Taking your bearded dragon outside can be a fun and beneficial experience for both you and your beardie. With just a few precautions, this is both safe and easy to do.
We wrote a complete guide to spending time outside with your bearded dragon that you can see here. But the number one rule we discuss there and that we’ll discuss here is that if you are going to do this, they must be in a harness attached to a leash at all times!
So when people ask if they can take their bearded dragon outside on a leash, the answer is not only yes, but it’s literally the only way you should ever take your bearded dragon outside of the house.
With time and patience, most bearded dragons can be trained to tolerate and even enjoy a harness and leash. This won’t work with every bearded dragon, but many will associate it with going outside in the sun, which they usually love. Harnesses should only be used on mature beardies over 15″ in length.
Keep in mind that using a harness and leash, even on a beardie who has grown to enjoy wearing one, does not mean you will be “walking” your bearded dragon. That’s just not how bearded dragons roll.
But just because you are not “walking” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. As we noted, it’s mandatory gear for taking your beardie outside. And for a few excellent reasons!
Why you need a harness and leash for your bearded dragon
First of all, being outside isn’t the only reason to train your bearded dragon to use a harness and leash. There are plenty of times inside that this will be important.
Keep them from hiding.
If bearded dragons get scared, their first instinct is to run and hide under something. In our home, there is a lot of furniture that’s just too heavy to move. Our bed, a huge desk in our office, and our sectional couch are some examples.
If our beardie decides to hide under one of those things, we’d have to sit around and wait for her to come out. Even if we could move these large items, doing so would risk hurting her as she would surely try to move under the thing we were lifting.
If your beardie is likely to hide like this (and most are, one of the most commonly searched phrases in our search box is “how to find my bearded dragon”), using a leash and harness indoors might be a good idea. This will keep them safely corralled out of harm’s way and within your reach.
Keep them from jumping too far.
Another handy use for a harness and leash is for those of you with fearless/dumb bearded dragons. We can say that because our beloved little Bacardi fits in this category very well. She is both daring and adorably stupid sometimes.
She does not have the sense not to jump off of things that are too high. Tim, her Dad, is 6’6” tall, and more than once, she’s tried to jump off of his shoulder while he is standing.
The same goes if she’s on the back of the couch or even crawling across the bed. She’ll just jump and not even think twice about how far away the floor is.
If your beardie shares this ambition for death-defying leaps, a harness, and leash are almost a must, even if you never take them outside!
Take them to the vet.
For some beardies, this yearly trip to the vet will be the only time they ever get out of the house. This can easily freak them out.
When taking them to the vet, it can be a good idea to keep them in a harness and on a leash. This is true for the trip to the vet and while at the vet for their appointment.
This is the most common reason to use a harness and leash.
Your bearded dragon may be the most docile, slow, easy-to-catch creature ever when inside your home. Once that bearded dragon is outside, however, it’s a whole new ball game! Outside, their instincts kick in, and they become hyper-vigilant, always on the lookout for predators.
If they even think they see a bird, a cat, or any other large object they could consider a threat, they will bolt. Suddenly your slow, lumbering beardie who never did more than walk while inside is now doing their best Usain Bolt impersonation and tearing across your yard to the closest thing they think might keep them from being eaten.
Even once you think your bearded dragon is fully adjusted to being outside, use a harness every time. It only takes being spooked once, and you have a lost bearded dragon on your hands.
Leashes are not for walking.
Too many people hear the word “leash” and envision themselves walking down the street with their beardie trotting along beside them. If that’s you, just forget about that idea. There is almost no chance that’s ever going to happen.
Here are a few of the reasons your bearded dragon shouldn’t be walked like a dog:
- They won’t do it. They aren’t dogs, and most simply won’t cooperate.
- They can easily be stepped on. All it takes is one accident, and it won’t be a good day for your or your bearded dragon.
- You can’t keep them safe from predators this way. Cats, hawks, owls, and small children all want to get their claws on your beardie. The only way to keep them safe when walking around is to carry them.
- You are a giant to them. Most beardies get freaked out when a human stands over them while they are on the floor. You would too!
Not all beardies can be leash trained.
We need to be really honest about this one. Not all beardies are going to take well to a leash or harness. Some will simply refuse, and you’ll never be able to get them adjusted.
Some beardies won’t care at all. Bearded dragons can be very chill like that. If this is your bearded dragon, count yourself lucky.
Most bearded dragons will fall somewhere between those two extremes. They won’t like it at first, but if you put in the effort and go slowly over time (see directions below), they’ll adjust and even come to like being in the harness.
This is especially true if they associate it with being out in direct sunlight. A bearded dragon who has adjusted well to being taken outside would rather be nowhere else than in the sun.
So be patient and try your best, but at some point, it will be evident that you might own one of the bearded dragons that just isn’t going to do the harness and leash thing. And that’s okay! There’s no need to force the issue.
Age and size guidelines for bearded dragon harnesses
If your bearded dragon isn’t at least 15” long or longer, please don’t try to force them into a harness. While harnesses come in multiple sizes (usually small, medium, and large), smaller bearded dragons can easily escape a harness that seems to be the right size.
It’s also essential that your bearded dragon has grown hardy enough to handle being on a harness and leash. They may pull or jerk on them, and younger, smaller dragons could face an injury.
Once they reach that 15” mark, they are usually more than durable enough to handle any incidental pulling or tugging (On their part only! Never pull or tug the leash to try to get your beardie to walk!)
This also eliminates younger beardies from the mix. And it’s more than their size deficiency that should exclude them. Younger bearded dragons are naturally more rambunctious. They are more likely to try to get out of the harness in the first place.
They are also more likely to run away, try to hide, or otherwise cause issues that older beardies are less apt to cause.
For that reason, save the harness for older bearded dragons that are 15” long or longer, and you’ll be in great shape!
What type of harness and leash to buy a bearded dragon
You will have a few choices of what to buy, and like everything else in the world, there are both good and bad options. Here are some general guidelines for buying an effective harness and leash for your beardie.
Rule number one is to always go with a harness. Never use a collar or anything else that is strung around the neck of your bearded dragon! This can easily cause injury or death. It’s also easier for your beardie to escape than a proper harness.
A harness goes under their chest and comes up around their body on the front and back sides of their front legs. It then fastens over their back and attaches to the leash there. It’s like a little vest for your beardie but worn backward.
This is a very safe way to secure your dragon, and it doesn’t put undue pressure or stress on any one part of their body (like their neck if you were to use a collar!).
We also recommend using a harness made specifically for small to medium lizards and bearded dragons. We’ve seen some people recommend harnesses for turtles and other non-lizard-like animals.
If the harness is not made for bearded dragons or similarly sized lizards, you are asking for trouble and escape. They aren’t expensive or hard to find, so stick with something made for a beardie! We’ll give you a list of our favorites towards the end of this article.
The last tip is to get the right size. If you go too small, it will constrict your beardie, and they will not like or want to wear it. If you go too big, they may escape. You may need to try a couple of sizes to find the right one, so keep your packaging so you can return the size that doesn’t fit.
For the leash, most times, that will come with the harness you buy. When that is the case, you’ll have an appropriate leash.
If you are buying the leash separately, avoid leashes made for dogs. Those will have heavy clasps or attachment points that could hurt your bearded dragon with their weight.
In many cases, a length of cord or thin rope will work great. We recommend a length of between 3’-6’ (1m-2m). That’s long enough for slack but not long enough for your beardie to wander off out of your reach.
We have two favorite harness and leash options. Both are available for just a few bucks over on Amazon.
This one is the one we use. It’s simple and effective and comes with 3 different size harnesses to ensure you get the right fit without having to send anything back.
This one is for all you Game of Thrones fans out there. If you’ve ever called yourself the mother of all dragons while playing with your beardie, this is the harness and leash for you!
How to train your bearded dragon to wear a harness and leash
Most bearded dragons will not be fans of wearing either of these at first. It may take some time to get them warmed up to the idea.
Handle your bearded dragon regularly.
This is the best way to make sure that no matter what you are handling them for, they are used to it. Poorly socialized bearded dragons can be challenging to pick up and hold. This makes spending time with them more challenging.
It also makes things like going to the vet a lot harder than they need to be. Regular handling will make you and your bearded dragon’s lives better.
Put the harness on indoors for short periods of time.
Here we aren’t even worried about the leash—just the harness and getting it on and off of them.
We recommend taking them out of their tank, slipping the harness on, and then taking it right off again. If your beardie likes treats, this would be an excellent time to give them one or two.
Get them used to this part of the process before going any further.
The key to successful harness training is baby steps. Img highlight
Next, add the leash, but indoors only.
Once they are used to the harness, clip the leash and let them wander a little inside. Preferably in a room they are familiar and comfortable with. Start with short periods of time and then work your way up to 5-10 minute stretches. More treats are recommended here too!
The goal is for them to be 100% comfortable with the harness and leash before taking them outside into a world that often freaks beardies out the first few times they go.
Take them outside with the harness on, but do not put them down.
You are almost there! This is the last step before letting them wander around on the ground, in a tree, or wherever you decide to take your bearded dragon.
You may only need to do this once or twice, but it’s good to go slow here. Done the right way, you’ll have a beardie who loves going outside with you on their leash. Done wrong, and if even one time they are frightened or traumatized, they may never allow you to harness them again.
Take them outside with the harness and leash on, and let them explore!
If you’ve done all the earlier steps with care and patience, most bearded dragons can get to this point. And this is the fun part! Here is where we can take our beardies outside in the sun for some play, exercise, and mental stimulation!
As with all steps along the way, use positive reinforcements. Pet them, talk to them, and give them treats. They are not nearly as smart as dogs but treats and love still work with bearded dragons.
What not to do once you get outside
There are a few things that you should never do once you get your bearded dragon trained and spending time outdoors. Avoiding these will keep your dragon safe and happy and always willing to wear their harness for you.
Here are your harness and leash training don’ts…
- Don’t try to walk your beardie like a dog.
- Don’t pull them along, trying to get them to walk with you.
- Don’t jerk on the leash or yank on it in any way.
- Don’t suspend your bearded dragon by their harness and leash.
- Don’t get overconfident and take them out of their harness; use it 100% of the time.
- Don’t allow them to eat wild bugs or plants.
- Don’t take them out when it’s too cold (under 70° F) or too hot (over 95° F) img
- Stay away from crowds and unfamiliar children.
That’s it! Just avoid those common-sense things, and you’ll be in great shape! We hope you have as much fun outside in the sun with your beardie as we do!!!
Can I use a small collar or bandana if it’s the right size?
You should never use a collar or a bandana to attach a leash to a bearded dragon. Always use a harness. Collars not only come off easily but can injure your bearded dragon. Stick with a harness made for bearded dragons.
Can I make my own harness and leash?
Yes! There are some excellent tutorials available online. They are simple to make and can be made out of inexpensive materials or even things you already have around the house!
Do bearded dragons like being outside?
Bearded dragons love to be outside, especially on warm, sunny days. The quality of UVB light coming from the sun is far superior to anything created by artificial light. Getting your bearded dragon out in the sun is not only something they enjoy, but it’s good for them too!