So, you finally brought home the bearded dragon of your dreams, but you’re worried it won’t get along with your pup. No need to worry! This article breaks down how to keep a dog-lizard interaction civil. We’ll go over dogs’ prey drive, lizards that love physical touch, and any warning signs during the first meetings.
A Dog Can Get Along with Your Lizard
The short answer is yes––dogs and lizards can have amicable relationships. The full answer is that dogs and lizards can be friendly, but this depends on many factors. You have to consider both pets' levels of socialization, temperament, and species-specific behaviors. You wouldn’t want to introduce your shy, easily startled chameleon to an Australian Shepherd with a strong prey drive. You must understand your pets’ behaviors and make the judgment call on if and when they are ready to meet.
Monitor Your Dog’s Prey Drive
A lizard might lunge at a dog to protect itself, but chances are your pup’s behavior needs the most monitoring. All canines have a varying level of prey drive in their DNA. It’s something that stuck around from their wolf ancestors and contributes to dogs’ joy of chasing, stalking, and biting. A strong prey drive doesn’t mean your dog has deadly intentions, as they can tap into this behavior through herding, running, playing fetch, and chewing on toys.
You should exercise caution with hunting breeds dogs that were historically trained to catch and kill their prey. These breeds include Rat Terrier, English Foxhound, German Shorthaired Pointer, and German Shepherd.
My Dog Is Prey-Driven. What Now?
Don’t lose all hope just yet. Owning a specific dog breed doesn’t mean that they are incompatible with lizards. Your canine may have the kindest, friendliest heart, and they wouldn’t hurt a fly. This is all a matter of patiently getting your pets acquainted and looking out for aggressive, protective behaviors.
If you do own a hunting breed, these are some of the most intelligent dogs, and they can be trained to leave your lizard alone. “Sit” and “stay” are two simple but effective training skills. These will come in handy, so your dog knows to stay in place in case they show warning signs or become overly excited by their new friend.
Some Lizards Are Friendlier Than Others
In addition, you must consider the lizard’s breed and if they like being held. There are some reptiles who are best thought of as museum artwork; you can look, but don’t touch. Then, there are species (like the Chinese water dragon) that love being handled and become restless without petting. Research your lizard’s preferences for physical touch and get them used to your pets before any introductions.
Training them to be grabbed will help when you take them out of their cage and during the initial meetings when you hold them. It’s also a safety measure in case you need to remove your reptile friend from your dog’s reach.
Some lizards that enjoy being handled (and meeting new friends) include:
- Bearded dragons
- Leopard geckos
- Blue tongue skinks
Consider Your Pets’ Temperament Before Introductions
This goes for both canines and reptiles. Consider how they interact with you and other small animals and how much affection they like. Also think of when your pets are the calmest and happiest. Is it after breakfast or dinner? Is it after your dog goes on a walk and your lizard wakes up from their nap? This increases the chances of them being in a respectful mood.
Think of what irritates your pets, too. Are there certain sounds that startle them? Do they get anxious or upset when they are in certain rooms? Make a list of what might contribute to a stressful environment and remove or prevent those issues from happening.
Start with Short, Neutral Introductions
Now, time for the actual meeting. You want to dip a toe in the water to see how both pets react to one another. Start by finding a neutral location. You want to avoid places that your dog sees as their own, like their eating and sleeping areas, as this can trigger their territorial instincts. Next, put your dog’s leash on for better control of their movements.
Then, bring your pets within the same area but keep a comfortable distance. Give them time to notice one another and begin sniffing from afar. Keep this first meeting short. If all goes well, you can reintroduce them another day, move them closer together, and let them notice each other for longer. Keep repeating these steps until they are friendly with one another. You’ll have to supervise all interactions even if they don’t show any aggression.
Know When an Introduction Goes South
Even if your lizard loves being held, and your dog gets along with other animals, you can never predict how they will react. It may be the first time one of them interacts with the other species, and their curiosity can quickly turn into fright, excitement, or attack. Lizards will show their discomfort by hissing, shaking their heads, and dropping or slowly moving their tails.
Dogs will also show warning signs by:
- Growling and barking
- Becoming tense
- Glaring with laser focus
Noticing these behaviors means that your pets may feel the need to protect themselves. Take this as a clear message that the meeting is over. Remove them from the space, and put the lizard back into its tank. You can try again another time after they’ve had time apart.
Dog/Lizard Friendships Are Possible
Here’s a bit of inspiration for how lovely friendships can develop between your dog and lizard. In a YouTube video for The Dodo’s Odd Couples segment, a chihuahua named Jessie became the protector of her owners’ new lizard. Repotoria, a bearded dragon, was introduced to a home with Jessie, other chihuahuas, and a much bigger dog.
Since they met, Jessie has made it her mission to keep the lizard safe. She’s seen standing guard by Repotoria’s side and barking at the dogs when they get too close. The pup and lizard even lay and explore the outdoors together. As a sign of her appreciation, Repotoria will sit on Jessie’s head like a crown.