Your dog is weird.
Yes, no matter who you are or what kind of dog you have, your dog is weird. He or she has all kinds of little behaviors that make perfect sense to him or her but that absolutely baffles human beings. While some of them might be a little annoying, almost all of them are worth understanding.
One of those behaviors that probably deserves a little more attention is also one of those behaviors that seems the most universal. You’ve seen it a million times – the little fluffing dance that your dog does right before he or she lays down. On a good day, this means that your dog is gathering up blankets with his or her paws. On a bad day, though, it means that your dog is waking up in the middle of the night to start scratching at your brand-new sheets.
This scratching behavior is incredibly common but also misunderstood. Before you decide to get angry at your precious pup, you might want to look at some of the very common reasons why so many dogs engage in this kind of bizarre behavior.
Why Your Dog Scratches at His or Her Bed
As with so many other dog behaviors, you’re probably not going to be able to pin down just one reason why your dog is digging at the bed. The good news, though, is that you can look at a host of potential reasons to gain some insight into your dog’s behavior.
According to Hill’s Pet, one of the big reasons why your dog scratches at his or her bed has more to do with regulating his or her temperature than anything else. This is something that goes back to ancient canine behavior but that actually has a lot of bearing on your dog’s comfort in his or her house.
If you think about it, digging makes a lot of sense from a wild dog’s point of view. If it’s hot, your dog would have to dig to get out of the heat. If it’s cold, that same behavior would help your dog to get out of the wind. Does that matter in the modern world? Maybe not as much, but the instincts are still there.
One of the big theories surrounding this behavior is that your dog’s instincts are taking over. Your dog is trying to find a perfectly comfortable temperature in his or her bed and the scratching makes your dog feel like he or she is doing a bit of temperature regulation on his or her own. Think of this behavior as being rooted in the same reasons why you might move your own blankets around at night.
A Scent Thing
Dogs love nothing more than a good stink.
If you’ve ever observed your dog while they were playing outside, you know how much your dog loves to spread his or her smell. This actually goes back to those same ancient dog instincts, except this time your dog is trying to mark his or her territory. In a very real way, your dog is scratching at his or her bed to show that it belongs to him or her.
Not sure how this works? It might come as a bit of a surprise, but your dog actually has scent glands in his or her feet. That’s why your dog loves to scratch at things outside and why your dog might be scratching at his or her bed.
The Safety Check
Your dog’s choice to scratch at his or her bed might not be an important part of the behavior. In fact, it might be part of a much more elaborate safety check that your dog is doing before he or she goes to sleep.
You already know this silly little ritual by heart. First, your dog scratches at his or her bed a few times. Then, your dog does a few little circles before collapsing on the bed. It looks hilarious, yet it’s something that virtually all dogs do before they’ll accept that the bed is ready for them.
While this might make a bed comfortable, it also serves as a valid way to check the general safety of the area. Your dog’s scratches are literally checking of parasites and predators, while the turn helps your dog to get a quick look at the area before going into a vulnerable sleep state.
This is another spot where we’ll need to go back to ancient and wild canines for some guidance.
If your dog was out on the plains, he or she would need to make his or her own place to sleep. For the most part, that means digging a hole, just like we talked about earlier. What it also means, though, is making sure that predators can’t see him or her – usually through flattening out some grass for natural camouflage.
That’s right – in this case, your dog may very well be digging into his or her blankets to satisfy some kind of ancient hiding instinct. It’s not necessarily something that makes sense for a modern-day pampered pooch, but it is something that would make sense for many of his or her ancestors.
This is one that’s typically only present in female dogs, but it’s surprisingly even present among those who have been spayed.
Dogs are creatures that can have some surprisingly large broods. When mother dogs give birth, they need a comfortable space that will have room for all of their babies. This means digging out a nice, warm spot in the blankets that have room for all of her theoretical puppies.
While typical female dogs mostly do this because their biological clocks are ticking, you really need to pay attention to this kind of behavior if your dog is actually pregnant. If this is the case, your dog is almost certainly getting ready to give birth to her own litter.
Hiding Toys and Treats
Dogs are sneaky, aren’t they? I think every dog owner knows that your dog often tries to (badly) hide treats or toys around the house, but what we might not remember is that your dog will actually use his or her bed as a primary hiding spot.
Yes, your dog may actually be digging at his or her bed because he or she has either hidden something delicious (or, to us, gross) there or because your dog is currently trying to hide something. No, he or she isn’t going to end up being very successful and you’re almost certainly going to find what he or she is trying to hide fairly easily but it’s still a behavior that shows that your dog is thinking and engaged.
Honestly, this isn’t a behavior about which you are going to have to worry. Sure, try and discourage it if your dog is actively digging up your garden or has decided that your shoes need to be a treasure chest, but for the most part this is just another one of those silly behaviors with which dog owners must learn how to live.
Not all of the reasons why your dog might dig are harmless. In fact, some dogs scratch at their beds not to satisfy their instincts or to hide treats, but rather because they are just too nervous in their daily lives. These dogs can generally be identified by the fact that they are scratching much more than often.
This is sometimes easy to solve. If you’ve made a big change in your life – say, moving to a new house or bringing home a new human – you can expect your dog to get a little more scratchy with his or her bed. If you can’t figure out a way to soothe your dog, it might be time to visit the vet to get a better handle on what’s going on.
Steps to Help Stop the Digging Behaviors
As natural as your dog’s digging might be, it’s not always something that you can tolerate. The digging could lead to holes in your carpet or damaged furniture, issues that are costly enough that they must be avoided. If you find yourself dealing with such a situation, you do need to take a few steps to start discouraging your dog’s behavior.
The easiest way to deal with a scratching dog is to redirect the scratching to a place where digging is more appropriate. Giving your dog a big, comfortable bed is always a good idea. Some pet owners have found tremendous amounts of success with covered dog beds, as those beds seem to really speak to a dog’s burrowing instincts. The Diggs Revol crate in combination with their crate cover and Snooz pad is a great solution here.
If a bed doesn’t help, you might want to make sure that you can limit exactly how destructive your dog can get. The easiest way to do this is by trimming your dog’s nails, a process that might actually make your dog a little less likely to scratch up your furniture after it is done.
Finally, you can try to replace your dog’s behavior. If your dog starts to dig at something, try to immediately redirect him or her to a favorite toy. This will help your dog start to associate whatever is setting off his or her scratching instinct with the toy instead, which may change up the behavior.
If all else fails, make sure that you take your dog to the vet. There may be a health issue that has changed the way that your dog behaves, and if that’s the case you’ll definitely want to address the problem sooner rather than later.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do dogs scratch their beds before lying down?
There are many potential reasons why your dog might scratch at his or her bed before lying down. He or she might be trying to get comfortable, to move around his or her bedding in order to hide, or even to make sure that a favorite toy or treat is suitably hidden. Dogs tend to scratch at beds for many different reasons, so make sure to keep an eye on your pet to ensure that he or she isn’t scratching because of any health-related problems.
Why do dogs try to dig on the bed?
Dogs largely try to dig on the bed because of ancient instincts. In the wild, most dogs dig into the ground in order to create a sleep space. This not only helps with temperature regulation, but it keeps them out of the way of other predators, provides a safe spot where they can feel comfortable, and even allows the dog to spread his or her scent over the space. Your dog is simply acting in a way that’s got more to do with his or her ancestral instincts than anything that is going on in his or her modern life.
How do you stop a dog from digging in the bed?
There are a few different tactics you can use. First, you can get your dog his or her own bed so that he or she can dig to his or her heart’s content. If that doesn’t work, though, you will need to try to redirect your dog. If your dog starts to dig, give him or her a toy or provide some other kind of distraction. This will help your dog to associate the digging impulse with different behavior, which could help him or her to stop digging in the bed altogether. If this doesn’t work, you might need to talk to your vet.
Why does my dog scratch the carpet in the middle of the night?
Your dog is probably trying to do one of a few things. If your dog has a toy or treats nearby when scratching, your dog might be trying to hide the object for retrieval later. If not, your dog might be scratching at the ground in an attempt to spread his or her scent in the area so other animals know to whom space belongs. In some cases, your dog might even be scratching at the carpet because he or she is trying to figure out how to make a comfortable sleeping spot, though this has more to do with your dog’s instincts than it has to do with any desire to sleep on the floor.