Why Do Bearded Dragons Open Their Mouths? Understanding Beardie Behavior

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If you’ve been studying the behavior of bearded dragons, you probably have a list of questions you couldn’t help but ponder. Beardies do many strange things on a normal day. They can suddenly blacken their beard without reason, run around and lean against the terrarium, or lay still with their mouths wide open like they’re frozen in a scream. If you’re wondering why your beardie opens its mouth now and then, you’ve landed on the jackpot article to explain it to you.

Bearded dragons open their mouths majorly when they are highly heated during basking, or when they feel threatened. To regulate the temperature, beardies will gape (open their mouths) for a few minutes to exchange the high temperature in their bodies with the low temperature around them.

To further understand this act of gaping in bearded dragons, we need to start with all the possible reasons why they open their mouths in the first place. Let’s get into it!

reasons why bearded dragons open their mouths

5 Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Open Their Mouths

There are two major reasons why beardies hang their mouths open with a few other purposes trailing behind. This section provides an engrossing explanation of why your bearded dragon keeps opening its mouth at you or its environment.

1. Your Beardie Is Gaping

If you consider dogs, you’ll notice that they’ll stick their tongues out and pant when they’re hot. This action is equivalent to when a bearded dragon gapes. Beardies cannot sweat as we do, so they have to devise other means to regulate body heat. In this situation, they’ll open their mouths wide, during or after basking, to let out the excess heat they have absorbed. When they do so, the beardies are satisfied with the level of heat that has been absorbed from basking.

2. Your Beardie Is Pissed

If you annoy your bearded dragon, it will flatten its body, blacken its beard, and hang its mouth open hoping to catch a bite out of your hand. There are many things you may be doing to piss your beardie off, and it doesn’t help that they can hold memories. You may be holding them incorrectly, poking or prodding them too hard, or scaring the daylight out of them. Beardies certainly do not like this. So, whenever they see you, they may hang their mouths open hoping you’d take the hint and back off.

3. Your Beardie Feels Threatened

Beardies puff their beards when they perceive danger, and this could be from different – sometimes misunderstood – situations. If your beardie’s terrarium is close to the window, they may hang their mouths if they sense a bird flying by or hear loud noises around.

Your beardie may be afraid of their reflection inside the terrarium, or afraid of other pets you have running around. Perhaps you have wallpapers with predator-looking designs that may cause it to feel threatened.

You have to understand that bearded dragons have natural instincts to protect them from any possible threat in the wild. They may be in your home, but these instincts still function to keep them safe. Bearded dragons also are individual animals that will react to every situation in unique ways. Your beardie may be a little more skeptical than another beardie, and that’s a-okay!

4. Your Beardie Is Ready To Mate

Mating seasons for beardies in the wild are during the summer months of Australia when the weather is the hottest. Whether you live in other areas with different seasonal patterns, when the temperature goes up, your sexually mature bearded dragon (18+ months of age) will begin to show these pre-mating signs. These indications include puffing their beards, blackening the beards, stomping around the enclosure, bobbing their heads, and opening their mouths.

5. Your Beardie May Be Sick

Similarly to humans, when the nostrils are clogged, beardies will hang open their mouths to breathe better or as a reflex. This shows that they’re uncomfortable, and thus, may try to gape hoping it would help the situation as it would when they get overheated.

things to do when your bearded dragon open its mouth

5 Things To Do When Your Beardie Keeps Opening Its Mouth

Now that you know the probable reasons why your beardie is hanging its mouth, here are ways you can help your dragon relax:

Check The Temperature In The Enclosure

If your dragon is hot, it will regulate its body temperature by gaping to cool off. While this may be a good thing since your beardie is basking properly, there’s every possibility your pet is too heated and doesn’t know what to do. Remember, the temperature inside the terrarium should be 104° to 107° Fahrenheit in basking spots, and 71° to 77° Fahrenheit in the shaded areas for them to cool. Ensure you maintain the correct temperature at all times. If everything is in check, you can pat yourself on the back because your beardie is more than happy with its basking results.

Also, bear in mind that the basking lamp should be on only one spot of the terrarium where the beardie can go to bask. If it reflects on every part of the enclosure, you’d be subjecting your beardie to forcefully basking with every move.

Gain Your Beardie’s Trust

If your bearded dragon is afraid of you, it will open its mouth in defense when you try to hold or touch it. One way to befriend your pet and gain its trust is by hand-feeding it. Whenever it’s time to feed, wear hand gloves if you must, and allow your beardie to pick the bug or vegetables out of your hand. Slowly but surely, your beardie will learn to relax around you.

Furthermore, do not intentionally yell or scare your beardie. If your dragon is looking threatened, just let them be. They’ll come around when you exercise patience. Do not try to force them into your arms or forcefully pick them up in a bid to befriend them.

Time To Breed Your Beardie

If your bearded dragon is showing pre-mating signs, you can take it to the breeders for mating if you choose to, or breed them yourself if you have two beardies of opposite genders. Breeding a bearded dragon is serious work, and will require you to know the ins and outs of the process. Worry not, I have written a comprehensive article on how bearded dragons mate to help you through the procedure.

Check On The Humidity Levels In The Enclosure

Bearded dragons must be kept in dry environments for them to survive. If their terrarium is humid, they will fall prey to respiratory infections which could even be fatal in the worst-case scenario. The level of humidity in your beardie’s enclosure should be 35 to 40 percent. You should have a hygrometer (view on Amazon) at all times to monitor the humidity in the terrarium.

If you suspect a respiratory infection, immediately contact your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment so that the condition does not escalate.

Remove All Threats From The Environment

If your beardie is threatened, there’s probably something somewhere that is causing it to fear. In this case, try moving it away from the window, away from loud sounds, and away from where your other pets can reach.

In case your beardie is afraid of or aggravated by its reflection, cover three sides of the terrarium with minimalist wallpaper to minimize reflection inside the enclosure. Once the threats are out of the way, your beardie will relax much better.

Will My Bearded Dragon Bite Me?

This will depend on the nature of the pet in question. If you threaten the safety of your beardie, it will bite you without a second thought. Bearded dragons do bite and have quite the teeth and force to deliver an injury. If your beardie is opening its mouth at you and you try to poke or hold it, it can very much turn on you and bite.

Why Does My Bearded Dragon Stick Its Tongue Out?

Your beardie may just be trying to be cheeky, but sticking their tongue out goes in sync with gaping. This is a unique act among beardies, and if your pet is doing so, there’s no need to worry at all. They also do this when feeding so as to properly latch onto their food with their sticky tongues and prevent the food from running away.

Why Does My Beardie Open Its Mouth And Make Noise?

If your bearded dragon is opening its mouth and you can hear a sound from it, it’s probably hissing in displeasure. Perhaps your beardie is threatened or annoyed. If they are not showing other signs of aggression like blackening their beards or bobbing their head, contact your veterinary doctor immediately for something could be terribly wrong with your pet.

The Conclusion

This article highlights and explains the possible reasons why bearded dragons open their mouths. Usually, opening the mouth is a sigh of defense or aggression, but it can very much be your beardie simply gaping. The possibility of respiratory disease is low, but not uncommon. With every suspicion you get, immediately take your pet to the veterinary doctor for a proper evaluation. Good luck!

Photo of author


EL Mehdi (Medi), the founder and voice behind Desired Reptiles. He is a pet lover who loves to discuss about bearded dragons and share the knowledge he gained over time about pet reptiles.