Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Beds?

by Sundays

Black scruffy dog surrounded by cozy white blanket in bed

It’s really funny and cute to watch, but what exactly is your pup doing when they keep digging and scratching at their bed? Here’s some insight on this curious routine.

Most dogs have a pretty funny and cute little bedtime ritual. And every dog parent probably has a video of their pup doing the whole princess-and-the-pea routine in their bed. They might do a little scratching at their bed, then spin around, then do some more scratching, and repeat. 

So why do dogs scratch their beds and circle around like this before they lie down for the night?

If you thought maybe your dog was the only little weirdo doing this, they’re not. It’s pretty much instinctual behavior. 

It’s really funny and cute to watch, but what exactly is your pup doing when they keep digging and scratching at their bed? Here’s some insight on this curious routine.

It’s in their nature.

You know how you might arrange your pillows and blankets before you crawl into bed? It’s the same for dogs. They dig and scratch at their beds to create a comfy nest to sleep in. 

Yes, their little doggy bed is probably already super comfy, but they can’t help the instinct to dig and scratch and move things around a bit. That’s because it’s a nesting instinct they have left over from when their ancestors were out in the wild, making a cozy place for themselves to sleep. 

The ground may have been uneven or hot or covered with leaves and sticks that needed to be cleared away first. Digging at the ground would create a cool little spot that they could curl up in for the night.

They are marking their territory.

For the most part, dogs don’t like to share their sweet sleeping spots. That means they need a way to mark their bed to let other animals know that the spot is taken. 

They don’t want to mark it by peeing where they sleep, but luckily, they have another way to leave their scent on things. Dogs have scent glands in their paws that help them sweat and release fluids. This is the perfect way for a dog to put their scent all over their bed.

It's the best stress relief.

If your dog isn’t settling down for a nap, but is just digging frantically in their bed or the couch or even in your bed, it could be an attempt to self-soothe. Digging is an enjoyable and natural pastime for dogs, and they sometimes do it as a calming ritual when they are anxious. 

Look for clues like what’s happening around them or in the household when they start digging this way. Do they do it when you’re home or away? Your pup may even do it if they’re bored to try to make their own fun.

They're finding hidden treasure.

This is probably the most obvious answer. Dogs love hiding and burying things that are precious to them, like toys, treats, or even dirty socks. That way no one else can find their stash, and they can dig the stuff up later when they want it. 

One great hiding spot is in their own bed. If your dog hid something there, they might be digging to try to get it out. You’ll know this is the case soon enough, when they retrieve whatever (hopefully not stinky or gross) thing it is that they hid.

They have a case of the zoomies.

Now, there are times when dogs get so excited that they might have the zoomies and/or run over to a bed or couch and have a digging fit. Watch for happy barks and wagging tails and wiggly rear ends. 

This can happen if they think they’re going to go out for a walk or if you just got home, or some other exciting thing is about to happen. 

How to Stop Your Dog From Scratching Their Beds

If the scratching and digging isn’t bothering you or ruining your dog’s bed, the next step is to make sure it’s not related to an issue. Look for signs to see if it might be an anxious or bored behavior and what might be causing it. If you’re concerned, ask your vet about the behavior and what the next steps might be to help your pup. 

In cases where there’s an issue or if your dog is destroying their bed or furniture, you’ll definitely want the scratching to stop. Here are some tips:

  • Get a bed that’s made from super-strong dig-proof material. They’re usually labeled as being “chew-proof” and may even come with a warranty or guarantee. 
  • Try getting some snuffle mats for your pup to root around in for hidden treats to satisfy their need to dig and to help soothe them. 
  • If you have a backyard, set up an area that’s safe for them to dig in. It could even be a sandbox that you would get for a kid.
  • Give your dog other types of calming toys where they have to work to get the treat, like a KONG or a Busy Buddy toy.  
  • Set up a toy box that they can rummage through safely. Fill it with soft stuffed toys and hide some treats at the bottom every day that they can find. 

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