I briefly talked about the importance of soaking towards the bottom of this page but wanted to expand a little and give it a page of its own, due to what seems to be a great deal of confusion lately in the dragon community. I'm going to break this into sections for ease of reading.
Soaking does several things to benefit your dragon. It helps with hydration. Even if your dragon doesn't drink when you soak him/her, it gives them the chance to do so. It is also probably one of the easiest things you can do to help prevent dehydration, especially in babies, who dehydrate easier. It also aids in removing stuck-on feces from the tail, feet, and belly.
Soaking also helps keep the skin clean, which helps in deterring various types of skin infections and other issues. Because they're in a captive environment, dragons aren't able to use other measures as they would in the "wild" (even though I hate wild to captive-bred comparisons), in order to accomplish the same things that soaking does. Additionally, it also helps with shed, to relieve any shedding areas where its falling off.
Well ... its quite easy. All you need is a tub or bin. Some people like to use their bathtubs or a bathroom sink, depending on dragon size, but I prefer just a big, plastic bin. You want to make sure the sides are high enough where the dragon can't jump out and accidentally injure him/herself.
I fill the bin with a shallow amount of room temperature to slightly warm water, so that the water level comes up to around mid-joint leg height (halfway up the elbows or legs, since that's likely easier to picture).
How hot do I make it? Warm, like you would for a baby. I've heard some people say "well I don't have kids, so I don't understand." Ok, you win. Warm. Not cold, not hot. Warm. Room temperature is fine also. Comfortably warm when you put your hand in it or by letting it sit at room temperature.
I then let the dragon soak and I also gently scrub off any feces from tails and feet with a soft toothbrush.
I don't let the water get too cold, so I keep them in each for about 10-15 minutes or so, and then either remove them or replace with warm water, if I want them to soak longer (note I use the term "them" in general but you should be soaking dragons one at a time, if you have multiple dragons). When they're done, I take them out, pat dry, and then put the dragon back in his or her cage to bask.
Well ... I've got you covered here, too. There seems to be a whole lot of ridiculousness lately about this. I wrote a post for our facebook group that talked about this and for ease, will copy the post here.
Let's have a quick talk about the soaking arguments. I understand there's a group or who the fuck ever, telling people in the community that soaking their dragons is dangerous. Let me explain to you some of the reasons why that's incorrect.
Bathing is probably of the easiest ways to help keep your dragon healthy. Soaking in water does several things. It --
1. keeps them hydrated. No, they don't absorb water so none of that nonsense. But it gives them the chance to drink.
2. It cleans their scales. It gets the built-up feces off their feet, from in-between their toes, on their tails, and everywhere else.
3. It helps keep the vent area clean, which is the PRIMARY area where yellow fungus starts. *For clarification, its not the only area where it can start, but one of the areas its most readily noticed.
You say - but Mary, people are saying that it forces them to poop before they're ready to, and it will dehydrate them and could kill them.
Let's put this in perspective. Whoever is telling you that a dragon taking a shit, whether in water or not, will dehydrate them does not understand the digestive process, at all. Feces is the LEFTOVER matter, combined with EXCESS water (if well-hydrated), after all necessary nutrients have already been pulled from that matter. There are 458,985,745,748 dragons who never poop in water. Either way, it is the LEFTOVER material being excreted as a waste product.
You say -- but Mary, they tell me that wild dragons don't have access to that much water.
Please. Do not ever. ever. compare wild dragons to captive bred dragons. In captivity, YOU control literally every single aspect of their conditions. In the wild, they're not in a confined area where their meals, including 100% of their nutrition and diet, their temps, health care, and virtually every need are coming from YOU -- not the wild. Also, yes, dragons "in the wild" are exposed to various forms of water at different times, depending on season. Its not completely, 100% dry in Australia.
So you say -- but Mary, water stresses them.
Yes, for some it does, and no, as long as you're doing it right, its not the type of stress that we need to get all bent out of shape about. If you've ever seen a dragon black down to its stomach, THAT is stress. Putting a dragon in an inch of water for 15 minutes to get them clean and give them the CHANCE to drink, even if they don't use it, is seriously not going to do brain damage to your dragon due to a slightly elevated awareness level, where they're seen trying to get out of the water. Let's get a grip here.
If your dragon's freaking out, put your hand or a washcloth under them. It comforts many dragons in water, to be able to feel something under them, that they can grab onto and stand or sit/lay on.
Soaking is about the easiest thing you can do to provide for good health of your dragon. Guess what? The fastest way babies fail to thrive properly and dehydrate is by denying them soaks.
Still have questions or are unsure about this or any other topic? Head over to our facebook group and let us help you sort it all out. Our admins/members/keepers range anywhere from new keepers to those with decades of experience in every area of dragon care, from breeding to keeping, to working with rescues, vet assistants, and researchers.
Everyone is welcome to join, whether you're a new keeper, just interested in dragons, or a seasoned dragon keeper or breeder.
Just in case anyone was curious on the reasoning behind why dragons can't absorb through their vents - Years ago, it was believed that dragons were able to absorb water through their vents.
The main presumption behind this was that researchers were able to observe the opening and closing of the external cloaca while soaking. As time progressed, and research followed, it was discovered that because of the anatomy of the cloaca and the sphincter muscle, actual water uptake through the vent would be scientifically impossible.
Dr. Wade Sherbrooke, who is known as a world-leading authority and scientist in the field, then did numerous studies to confirm this assumption, which showed that no water was taken up through the vent, by performing a series of dye tests while soaking. His results were then successfully repeated by other researchers.
In order to properly hydrate your dragons, they can drink while soaking and they also get their water intake from feeding a well-balanced diet. I also mist all greens and veggies for additional water content and I make sure my feeders for them are properly hydrated as well.