September 1, 2014

In some of our previous articles, we examined the veiled chameleon and the ball python as potential high-selling reptiles. This time around, we’ll take a closer look at a reptile that could very well form the backbone of your store’s reptile sales:  the bearded dragon.

Bearded dragons (genus: Pogona) are natives of Australia’s deserts, particularly the Northern Territory and eastern South Australia. Bearded dragons vary in size based on their species, though average around 18 to 24 inches, with males often larger than their female counterparts. Bearded dragons received their name from a series of spiked scales on the underside of the dragons’ jaw, which darkens and puffs up during breeding, resembling a beard.

Because of their point of origin, bearded dragons have adapted to live in an arid, desert environment. Some native bearded dragons may even go for years without being exposed to liquid water. While many other reptiles require significant humidity in their cage, bearded dragons prefer warm, dry temperatures with a suitable basking spot. Depending on their species, bearded dragons tend to vary in color.  The most common form (Pogona vitticeps) typically appear in shades of gray and brown, though other species  and morphs can vary from red and orange hues all the way to the pale, bleached look of a hypomelanistic dragon.

Aside from their preference for dry environments, bearded dragons have few specific care requirements differing from typical reptiles, making them an appealing pet. We do recommend that a bearded dragon owner have a secure lid for their dragon’s enclosure, as bearded dragons can be accomplished climbers and may pry loose an ill-fitting lid and escape.

Bearded dragons have been on the receiving end of some poor press in recent months, due to a series of news articles linking them to a salmonella outbreak affecting approximately 130 individuals. In light of this, we continue to stress that personal cleanliness and safety are paramount when dealing with any animals, not just reptiles. Proper hand-washing and animal care minimizes the risk of any disease transmission, regardless of animal.

Further, a properly trained staff can share their own knowledge with your customers, ensuring that the animals you sell remain in the hands of responsible, well-educated consumers. The best counter-measure to the spread of disease is prevention, which stems from a properly trained staff that follows sanitization protocols.

In addition to educating your staff on proper hygiene technique, ensure that your staff has the necessary tools to both keep themselves safe and keep reptiles happy and healthy. Ensure that cages are cleaned regularly with disinfectant. During cleaning, mandate that your staff wear gloves and other protective gear and wash their hands thoroughly before moving onto another task. Consider installing hand sanitizer stations near your reptile displays, so that both customers and staff can clean their hands at any given moment.

Despite the recent bad press, bearded dragons continue to dominate the reptile market, outselling their closest reptile kin by a sizable margin. One massive reason for this comes from the bearded dragon’s general temperament. Bearded dragons tend to be docile and personable, often enjoying being touched and handled by their owners.

Further, bearded dragons are diurnal, rather than nocturnal, meaning that the dragons are active at the same time as their owners. Their natural curiosity, coupled with their general predilection towards handling, make bearded dragons ideal pets for your customers.

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