The Short Answer…
Do Bearded Dragons make good pets? The short answer to the question is, in my opinion, yes, but…
… So I’ll highlight some of the things that may make you think they’re not such good pets.
Firstly, please only consider any animal as a pet if you’re completely dedicated to looking after them. If you’re not sure yet, consider all your options because it is a big commitment. Do more research – don’t just take our word for it and don’t just read what you ‘want to hear’. Make sure you can provide the home for the pet that they deserve. ALL pets deserve your time, care and dedication and it breaks our hearts to see pets being given away (or worse, dumped) because people didn’t consider the long term aspects of keeping a pet.
If you’ve decided that a reptile is your kind of pet, a bearded dragon is the ideal animal to start with. They’re somewhat less complicated to deal with than some of the others in the reptile kingdom and tend to have much more character.
But anyway, preaching about the long term commitments aside, let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of Bearded Dragons as pets.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Make Good Pets?
I’m assuming if you’re still reading this that you’re at least semi-aware of, and have some form of passion for keeping reptiles as a pet. They are ( as is any reptile ) quite a specialist pet. Generally speaking they aren’t going to give you the same kind of experience as keeping a cat or a dog. In my opinion though, the experience is better than that of keeping a cat or a dog. You’ll never wake your neighbours by your bearded dragon barking in the garden at a leaf that just blew past. A bearded dragon won’t get caught using their garden as a toilet…
Reptiles aren’t cuddly, at least not in the same sense as the furry cat and dog.
Reptiles can be quite social and friendly toward humans, and Bearded Dragons are among the more social of reptiles. They’re generally not aggressive, at least towards humans, although they can bully each other particularly if you have 2 males in the same enclosure.
Beardies are fairly slow moving compared to smaller lizards. They can get a wiggle on if they’re out in the lounge and you want to put them back in their tank though! They are generally good with kids ( provided the kids aren’t mishandling them ) and will sometimes scoot up and down the glass front of the tank to get some attention. Glass surfing can be a sign of stress too.
They all have their own personality and will often demand to be fed a bit like the dog might stare at you if you’re late with their dinner.
Beardies will even need to be bathed ( to help them go to the toilet, or to help them shed ). This can be a great time to interact with them in itself.
Bearded Dragons Look Cool
I love the appearance of Bearded Dragons. They appeal to my fascination of prehistoric animals and dragons. They look like a dragon. Beardies don’t breathe fire though – which is probably a good thing if you value your curtains and furniture. But they do look like something that you’d find in the museum, probably more so than even the oldest reptile – the crocodile. I don’t think a crocodile would make a good pet. But beardies don’t generally bite humans ( though they can if you upset them ). Bearded dragons are in fact quite friendly, as well as looking fabulous.
There’s nothing more majestic than a Beardie sitting basking on a rock with its head up tall and proud displaying that lovely bearded neck.
Every bearded dragon looks unique too – with different subtle colour hues. They all have different markings and different sizes and shapes of head, bearded neck and bodies. Even their tails will differ with some having stumpy tails and others having longer more slender tails.
Beardies Aren’t Too Small Or Too big
Their size makes them ideal as pets. They’re not too small to handle. Smaller lizards tend to be quick, making them difficult to catch if they manage to escape! Beardies are not too large that they take up too much space in the living room. This also means that letting them out for a wander around the room is easy and enjoyable for them and their handlers.
Easy To Hand Feed
They love to be hand-fed – although you’ll need to be comfortable handling their live food such as crickets or worms. If you’re squeamish about this you’ll need to consider whether a reptile is the right pet. Having said that, you could use some small tongs / tweezers if you’re really put off by this.
Of course, you can just put the food into the tank and let them catch it, but there may be times where your bearded dragon isn’t eating properly and you may have to intervene. Hand feeding is a good social interaction for both you and your dragon though.
It can be good to put some live food into the tank for them to hunt down and stalk. However, it’s generally a good idea to avoid leaving any uneaten live food in the tank. This can cause them stress, particularly as it has been known for crickets for example to actually bite a dragon during the night while they’re slumbering. Worms and such like can also burrow into the substrate which could then turn into beetles. Beardie might well eat the beetle when it surfaces anyway, but too many of them isn’t going to be fun.
Relatively Easy To Setup Their Environment
The environment in which they live is quite easy to care for. You will need to make sure you get the temperature, lighting and substrate right. You’ll also need to provide enough variety within the tank to enable them to hide, bask or run around. You can read our other articles about setting up the vivarium and how to manage the temperature correctly. But, there’s no need for watery areas like there is with terrapins or water dragons. This makes cleaning a lot easier, and means they tend not to smell too bad. You’ll still need to keep the tank free of their droppings and leftover food though.
When I say it’s easy though, don’t be mistaken. They do require time and some monetary investment to set up properly.
A bearded dragon in captivity can live 8 to 12 years with the proper care, environment and stimulation. This isn’t far off the lifespan of some dogs. This means your bearded dragon can be a loved member of the family for a good while. The flip-side of that of course is that deciding to provide a home for a beardie is a reasonably long term commitment.
Reasons Not To Have a Bearded Dragon as a Pet
You MUST Be Committed To Them
As mentioned above, a beardie lifespan averages around 8 – 12 years old, but some have been known to live up to 14+ years. This is quite a commitment, particularly if you like lots of travel for example. Don’t get a bearded dragon ( or any pet ) if you can’t expect to provide the interaction and care it’s going to need.
If you do want to take a holiday now and then you will need to consider who’s going to be available to look after your beardie while you’re away. You can’t just put them into a cattery or a kennels like you can with a cat or a dog. Fortunately, the beardie won’t destroy your furnishings if they get bored like a cat or a dog might. The person looking after them while you’re away only really needs to feed them and potentially clean the tank.
But bear in mind, when choosing someone to look after them while you’re away that the person who is going to look after them is going to have to be someone you trust with your house keys and your beardies care – and they can’t be squeamish about their food either.
If you can’t find someone close to you to look after your beardie while you’re away, there are some reptile holiday homes available. This is similar to a cattery or kennels but will of course come at a price.
You Cannot Just Release It Into The Wild If You Change Your Mind
I’ve heard stories of people just releasing their beardies into the wild if they can no longer look after them for whatever reason. Do NOT do this. It’s cruel to the dragon who will have come to count on you for providing food and shelter. The UK environment ( and much of the European and US environment ) doesn’t suit the beardie in the wild. It’s too cold on average. They’ll die a slow and painful death if released into the wild.
You should also not release a beardie into the wild because they’re not native to our location. The Australians ( which is the original home of the Beardie ) learned the very hard way about releasing non-native animals into the wild when they introduced cane toads into Queensland many years ago in an effort to control pests. The cane toads are taking over. They are killing off the natural amphibians and other small mammals that prey on them, with their toxins. Beardies aren’t likely to cause the same kind of environmental catastrophe that the large scale introduction of cane toads to Australia did. However, it’s difficult to predict how they would impact the natural environment around them.
If you find you can no longer care for your beardie, have some compassion, don’t just dump them. Advertise them on any social media outlet or specialist site dedicated to beardies. Don’t just give them away. You should try to make someone pay for them as this gives their new owner a feeling of value straight away. It also ensures that only a person who’s serious about your beardie will take them on. If you give him or her away for free the new owner may not have the required interest or may not have done their research before accepting and the beardie will end up being dumped or moved again. That will be an unsettling experience for everyone.
Bearded Dragons aren’t that expensive to keep. The initial outlay can be intimidating. They do cost money each and every month to provide their food ( though you can grow and breed your own food if you like ) and their warmth and light.
The other cost factor that you need to consider is that they will need to see the vet occasionally. This is whether it’s for checkups to ensure they’re fit and healthy and have no parasites. There may also come that horrible time when they become sick and need expert medical help.
This is quite a minimal risk, even if your bearded dragon droppings contain salmonella, provided you follow some basic hygiene practices after handling your beardie poo. Washing your hands with a good detergent soap after handling your dragon and after cleaning their tank. If your dragon happens to poo on the carpet or couch when you’ve let them out for a run, a good anti-bacterial cleaner should be used to clean up. Test a small area first to make sure it’s colour-safe!
Don’t let the kids touch the droppings. Definitely don’t let them eat them. Of course to an adult that sounds ridiculously gross, but kids are kids and do the strangest things. Make the kids aware of the dangers of the dragon poo. Be sure they wash their hands after handling the dragons food or droppings, or even the dragon itself. This will reduce the risk of any infection. It’s probably not the best idea to let the kids kiss the dragon either to be fair, but that’s probably no easy feat.
Keep the tank free of droppings. This will reduce the salmonella transmission risk as well as making sure their tank doesn’t smell. It also provides a much nicer environment for your little friends too.
Bearded Dragons Are Not Cuddly
In the reptile world, bearded dragons are probably the best of the bunch. They’re certainly my favourite because as reptiles go, they’re the friendliest, funniest and among the easiest to look after.
But they’re not cuddly in the same sense as a cat or a dog. They won’t want you patting them on the head, or cuddling them in bed. They definitely won’t wake you up in the morning with a big wet nose stuck in your face. That could well be seen as a positive though.
Although they’re not cuddly like a cat or a dog, they do like a stroke on their back now and then and they do enjoy a good beard stroke. They can also enjoy a bit of a snuggle into your neck sometimes. This can feel a bit weird until you get used to it, but it is quite cute.
A Beardie won’t wag their tail and dance around the living room when you come home from work. They won’t console you when you get bad news. Bearded Dragons don’t feel soft and fluffy like a cat or a dog. They’re not going to be as interactive as owning a pet such as a cat or a dog.
This can be both a positive and a negative, dogs and cats are considerably more demanding of attention. But as a result, dogs and cats are more interactive.
Specialist Care Requirements
Beardies, and any reptiles, are going to need much more specialist care than a dog or a cat. Pretty much anyone can look after a dog or a cat. If they get stuck with something they can easily call on a friend or relative to get advice. This isn’t the case with a beardie. If your bearded dragon stops eating for example, you probably can’t just ask your mum or your work colleagues. When your dog stops eating you’ll have a hundred different reasons why that might be and a hundred different solutions you can try. With a beardie you’re going to need to look for specialist advice. Fortunately these days this can probably be found online.
Bearded dragons require a controlled environment, particularly when it comes to correct temperature and lighting arrangements. This requires special bulbs to keep them warm and provide enough UV light for their health. These can all be found online of course, but – especially with the EU banning halogen lamps from 1st September 2018 – you probably won’t find many of their supplies in the average supermarket.
You can buy dog-food at absolutely any supermarket, veterinary surgery if they have specialist dietary requirements or even the local service station ( garage ). Not so with a beardie. You will need to find a specialist supplier for their food or breed your own.
You’ll want to find a vet that can deal with reptiles. Every vet in the country can look after your dog or cat. But you need a specialist vet for your beardie. Do a Google search for a herpetologist, or ask your local vet for a referral or recommendation.
Proper Advice Can Be Hard To Come By
We’re hoping that you’ll find this site the go-to site for all your specialist advice regarding your beardie. Unfortunately, you’ll undoubtedly have questions that aren’t answered here. Please leave us a comment if you do – we’ll do our best to answer! If time is of the essence, you’ll find the advice you get from your local pet store is woeful. Unless that pet store absolutely specialises in bearded dragons, the advice you’ll get is likely to be horrible.
If you go into a department store that sells computers, you’ll more than likely get horrible advice on which is the best computer for your requirements. Go to a specialist computer store and you’ll get better advice.
As with other pets, if you can find a dedicated breeder you’ll be much better off than buying through a pet store.
So, Do Bearded Dragons Really Make Good Pets?
In my opinion bearded dragons make a fabulous pet. There is much to consider before buying a bearded dragon to keep as a pet. If you’re passionate about the animal and prepared to put in the funds and the effort to keep them then as you can see, they do make fabulous pets and we love ours to bits.
Provided that you’re prepared to put in the time and effort, they can be very rewarding with their little personalities.
But if you’re thinking of getting a Bearded Dragon ( or any reptile ) as a pet because you think they’re easy or cheap to look after, please don’t. Make sure you have the passion for them before you get one as a pet. You owe it to yourself and the dragon to make sure you’re committed to their health and overall wellbeing.
A Bearded Dragon Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas