Like people, dogs can have some bizarre bedtime rituals. While you like to fluff your pillow a dozen times before going to sleep, your pooch likes to dig, scratch, and finally circle its bed before plopping down for a snooze. If you’re witnessing this behavior every night, you’re probably wondering why dogs do it!
So, why do dogs dig in their beds? Digging is an instinctual behavior for dogs, and all dogs will dig a little or a lot at some point. The most common reason why dogs dig and scratch their beds is to make them comfortable. Other potential reasons include anxiety, marking territory, creating a nest, and regulating temperature.
This type of digging behavior is called denning and is a natural instinct, though it can quickly leave your leather couch in shreds! Keep on reading to learn why your dog digs and scratches in their bed and how to stop it!
Different Reasons Why Dogs Dig or Scratch in Bed
As mentioned above, digging is a completely natural and normal dog behavior. While some breeds like terriers were specifically bred for digging holes and flushing out vermin, all dogs will dig (source)! Albeit some less than others!
Here’s why dogs do it:
Just like you love to arrange your pillows and blankets before calling it a night, your dog may feel the same. Digging at their bed allows your dog to get their bed just right to feel comfortable and protected all night long.
2. To Regulate Their Temperature
You may find your dog digging and scratching at its dog bed, pillows, blankets, or sofa when they are feeling too hot or too cold.
While our dogs no longer live in the wild this type of behavior is a leftover instinct from times when temperature played a vital role in their survival.
In hot climates, a well-dug hole can serve as a sleeping area and protect the dog from the scorching heat during the day. In cold climates, a hole can serve as a warm and dry shelter that will keep a dog safe from freezing during a storm.
3. To Mark Territory
Marking territory is another potential reason why dogs scratch and dig their beds and blankets.
Cats, dogs, and other four-legged animals have scent glands at the bottom of their paws. These scent glands secrete distinct pheromones and allow your dog to spread their scent around.
Scratching and digging can be your dog’s way of saying that the bed is their territory. If you live in a multi-pet household or share your bed with your dog, this may be the reason for your pup’s bedtime ritual
In the wild, dogs will flatten the grass around the spot they choose for sleeping before digging a hole to lie in. Dogs did this to create a safe place that is comfortable for sleeping and can also keep them hidden and protected against predators.
While this isn’t necessary for dogs living inside, this instinctual behavior is still present and may pop up from time to time.
5. Getting Ready for Puppies
Female dogs will dig at their beds to create a comfortable and safe nest for their puppies to be born in and spend their first couple of weeks in. The whelping box needs to be somewhere where your dog feels completely safe, comfortable, and at ease.
Pregnant dogs start digging and fussing over their nests when they are close to whelping, so keep a close eye on the expecting mom. While female dogs are more than capable of whelping puppies on their own, your pooch will appreciate having you there to comfort and support her.
For the most part, digging is a completely normal canine behavior. However, on rare occasions, digging can become an abnormal behavior.
This usually happens when a dog develops an unhealthy and compulsive relationship with digging and uses it to relieve anxiety. If you notice that your dog’s digging and scratching has become excessive it may be a sign of anxiety, stress, boredom, and lack of mental stimulation.
If you can’t find the cause of your dog’s anxiety, a visit to the vet might be your best bet for tackling this problem.
How to Stop Your Dog from Digging or Scratching in Bed?
Before we go any further, consider whether you really need to stop your dog’s digging. If your pup hasn’t torn their bed to shreds or created a hole in your leather sofa, then there isn’t anything you need to stop.
However, if your pooch has ripped countless dog beds and has now managed to destroy your leather couch an intervention is in order! Here’s what you can do:
1. Keep Their Nails Trimmed
If your dog’s digging and scratching has gone out of hand, start trimming their nails regularly (source). While your pup may continue to scratch, they are less likely to cause serious damage if you keep their nails short.
2. Redirect Their Digging Activities
If you have a backyard you can create a doggy sandbox, a safe place where your dog will be allowed to dig in. To encourage your dog to use their new playground, hide toys and treats in the box for them to dig out and play with.
Also, if your pooch doesn’t already have a bed of their own, get one for them to dig at and sleep in. Consider getting a cave-style nesting bed that will allow your dog to dig and burrow as much as they want to.
3. Increase Their Activity
If your dog seems restless at home and is digging to release pent-up energy, it may need more mental and physical stimulation. Physical activities such as hiking, jogging, cycling, and swimming will tire your dog and get them ready for bed in no time!
You should also keep your dog mentally stimulated by giving them puzzle toys to play with and training them new every single day. This way you will keep your dog entertained and prevent boredom which can result in compulsive digging.
As you can see, there are many different reasons why dogs dig in bed. Digging is a completely natural behavior for dogs, and, for the most part, there’s nothing you need to do to stop it.
However, occasionally a dog may develop an unhealthy relationship with digging, in a sense that it becomes a compulsion. If this seems to be the case, consider what can be making your dog anxious and schedule an appointment with your vet to rule out potential medical issues.