Bearded Dragons have many interesting behaviours and licking is certainly one of them. The licking behaviour in particular often causes a lot of curiosity and confusion between owners as to why they do this.
As a Bearded Dragon enthusiast myself, this behaviour is always something that has fascinated me so I’ve decided to do the in-depth research needed to bring you all the answers you need as an owner.
So why do Bearded Dragon lick? Bearded Dragons lick things through curiosity and to familiarise themselves with their surroundings. They absorb tiny particles on their tongue that allows them to make judgements on food, animals and objects nearby.
Read on to take a more in-depth look at why Bearded Dragons lick, why whey lick the air, what Bearded Dragon lick, and the amazing way their tongue processes each lick.
How Does a Bearded Dragon’s Tongue Actually Work?
When a Bearded Dragon licks any kind of object or animal, they absorb small particles onto their tongue and into their mouth.
The particles are then passed to the roof of their mouth to something called the ‘Jacobs Organ’.
The ‘Jacobs Organ’ can instantly analyze the small particles and then sends a report back to the brain so that the Bearded Dragon has all the information it needs about the object or animal.
The Jacobs organ makes their sense of taste way more accurate than a human and gives them much more information so they can make detailed judgments on the objects rather than just using their eyes to cast judgement.
Bearded Dragons can use minute particles of sweat, pheromones and other liquids to tell who you are, if you are an alpha male, a female in mating season and much more.
They will also lick the air for the same reasons that they will lick objects, animals and people.
They can pick up tiny particles of sweat, pheromones and other liquids in the air and then pass them on to the Jacobs organ to analyze and send a report to the brain. This can also be backed up by BeardedDragonCo.Za who also talk about this feature.
What Are The Reasons Bearded Dragons Lick?
So at the top of this post, we took a brief look at why Bearded Dragons are constantly licking things. Now let’s take a deeper look at why they produce this behaviour and how licking helps them in everyday situations.
Familiarise Themselves With Their Surroundings
Bearded Dragons will often lick general household objects, other animals and even people.
Licking helps to give them a better understanding of their surroundings and who they are sharing them with.
Bearded Dragons lick people or objects to get a better understanding of them in the same way that us humans would pick up an object and use our fingers and eyes to make sensory a judgement about it or in the same way we talk to a person to get to know them better. This also helps them to establish their place in the social hierarchy.
As a Bearded Dragon licks more and more items, people or animals in their surroundings whey will become more confident and assured as well as better equipped to make decisions based on what their tongue tells them.
Bearded Dragons will also use their ability to lick in order to gauge the temperature of certain objects in their surroundings.
As Bearded Dragons are cold-blooded, knowing the temperature of objects can help them to better understand the temperature of a particular area of their habitat and where the perfect spot in the tank is for them to achieve their optimal temperature.
What Objects Do Bearded Dragons Lick?
Bearded Dragons are known to lick just about anything and everything if it sparks their curiosity. Let’s take a look at some of the things they love to lick and why.
Licking New Owners
If you are a new owner, there’s a very good chance that your Dragon will lick you often.
This is for a few reasons, first, they are very curious of you and they want to find out as much about you as possible.
Licking you will also help them to differentiate you from other members of the family.
Bearded Dragons can also make a judgement as to whether you are an alpha member of the family or not.
They can lick you the owner along with other methods to decide if they need to find their place in the social hierarchy.
This can be especially important when your Dragon is new in your home and you may see them displaying other behaviours such as head bobbing and arm waving depending on how they perceive you or other members of the family.
Licking Objects In New Surroundings
If your Dragons is new in the home then you will likely see them licking everything in sight as they familiarize themselves with all the objects around them.
If Bearded Dragons didn’t lick the objects in new surroundings they would probably become unsure and hesitant about their environment.
If you have had a Bearded Dragon for a while, even a number of years and you move their tank into a different corner of the room or a different room altogether then you would see an increase in licking while they reassess their surroundings.
Bearded Dragons Love to Lick Food
Food is very commonly licked by most Dragons. They can lick veg, fruit, greens and even insects.
This can be a combination of curiosity and allowing them to assess the texture of certain foods as well as the obvious taste differences.
In the wild, they could then lick the air, a rock or branch and if they process a taste through the Jacobs organ that is familiar to them and they recognize it as a certain food then they can head towards that direction.
Licking other Bearded Dragons
If you have more than one Bearded Dragon in your home and they interact with each other then you will probably notice them licking.
This is because they can get a sense of the pheromones that they give off and dominant males will often lick other to Dragons before displaying aggressive and dominant behaviours.
I would never recommend housing more than one Bearded Dragon in the same tank, here I’ve shared a post that explains in detail why you should never do this.
Males will also lick females in mating season and there is an increase in hormones and pheromones.
Females can get jealous of other females in the mating season if they realise that they have been in their territory and they will then lick frantically to find out where they have been and if they have been mating.
Licking Other Household Pets
If you have other household pets such as dogs and cats and you let them play and interact with each other then you will see your Dragon licking them often.
It’s important for your Dragons to understand as much about your pets as they do about you or the food they eat and licking is one of their most powerful sensory options available.
If you have a dog and you aren’t confident about letting your dog and Bearded Dragon play together then take a look at this post where I show in detail how you can successfully have both animals playing together and also what the potential dangers are.
Any Object That Sparks Curiosity
As well as the common things we have just mentioned, your Bearded Dragon could decide to lick absolutely anything if it sparked it curiosity enough.
You will often see a Dragon licking the glass of their tank for what appears to be no apparent reason but there must be something that has caught their interest and aroused their curiosity.
Do Adults Lick As much As Babies?
Baby Bearded Dragon will usually lick more than adults as everything is new to them and they are curious about everything in sight.
Adults that are 2-3 years and older that are accustomed to the same surroundings for a long time will usually reduce how much they lick as they know and understand much of their environment.
Having said that, they will always produce the licking behaviour and if something changes in their immediate surroundings then they will likely increase the amount they lick as their curiosity will increase too.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Lick Their Lips?
When a Bearded Dragon licks its lips it can be for a totally different reason than using its tongue to make judgements on its surroundings.
They can lick their lips through dehydration and if you notice this you should consider making sure that your Dragon has freshwater in their tank as well as checking that the tank temperatures are correct. Here’s an article that explains all you need to know as an owner about the temperatures needed in your Bearded Dragons tank.
Both of these factors could lead your Dragon to become dehydrated. If you need to know more about how Bearded Dragons drink-through different sources and how to train them to drink out of water bowls then this article is what you need.
Is It Unhealthy For a Bearded Dragon to Lick?
Licking is a natural behaviour for Bearded Dragons and you should be happy that your Dragon is displaying this behaviour.
It shows whey are curious and interested in their surroundings as well as keeping their brain active.
Having said this, there are a couple of potential hazards with licking. The first potential hazard is with the substrate you use. Baby Bearded Dragons are known to lick everything and if you use sand as a substrate this could cause them a lot of problems with impaction (constipation).
If you’re unsure of what substrate to use then I would always go for ‘excavator clay’ for a number of reasons. Here is an article I wrote that details why excavator clay is a great choice for a substrate.
The second potential hazard is letting your Dragon out of their tank and run around on the floor. This can be a great exercise for them as well as fantastic mental stimulation, however, if you have small objects on the floor or even fluff and crumbs, this can also cause digestion problems for your Dragon.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Lick The Ground? Bearded Dragons lick the ground so they can absorb tiny particles of liquid, pheromones and sweat so they can get a better understanding of their environment.
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