Why Do Bearded Dragons Lick?

You might have noticed that your bearded dragon often licks you, and you’re wondering why?

The first assumption that everyone makes is that they lick because they’re happy to see you or because they’re excited, just like a dog. However, this isn’t the case. 

Bearded dragons lick generally because they can smell you. It sounds gross, but it’s actually a good thing.

They tend to lick when they smell something they like because they want to take more of the smell in. So, although it’s not showing affection in the traditional way that a dog would, in a way, it’s a compliment. 

You’ll find that your bearded dragon will tend to lick more when you aren’t wearing perfume or aftershave. This is because they prefer your natural scent to the manufactured kind.

Perfumes can actually smell too strong and be an unpleasant experience for a bearded dragon as their sense of smell is much better than ours.

Licking Plants

Your bearded dragon is likely to lick the plants in their terrarium for the same reason that they lick you; they like the smell.

Because you’ll often feed your dragon live food, it might be that they can smell food on the leaves.

If this is the case, they’ll lick the plants to test if it’s food or not. You might see that sometimes your bearded dragon will strike at a leaf in their habitat.

This is often because they’ve been able to smell food on there and they’ve made the wrong decision.

They thought it was food, but it turns out, they’ve made a mistake and they end up with a mouth full of leaves. 

Your bearded dragon may also lick leaves because, in the wild, it’s a source of water.

As bearded dragons live in the desert, they aren’t really used to drinking water from the floor.

There aren’t many puddles about. They tend to take in the amount of water that they need from their food and also from rainfall.

The infrequent rainfall, morning dew, or even the humidity, will leave a little moisture on the plants.

Bearded dragons may then lick these to take in a little water. 

Even if you have fake plants in your terrarium (like the one below), they might hold small amounts of moisture from the humidity, so licking them is perhaps your dragon’s way of drinking. 

tank decor plant

Licking Food

As we know, bearded dragons use their tongues to taste and smell simultaneously. Licking the food first is your dragon’s way of working out what it is.

It’s just like us trying something new, we don’t know if we like it until we’ve tasted it. The plus side for bearded dragons is that they don’t have to put the food in their mouths to taste it.

If they don’t like something, they can decide not to eat it before it’s too late. Whereas, for us, we’ve already put the sprout in our mouth before we realize it’s gross. 

If you’re presenting a new type of food, you’ll notice an extensive amount of licking before it actually goes into their mouth.

This is just them deciding whether it’s edible or not.

This can occasionally backfire if the food happens to be alive. Licking it first alerts the cricket that it’s about to be eaten, so it has chance to get away. 

Licking Walls

Licking the walls and other furniture in their terrarium is completely normal. Just like other animals, they need to mark their territory.

Bearded dragons are particularly territorial reptiles and like to have their own space. Because they don’t really urinate, they’re unable to mark territories in the way that a mammal would do.

Instead, they use saliva. Deliberate licking around their environment is just their way of showing what’s theirs.

If you change their terrarium or move it, you might notice the amount of licking escalate. Don’t worry, that’s completely normal.

They just need to re-establish their territory after the change. 

Licking During Mating

Although bearded dragons don’t generally lick to show affection, they do lick to show interest. Particularly in male bearded dragons, you’ll notice an increase in the amount of licking around breeding season. 

They do this to show that they’re looking for a mate and can taste the air to help them find nearby females. 

The females will also start to lick more than usual to show that they are receptive to mating.

They, in turn, need to show the male that they’re interested in them. It’s just like flirting. Licking before mating is really common as it helps both sexes understand each other. 

However, you’ll notice an abrupt change once mating has taken place, especially from the female.

As they are usually solitary creatures, they like their own space so you’ll see that their interest in each other goes away pretty fast. 

Licking Due to Hunger

In the wild, bearded dragons have to hunt for their own food. Because they have a great sense of smell through their nose, but also using their tongue, the easiest way to find food is by tasting the air. 

You’ll notice your dragon licking the air more when they’re hungry, or when they’re expecting you to feed them.

Although their tongue may not be as long and obvious as other reptiles, it’s still the best way to help them find their next meal.

If you notice them wandering up and down their terrarium tasting the air, it’s probably them trying to tell you that you’ve missed mealtime.  


Bearded dragons do lick quite a lot for a number of different reasons. It’s absolutely nothing to be worried about.

Licking is completely natural and normal and isn’t a sign of aggression or unhappiness.

It usually means that your bearded dragon is content and is acting exactly as they would do in the wild. Although it’s not necessarily a sign of affection towards you, it’s still really cute. 

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why do bearded dragons lick

  • About Matthew Cantell

    I was just 15 years of age when I first met a bearded dragon. It was at my friend's house and I instantly grew an immediate attraction to, what has now become, my favourite animal on the planet! Making fantastic pets for both children and adults alike, they each have their own personality and are certainly full of character. There are, though, some important things that we should all know when it comes to caring for these amazing animals!
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