Rio Reptiles
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How to Pick the Right Dragon


If you have no experience with bearded dragons, how do you know which one is right?
Yes, health is one concern, but there is more?

Where do I start?

The best thing to do is find a reputable breeder, preferably a small one who knows their stock and is very selective about their animals. These are the people who genuinely try to improve the species by carefully breeding only the best when it comes to health, temperament, and color, while trying very hard not to cross the same blood lines. Most trustworthy breeders will not sell animals that could have health problems or seem ill tempered. If you attend a reptile show, try to shy away from wholesalers who carry many different type of reptiles but specialize in none. Wholesalers are notorious for providing inaccurate information while selling low priced, unhealthy dragons. As far as pet stores go, I believe they should stick to selling pet supplies but you can be the judge of that. The best thing about buying from a small breeder is that they will be there when you have a question or when you need help. Breeders have experienced just about everything and have a true interest in your dragons well being. The peace of mind that comes with your reassurance will be priceless.

Which is better, a male or female dragon?
If you only plan on keeping one dragon, I usually recommend a male. In my experience, males tend to be more laid back and less stressed overall. Physically, they grow bigger and have bigger heads which make them look more impressive, and maybe it's just me but their colors seem to be brighter too. Plus you never have to worry about the possibility laying clutches of infertile eggs or risk the possibility of egg binding which can be fatal. So unless you plan on breeding in the future or want more than one dragon, a male is the best choice. If you plan on breeding or having multiple dragons, it's better to get a female first. Females take longer to reach sexual maturity and need to reach optimum weight before breeding which could take from one year to eighteen months. This will also help with dominance issues if housing them together is desired although eventually the male may grow bigger and could still become more dominant early on. It is always best practice to house dragons separately and will prove to be more effective for breeding anyway.

What does a healthy dragon look like?
A healthy dragon should be bright eyed and very alert. Their bellies should be round and fat, not flat, with a flat back and no bones protruding at the base of the tail. The base of the tail itself should be thick and fat along with them having an overall robust appearance. Healthy dragons should almost always be basking with their heads up and eyes wide open. If a dragon is laying down or seemingly sleeping, something is definitely wrong. Be sure the dragon has coordination and does not shake or tremble while trying to move. Vitamin deficiencies can cause nervous system problems which can affect the dragon permanently. Young dragons are almost constantly in shed so discolorations are common and do not last long. A healthy baby or juvie will shed every two to three weeks until the age of three or four months old, so this is a sign of rapid growth. Also, young dragons will have a never ending appetite and should not turn down an offering of food at any time.

How do you tell if a dragon is happy or sad, nice or mean, calm or nervous?
If you are able to handle your dragon and observe it before buying, always be sure that it is active, alert, eating and free of stress or belly marks, a darkly colored beard or dark on the end of it's tail. These are all signs of distress or possible illness. Baby dragons can be housed together but only in small groups. Check that nips, missing tails or toes, are healed well. This is very common and usually doesn't affect the health of the dragon . Be sure their cages are clean and free of feces or live insects as this is how parasites are spread which could lead to sickness. Ask to hold the dragon and observe it's reaction at that time. The perfect dragon will sit in your hand and not be bothered by the change of surroundings, or it may climb up your arm to your shoulder and decide to stay right there. If a dragon tries to run or jump or seems to start breathing heavily, it may be a bit nervous and stressed at that point so give it a moment to get used to you. Be sure to approach the dragon from the front so that it does not startle and expects what is coming. If a dragon flattens out and opens it's mouth, this does not mean it will bite you. This is a natural way to scare off predators when they feel threatened and could, but not always, be a sign of a shy personality. If you are shopping over the internet it won't be possible to handle your dragon or observe it before hand so you will have to communicate with the breeder.

What should I know before buying?
To be sure the dragon you want has been raised properly and to help minimize relocation stress, it is always good to know as much as possible about it's current environment before hand. Ask the breeder what type and size enclosure it was kept in along with the lighting and temperatures it is used to. A smaller dragon will most likely be taken from a group in a small bin and will become insecure if rapidly moved to a large enclosure with wide open spaces. I like to keep small dragons in bins until about three months old so that they feel safe. Be sure to find out what type of foods were fed and how often so that you know what it likes and is used to eating every day because dragons can become picky from time to time. If you have the
slightest inclination to breed, be sure to know as much about the dragons parentage and bloodlines as possible. With the ability to ship dragons anywhere in the country overnight, it would be possible to buy first cousins from two different breeders thousands of miles apart. Research is your best tool.

What should be avoided?
If you have the chance to handle the dragon before you buy it, be sure it fits the healthy description and is alert, fat and eating. If a dragon is housed with other dragons that do not look healthy, or if its in a cold, damp or dirty environment, this could pose potential health problems. Stick with small breeders who care, big breeders are about the volume and can't even give straight answers on parentage and blood lines. Many of them are taking the excess from other big breeders who may be trying to make a special morph and end up wholesaling their "waste" animals. Sad thing is that these are the breeders that everyone seems to be most impressed with and have the most expensive dragons. They won't remember you when you call back or email them two months later. Avoid buying from anyone who won't take the time to talk to you or help you every step of the way.

If you are shopping for a bearded dragon, be sure to download our Bearded Dragon Information shopping guide.





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