Facts about the animal kingdom

How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Scratching the Bed?

Eduarda Piamore
By Eduarda Piamore, Expert in canine and feline psychology, education and training.. July 1, 2024
How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Scratching the Bed?

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Descended from wolves and wild canines, dogs have a natural instinct to prepare a cozy sleeping spot by creating a comfy nest and adjusting temperature by fluffing for warmth or uncovering cooler layers. Scratching can also leave their scent, marking the bed as their own secure spot. However, there are some situations where excessive scratching can damage their bedding and become a nuisance. But more importantly, it could be a sign of an underlying issue.

In this article from AnimalWised will explain the most common reasons why dogs scratch their beds, and how to address destructive scratching. We'll also help you understand when the behavior is normal and when it might be a sign of a deeper issue.

You may also be interested in: Why do Dogs Scratch the Ground?
  1. Should you stop your dog from scratching their bed?
  2. Seeking comfort
  3. Marking territory
  4. Anxiety and stress
  5. Potential health problems

Should you stop your dog from scratching their bed?

We all know that dogs are descended from wolves and other wild canines. In the wild, these animals would scratch at leaves, grass, or dirt to create a comfortable and safe nesting spot. This instinct to prepare a cozy sleeping area carries over to domestic dogs for various reasons, including adjusting the temperature, leaving their scent, and marking the area as their own.

Occasional scratching is generally normal and healthy behavior. In fact, suppressing this natural instinct can cause stress or anxiety in your dog. If your dog scratches for a few seconds before settling down, it's perfectly fine. As long as the scratching isn't destructive or causing damage to the bed, it's a harmless behavior.

However, there are situations where scratching might indicate an underlying issue. For example, if your dog scratches frantically, rips apart the bed, or shows signs like whining, pacing, or licking paws alongside excessive scratching, it could be a cause for concern.

In the following sections, we will explore the most common reasons why dogs might scratch the bed excessively and what to do about it.

For more information, do not miss this other article, which explores all the reasons why dogs might dig and scratch before curling up for a nap.

Seeking comfort

Even though domesticated dogs no longer face the same dangers as their wild ancestors, some instincts remain deeply rooted in their behavior despite the safety of their homes from predators and other threats. To create a comfortable bed, dogs would scratch and trample the area with their feet and paws, flattening spiky vegetation and removing rocks and sticks. This behavior, known as nesting, wasn't solely about comfort. Nesting also served to startle snakes, insects, and small rodents, keeping dogs safe from being bitten or stung when they lay down.

How to address it

While scratching and digging are natural behaviors, you can manage them effectively to prevent damage to your dog's bed or your furniture. Here are some solutions:

  • Set up a box filled with shredded paper, towels, or blankets that your dog can dig at freely. This provides a designated area for them to engage in their natural behavior without causing damage to your home.

  • Offer a deep bed with plenty of padding to encourage nesting and burrowing. A cozy, inviting bed can reduce the urge to scratch elsewhere.

  • Ensure your dog gets enough exercise through regular walks, playtime, and training sessions.

When you catch your dog scratching furniture, calmly interrupt them with a firm "no" and guide them to an acceptable alternative, like their dig box or a chew toy. Consistently redirecting them helps reinforce where it is appropriate to scratch.

How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Scratching the Bed? - Seeking comfort

Marking territory

Dogs possess scent glands in their paws that release pheromones when scratched. These pheromones are chemical signals that can be detected by other animals. Scratching surfaces, including their bed, is a potential way for dogs to deposit these pheromones.

The exact function of scent marking through scratching in domesticated dogs remains a topic of ongoing research. Some theories suggest it might be a scratching could be a way for dogs to communicate ownership of their resting area to other animals in the household. This behavior might be more prevalent in multi-pet homes or with insecure dogs.

The scent left behind could convey information about the dog, such as their presence, familiarity with the environment, or even their emotional state. This behavior helps them mark their territory and communicate their presence to other animals. In multi-pet households or environments where a dog feels insecure, this behavior can become more pronounced.

How to address it

In order to stop this behavior, it is important to set up designated scratching posts or mats where your dog can safely and appropriately deposit their scent. Reward them for using these areas to reinforce the behavior.

It is also advisable to clean the areas where your dog scratches frequently to reduce the scent marks they leave behind. Use pet-safe cleaning products that neutralize odors rather than just masking them.

Create safe spaces in your home where your dog can escape from stressful situations or other pets. Socialization can reduce the need for territorial marking and increase their overall sense of security. Gradually introduce your dog to new animals and environments to build their confidence.

Explore our article on dog marking behavior to gain a deeper understanding of canine communication.

Anxiety and stress

Scratching their bed can also be a sign of underlying anxiety. Just like humans, dogs can experience stress from things like moving to a new home, loud noises, or even introducing new pets or people.

Scratching the bed can be a coping mechanism for anxious pups. The repetitive motion has a calming effect, similar to how we fidget when nervous. Scratching also helps dogs release pent-up energy and the physical activity itself can distract them from the source of their anxiety, providing temporary relief.

How to address it

Recognizing this behavior as a way for your dog to cope is key. To help your dog, try to identify what triggers their scratching and address the root cause of their anxiety.

  • Gradually expose your dog to the trigger in a controlled way while pairing it with positive experiences like treats or praise. This helps them learn to associate the trigger with something pleasant.

  • For noise phobias, try playing recordings of the trigger at a low volume and gradually increase the volume while rewarding your dog for staying calm.

  • Create a quiet, calm area for your dog to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. This could be a crate, a specific room, or a cozy bed.

  • A tired dog is less likely to be anxious. Engage them in daily walks, playtime, and training sessions.

  • Dogs thrive on predictability. Establish a consistent routine for meals, walks, and playtime to provide a sense of security.

In some cases, your veterinarian might recommend calming supplements or medications to manage anxiety symptoms, particularly for severe cases.

Does stress play a role in your dog’s bed-shredding behavior? Explore 10 signs your dog might be stressed to gain valuable insights into your pup’s emotional well-being.

How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Scratching the Bed? - Anxiety and stress

Potential health problems

In some cases, scratching the bed can be an indication of underlying medical issues.

Dogs may scratch more frequently if they are experiencing discomfort or irritation due to conditions such as allergies, skin infections, or parasites like fleas and ticks. Allergies to certain foods, environmental factors like pollen, or materials in their bedding can cause itchy skin, prompting dogs to scratch in an attempt to relieve the itchiness.

Additionally, joint pain or arthritis can lead dogs to scratch and dig at their bed as they try to find a position that alleviates their discomfort.

How to address it

If a dog’s scratching behavior becomes excessive or is accompanied by other signs of distress such as redness, swelling, hair loss, or changes in behavior, it is essential to consult a veterinarian. A thorough veterinary check-up can help identify any medical issues that might be contributing to the scratching behavior.

Explore our article on signs of pain in dogs to learn about subtle signs that might indicate discomfort.

If you want to read similar articles to How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Scratching the Bed?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Scratching the Bed?