Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Beds?

Everyone has a bedtime routine. For us, brushing our teeth and preparing our office or school clothes for the following day are the most common activities we do before snoozing off.

Now, our dogs have a bedtime routine, too and that is scratching the bed before settling down for a good, well-deserved rest. Do you ever wonder if this is normal activity or not?

Regardless of age, size, and breed, all dogs scratch their beds before sleeping, be it in the morning, noon, or night. This behavior is an instinct that stems from their ancestors in the wild that is passed on to our domesticated dogs. Our dogs scratch their beds for comfort, warmth, and safety.

In this article, we’d be sharing with you the details as to why your dog scratches its bed. Learning more about this instinctive behavior will help fur parents thoroughly understand the behaviors of our dogs that have been deeply rooted in their systems by their wild ancestors.

Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Beds?

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Several factors cause your pooch to scratch its bed and these could be any of the following: natural instinct, maternal instinct, territorial behavior, and it could be a learned behavior or habit.

Natural Instinct 

Bed scratching is a natural instinct that stems from your dog’s ancestors. It is correlated with issues such as comfort, safety, and warmth. 

For Comfort 

As mentioned, this behavior can be traced back to its forefathers in the wild. Scratching piles of dried leaves, tree trunks, dirt, and pine needles to build a comfortable mound of bedding was done for the comfort of the pack. 

In the case of your domesticated dog, it is scratching its bed out of instinct. Instead of gathering dried debris from the wild, your dog gathers bedding materials like pillows and blankets to build a comfortable sleeping place. 

For Safety 

Not only did your dog’s ancestors in the wild scratch but they also circled and dug sticks, grass, and rocks and formed these into a nest.

This nest not only served as their place to rest but also as a haven for the pack members from their predators in the wild.

By gathering and manipulating the materials available to them, their ancestors concealed their positions, making them less vulnerable to attacks. 

This hiding instinct is one reason why you always see your dog scratching the bed, to feel safer and secure itself from other pets in your home.

For Warmth

Not to forget that weather had also played a role in this behavior in the wild. Burrowing under the leaves and other matters saved them from the harsh temperature in the wild.

The same is true for your domesticated dog, it may be scratching the bed vigorously because it is trying to regulate its body temperature.

During the summer months, you may want to open up more windows or turn on your cooling home devices. And when wintertime comes, bring out those cute doggie shirts for added warmth.

Maternal Instinct 

Bed scratching is also related to motherhood.

Apart from maternal instinct, hormones also ‘dictate’ to pregnant dogs to build a safe place for their puppies.

This is why the intensity and the frequency of dog scratching behaviors increase when pregnant dogs are nearing their ‘date with a stork’.

The same can be said during false pregnancies. Dogs who may think that they are pregnant tend to behave like they’re about to give birth. Hence, they’d build a nest by scratching the bed before sleeping.

Territorial Behavior 

Dogs, by nature, are territorial. You are most likely aware that dogs, more so the males, urinate on things as their way of claiming these as their own.

But there’s another method of marking territories and that is through scratching their beds. Did you know that our dogs have scent glands located on their paws

Scratching their beds leaves a distinctive smell on the beddings and other inanimate objects. On your end, you may only see it as tattered bedding, but for your pooch, it’s a ‘kingdom’ that is built, and no dog can use that space otherwise, it spells ‘W-A-R’. 

For some dogs, this bed-scratching behavior may intensify if a new pet is introduced in the household.

Learned Behavior Or Habit

This bed-scratching behavior can also be learned or mimicked from another dog

This is especially true if you have a new puppy in the house because dogs tend to mimic the behaviors of other dogs.

So, if your other dog scratches the bed with joy and fun, the other one may just join in and follow suit. 

You may now ask if there’s such a thing as excessive bed-scratching behaviors? Can these still be classified under instinctual behaviors?

Is It Normal For Dogs To Scratch Their Beds?

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As we’ve seen, bed-scratching is instinctual. But, there are some cases when a dog scratches the bed vigorously as a result of stress or anxiety and flea infestation. 

These two reasons may not be instinctual but they still fall under the realm of normal dog-scratching behaviors. 

Stress/Anxiety 

Have there been major changes in your household lately? A new family member or perhaps a new pet? For some dogs, these changes can be an issue. They get jealous and are not happy with undivided attention.

And if our dogs are stressed, it is not uncommon to see them display behaviors such as incessant whiningdigging, circling, and excessive bed-scratching. Our dogs release all those pent-up emotions by doing the aforementioned canine behaviors. 

No worries because a dog’s anxiety is manageable. Physical exercise and increased cuddling time are 2 of the proven ways of dealing with stress/anxiety.

It’s also an awesome idea to invest in cave beds. These are the ones made with a cover to resemble the basic structure of a cave, helping dogs feel safe and secure in their personal space.

Flea Infestation 

It is also possible that the reason why your dog keeps on scratching the bed is that it wants to get rid of something. For all you know, its sleeping quarter is heavily infested with fleas.

Better check its bed (and yours, too) for any signs of fleas like tiny black specks on your bed. These are flea excrement and if you sprinkle some water on these black specks, these would turn into dark reddish-brown.

If you share your bed with your pooch, you may also feel the itch around your ankles and other parts of your body.

What Does It Mean When A Dog Scratches Its Bed?

Bed-scratching behaviors are characterized by pawing, circling, and then scratching around the area where the dog would lie down. 

For most dogs, they’d begin by repeatedly circling, followed by scratching before they finally settle down. But for some, they will ‘nose’ their way under the sheets or pillows to build a cave where they can burrow or hide.

Even if the dog decides to sleep or rest on the floor, it would still paw or scratch the flooring before settling down.

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How Can I Get My Dog To Stop Scratching? 

While this canine behavior is harmless, there are times when you just want your dog to stop doing this behavior. 

Let’s admit it, the scratching behavior can sometimes get into your nerves because this can potentially damage your beddings and even the couch cover. 

To stop the behavior, what you can do is to divert the attention of your dog. You can bribe it with a toy or if you’ve trained it with basic commands, you can use the ‘stop’ and ‘go down’ commands.

Is There A Way To Protect Your Dog’s Bed From Scratching? 

Yes, because the good news is that there are some measures you can do to prevent your dog from damaging its bed from too much scratching. 

If the scratching gets excessive, you may have to buy a new bed for your dog every now and then. But, here are some tips for you:

  • Regularly trim its nails, ideally, it should be done every 3 to 4 weeks.
  • Increase your dog’s exercise routine.
  • Invest in a doggie bed with a durable bed cover.
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Pete Decker