Why Bearded Dragons Bite + How To Stop It

why does my bearded dragon bite me

Bearded Dragons make great pets and bring joy to plenty of owners. But, they have large mouths and many small teeth, which they love to use to chomp up insects and small prey. So, could your Bearded Dragon bite you, and would it hurt?

Bearded Dragons can bite. However, Bearded Dragon pets are deemed to be unlikely to bite, thanks to their friendly natures. They usually show aggressive signals like head bobbing, turning black, or puffing up, before biting. They may bite after these signals, or if they mistake a hand for food. 

That’s the short answer, but there is much more to know. Read on to discover why your Bearded Dragon might bite you, how to avoid it, how much it hurts, and whether you should be scared.

Do Bearded Dragons Bite?

Yes, Bearded Dragons can bite. All animals with mouths have the ability to bite. This is a natural thing for any animal to do and will always be a possibility.

The real question is “how likely is my Bearded Dragon to bite me?” 

how to stop a bearded dragon from biting

The answer can vary a lot depending on many factors. For example, the situation, what the Bearded Dragon has learned in the past, what stress it is under, and its individual personality.

Luckily, though, the common answer is that a pet Bearded Dragon is unlikely to bite. 

Aggression and fighting are very dangerous for all animals. Even if they win a fight, they may be injured and risk being unable to fend for or care for themselves.

For this reason, animals always have a range of behaviors that they show before they make an attack such as a bite. For a small Bearded Dragon, taking the risk of attacking a huge predator like you is something they really don’t want to do. 

Why Would A Bearded Dragon Bite Its Owner?

Fortunately, Bearded Dragons don’t tend to be very bitey reptiles at all! Many owners would go as far as to say that they are positively friendly in comparison to other reptiles.

This makes Bearded Dragons very popular exotic pets that you can really enjoy bonding with as an owner.

There are certain situations though, in which your Bearded Dragon is more likely to bite you than usual. 

1. If Your Bearded Dragon Mistakes Your Finger For Food

In this case, you will probably only receive one little nip, and it almost certainly won’t hurt much. Bearded Dragons are voracious and opportunistic eaters.

You have probably noticed how excited your Bearded Dragon gets about eating, so you can’t really blame him for making a little mistake now and then!

2. If Your Bearded Dragon Is Stressed And Frightened

Naturally, if your Bearded Dragon is not comfortable with the situation, he is likely to show you by displaying a black beard, puffing up, head bobbing, and hissing.

The cause could be that he is hurt, or afraid, or something else that you can’t see. Put him down before he graduates from hissing to biting. 

3. If Your Bearded Dragon Wants To Get Away And You Are Restraining Him.

If you are holding your Bearded Dragon and he is scrabbling to get out of your hands, this is a sign that a bite could be coming. He clearly wants you to let go!

Above, I mentioned why he might be uncomfortable and want to get away, but this could also happen if there is something that he wants to get to, such as a food source, or a potential mate. In this case, you may not see the tell-tale aggressive body language directed at you.

Luckily, this is pretty common sense and doesn’t require much insight. If your Bearded Dragon is struggling to get away from you and you don’t let go, you may be bitten just like with any other animal. 

4. If Your Bearded Dragon Is A Juvenile Or New Pet

Most owners on Bearded Dragon Forums who are looking for help with bitey Bearded Dragons complain about their juveniles or new pets.

Juveniles and new pets are more likely to bite because they haven’t gotten used to you yet and are scared of being picked up.

Over time, you can use patience and reinforcement to build a positive relationship of trust between you.

By handling your Bearded Dragon gently and rewarding calmness, you will be able to build his confidence and eventually stop him from biting. 

5. If Your Bearded Dragon Has Learned To Be Aggressive Toward People 

Bearded Dragons have brains and are capable of learning, just like a pet dog or parrot (albeit a little more slowly).

If your Bearded Dragon has had bad experiences with people in the past, he is more likely to act aggressively than a pet that has been well cared for.

If you adopt a Bearded Dragon like this, you are likely to notice very quickly that your presence is met with head bobbing, blackening, and puffing up. 

Proceed carefully with animals like this. It may take a very long time to change what they have already learned about people and handling.

In the beginning, use personal protective equipment like gloves when you absolutely must pick them up for husbandry reasons. Their bite isn’t so bad, but bites and scratches from animals should still be avoided whenever possible. 

Tip: If you need help with taming your beardie, understanding its behavior or even with beardie diet or the tank setup, check out our Beardie Care Ebook Bundle here!

Can a bearded dragon bite off a finger
A very grumpy bearded dragon. Run before it spits fire!

Do Bearded Dragon Bites Hurt?

Bites from baby and juvenile Bearded Dragons are pretty much painless. Their jaws are small and weak and don’t apply much pressure. 

Adult Bearded Dragon bites can hurt. Their mouths are larger, stronger, and have bigger teeth. However, in comparison to lizards like skinks, or small rodent pets like hamsters, Bearded Dragons do not deliver a painful bite.

It mostly feels like a strong pinch. It may or may not break the skin. 

To be honest, the shock of being bitten is most of the source of the pain. The injury isn’t particularly bad. 

Are Bearded Dragon Bites Dangerous?

Bearded Dragon bites are not dangerous in the sense that they are likely to cause serious injuries. Bearded Dragon bites just aren’t that strong. 

While Bearded Dragons are actually venomous, they don’t pose any threat to people. Bearded Dragon venom is very mild, and even when they bite small animals such as tiny mice, it only has the effect of slowing them down.

At most, a bite that breaks the skin may cause some redness and irritation as a result of Bearded Dragon venom. 

However, Bearded Dragon bites can still pose some danger. Bearded Dragons and many other reptiles carry salmonella bacteria. Salmonella bacteria is certainly capable of making people very sick.

Because of this, any bites from Bearded Dragons should be thoroughly disinfected. Also, you should always wash your hands well after handling your Bearded Dragon or working with their habitat in general. 

Lastly, any animal bite has the potential to deliver pathogenic microorganisms that can cause serious infections if left untreated. Sepsis or blood poisoning is a potentially fatal consequence of infections.

It is rare, but can happen to anyone, for many reasons, and has tragic consequences. If the site of your bite swells, smells, weeps, or becomes more painful over time, please go to your doctor ASAP. 

Can Bearded Dragons Bite A Finger Off?

No, Bearded Dragons cannot bite hard enough to sever a finger! The worst-case scenario is a cut or small bruise. 

How To Avoid A Bearded Dragon Bite

The best way to avoid a Bearded Dragon bite is to avoid frightening him. For example, it is a very bad idea to grab your Bearded Dragon from above.

In the wild, they are predated upon by birds, so he is likely to panic if your hand suddenly swoops in and picks him up. 

To reduce the chance of a bite, approach your Bearded Dragon slowly from where he can see you. Wait for him to relax before actually picking him up. 

Work on increasing his confidence with being handled, using treats and rewards. This positive reinforcement training will help him learn that acting calmly while being handled leads to good outcomes like an occasional worm or blueberry. 

Listening to what your Bearded Dragon is telling you is also very important. Bearded Dragons communicate very clearly when they are stressed, scared, or unhappy.

If your Bearded Dragon is turning black, puffing up, and hissing, then he is very likely to bite you! 

How To Tame A Bitey Bearded Dragon

Over a longer period of time, you will almost certainly be able to build your Bearded Dragon’s trust in you.

By respecting the signs of discomfort that he shows, giving space when needed, and rewarding calm behavior, you can develop a more positive relationship.

This Bearded Dragon may never be as relaxed as others you might have owned, but progress can still be made. 

Use positive reinforcement in small steps, to reward any neutral or positive response to your presence in his habitat. Use high-value treats that are not part of his staple diet.

Save all your worms and fruits for training activities. Eventually, you will be able to put your hand in the habitat, then touch your Bearded Dragon, and maybe eventually handle him with no protestations.

Have patience, work in small progressions, and reward any successes. 

Tip: If you want to know how to tame a bearded dragon in 3 steps, read our article on that here!

What to do if a bearded dragon bites you
That’s a great beard right there!

What Do You Do If A Bearded Dragon Bites You?

If a Bearded Dragon bites you, the first thing to think about is changing the scenario and getting both yourself and your Bearded Dragon into a safe situation.

The reason for this is that you don’t want to get bitten again, and you don’t want to injure your pet. 

Unfortunately, when Bearded Dragons bite their owners, they often get injured more than we do! This is because your natural reaction will be to snatch your hand back or bat the lizard away.

They could suffer an accidental hit, or if they are still hanging on, they could be thrown. 

So, the first thing to do is to take a deep breath. Disengage their jaws from your hand if they are still hanging on, and put them down as gently as you can in their enclosure or a safe place.

Then, you need to take care of the site of the bite to protect yourself. 

What Is The Correct Way To Treat A Bearded Dragon Bite?

Treat a Bearded Dragon bite like any other small animal bite or injury. Act quickly. Wash it out well with soap and water.

Then, apply a disinfecting solution or ointment. If the bite has broken the skin, it should be covered with a bandaid to prevent dirt and bacteria from entering the wound. 

Do Bearded Dragons Have Teeth?

Yes, Bearded Dragons have teeth. Bearded Dragon teeth are fused (ankylosed) to the jawbones (mandibles) in the upper and lower jaws. They don’t have sockets like human teeth. The teeth are simple triangular shapes. 

Bearded Dragon teeth are very interesting. Bearded Dragons are one of the very rare vertebrate species that have two types of teeth

In the rear of the jaw are teeth that cannot be replaced (monophyodont). These irreplaceable monophyodont teeth are acrodont. This means they have short roots and are strongly fused to the jawbone. 

In the front of the jaw are teeth that can be replaced (polyphyodont). These replaceable polyphyodont teeth are pleurodont. This means that they have longer roots and weaker attachment to the jawbones. 

Bearded Dragon teeth aren’t very long, and don’t penetrate very deeply when they bite. Some people don’t even realize that Bearded Dragons have teeth at all, since they are so small. 

do bearded dragons have teeth?
This Bearded Dragon opens his mouth wide in a hiss, displaying his teeth.

Do Bearded Dragons Bite Other Bearded Dragons?

Yes. Bearded Dragons certainly can and do bite other Bearded Dragons. As I discussed above, there is a whole range of complex behavior that Bearded Dragons use to solve conflicts without violence.

Dominant animals will bob their heads, and puff up their beards while turning black. Submissive animals will show their surrender or subservience by slowly waving their arms.

However, bites and bullying between Bearded Dragons that are housed together is still common. 

Can A Bearded Dragon Hurt Another Bearded Dragon By Biting?

Yes. Bearded Dragons certainly can hurt each other through biting. However, it is more likely that a larger Bearded Dragon will injure a smaller one. Bearded Dragons don’t have huge teeth that can cause terrible damage to a similarly-sized Bearded Dragon. 

Bearded Dragons that are aggressive toward another, or bullying them, will often attempt to bite the tail of their rival. The tail is more vulnerable than the rest of the body and injury can be caused to this area. 

Even a small bite that breaks the skin can still hurt or even kill the victim. This is because of the role of bacteria that enter the wound and cause infection.

Any injury, no matter how small, should be inspected, cleaned, and closely monitored. I cannot stress enough, from experience, how dangerous that even the tiniest bite can be for your pet if it gets infected. 

Can A Bearded Dragon Kill Another Bearded Dragon By Biting?

Yes. Bearded Dragons kill other Bearded Dragons, and biting is part of the way that they do this. Bearded Dragons are actually cannibalistic.

Larger Bearded Dragons will prey on smaller Bearded Dragons. Sometimes, a group will bully a weaker individual.

The stronger Bearded Dragon maims the victim by biting its tail, legs, and possibly its head. This may be the extent of the cannibalism, but the aggressor may also kill and eat the victim. 

How Can I Stop My Bearded Dragons Biting Each Other?

The number one way to prevent your Bearded Dragons biting each other is to house them separately.  Bearded Dragons are solitary animals and should not be kept in groups.

Though it is common to see them being kept together in pet stores, this is not good for their health. 

Keeping Bearded Dragons together in groups causes a lot of stress. This results from the constant battle for dominance, as well as access to food, or resources such as shelter and heat lamps to bask under.

If there is a size disparity between the Bearded Dragons, there is a chance that stronger Bearded Dragons will kill or maim weaker ones and eat them. 

If there is no way to provide separate housing for your Bearded Dragons, then you can reduce biting by changing the habitat. Give them the biggest possible tank you can. Provide multiple areas for resources.

For example, provide many shelters, many rocks, and multiple water dishes and basking spots. You can also reduce competition and resultant biting by creating visual divides in the tank using plants, rocks, or other appropriate decorations. 

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