Lessons Learned From A Bearded Dragon Owner


Lessons Learned From A Bearded Dragon Owner

By Tara A. Ryan

bearded dragonWe did not know anything about owning a bearded dragon when the thought of buying one came to us. Before plunging into the purchase, I wanted to make sure we at least had some idea of what we were getting into. We read books and did some internet surfing. We thought we were ready. As it turns out there were some things that we did not learn about and had to discover on our own. I am going to share with you 4 very important lessons that we have learned from owning our bearded dragons.

Lesson 1: High Maintenance

You would probably think a lizard would be a simple and easy pet to take care of; however, a bearded dragon is a little different than other lizards. Bearded dragons are social creatures and need to be socialized by their owners. As the parent, you will need to socialize them every day to get them used to you picking them up and handling them. This will help them not be fearful and will also develop a trusting relationship between you and your pet.

Bearded dragons enjoy being outside of the cage. Ours will often go exploring throughout the house. When they are out of the cage, you will need to watch them like you would a 2-year-old child. The dragons get a sense of their surroundings by licking everything. One time we had a damp paper towel on the floor from cleaning the cage and Cessna licked it and began eating it. We had to jump into action and pull it out of his mouth.

On another occasion, Hawker was out in the sunroom when I left for a second to answer the phone. When I came back I could not fund him anywhere. Right when I was about to give up and look in a different room, I spotted his tail sticking out from behind a bookcase. I had to use the strength of a mom to move it and get him out. He was pretty shaken up because he did not know exactly what had happened. Lesson learned never leave your dragon out unsupervised, not even for a second.

All of this running around is a great exercise for them. Just like with us, they need to stretch their legs and run. It helps to get the body moving and working on the inside and out. This also means your dragon is going to have “accidents” outside of the cage. Make sure you are ready with a paper towel and some carpet cleaner. You may be able to paper train them, but I have not really tried yet. One time Cessna was in the sunroom basking while I was reading the newspaper on the floor. He ran over to my paper, did his business, and ran off. It has not happened again, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t.

Because bearded dragons spend most of their time in their cages, they will need baths. We bathe our dragons about once a week or on an as-needed basis. Some people suggest bathing them more often. A bath is beneficial for them because they are able to absorb the water through their skin for hydration. Not all dragons enjoy their baths. Hawker, in particular, hates bath time and has climbed my partner’s arm to his back just to stay out of the water.

Lesson 2: Food

We thought it was great that bearded dragons eat mostly vegetables. This is going to be easy because every week we buy veggies for ourselves, we just need to buy a little extra for the dragons. I also knew that they needed protein every day for about the first year, but it wasn’t forever. We just did not take into consideration how much food 3 dragons would eat in a day.

At some point we thought growing our own vegetables would be cost-effective. The only thing we did not take into consideration was the fact that we have not found our green thumbs yet. Our soil is mostly clay and then there are rodents, bugs, and diseases. If you have ways to discourage pests and diseases next you have to deal with the weather. In southern Virginia, our summers are hot and wet or dry.

When our schedules get busy and we are in a drought, we can often forget to water our plants. Then there are the hurricanes and the plants drown. I just can’t seem to figure it out yet. To those who can successfully grow a garden, my hat goes off to you. Regardless of whether you grow them or buy them, you will still have to chop up and clean food regularly for your dragons.

Now on to protein, bugs (I like to call them wrigglers). My partner thought it would be a great money saver if we bred our own crickets. Between 3 dragons they were eating hundreds of crickets a day. He did some research and set up a container and attempted to breed crickets.

I have to admit, we did get some babies; however, they did not live very long after hatching. The mess and the stink were not worth the trouble or the savings. We continued to buy crickets in boxes of 1000 and kept them long enough to be eaten. The worst was when we had to buy large crickets because not only were they stinky, but they were noisy as well.

Lesson 3: Multiple Dragons

Little did we know those male dragons cannot live harmoniously together because of dominance issues. Somehow we have ended up with 3 male dragons. Maybe if we had at least 1 female, things would not be so tense in my house.

I have seen plenty of videos on the internet where bearded dragons are roaming around the house simultaneously or even sharing a cage. This is not going to happen with my dragons. Piper hates Cessna, Hawker hates Piper, and Cessna doesn’t care for either of them. Only one dragon can be out at a time unless rules are followed. To prevent them from getting close enough to fight, my partner made harnesses for them.

The dragons will need to wear their harnesses and keep a good distance from each other if more than one dragon is out at a time. With laminate floors, they are not able to get much traction and it can be rather entertaining to see them slide across the floor and run in place.

We have noticed that when they get all worked up at each other’s cages trying to fight through the glass, they will often leave “presents” at their foe’s cage. They will also head bob, arm waves, turn their beards black, and glass dance. Some days are quieter than others. They are in separate cages, but all live in the same room and can see each other and hear each other climbing all around the cage.

Lesson 4: Financial Expense

Not once did we take into consideration the cost of these dragons. Because of their testosterone-driven dominance, we needed to buy 3 cages. In those cages are a log, lights, heater, house, outlet timers, and food bowls. All of this can add up quickly and this is just to get the house set up. Thankfully, we are saving some money on the substrate by using newspaper, but if you decide to use sand, that will be an additional cost.

Since their lights and heaters are on during most of the day, we definitely saw an increase in our power bill. We certainly did not think of our electricity bill when we got the 3 dragons. One dragon will probably not make that much of a change in the power bill, however. Don’t forget replacement bulbs! You will always burn out when you are not prepared.

Lastly, we go back to the food. The fresh veggies, the crickets, and then whatever extras you may get as treats. It all adds up quickly and may take you by surprise. I am hoping to take away the surprise of the financial expense that comes with the ownership of bearded dragons.

Hopefully, after reading about the lessons that we have learned, you will be more aware of what you are going to be doing every day for your new pet. I would not change that had 3 dragons, I would have liked to have known a little bit more of what we were getting ourselves into. I do enjoy and love my 3 dragons! Good luck and enjoy your new pet!


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