The Real Reason Our Dogs Scratch At Their Beds

We all have our special bedtime rituals, and so do our pets. If you see your dog scratching, pawing or even biting at his bed, they have their reasons for this odd behavior.

Sometimes you just can’t get comfy…

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The reason why dogs scratch at their beds?

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Even after thousands of years, it is hard to believe a Shih Tzu or poodle who ran with the wolves, still have some habits that are particularly hard to break, .

The experts suggest that a dog scratching at his bed is an evolutionary holdover from the days in the wild, before domestication. This behavior was an important part of wild dogs and wolves staying comfy, safe and warm. The behavior is so ingrained that dogs do this even when it is not necessary.

“There has been some conjecture that digging at bedding, upholstered furniture or soft flooring (such as rugs or carpets) is akin to digging a hole or spreading bedding to make a nest,” Dr. Elizabeth Stelow, chief of animal behavior services at the University of California, Davis said. “This is the most likely purpose when the dog then lies down in the specific spot it was scratching.”

Dogs routinely dig holes for protection from extreme heat and cold. So if your pup is scratching, he may be hardwired to go through the motions of transforming his soft bed into a nest or den before he feels truly safe.

Marking their territory

Wolves, have scent glands on the bottom of their paws and between their toes that secrete pheromones, and so do dogs. Spreading their scent helps dogs communicate and the scent produced by these glands can be long-lasting.

If you have ever noticed your dog kicking the dirt after defecating, he is most likely leaving a chemical message for other canines to find — and if your dog scratches at the floor indoors, he may be attempting something similar. However, this theory has one catch.

“Some people think that dogs are mainly spreading scent on those areas and establishing territory,” Stelow said. “I would think this is more true of scratching or pawing on hard flooring, as the ‘digging the nest-hole’ theory has less credence to tile or wood.”

If you find your pup scratching the floor, he’s likely claiming his territory.

To investigate

Digging inside can also be a way for your dog to investigate something that sparks his interest, like a delicious smell or a fascinating sound.

“Some dogs will dig at the floor or a wall if they sense rodents or other animals living in crawl spaces in the house. This is uncommon, but I’ve seen cases of it,” Stelow explained. “The odor of dropped food or other interesting scents in the flooring or furniture may also elicit scratching/pawing/digging to find the source.”


If your dog is compulsively digging or scratching at the floor or furniture, that may be an indication that something more troubling is going on. “Some dogs dig as part of a displacement behavior when they are anxious or otherwise excited,” Stelow added. “This type of pawing/digging/scratching would not then be associated with the dog curling up in the area it was scratching. These dogs should be treated for their anxiety or over-arousal.”

Talk to your local veterinarian if your dog’s scratching has become an issue to minimize your pup’s stress.

While the exact reason can be difficult to pin down, one thing is for sure:

The adorable habit can come at a cost.

Whoops…looks like it’s time for a new bed … again.

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