Why Does My Bearded Dragon Lick…Everything?!

bearded dragon getting ready to lick

Bearded dragons are surprisingly curious and outgoing reptiles.  They love to explore their areas and always seem to be licking something.  Sometimes you might even notice that your bearded dragon ends up licking you, the air, or pretty much anything else around them.  It’s a little strange and can almost feel like they’re about to take a bite out of you!  You’ve probably wondered;

Why is my bearded dragon licking everything?

The short answer is that bearded dragons lick to better understand the world around them, including you.  Usually, when a bearded dragon licks something, they’re trying to get a better feel for their environment.  When it comes to you, a lick is a sign that your beardie is interested in you and comfortable around you! 

In this article, we’ll talk all about bearded dragons and their tongues!  By the end of this, we hope you’ll have a good understanding of how and why they seem to lick everything in their paths!

Why Do Bearded Dragons Lick?

To understand why your bearded dragon is licking you, we’re going to look at why bearded dragons lick in the first place.  If you’ve never noticed your beardie licking things it’s only a matter of time.  Licking is one of the main ways that beardies are able to engage with and explore their environments.  This short video shows you just how many things a bearded dragon might lick throughout the day.

Even though we know that beardies use their tongues to explore, why and how do they do this?  And what’s the purpose of it all?

Here are 6 reasons to explain why your pet bearded dragon licks things!

1. It’s How They Smell

One of the most important functions of your bearded dragon’s tongue is to help them smell.

That’s right, their tongue is very important to their sense of smell!  This is because bearded dragons have what’s called a vomeronasal organ or Jacobson’s organ.  The Jacobson’s organ is a specialized-smelling organ that resides on the roof of a bearded dragon’s mouth.  This organ interprets molecules from the outside world and the brain turns the information from those molecules into smells!  The tongue is an important part of this process because the tongue brings the molecules in and up to the vomeronasal organ.

This is one of the reasons why you’ll see snakes constantly flick their tongues in and out. While their tongues don’t have traditional taste buds, they are part of the system that delivers information about the smell and taste of the world around them.  You can read more about how snakes taste with their tongues in our article by clicking here.

So, when your bearded dragon is licking the air, they’re actually doing a lot of detective work.  And when they lick you, they’re smelling you!

2. To Get To Know Their Environment

Bearded dragons use their tongues to explore their environments.

These reptiles will lick anything from water dishes to aquarium walls.  Their tongue is one of the primary ways they test the things around them.  They can use their tongue to understand where they are in their enclosure and to see if anything has changed.

With a flick of the tongue, beardies might also be able to tell whether the temperature is warm or cool and whether they should seek shelter or bask in the sun.

3. They’re Checking Out Textures Or Tastes

Bearded dragons use their tongue to smell the things around them.  But, even more than that, bearded dragons can also sense textures through their tongues.  Bearded dragons can tell if something is smooth or rocky by testing it with a lick.  Kind of like how we like to feel things with our hands, beardies do it with their tongues.

Additionally, bearded dragons can taste with their tongues.  They’re similar to snakes in the way that they don’t have too many tastebuds.  But, they can still get a taste of something by licking it because of the vomeronasal organ located in their mouth.  You’ll probably notice that your bearded dragon likes to lick their food before going for a big bite of it!

4. It’s Part Of A Mating Ritual

As strange as this sounds, licking might be part of a mating ritual for a bearded dragon.

Mating rituals for bearded dragons are… interesting.   Bearded dragons will stomp and wave their arms when looking for a mate.  Male bearded dragon’s beards will turn very dark and become almost black during this process.  Beardies might leave their mouth agape and start licking the air.  While licking isn’t the most important part of the ritual, you’ll certainly notice it.

Don’t worry though, your pet probably isn’t trying to seduce you.  If your bearded dragon licks you but doesn’t do any of these other things, it’s not a mating-related behavior!

5. They’re Marking their Territory

It seems like all animals have their own ways of marking territory.

Dogs will lift their legs and pee on things to leave their scent behind.  Some mammals will rub up against trees or rocks to mark their territory.  Bearded dragons might lick things to leave their scent behind and to mark their territory.  If your bearded dragon lives alone you don’t need to worry about this too much.  But, if you incorporate a second bearded dragon, look out.  Your beardies might start licking everything around them that they consider to be theirs.

Though this is definitely one of the reasons that bearded dragons lick, it’s probably not the reason they’re licking you.  You would be a very large territory for a single lizard to claim.

6. They’re Looking For Familiarity

Since bearded dragons are curious and explorative, they’re always looking for familiar landmarks.

Licking you is sort of a way to check in and make sure that you’re still the same taste and smell you were earlier.  When they lick you, they could be re-establishing that they already know who and what you are.  Leopard geckos also do this to their owners as a way to confirm familiar territory.  And of course, these reptiles will lick to be familiar with you and with their surroundings.

Hopefully, you now have a sense of why these lizards lick things and how that relates to why they might lick you!

What Else Do Bearded Dragons Lick?

So we know why bearded dragons lick, but what do they lick?

Well, these animals could theoretically lick everything, but there are a few main categories of items you’ll notice that they love to lick!

1. You

Of course, your pet licks you, that’s why you’re here.

When your bearded dragon licks you, you’ll notice that it’s not menacing or territorial but mostly explorative.  Below, we’ll discuss in detail what it actually means when your bearded dragon licks you!

2. Other Animals

Besides you, your bearded dragon will lick other animals.

Bearded dragons will lick other animals for all of the reasons we talked about above.  Bearded dragons might lick another of their species to look for familiarity or comfort.  They could also be marking their territory on a dragon of the opposite sex.  A bearded dragon might lick a different pet like a turtle out of curiosity and to get a sense of what exactly they are.  Finally, a bearded dragon might lick another animal to determine if they smell or taste like food!

3. Food

Bearded dragons seem to enjoy licking their food before they eat it.

Do you ever look at, touch, or smell something new before you eat it?  Of course, you do!  You’re trying to get a sense of what you’re eating before ti actually does into your mouth.  Bearded dragons seem to do they same thing.  You’ll notice that beardies will lick things like mealworms before actually ingesting them.  Then, when they’re ready to eat them they might just lick them again!  Not only is the tongue a useful sensory organ but it’s also very prickly.  These velcro-like prickles help bearded to snatch food and bring it straight into their mouths.

4. The Air

The last thing you’ll see bearded dragons licking all of the time is the air.

As we mentioned above, bearded dragons use their tongues to collect molecules from the air to send to the vomeronasal organ.  The air contains tons of molecules that can tell your pet the smell, taste, temperature and relative humidity of an environment.  Bearded dragons might even be able to sense predators by smelling their scent in the air.  Licking is not only good behavior but it’s essential for survival in the wild.

What Does It Mean When A Bearded Dragon Licks You?

When your bearded dragon licks you, what are they trying to say?

Honestly, your bearded dragon isn’t saying much.  When a bearded dragon licks a human they’re doing it to explore their environment and to find familiarity.  They can lick you and almost immediately know that you’re the same person who always visits them.  It’s comforting to a reptile to know that they’re in safe hands.  Plus, they might be able to find a smell of the snack they’re about to get on your hands.

There are some common misconceptions as to why bearded dragons lick their owners.

What Does It Probably NOT Mean When Your Bearded Dragon Licks You?

If your bearded dragon licks you all the time, there are two things you don’t need to worry about.

Your bearded dragon probably isn’t about to take a bite out of you.  You don’t smell like food and you definitely don’t look like food.  However, that doesn’t mean your bearded dragon won’t ever bite you!  Just like with snakes, there is a possibility that a lick precedes a bite if they smell something they find threatening or delicious.  But, if your beardie licks you all the time, they’re probably not going to bite you suddenly.

Another reason that doesn’t explain why your beardie licks you is affection.  Bearded dragons don’t have the same capacity for affectionate emotions that humans do.  While we understand that a hug, kiss, or even a lick is a sign of affection, beardies don’t feel the same.  When they lick you, it’s not the same as getting a kiss on the cheek.  Luckily, we have plenty of other good explanations for it.

Should You Worry About What Your Bearded Dragon Is Licking?

Most of the time, a bearded dragon that likes to lick isn’t a problem. As long as everything in your beardie’s enclosure is reptile safe (including any plants), it should be safe for them to lick away.

However, you do need to be careful if your bearded dragon likes to lick you and it’s another reason why it’s important to wash your hands before handling your reptile as you don’t want your beardie to lick anything toxic off your hands.

Final Thoughts

When your bearded dragon licks you they’re showing that they feel comfortable enough to explore and to become familiar with you.  Since bearded dragons use their tongues to smell, they do a lot of work with their tongues.  They use them to assess conditions and to get to know their environment.  They’ll not only lick you but will also like their environment, the air, food, and other animals.

Even though a lick isn’t a beardies way o saying “I love you,” it’s definitely not a bad thing and you can go ahead and keep letting your beardie lick whatever they want!

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