Is your bearded dragon licking you a lot?
Are you worried a bearded dragon licking is a sign of something wrong?
Knowing your bearded dragon’s behavior and what it means is essential to being a good reptile owner.
Licking behavior can seem unusual to us, and it may make you wonder:
What does it mean when a bearded dragon licks you?
When a bearded dragon licks you, they are smelling you or getting a feel for their environment. If this happens to you often, they may be smelling something they like on you, or they may be acquiring your scent because they feel comfortable with you.
Read on for more information on licking behavior in bearded dragons.
Table of Contents
Reasons Your Bearded Dragon Is Licking
Licking behavior is common with bearded dragons and nothing to be worried about.
Although their tongues aren’t as long as their reptile cousins (such as the chameleon), they still use their tongue to gather sensory data just like other reptiles.
Here are some reasons you may see licking with your beardie.
Like many reptiles, bearded dragons can gather air molecules on their tongues to “smell” something with their tongue.
They also use this to taste food to understand better what it is.
If your bearded dragon interacts with something (especially something alive like you are!), chances are it will lick the object to get a better taste and smell of what it is.
Bearded dragons do this a lot with food; specifically food they haven’t eaten before.
They want to gather information on it to see if the food is good to eat.
Sensing Their Surroundings
Bearded dragons may be omnivores, but their size makes them prey to many of the predators in the Australian desert.
As such, beardies need to be aware of their surroundings and any predators which may be in the area.
Licking collects the smell of sensory data and helps them figure out what is in the vicinity.
If your bearded dragon is put in a new environment, it’s perfectly normal to see it licking the air a lot to smell the area around it from the initial stress of a new cage.
During the breeding season which normally occurs one month after brumation, bearded dragons show an increased amount of licking and will lick everything (including you!).
Males use licking to seek out potential mates.
Licking is also used as a social signal to show a sign of interest and non-threatening postures in bearded dragons.
Although arm waving and beard puffing are more common, licking is also seen in this pre-mating behavior.
And if you’re interested in your pet’s different behaviors check out our post on why bearded dragons puff up.
Much like a dog marks its territory, bearded dragons mark their territory using licking.
This behavior is more prevalent with male bearded dragons.
In captivity, licking for marking purposes isn’t seen as often because there isn’t a lot of competition.
If you’re keeping more than one beardy in an enclosure, you may see this and other behaviors more often.
We don’t recommend putting more than one bearded dragon in a tank and never two males together.
But if you’re really wanting to have more than one pet in your terrarium we have a post going over what can live with bearded dragons.
Please give that post a thorough read before attempting to include any other pets in the same space.
If your lizard is hungry, it will begin to seek out food.
In the wild, they have to hunt for their food.
Part of this hunting is finding food through smell, and, as we’ve discussed, they smell through licking the air.
If your feeding schedule is consistent, you may notice increased licking right before meals every time.
Sign Of Comfort And Affection
Some people even speculate licking behavior is a sign of love and affection.
While there isn’t a lot of proof of this, indeed, your beardy won’t lick things, it doesn’t feel comfortable with.
So if your pet licks your hand every time you handle it, it’s safe to assume it recognizes your scent and enjoys spending time with you.
Is Licking Aggressive Behavior?
Though licking is also associated with some aggressive behaviors like eating, mating, and marking territory, it doesn’t mean the licking is aggressive itself.
Some people are afraid when a bearded dragon licks a person; it’s getting ready to bite them.
This isn’t the case.
In general, bearded dragons don’t bite larger animals for any reason other than if they feel extremely threatened.
Avoid handling the bearded dragon too rough or squeezing it, and chances are, you’ll never be bitten.
And for more information on how often to handle bearded dragons in general we have a post dedicated to how frequently you can handle bearded dragons you’ll like.
Think about it from the perspective of the bearded dragon in the wild.
Would a bearded dragon lick a larger predator it was afraid of?
Would a bearded dragon pick a fight with a larger predator?
Of course not.
How Does Licking Help Them Smell?
You may be wondering how licking is equivalent to smell.
Why not just call it tasting?
When a bearded dragon licks for the smell, it’s flicking its tongue into the air instead of directly contacting an object.
Each lick collects microscopic particles onto the tongue for sensory interpretation.
When the tongue is taken back inside the mouth, it touches an upper part which is connected to a nerve sending sensory info to the brain.
The area where the nerves send data is called the Jacobson’s organ or the vomeronasal organ.
Once the information has been sent to the brain, it interprets the data as a smell, and it tells the bearded dragon about the object and its environment.
It’s interesting to note smelling through your tongue isn’t exclusive to reptiles.
We mammals have a similar function with our tongue.
When breathing air in through our nose, the air travels down our throats and hits the back of our tongue.
Sometimes this results in sensory information from our tongue.
Because our nose and tongue are connected, we don’t need to stick our tongues out to smell.
Now you know what it means when a bearded dragon licks you.
It’s perfectly normal behavior for gathering scents and shows comfort in its situation.
There’s nothing to worry about when a bearded dragon licks a lot.
This is just a standard part of its life.
It’s also completely adorable!