Licking Behaviour in Bearded Dragons

Licking behaviour is frequently seen in Bearded dragons. Unlike, for example, Chameleons, Bearded dragons do not have long, projectile tongues to catch prey from a distance, but they do use them in similar ways.

Like any other reptile, Bearded dragons have a tongue that can be extended from the mouth. When looking closer, the tongue is short but stocky and can be extended about a quarter to half of the head’s length from the mouth. If you’ve ever been licked by a Bearded dragon, you would have felt that the tongue is slightly sticky and has a slight fork at the tip. Although not the only reason for using the tongue (see below), the stickiness of the tongue aids in the catch of prey and guidance of food into the mouth. In a healthy Bearded dragon, the tongue should be a light pink, often tinted towards yellow (the natural pigment of the Bearded dragon itself).

Adult Bearded dragon licking a pear. Image Multiphrenic (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Apart from using the tongue to catch prey, licking behaviour is actually an additional way for Bearded dragons to smell or taste. They also don’t lick things per se, but rather flick their tongues into the air at frequent intervals before retracting them back into their mouths.

By licking, Bearded dragons are actually ‘smelling’ and ‘tasting’ their environments. This enables Bearded dragons to get a better understanding of their environment during hunting, hiding, mate-seeking and breeding.

How Does a Bearded Dragon’s Tongue Actually Work?

Bearded Dragons have a sophisticated tongue-sensing ability that is far more accurate than the human sense of taste. When they lick an object or animal, tiny particles of sweat, pheromones, and other liquids are absorbed onto their tongue and into their mouth. The particles are then passed to an organ in the roof of their mouth called the Jacobs Organ which can instantly analyze the particles and report them back to the brain.

This unique ability means that Bearded Dragons can tell who you are, whether you’re an alpha male or a female in mating season, all through minute particles on their tongue! They also catch these same particles when licking the air. With these analytical powers, Bearded Dragons can make detailed judgments on objects and animals that humans simply cannot.

What is a Jacobson’s Organ?

After each ‘lick’, microscopic particles from the environment collects on the surface of the Bearded dragon’s tongue. After the tongue is pulled back into the mouth it is pushed into an opening on the upper part of the mouth. This opening is connected to a sensory part called the Jacobson’s organ or the vomeronasal organ (not to confused with the pineal gland, which helps regulate photoperiod behaviours). By pushing the tongue onto the Jacobson’s organ, the particles from the environment can be deciphered into messages (similar to the taste buds and the inside of human noses). These messages are then transmitted from the Jacobson’s organ via nerves to the brain of the Bearded dragon. After the information has been received from the Jacobson’s organ, the brain make the reptile ‘understand’ its environment better.

This image shows the Jacobson’s organ of a snake, which is very similar in reptiles including Bearded dragons. Image credit Fred the Oyster (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Using the tongue to be able to ‘smell’ and ‘taste’ is not unique to Bearded dragons. Most other reptiles and many other animals also has this ability. Compared with other animals, Lizards, including Bearded dragons, have a well developed Jacobson’s organ.

Apart from being a sensing organ, it is also believed that in many animals the vomeronasal organ is responsible for detecting pheromones, aiding in reproduction and social behaviour. During the mating season and breeding, Bearded dragons might be seen flicking their tongues frequently.

What Do Bearded Dragons Use Their Tongue For?

Bearded dragons use their tongue for many different reasons. Licking is an important way for them to explore the world that surrounds them, especially when they are young; like humans, baby dragons are curious about their environment, so licking helps keep them safe and provides valuable information about their surroundings.

As they age, beardies tend to lick less often as they become more familiar with their home and routine. It may still occur if there is something new within their tank or if their human companion has entered the room.

Licking its lips can also be a sign of thirst in older dragons – make sure you provide fresh water within the tank throughout the day to prevent dehydration due to extremely high temperatures. An appropriate thermometer and humidity gauge will help monitor the temperature of your dragon’s enclosure to keep it between 75-99°F and make sure humidity levels remain below 40%RH.

What Causes Bearded Dragon Licking Behavior?

Several reasons could be behind your bearded dragon’s increased licking, such as:

They are in a new or changed environment

When a bearded dragon is placed in a new environment, their behavior will change. They will typically lick objects that are near them to get a better understanding of their new space. Even if the dragon is kept in the same enclosure but changes have been made – such as moving around furniture or adding/removing items – can also cause them to act differently.

In addition, if you move the entire enclosure to another room or area of the house, this can also affect the light and smell of their environment which can trigger a round of “licking analysis” as they try to acclimatize to their new surroundings.

They are marking their territory

Bearded dragons are very territorial creatures, and they make sure to mark their territory by licking. This behavior is instinctive for them in their natural habitat, where fights between males for possession of territory and resources are common. Even when kept as a pet, the bearded dragon will still attempt to infuse its scent on owners with its licking, showing that it has claimed what it thinks is its.

Collecting Data Or Sensing Their Surroundings

Bearded dragons use their tongues as a way of collecting data about the world around them. They lick surfaces in an attempt to figure out their environment, identify potential dangers or food sources, and just generally explore. This behavior should decrease when they become more used to their surroundings.


Bearded dragons often display hunger by licking the air around them. This is an involuntary response that comes naturally when they’re feeling hungry, as it helps them locate and capture prey. If you have a captive bearded dragon on a regular feeding schedule, you’ll notice they start licking the air shortly before they expect to be fed. Their bodies have adapted to know when it’s time for a meal!

They’re Looking For Familiarity

Bearded dragons look for familiarity when they explore. They’re constantly seeking out familiar landmarks and checking to make sure that what’s familiar remains unchanged. That’s why they might lick you – to make sure you taste and smell the same as they remember.


Bearded dragons have an amazing ability to taste and smell something with their tongues. When they encounter an object, alive or otherwise, they often grab a lick to get the full taste and smell of it. This is especially true of new food items; bearded dragons will take a lick and gather additional information on whether the food is good for them or not.

It’s this sense of taste/smell that allows bearded dragons to make better decisions about what food types to eat, ensuring they stay healthy and happy.

Sign Of Comfort And Affection

It’s widely believed that licking behavior is a sign of comfort and affection, particularly when it comes to our beloved pets. While there may not be scientific proof, we can feel confident with the knowledge that our pet won’t lick things that make it uncomfortable.

This means that when your bearded dragon licks your hand every time you handle them, you can be sure that they recognize your scent and enjoy spending time with you. Licking is a sign of appreciation, love, and comfort – so show your beardy some extra love by gently introducing yourself and seeing what kind of reaction they give!

They are young and curious

Baby bearded dragons are young and curious. As they explore their environment for the first time, everything is a new experience and they will be eager to investigate and sample every new thing that comes their way.

This natural curiosity remains strong in them until they are around 2+ years old, and then it gradually starts to slow down because of the familiarity in the surrounding area.

Mates & Competition

When it comes to mating and competition, bearded dragons rely heavily on their Jacobson’s organ. This organ helps them detect pheromones in the environment, so they know if there’s potential mating happening or if they have a dominant rival in the area.

It is quite common to see bearded dragons licking another dragon before any display of dominance like extending their beard or nodding their heads up and down. Both males and females do this kind of thing with each other.

Gaping – Other Reasons Why A Bearded Dragon Will Have Its Mouth Open

Besides using Jacobson’s Organ, there are other reasons why your bearded dragon may have its mouth open such as:

Regulating Their Body Temperature

Regulating their body temperature is essential for bearded dragons to stay alive and healthy. Unlike humans, they cannot sweat to cool down, instead, they open their mouths to release any excess heat. If you notice that your bearded dragon often has its mouth open, it’s time to check the temperature of its enclosure.

Temperature plays a major role in a bearded dragon’s health, so it’s important to make sure the temperatures are within the ideal range – 115° F for younger dragons and 105° F for older dragons. You can also provide spots with different temperatures inside the enclosure to give them more choices when it comes to moderating their own internal body temperature.

Dominance – Aggression / Stress

Bearded dragons can display dominance through their body language, and this behavior is often an indication of aggression or stress. The most common signs are keeping their mouths open, puffing out their beards, and making a hissing noise. These displays are usually triggered by environmental elements such as fright, being held in a particular way, or the presence of another bearded dragon.


Dehydration is an issue that bearded dragons may face, so it’s important to recognize the signs of dehydration. Signs such as holding their mouth open and sticking out their tongue are indicative of this condition. The best way to make sure your dragon remains hydrated is by providing a 30 minute bath with a small bowl or sinkful of warm water.

I would also recommend leaving a water bowl with shallow water on the cool side of their enclosure as humidity should be maintained in the safe range of 30-40%. Bearded dragons can typically be attracted to moving water, so opting for a “bubbler” usually found in aquariums may pique their interest and encourage them to use the water bowl provided. Staying aware of the signs of dehydration and having an appropriate reaction can ensure your dragon remains happy and healthy.


Yawning is a common behavior exhibited by bearded dragons and it’s actually quite fascinating to watch. It’s typically done after they wake up to stretch their jaw muscles. When yawning, the dragon will puff out their beard a few times and slowly open and close their mouth.

As long as there is no clicking noise accompanying the yawn, it’s nothing to worry about; however, if you do hear any clicking noises then it may be a sign of a respiratory issue and you should take your bearded dragon to an exotic vet for a check-up.

What Else Do Bearded Dragons Lick?

The air

Beardies have a unique way of gathering information about the air around them – by using their Jacobson’s organ! The purpose of this organ is to detect microparticles in the air. To do this, your beardie will rapidly flick out its tongue to collect these particles and then draw them back into the upper part of its mouth.

Once these particles are collected, Jacobson’s organ recognizes them and sends that information to the brain. By doing so, it allows your bearded dragon to take notice of potential predators or mating partners, as well as determine room temperature and detect specific smells.


Bearded dragons use their tongues to explore their food before they eat. With an organ called the Jacobson’s organ, they are able to “smell” their food by licking it. This process helps them become more aware of the food they are consuming, much like humans smell their meals before digging in.

Not only does this give them a more complete knowledge of the food they’re eating, but it also helps them make sure that their meal is safe and actually edible – which is an absolute priority when it comes to these creatures!

Other household pets

Having other household pets around your bearded dragon can be a great experience for both of them. Even though bearded dragons may not always be the most social creatures if, given the opportunity, they will become curious about understanding other animals that share their space. While it is not always recommended to have cats and dogs around your beardie, you can safely introduce them by gradually acclimating either one of them to the presence of the other.

You can start by placing your bearded dragon’s terrarium in a room that your dog or cat often visits. This way, by licking the air, your bearded dragon will get used to the smell and presence of the other pet. This will help reduce anxiety when finally meeting with each other and make for a much more pleasant experience for everyone involved!


When your bearded dragon licks you, it’s a sign of affection. It means that your pet trusts and loves you and that it is comfortable with your presence. You might be surprised to learn that their tongue isn’t just for tasting, but for exploring as well! This can include gentle licking of your hand or fingers out of curiosity.

Is Licking Aggressive Behavior?

Licking can be linked to aggressive behaviors like eating, mating, and territorial marking; however, it isn’t always an act of aggression. A common fear is that when a bearded dragon licks someone, it’s going to bite them. However, this is not the case at all; bearded dragons do not typically bite larger animals unless they feel extremely threatened.

Therefore, if you handle your bearded dragon gently and do not squeeze it harshly, it should rarely ever bite you. Licking by itself is not an aggressive behavior; rather, other actions often present in conjunction with licking could indicate aggression.

How Does Licking Help Them Smell?

Bearded dragons are known for their interesting behaviors, and one of them is licking to smell their environment. When they do it, they flick their tongues into the air instead of touching an object directly, which allows them to gather microscopic scent particles onto the tongue for sensory interpretation. Once these particles are pulled back into the mouth, it touches a nerve connected to the brain which interprets this data as smells and lets the bearded dragon know what kind of object or environment they’re interacting with.

Interestingly enough, mammals also have similar functions to our tongues. When air enters our nose and goes down into our throat and then hits the back of our tongue, we can get sensory information that we don’t need to stick our tongues out in order to smell. This shows how truly amazing beasts like bearded dragons can be when it comes to utilizing their senses.

How Licking Helps Them Gather Information

Bearded dragons, lizards, and snakes all possess a unique way of sensing their environment: licking. They flick their tongues out to collect microparticles that are then processed by their Jacobson’s organ which is located near the roof of the mouth. This organ gathers sensory messages that get transmitted to the brain for interpretation.

This means that these reptiles can learn about their surroundings, detect predators, locate mates and find food simply by licking! With this amazing adaptation, they are able to stay aware of any changes in their environment or potential threats even when they’re not physically present.

Will Their Licking Behavior Change As They Age?

As bearded dragons age, their licking behavior will change. While baby and juvenile beardies demonstrate a more consistent curiosity and exhibit habits of licking everything in sight, this should slow down as they become more accustomed to their surroundings.

It is therefore important to be mindful of what substrates are used in their tanks, specifically avoiding sand and small pieces of gravel which can be potentially dangerous if ingested. As these animals get older, they may seem less curious and more content with staying in one place – but the instinct to lick everything isn’t completely gone yet! So even when a bearded dragon appears calm, it is still important to provide them with safe substrates that won’t pose any choking or digestive issues.

Do Adults Lick As much As Babies?

Baby Bearded Dragons will certainly lick more often than adults due to their curiosity about exploring the world around them. However, that doesn’t mean that adult bearded dragons don’t lick at all. Even though they have been accustomed to the same environment over a long period of time, they still produce licking behavior when something changes in their immediate surroundings, as this sparks curiosity and increases the amount they lick.

So even though adult dragons tend not to be as inquisitive as babies when it comes to licking, they still exhibit the behavior when something out of the ordinary is present.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Lick Their Lips?

Bearded Dragons often lick their lips for various reasons, but one of the most common is dehydration. If you notice that your Bearded Dragon is licking its lips more than usual, it’s best to check if there is enough freshwater in the tank and that the temperatures are at an appropriate level for your pet.

Licking their lips can be a signal from your Bearded Dragon that it needs more fresh fluids so providing access to water or hydrated vegetables or fruits can be beneficial.

Is It Unhealthy For a Bearded Dragon to Lick?

The licking behavior of Bearded Dragons is normal and often signifies their interest in the environment around them. However, while it’s a healthy exercise, there are still potential hazards to be aware of.

Firstly, the substrate that you use can be hazardous if your dragon happens to lick it; specifically, sand which can cause impaction and constipation if ingested.

Secondly, when letting your Dragon out of its tank for exercise and mental stimulation, make sure any small objects or crumbs have been removed from the floor so as not to cause any digestion problems should these be licked and ingested by your Bearded Dragon.

Overall, Bearded Dragons lapping up their surroundings is both natural and beneficial for them as long as necessary precautions are taken to ensure they remain safe while doing so.

Enclosure Safety

Enclosure safety is an important consideration when owning a bearded dragon. Keep in mind that they are prone to licking their environment, so it’s essential to make sure that the environment they inhabit is safe and free of any toxins.

Use Non-Toxic Decor

When decorating your bearded dragon’s habitat, make sure you’re using non-toxic plants! Non-toxic plants for bearded dragons include Tillandsia Ionantha, Hoya australis, Callistemon, Echeveria, Beaucarnea recurvata, and more. It’s important to ensure that the plants you use won’t be toxic to your pet.

On the other hand, it is important to avoid certain plants that can be toxic for your bearded dragon. These include Rosemary, Arrowhead Vine, Bluebonnet, Cassava Root, Daffodils, Elderberry, Mistletoe, Poinsettia, Sage Tulip, and Yucca. So make sure to do your research and only use non-toxic plants when decorating your bearded dragon’s habitat!

Clean Environment Regularly

Cleaning your bearded dragon’s environment is an essential part of keeping them healthy and happy. It’s important to regularly check for any bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other small particles that could be present in the environment which can make your dragon sick.

To ensure these dangers are absent, make sure to give your bearded dragon’s environment a regular clean. Small particles on the floor could cause impaction if ingested by your dragon, which is when food cannot be digested due to a blockage. Cleaning their area regularly will help prevent this from happening and will keep your beloved dragon safe and healthy!

Use Non-Toxic Chemicals

When it comes to cleaning your Bearded Dragon’s enclosure, it’s best to always use non-toxic chemicals. Even though some products may be safe for other pets and animals, they may still be toxic for bearded dragons specifically.

That’s why it is important to do your research and make sure that any cleaning product you use is specifically safe for them.

Wash Your Hands Before & After Handling

It’s absolutely essential that you wash your hands before and after handling your bearded dragon. Not only is this important for the safety of your pet, but it also keeps you healthy. Anything that your hands can pick up while interacting with your reptile could end up in their gut if ingested – and make them sick.

To prevent this from happening, we always make sure to use hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial soaps before and after contact with our dragons. This will help keep our little pals in tip-top shape as well as keep us safe from any germs or bacteria that may be passed on by touch. So remember, don’t forget to wash those paws!


What does it mean when your beardie licks you?

Whenever your bearded dragon licks you, it’s either displaying its love for you or letting you know that it’s happy in its environment. These creatures are unique and complex. Aside from showing affection, licking can also signify dominance or check the temperature of the environment.

Is Licking a Sign of Love and Affection?

It may be a sign of familiarity. Your scent and taste may provide a sense of recognition and security which they instinctively seek out. Sometimes, it’s displaying its love for you or letting you know that it’s happy in its environment. Licking can also signify dominance or check the temperature of the environment.

What does it mean if a bearded dragon licks another bearded dragon?

Bearded dragons often lick one another to demonstrate dominance within a hierarchy. The alpha bearded dragon is usually the biggest in its territory and will lick its competitors to assert its authority.

Should I Worry About What Your Bearded Dragon Is Licking?

Normally, a bearded dragon that enjoys licking is not an issue. Provided that the things in its environment are all suitable for reptiles (including plants), it should be alright for them to lick whatever they want.


In conclusion, it’s clear that licking in bearded dragons has a lot of meaning behind it. While some licks may be simple displays of affection and comfort, others can tell us a great deal about the dragon’s current behavior and wellbeing. With this knowledge, we can make sure to provide our scaly companions with appropriate care and stimulation.