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What Does It Mean When a Bearded Dragon Licks You?

Bearded dragons are fascinating reptiles, native to the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia. These friendly, curious creatures have become popular pets due to their relatively easy care and docile nature. As a pet parent of a beardie, you might have noticed that your scaly friend sometimes exhibits an intriguing behavior: licking you!

This can leave you wondering to yourself – exactly what does it mean when a bearded dragon licks you? In this blog post, I’ll explore the reasons behind this unique habit and debunk some common misconceptions about just why your beardie pet licks, and for what reasons. Plus, I’ll provide some tips for ensuring your bearded dragon’s safety as they lick.

A bearded dragon looking to the side.

The Role of Licking in Bearded Dragons’ Lives

Bearded dragons have an extraordinary ability to perceive their environment through their sense of taste. Licking plays a vital role in their lives, serving as a powerful sensory tool that helps them navigate their surroundings and interact with the world.

Licking as a Sensory Perception

Bearded dragons use their tongues to gather information about their environment. When they lick, they are essentially “tasting” the air, surfaces, or objects around them. This allows them to detect scents and chemicals that provide valuable information about their surroundings.

The Connection Between Smelling and Licking

Although bearded dragons have nostrils, their sense of smell is relatively weak compared to mammals. Instead, they use the part of their body known as the Jacobson’s organ, a specialized structure in the roof of their mouth that detects chemical cues. When a bearded dragon licks something, they transfer the collected particles to their Jacobson’s organ, allowing them to “smell” through taste.

The Importance of the Jacobson’s Organ

When bearded dragons lick anything, they rely on their Jacobson’s organ. It helps them to identify prey, predators, and even water. When a bearded dragon’s tongue scoops up particles, the organ sends signals to its brain which processes this information; this makes it essential for the survival of all beardies!

Do Female and Male Bearded Dragons Have Different Licking Habits?

The licking behavior of bearded dragons can vary depending on their sex. Generally, male beardies are more likely to lick than females. This is because males use licking as a means of establishing dominance and asserting territorial claims.

Females, on the other hand, tend to use licking when they want to show submission toward another dragon. A male bearded dragon’s mouth may be agape, while a female’s will usually look closed.

A bearded dragon basking on a rock.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Lick Things?

There are several reasons why a bearded dragon lick could be on the cards – for you or objects in their environment. Understanding these motivations can help you better interpret your pet’s licking behavior and build a stronger bond with them. Let’s take a look at some of them in a little more detail.

Environmental Sensing

Licking serves as a means for bearded dragons to understand their surroundings. When they lick you, they may be gathering information about your scent, temperature, and other factors that help them recognize you as a familiar presence in their environment.

Investigating Tastes and Textures

Bearded dragons are curious creatures, and licking is a way for them to explore surfaces and objects. So if your beardie licks your hand, your pet may be trying to learn more about your skin’s taste and texture.

Breeding Season Rituals

During breeding season, bearded dragons engage in pre-mating rituals that often involve licking. If your bearded dragon is licking you during this time, it could be an indication that they are trying to assess your suitability as a mate (even though you’re not a bearded dragon!).

Establishing Territory

Licking can also be a territorial behavior, as bearded dragons will sometimes lick objects or surfaces to claim them as their own. When your bearded dragon licks you, it may be a sign that they view you as part of their territory or are asserting their dominance.

Sign of Trust and Comfort

Licking can be an expression of bonding between you and your bearded dragon. When they lick you, it may indicate that they feel comfortable and trust you as their caretaker.

A bearded dragon looking through a pane of glass.

Your Bearded Dragon’s Behavior – What Motivates Licking?

Parents of beardies often have questions about their pets’ licking motivations. Let’s examine some common behavioral differences in a bearded dragon’s licking lifestyle.

Adult, Baby, and Juvenile Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons exhibit different licking behaviors depending on their age. Along with juveniles, baby bearded dragons tend to lick more frequently than adults. This is because they’re still exploring their environment and learning about their surroundings. As they grow older, their licking frequency decreases.

Why Bearded Dragons Lick Their Lips

You may have noticed your bearded dragon licking its lips. This behavior is often associated with cleaning their mouth or removing excess food particles after a meal. It’s also possible that your bearded dragon is regulating its internal humidity, as licking lips can help maintain the right moisture balance. And don’t forget to check your beardie is hydrated. They could just be thirsty!

Excessive Licking

Frequent licking is generally a normal behavior for bearded dragons, but if it’s accompanied by other signs of distress, it may be a cause for concern. Excessive licking may indicate potential health concerns. If your bearded dragon is licking excessively or shows signs of discomfort, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

What Kind of Things Do Bearded Dragons Lick?

Pet Parents – Like You!

When your bearded dragon licks you, it’s a sign that they’re trying to learn more about you. They’re picking up your scent and familiarizing themselves with you. This is normal and healthy behavior, as it helps build trust between you and your pet.

Other Bearded Dragons

Licking between bearded dragons can be a form of social interaction. They may be trying to identify each other or establish dominance within their social hierarchy. Be cautious when housing multiple bearded dragons together, as conflicts may arise. Monitor their behavior closely to ensure their wellbeing.

Other Pets

If your bearded dragon licks other pets in your home, they’re likely trying to gather information about them. It’s crucial to supervise these interactions to prevent potential conflicts or injuries. Always introduce pets slowly and with care.

Objects and Enclosures

Bearded dragons are curious creatures, and they often lick objects in their environment to learn more about them. This behavior helps them understand their surroundings and is an essential part of their exploration process.

Misconceptions about Bearded Dragon Licking

Now that we’ve looked into some of the reasons behind bearded dragons licking their owners, it’s time to debunk some common myths and misconceptions that people often have about why it happens. Things like:

Bearded Dragons Lick You Because They’re Tasting You

While it’s true that bearded dragons use their tongues to explore their environment, they aren’t actually “tasting” you in the way that we might taste food. Their tongues are equipped with sensory cells called chemoreceptors, which allow them to collect information about the objects they come into contact with. So, when your bearded dragon licks you, it’s gathering information about you, not trying to taste you.

Licking Is a Sign of Affection

Some people believe that when a bearded dragon licks you, it’s showing affection, much like a dog or cat might. However, bearded dragons don’t experience emotions in the same way that mammals do. While they can recognize their owners and may become more comfortable around them, licking is not a sign of affection. It’s simply a way for them to gather information about their environment.

If a Bearded Dragon Licks You, It Means It’s Hungry

While your bearded dragon might be hungry, licking you is not a direct indication of this. Bearded dragons lick to explore their surroundings, and their curiosity might lead them to lick you. If you’re concerned about whether your bearded dragon is hungry, look for other signs, such as a decrease in activity, sunken eyes, or weight loss.

Now that we’ve debunked these common myths, let’s explore how to keep your bearded dragon safe as they lick.

A bearded dragon under an orange light source.

Keeping Your Bearded Dragon Safe from Licking Hazards

When your bearded dragon licks you, it’s essentially trying to learn more about you and its environment. As a responsible pet parent, it’s important to take certain safety measures to ensure your scaly friend stays safe as they do this.

  1. Keep your bearded dragon’s environment clean and hazard-free. A clean and well-maintained environment is essential for your bearded dragon’s health. Regularly clean its enclosure and remove any potentially harmful objects, such as sharp rocks or toxic plants.
  2. Always wash your hands before and after handling your bearded dragon. This helps prevent the spread of bacteria and ensures your bearded dragon stays healthy.
  3. Supervise your bearded dragon during exploration time. Allow your bearded dragon to roam around outside of its enclosure, but always keep an eye on it. This will help prevent it from accidentally ingesting harmful substances or getting injured.
  4. Keep other pets away from your bearded dragon during exploration time. Some pets, such as dogs or cats, might be curious about your bearded dragon and may accidentally harm it. Make sure to keep them separated during exploration time.
  5. Provide a variety of enrichment opportunities for your bearded dragon. Bearded dragons are curious creatures, and providing them with new and interesting things to explore can help keep them engaged and mentally stimulated. Consider adding new hides, branches, or climbing structures to their enclosure regularly.

Summary

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post exploring just exactly what it means when a bearded dragon licks you! Bearded dragons are curious creatures, and licking is one of the ways they explore their environment. While it’s often mistaken as a sign of affection, it’s actually just a way for them to collect information about their surroundings.

As a responsible pet parent, it’s important to take steps to ensure your bearded dragon stays safe while they do this, such as keeping their enclosure clean, washing your hands before and after handling them, supervising them when they explore, and providing enrichment opportunities. With the right precautions in place, you can ensure that your bearded dragon remains safe while on its licking adventures!