Many bearded dragon owners often wonder if their treasured scaly friend would be able to recognize and answer to their name as a dog might do. Are there benefits to being able to do this for you and your dragon? If they are able to learn their name, how is this feat done?
The answers to these and other interesting questions will be revealed in this article.
First off, the answer is Yes! Your bearded dragon can learn his name. The best way to train him to learn this new trick is to use a method similar to the famous experiment conducted by Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov was able to train his dogs through a process known as “classical conditioning”.
In classical conditioning, two stimuli are presented at the same time so that one becomes synonymous with the other. Eventually, over time, when the subject experiences either stimuli they will respond in the same way.
Pavlov would present a bowl of food to his dogs and they would respond by salivating. He continued to show them the food but also played a tone with the presentation of the food. Eventually, they would salivate just at hearing the tone and not even seeing the food because they began to associate the tone with being fed.
You should use this same tactic to train your bearded dragon to respond to his name. Standard classical conditioning, food is almost always used when training any kind of animal.
Say your dragon’s name while you hand feed them their favorite type of food. Say their name first, then show them the food. This is a very important step. It is integral to the process that they hear their name before seeing the food.
Do not show the food and say their name at the same time. They will come to you to eat the food. It is important to use an excited and pleasant toned voice every time you do this. This is one reason Pavlov used a mechanical tone, it was guaranteed to be identical every time he played it. Continue this conditioning for a week.
Say their name in the same tone you always do, then present them with the food immediately after so they begin to associate their name with being rewarded. Be sure to only say his name. For example, do not say “Come here, Charlie!”. That is too much for them to process. Simply say, “Charlie!”. After a week of this, run a test trial and see if the conditioning has worked.
To see if he learned his name, say it in the same tone as always, and see if he comes to you. Do not present him with food this time! You may reward him with some cuddling/petting. These are the most social and affectionate reptiles and appreciate being handled gently.
If he does not come to you when you call his name then he has not yet been conditioned. Do not lose hope if he hasn’t been trained in a week.
Some dragons will learn faster than others. It just means you have to keep trying. Repetition is key here whether he learned his name or not. If he didn’t, continue with the classical conditioning method for another week and then do another trial without the presence of food. If he still does not seem to have learned his name, you need to make a slight change.
If you continue to give your dragon all his meals by hand, he will lose his natural ability to capture his own prey. This can be a problem because then you might have to hand feed him for the rest of his life. That is not the goal here, we are not training your dragon to eat from your hand. We are training him to come to you when he hears his name.
Going into week three, you want to limit your classical conditioning training to one meal per day. Allow your bearded dragon to hunt and catch his prey on his own the rest of the day.
If your pet seems to have learned his name he will walk over to you when you say his name even though he does not see food. This does not mean he has learned this behavior permanently. You must continue the training. He still needs to be rewarded with food from time to time when he comes to you after his name has been called.
Some people will argue that the bearded dragon has not in fact learned his name, but instead has learned that that specific word brings with it a tasty treat. A good way to test this is to attempt to teach your bearded buddy other words.
Although this is a difficult task it can and has been done before. Some other tricks you might want to try with your dragon are “cuddle time”, “feeding time”, and “sleepy time”. The problem with these new commands is that, as previously stated, a reward of food is almost always used to teach an animal a trick or skill. We have already used food to associate with his name.
New commands should only attempt to be taught after his name has been mastered. It will become very confusing if you begin a new command right away and he might lose the ability to come to you after hearing his name called.
An example of teaching a new command would be as follows. Teaching your bearded dragon to crawl onto your chest when you want to pet or cuddle him can be done in one of two ways. You can say “cuddle time” and point to your chest. Gently pick up your pet and place him where you pointed to. Again, repetition is key here.
Do this over and over and over again. Be sure to use a different tone than you do for calling his name for him to come. You want to differentiate the commands. As mentioned earlier, these animals enjoy being cuddled, and doing so after they are placed on your chest can be as much of a reward for them as food is.
If you have repeated this conditioning technique for a while and your bearded dragon still does not climb into your chest when you verbalize “cuddle time” in a clear and distinct tone, there is something else you might try. Food is the biggest motivator for all animals.
Try saying the command “cuddle time” and holding a piece of yummy food with a tweezer in the area of your chest you’d like them to climb on to. They will, without a doubt come to retrieve the food. When they do, pet them and keep repeating cuddle time, cuddle time, cuddle time.
Do this for about a week and give it a trial run. Say “cuddle time” without the food and see if he will climb up to your chest for a cuddle session.
You want to make sure to keep commands and actions separate. If you call his name and he climbs onto your chest, do not reward him. That is not the desired action for the spoken command. Only give food or cuddles if your bearded dragon performs the correct action for the command given.
Rewarding your pet for performing the incorrect action will begin the process of reverse conditioning. They will no longer have the ability to correctly respond to any of their previously learned skills. You want to make sure that each learned command maintains the same reaction from your pet each and every time.
Is learning his name an important skill for your precious bearded dragon to have? Surprisingly this is more than just a cool trick to show off to friends and family. Can you think of any reasons this might be beneficial to your little one? Imagine that your curious little creature somehow escaped from his habitat. Perhaps a child took him out to play, and now we don’t know where he is.
Usually, this would be a huge dilemma and you and everyone in your household would be turning over furniture for hours until you found the little guy. However, if he knows his name, all you should simply have to do is call out “Charlie!” in the same familiar tone he is used to.
In hopes of a scrumptious snack, it is very likely that as long as he can hear you. He will come scurrying out towards the direction of your voice.
This can help keep the little guy safe before he finds himself in a world of trouble by either meeting up with Spot, the family dog who loves a good chase around the living room, or he gets lost somewhere in the heating ducts.
Are there any benefits to you, the owner, of teaching your bearded dragon to learn their name? A lot of bearded dragon parents report feeling a closer bond to their pet after having them respond to their name. You put a lot of time and effort into the care of your scaly-skinned friend because you adore them.
It is difficult to tell sometimes if these feelings are reciprocated. Unlike having a pet dog who can wag its tail, lick your face, or totally lose it when you come home from work after a long day apart.
Your bearded dragon does not have the capability of showing their affection for you in these ways. Calling them by their name and having them come over towards you is the closest you’ll get to getting those reactions from your bearded dragon.
Suddenly all that time and money you spend to ensure their healthy and happy lifestyle seems worth it. They know that you care and they are doing all they can to return those feelings.
The “cuddle me” command is specifically useful for creating a strong emotional bond between you and your bearded dragon. It is even more satisfying when you are able to say “cuddle time!” and not have to reward them with food for their time on your chest. It is easy to sometimes see yourself as a vending machine and nothing else to these little creatures.
Always try to remember that they do appreciate all you do for them but just can’t show you in the way another pet or a human child can.
The fact that they trust you enough to curl up with you or eat out of your hand is a huge sign of affection. You might have noticed when you first got your bearded dragon they were much more standoffish towards you than they are now.
You might even notice that your bearded dragon takes more of a liking to you than others in your household. The trust required to condition a bearded dragon to learn its name is significant.
This is not a skill that can be taught early on in your relationship with your bearded baby. You must first establish a bond and allow them to know you are there to take care of them and mean to cause them no harm. If you attempt to begin training your bearded dragon the first day or week you bring them home you will not be met with happy results.
These things take time. Take the time to get to know each other first. Establish a trust bond, let them realize that they depend on you for their source of food.
If you have tried to no avail to train your bearded dragon to respond to their name, this doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong, didn’t put in enough effort, or something is wrong with your beloved pet. As stated before, each individual of this species is dramatically different from one another.
Just the same as you would not compare a human baby to another in their developmental growth, it is not fair to do this to a bearded dragon either. Just because your child doesn’t walk at or before twelve months of age and your sister’s child does, does not mean you were a bad parent, or your child will never walk.
If you are determined and patient, one day your bearded dragon will learn to respond to their name. The first time they come to you without being coerced with a tasty mealworm you will feel a great feeling of satisfaction and like all your hard work and efforts were purposeful.