded Dragon into your home means they are less likely to have encountered a bearded dragon before and had a negative experience. Equally, younger Bearded Dragons are more curious and therefore more likely to act positively to the new experience.
Step 3 – Scent Swapping
Allowing your animals to get used to each other smells first can help to encourage them to feel comfortable before the introduction. This is especially true for your dog, as dogs are very scent based animals.
Gently rubbing your Bearded Dragon down with an old cloth or sock can help to capture their smell. Presenting this to your dog, alongside a tasty piece of chicken or cheese. This can help to create positive associations between the smell and yummy treat!
Step 4 – First Meeting
Holding your bearded dragon tightly (but gently) and allow your dog to gently sniff and investigate their new friend. Alternatively, you can introduce your pets through the glass wall of your vivarium, rewarding for calm behavior from your dog.
If you have a helper available, you may wish for them to give your dog a tasty titbit each time your dog shows a calm or appropriate behaviour in the presence of your Bearded Dragon.
You should always monitor the meeting for signs of discomfort or worry, watching both of your pets. Some classic signs of uncertainty for both species are listed below:
- Waving: Young Bearded Dragons will wave one or both of their arms when they feel nervous
- Head bobbing
- Beard puffing
- Glass running: Bearded dragons may run back and forth along the front of their enclosure when worried.
- Lip licking
- Paw lift: Front paw lifting slightly off the ground
- Avoiding looking at the Bearded Dragon
Don’t move to quickly, it is always safer to move slowly and repeat a step than it is to rush an introduction and it go wrong!
Step 5 – Building a relationship
It is hard to advise on which way the first meeting between your two pets will go without knowing their two personalities! There is every chance a more nervous dog will refuse to go within ten feet of the bearded dragon. More confident animals could take to each other like a fish to water.
There is also potential that they could remain completely indifferent to each other. Many Bearded Dragon owners report that their other pets will acknowledge their existence, but beyond that appear quite disinterested!
Owners may wish to set up fun enrichment activities for the animals to do alongside each other to promote positive experiences. For example, many Bearded Dragon owners report that their animals enjoy watching TV! Provide your dog with a chew toy alongside and here is a low budget activity that can entertain all three of you.
Step 6 – Teaching a recall/Emergency plan
Though you should be very careful with your pets, never leaving them unsupervised in the same room together, an accident may happen where one gets too close to the other. If this happens, you need to make sure you are ready with an emergency protocol.
Teaching an emergency recall can be useful in multiple situations, one of which it allows your to have complete control over your dog at all times.
Training this recall will take lots of practice and proofing, your dog has to understand that this command means “stop and stay where you are until I release you” in every situation. However, the hard work will ultimately be worth it, as it can potential save both of your pet’s lives.
Thought it may seem like a lot of effort, with a little work Bearded Dragons can be excellent friends. Start laying the groundwork early and before you know it you will have a perfectly harmonious household!
Remember to take things slowly and introduce slowly and carefully. It is always better to go back a step and repeat than to race forward and end up in a scary situation. Always watch out for warning signs that both your Bearded Dragon or your dog are uncomfortable.