When you have a canine at home, you will be amazed to see the myriad of things he does throughout the day. Each moment, they may surprise or puzzle you with their remarkable antics.
We cannot ignore their bedtime rituals either. They are interesting. Our dogs are no different than us when it comes to gearing themselves for sleep.
When your pet is preparing to sleep, you will find him doing many things, like circling all over the place several times. Your dog will snuggle into his blanket, digging or scratching his bed. This gesture shows that your dog is seeking comfort before falling asleep.
You may even notice this tendency in your dog during his daytime naps. There are many reasons why your dog will scratch his bed. Let us look at each of them and decipher the reason behind this behavior.
Why do Dogs Scratch their Bed? 7 Possible Reasons
Dogs will scratch their beds due to various reasons. It’s in their lineage, and one could derive the root cause of this behavior to the times when their ancestors roamed about in the wild. Scratching the bed could even be a part of their territorial or comforting behavior. The reasons may be endless. Let us take a look at each one of them in detail.
1. A Reflection of their Ancestral Behavior
To analyze the reasons behind the bedtime rituals of scratching and digging, it is essential to understand the primitive behavior displayed by the dogs in the wild. Hunting dogs would often indulge in digging out their prey from the dens.
If you have a terrier or hound, he will likely resort to digging or scratching too often, as that’s what he was bred for. Also, dogs living in cold weather usually warm themselves by digging deep down the ground. So, when your dog is preparing to sleep and scratches his bed or sheets before bedtime, you could conclude that this behavior is inherent in them and they are replicating their ancestors.
2. Territorial Behavior
The tendencies in dogs to mark their territories aren’t unknown. Dogs have a unique way of marking their domain. They will investigate the spot by thoroughly sniffing it. Then, they will resort to urine marking to demarcate their space. Urine marking is more prevalent among unneutered males.
However, neutered or spayed dogs may also engage in urine marking. Now, when it comes to scratching or digging at their beds, that’s another way of marking their territory, as their paw pads and toes possess scent glands. If your home has multiple dogs, by digging, scratching, and pawing, they may demarcate a spot on their bed to let the other know that it is theirs.
3. Due to Stress or Anxiety
When dogs are stressed, you can see it in their gestures. Their pupils will appear dilated, and they will rapidly blink their eyes. You will also notice their ears standing erect while the tail remains tucked. Now, if your dog is showing some or all of these signs and has additionally indulged in compulsive scratching of his bed, he may be stressed about something.
If you mainly observe him digging into his sheets at night and appearing stressed, you may deduce that something about bedtime makes your dog anxious.
Perhaps he is scared when it is dark or may not be able to adjust to his bedding. It could be that you have a new dog home, and the old dog is insecure about his territory being occupied. So, to secure his space, he indulges in extensive scratching of his bed. The room where he sleeps might be noisy. Unable to bear the loud sounds, your dog increasingly scratches his bed.
4. To Comfort Themselves
Don’t we fluff our pillows before or during bedtime for a comfortable night’s sleep? Ditto for dogs. When you see your dogs scratching and curling their bed or sheets, reducing them into a ball, that could mean they are creating a comfortable sleeping space for themselves.
You could even relate this trait to the habits of their ancestors. They lived in the wild and often had to dwell on hard surfaces, which they cleaned by scratching to make them soft and cover them with leaves.
So, when you find your dogs scratching their bed before sleeping, you might conclude that they are doing it instinctively. Your dog is trying to settle his bedding to make it comfortable and worthy of sleeping.
Dogs are curious beings keen to know and comprehend everything around them. They have powerful noses through which they perceive their surroundings. If you find your dog jumping playfully on the bed and scratching it anxiously, the reason isn’t to sleep.
It could be something else. Chances are that your dog has smelt something and is desperately scratching the sheets and pillows to retrieve the toy or edibles he suspects inside.
6. To Regulate Temperature
This is, again, habitual, and your dog is likely to resort to this behavior instinctively. In the wild habitat, dogs would often warm a cold surface by clearing off the snow with their paws. Similarly, they would scratch their way to find a cool spot for a comfortable sleep during excessive heat.
So when he repeats the same behavior at home, your dog instinctively searches for a warm or cool spot on the bed. If this is the reason, he won’t do it often; it will be during temperature fluctuations.
7. For Safety
If you often find your dog circling his bed and scratching it before going to sleep, it could be that he is trying to take precautions and ensure things are safe in his surroundings before going to sleep.
This is, again, a replication of the ancestral behavior. In the wild, dogs faced several challenges and had to adopt survival strategies to protect themselves against harmful predators. So, before sleeping, they would scan their environment thoroughly to ensure it is free of any potential threats.
Therefore, you could decipher your dog’s gesture of scratching and circling his bed to investigate his environment to ensure all is safe around him.
Should I Let My Dog Scratch his Bed?
If your dog scratches his bed once in a while, then that’s fine. But, if his behavior gets to the point of annoyance or hampers your daily living, you should find ways to stop it.
Moreover, if, alongside scratching, your dog shows signs of stress or pain, then you cannot pass it off as one of his habitual behaviors. You must address it soon and get to the root cause for a quick resolution.
How to Stop Dogs from Scratching their Bed? 3 Possible Solutions
If scratching their bed has become habitual for your dog, you must find ways to stop him from doing the same.
Moreover, if your canine is anxious or stressed about something, you should find out the underlying issue and relieve your dog. Here are some things to do from your end:
1. Identify the Cause of his Anxiousness
If you have identified that your dog’s frequent scratching of his bed is because of anxiety, you would have to understand the trigger. Does your canine mostly scratch his bed when you are not around, irrespective of the time of the day? It could be that he is suffering from separation anxiety. Your dog feels lonely at home without you.
To address this issue, you must ensure that your dog is physically and mentally stimulated. Sometimes, if dogs are less exercised and do not have much to do throughout the day, they resort to destructive activities, including scratching their beds.
When you teach your dog to live in a crate since his puppy days, at least for some times of the day, it will help him get accustomed to living by himself, at least for a stipulated period.
If the room where your dog seems a little noisy, which is also the cause for his stress, then make provisions to shift your pet to a quieter corner of the house.
So, if stress were the reason behind your dog’s compulsive scratching of his bed, it would stop the moment you remove the trigger.
2. Give Them a Comfortable Bed and Bedding
Another reason for your dog’s compulsive scratching of the bed could be when his sleeping place isn’t comfortable. By scratching, he is perhaps searching for a better spot in the bed to sleep. So, it’s time to consider whether your dog’s bedding is comfortable.
He may need a more comfortable bed. You could consider a foam bed as it is soft and will enhance your dog’s sleeping posture. Doughnut-shaped beds are perfect for smaller breeds who prefer curling into a ball when sleeping.
It is a good option for brachycephalic dogs such as Pug and French Bulldog. This is because it gives extra support to their neck and head, facilitating proper breathing. Additionally, provide blankets to your dog on colder days so that he may find a warm spot to recline.
If your dog scratches his bed due to discomfort, then improving his bed and bedding will help solve the problem.
3. Make Provisions for a Digging Pit
As mentioned, dogs also scratch their bed out of their digging instinct. There are some breeds, like the Beagle, Border Collie, Siberian Husky, and Jack Russell Terrier, which were bred to dig.
You could arrange for a foraging box or digging pit to satisfy their digging instinct. This way, your dog will be less inclined to dig and scratch his bed.
Why is My Dog Scratching My Bed Sheets?
The reasons for your dog scratching bed sheets will be similar to his scratching your bed. Here are a few of them:
- If your dog likes sleeping on your bed instead of his own, you will often see him scratching your bed sheets. The reason could be that he dislikes the lumpy formations of the bedsheets and wishes to straighten them for his comfort.
- It could also be to adjust himself to the temperature outside. When it is too cold, your dog may dig into the bedsheets for warmth. When hot, he may prefer sleeping on top of the sheets.
- When you have multiple dogs at home, extensive scratching or digging of beds and bedsheets indicates that he is highlighting his territory. It is his way of expressing that is his space and he doesn’t want anyone else to intrude. However, too much territorial behavior could trigger aggression that must be curbed immediately.
- Your dog might have got the smell of food from the bedsheet, and he is searching to get a treat or snack.
- If you have a linen bed sheet, you could often find your dog scratching at it for warmth, especially when it is cold outside.
Suppose your dog has associated behaviors besides scratching his bed, like licking blankets, breathing heavily, panting, or showing other signs of discomfort. In that case, you must talk to the vet at once. Your dog may be in pain, which must be addressed immediately.
If you find your dog moving in circles and scratching his bed, that may mean many things. He may be doing it habitually. Your dog could even be thoroughly investigating his domain to ensure all is well.
The reasons may be umpteen. When your dog has arthritic pain, he may scratch and circle his bed repeatedly, taking a long to settle down to a comfortable posture. In such cases, a doctor’s consultation is the need of the hour.
In most cases, your dog will scratch or dig at his bed and sheets to settle himself before bedtime. This is quite normal. However, when it becomes a habit, and you see him scratching his bed constantly, even when it isn’t time to sleep, you must delve deep into the matter.
Your dog could be stressed or unwell. Whatever it may be, when you find out the cause, you can help your canine come out of the situation sooner.
Dr. Lillian is a D.V.M. passionate about promoting awareness of dogs. She shares her expertise through her blogs on canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology, and emergency care. Dr. Lillian is committed to contributing to animal welfare.