Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Beds?
Why do dogs scratch their beds before they lay down? If you have a dog, you've probably seen the ritual many dogs like to do before they lie down. They'll scratch at or dig around their bed before settling in for a nap. Sometimes the scratching can get a bit destructive, and you might start to worry. There's typically no need to be concerned though. Dogs enjoy scratching their beds because it helps "scratch" their territorial itch.
Scratching the Bed Is a Natural Instinct
Dogs of all ages enjoy scratching at their bed from time to time, whether they're scratching just a little or a lot. You might even catch them scratching at the bare floor sometimes. This is typically a natural instinct.1
Your pup's ancestors often scratched at leaves and dirt in the wild to create a makeshift bed for sleeping. Moving the leaves and dirt around helped conceal them better from predators. Their ancestors might have also scratched at their beds in hot climates so they could remove warm soil and grass at the top and get to the cooler soil underneath.2
Scratching is also a way that dogs mark their territory. They use the glands in their paws to leave a scent that marks the bed as theirs.3 A female dog getting ready to have puppies might also scratch as a maternal "nesting" instinct.
Stress or Anxiety Might Increase the Scratching
If you bring in a new pet or something else that increases your dog's stress levels, you might notice her scratching at her bed more. Sometimes this habit can spill over into anxious behavior where the scratching no longer helps her relax. You could try distracting her from scratching with a more enticing toy, providing a more enjoyable alternative. If that doesn't work, you might want to talk with your veterinarian.
Dogs Circle Before Sleeping for Similar Reasons
If you catch your dog circling before lying down or burrowing into the covers, a similar instinct might be at play. Your dog's ancestors used to burrow to get warm or hide from their predators. Circling also helped tuck them in more tightly with their pack so that they could stay warm on cooler nights.4
Good Bedding and Blankets Can Help
Although new bedding won't eliminate the scratching behavior, it can sometimes help your dog feel more comfortable and reduce the behavior a little.
Consider a high-quality bed that can hold up to your dog's scratching and pawing. Or try several different types of beds, looking for the one that best suits your pup. Consider a self-warming bed, a raised cot, or a memory foam bed. If you think your pup's too warm, try a cooling bed.
You can also try piling more blankets in the area where your dog sleeps, so he can burrow more easily and get comfortable more quickly. Test different textures of blankets to see if one type makes him feel more comfortable.
If you think your dog is scratching for territorial reasons, don't wash his pillows and blankets when you wash his bed. A freshly washed bed might make him scratch more if you don't have blankets with his scent to add to it.
You might also consider putting a bed in a darker, quieter area if your dog is scratching out of stress from nearby activity. An enclosed bed, such as the Pet Cot House or the Self-Warming Hut, might give him a greater sense of security. Some dogs prefer a thick pad in an enclosed crate, so that's another option to consider.
Remember, scratching at the bed before lying down is a perfectly normal and instinctual behavior. If it gets a little out of hand, a new bed or a new blanket might help your dog feel more comfortable so he can relax again.
1. News on 6. "Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Beds?" 9 Oklahoma, 13 October 2019, https://www.news9.com/story/5e6fc912f86011d4820c3a65/why-do-dogs-scratch-their-beds.
2. Buzhardt, Lynn. "Why Dogs Turn Around Before Lying Down." VCA Hospitals, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-dogs-turn-around-before-lying-down.
4. Buzhardt, Lynn, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-dogs-turn-around-before-lying-down.