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When you have a dog in your home, you’ll be surprised at the countless things it does throughout the day. At every turn, they’ll surprise or confuse you with their extraordinary antics.
We also can’t ignore their bedtime rituals. They are interesting. Our dogs are no different than us when it comes to preparing for sleep.
When your pet is getting ready for bed, you’ll notice that he does a lot of things, such as walking around in circles. Your dog will snuggle in his blanket and dig or scratch at his bed. This gesture indicates that your dog is seeking comfort before falling asleep.
You may even notice this tendency when your dog is napping during the day. There are many reasons why your dog may scratch his bed. Let’s break it down one by one and decipher the reasons behind this behavior.
Why do dogs scratch their beds? 7 possible reasons
Dogs scratch their beds for a variety of reasons. It’s in their blood and one can trace the roots of this behavior back to the time when their ancestors roamed the wild. Bed crawling may even be part of their territorial behavior or comforting behavior. The reasons could be endless. Let’s look at each of them in detail.
1. Reflection of their ancestors’ behavior
To analyze the reasons behind bedtime scratching and digging behavior, it is necessary to understand the primitive behaviors exhibited by wild dogs. Bloodhounds are often obsessed with digging prey out of their dens.
If you have a terrier or hunting dog, he may dig or scratch a lot because that’s what he was bred for. Additionally, dogs living in cold weather will often dig deep into the ground to stay warm. So when your dog is getting ready for bed and scratches his bed or sheets before going to sleep, you can conclude that this behavior is hardwired into them and that they are copying their ancestors.
2. Territorial behavior
The tendency of dogs to mark their territory is not well known. Dogs have a unique way of marking their territory. They will investigate the location through a thorough sniff. They then use urine markers to divide their space. Urine markings are more common in unneutered males.
However, spayed or neutered dogs may also undergo urine marking. Now, when they scratch or dig in their bed, that’s another way of marking their territory because they have scent glands on their paw pads and toes. If you have multiple dogs in your home, they may mark out a spot on the bed by digging, scratching, and pawing to let each other know it belongs to them.
3. Due to stress or anxiety
When a dog is stressed, you can tell it in their gestures. Their pupils will dilate and they will blink rapidly. You will also notice that their ears stand upright while their tail remains tucked. Now, if your dog is showing some or all of these signs and is also scratching the bed compulsively, he may be stressed about something.
If you primarily observe him burrowing into the sheets and acting stressed at night, you may deduce that something about bedtime is making your dog anxious.
Maybe he gets scared when it’s dark, or maybe he doesn’t adjust to his bedding. Maybe you have a new dog home, and the old dog doesn’t feel safe about his territory being taken over. So, to secure his own space, he indulged in extensive scratching of his bed. The room he sleeps in may be noisy. Your dog is scratching his bed more and more because he can’t tolerate loud sounds.
4. Comfort yourself
In order to get a comfortable sleep, don’t we fluff our pillows before or while sleeping? The same goes for dogs. When you see your dog scratching and curling their bed or sheets, turning them into a ball, it probably means they are creating a cozy sleeping space for themselves.
You can even connect this trait to the habits of their ancestors. They live in the wild and often have to live on hard surfaces, which they clean by scraping, softening them and covering them with leaves.
So, when you notice your dog has scratched their bed before sleep, you might conclude that they do it instinctively. Your dog is working hard to settle his bedding into something comfortable and worthy of sleep.
Dogs are curious animals, eager to learn and understand everything around them. They have powerful noses through which they sense their surroundings.If you notice your dog playfully jumping up and down on the bed and scratching anxiously, the reason isn’t sleep.
It could be something else. Your dog has most likely picked up a scent and is scratching desperately at the sheets and pillows to retrieve toys or food he suspects are inside.
6. Adjust the temperature
This is again a habit, and your dog may adopt this behavior instinctively. In wild habitats, dogs often use their paws to clear snow to warm cold surfaces. Likewise, in hot weather, they will try their best to find a cool place to sleep comfortably.
So when your dog repeats the same behavior at home, he will instinctively seek out a warm or cool spot in his bed. If that were the reason, he wouldn’t do it often; it would 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 make sure his surroundings are safe before going to sleep.
This is again a copy of the behavior of our ancestors. In the wild, dogs face several challenges and must adopt survival strategies to protect themselves from harmful predators. Therefore, before going to bed, they scan their surroundings thoroughly to make sure they are clear of any potential threats.
Therefore, you can decipher the way your dog is scratching and circling the bed to survey his environment to make sure everything around him is safe.
Should I let my dog scratch his bed?
If your dog occasionally scratches his bed, that’s okay. However, if his behavior reaches a level where it becomes annoying or interferes with your daily life, you should find ways to stop it.
Additionally, if your dog is showing signs of stress or pain while scratching, you shouldn’t treat it as part of his habitual behavior. You have to resolve it as quickly as possible and find out the root cause for a quick fix.
How to stop your dog from scratching the bed? 3 possible solutions
If your dog has developed a habit of scratching his bed, you must find a way to stop him from doing the same thing.
Additionally, if your dog is anxious or stressed about something, you should identify the underlying problem and relieve your dog’s mood. Here are some things you need to do:
1. Find out the reason for his anxiety
If you’ve determined that your dog is scratching the bed frequently because of anxiety, it’s important to understand the triggers. Does your dog scratch his bed when you’re not around, no matter the time of day? He may be suffering from separation anxiety. Your dog will feel lonely without you in the home.
To combat this problem, you must ensure that your dog is stimulated both physically and mentally. Sometimes, if dogs get less exercise and don’t have much to do throughout the day, they will resort to destructive activities, including bed scratching.
When you teach your dog from an early age to live in a crate, at least part of the day, it will help him get used to living on his own, at least for set periods of time.
If the room your dog is in seems a bit noisy and is causing stress, be prepared to move your pet to a quiet corner of the house.
So if stress is the reason your dog is compulsively scratching the bed, it will stop when you remove the trigger.
2. Give them comfortable beds and bedding
Another reason why your dog may be scratching the bed compulsively may be that the area where he sleeps is uncomfortable. By scratching, he may be looking for a better sleeping position in the bed. So, it’s time to consider whether your dog’s bedding is comfortable.
He may need a more comfortable bed. You may consider a foam bed as it is soft and can improve your dog’s sleeping position. Donut-shaped beds are perfect for small breeds of dogs who like to curl up in a ball while sleeping.
This is a good choice for brachycephalic dogs like pugs and French bulldogs. This is because it provides extra support to their neck and head, promoting normal breathing. Also, on cold days, give your dog a blanket so he can find a warm place to lie down.
If your dog is scratching his bed because he’s uncomfortable, improving his bed and bedding will help solve the problem.
3. Be prepared to dig a hole
As mentioned earlier, dogs will also scratch the bed out of a digging instinct. There are some breeds, such as Beagles, Border Collies, Siberian Huskies, and Jack Russell Terriers, that were bred for digging.
You can arrange a foraging box or dig hole to satisfy their digging instinct. This way, your dog will be less willing to dig and scratch in his bed.
Why does my dog scratch my sheets?
The reason your dog scratches your sheets is similar to the reason he scratches your bed. Here are a few:
- If your dog prefers to sleep in your bed instead of his own, you’ll often see him scratching at your sheets. The reason may be that he doesn’t like the uneven shape of the sheets and wants them straightened to make them more comfortable.
- It could also be to acclimate yourself to the temperature outside. When it’s too cold, your dog may crawl into the sheets to stay warm. When it’s hot, he may prefer sleeping on the sheets.
- When you have multiple dogs in your home, a lot of scratching or digging at the bed and sheets is a sign that he is asserting his territory. This is his expression, this is his space and he doesn’t want anyone to intrude. However, too much territorial behavior can lead to aggressive behavior that must be curbed immediately.
- Your dog may have smelled food from the sheets and is looking for food or treats.
- If you have linen sheets, you’ll often find that your dog will scratch them to keep warm, especially when it’s cold outside.
Frequently Asked Questions
Assume that your dog is engaging in related behaviors in addition to scratching the bed, such as licking blankets, breathing heavily, panting, or showing other signs of discomfort. In this case, you must talk to your veterinarian immediately. Your dog may be in pain, which must be addressed immediately.
If you notice your dog circling and scratching his bed, it could mean a number of things. He may be used to doing this. Your dog may even survey his territory thoroughly to make sure everything is going well.
There could be many reasons. When your dog is suffering from arthritic pain, he may scratch and circle in bed, taking a long time to settle into a comfortable position. In this case, a doctor’s consultation is required.
In most cases, your dog will scratch or dig into his bed and sheets to settle himself before bed. This is normal. However, when this becomes a habit and you see him scratching the bed non-stop, even when it’s not time to go to bed, you have to dig deeper into the matter.
Your dog may be stressed or unwell. Whatever it is, when you find the cause, you can help your dog get out of trouble faster.
Dr. Lillian is a DVM with a passion for raising awareness about dogs. She shares her expertise through her blog at canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology and urgent care. Dr. Lillian is committed to animal welfare.