Facts about the animal kingdom

My Dog Loves Playing on the Bed

Marta Sarasúa
By Marta Sarasúa, Psychologist. Updated: July 10, 2024
My Dog Loves Playing on the Bed

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Whether it is to jump, role, play or even sleep, dogs love being on our bed. Since our bed is often the most comfortable place in the home, it makes sense that our dog might enjoy being there too. While comfort is an important reason why dogs love sleeping on our bed, it is only one reason dogs love it so much. Since our bed might be a sacred place of peace, a dog playing on the bed can be a disruption. We want them to have fun, but we also don't want hairs on our pillow or dirt on our sheets.

At AnimalWised, we explain the reasons why my dog keeps playing on the bed. We find out what attracts them to this space in particular, but also what it says about their nature and well-being.

You may also be interested in: 10 Things that Dogs Love
  1. Marking territory
  2. Recovering their scent after bathing
  3. Due to discomfort or itching
  4. To release energy or stress
  5. Learned behavior

Marking territory

We might think of territorial marking as something dogs only do outside when they urinate or go for a walk. We can see them rolling around on the ground. Although the dog might roll on the grass, they can also roll on unsanitary objects such as feces of other dogs or even dead animals. As absurd as this behavior might seem, it is often a way of marking their territory.

The home is the place where a dog needs to feel most secure, meaning it is even more important to mark in the home. By rolling around on different surfaces, a dog infuses their smell into the material. This not only alerts other dogs to their presence, but it means they recognize their own scent and feel at home.

When a dog is playing on your bed, you can look at their behavior. You might see they start by sniffing the bed before dropping onto their side and rolling around. While this can be part of play behavior, it is related to marking. Glands on their face secrete pheromones used to leave their scent. When the dog rubs their face against the ground or, in this case, the top of the bed, they are infusing their smell into the material.

It is important to know they are not doing so to ‘dominate’ their human guardian. Marking their territory in this way is not a challenge to us, but it is a way to show other dogs that we are their family. It helps them to feel safe and improves the bond we have with each other.

Should I stop my dog marking the bed?

Since a hygienic person will wash their bed sheets regularly, doing so will remove the dog's scent. Even if the sheets have not been washed, the dog might want to top up their scent. This can lead the dog to play and roll on the bed regularly. As long as the dog is hygienic, it shouldn't cause a problem for us. We can let them do it without problem. If we prefer our bed linen to remain unsullied, you can redirect their behavior.

Teaching a dog to stay off the bed is a process which can take time. We need to use positive reinforcement and always avoid scolding the dog. As the dog is only carrying out natural behaviors, scolding them can lead to confusion and subsequent behavioral problems. If you have difficulty implementing canine education, speak to a qualified dog trainer or canine ethologist to help.

Learn more about hygiene in our sleeping areas with our article on whether dogs carry bed bugs.

Recovering their scent after bathing

Another common reason why dogs play or roll on the bed is to recover their scent. When we bathe a dog we should use a suitable shampoo and/or conditioner. We need to choose one which is suitable for dogs and never use one intended for human use. This is because they will have the right properties for a dog's skin and coat. Although they generally avoid strong aromas, they are often mildly scented.

Since a dog's sense of smell is so acute, even this mild aroma can disguise their natural scent. The act of washing also removes some of the natural oils which help contribute their their own smell. Dogs can feel insecure when this happens, so they may roll around on the bed to help return their smell. If they have previously rolled on the bed, it is the perfect place for a scent top up. The act of rolling and playing on the bed can also help to secrete pheromones.

For many dogs, bath time can be very stressful, especially if they are not used to it and we use a blow dryer. When finished bathing and being dry, many dogs need to release the tension built up during the experience. They may begin to run around the house like crazy, jumping on your bed with a lot of energy.

What to do if a dog jumps on my bed after bathing?

This behavior is very intense, but lasts a very short amount of time. The simplest way to prevent the dog from rolling around in your bed after bathing is to close the door to your room. Leave the dog a blanket or towel with their scent on it to Let him roll around on it instead. After this, we can take them for a walk or play with them after bath time. This will help release energy and engender positivity.

In some cases, you may need an alternative to a full bath. Learn more with our article on how to clean a dog without bathing them.

My Dog Loves Playing on the Bed - Recovering their scent after bathing

Due to discomfort or itching

When part of our body is itchy, we can use our hands to scratch it. Dogs are not as dexterous in this way as ourselves. If they have an itch they can't reach, they have to employ other methods to relieve themselves. Rolling around on the bed is one effective way to do just that. If you think this is the reason your dog is playing on the bed, you will likely see they are rubbing a specific area when they do so.

As we explain why my dog rolls around in our bed because they are itchy, we should note they do it on various surfaces. It can be they only have a temporary itch, but persistent scratching against surfaces implies they have an issue. This can be exacerbated if the dog scratches themselves a lot with their paws or against sharp surfaces. It can cause the skin to break and puts them at risk of bacterial infection.

Causes of itching in dogs are multitudinous. It can be due to bacteria, fungi, allergic reactions, parasites or other sources.

What to do if a dog is scratching a lot

If you suspect that your dog is rolling around in your bed because they are itchy, we should determine the cause. Examine their skin for signs of redness, inflammation, hair loss, peeling or anything out of the ordinary. If we cannot determine the cause, we need to seek veterinary assistance. They can run the appropriate diagnostic tests and administer the correct corresponding treatment.

In a related article, you can discover the reasons why dogs scratch their own bed before they lie down.

To release energy or stress

We have already mentioned that dogs may play on your bed to release the tension built up during bathing. There are also many other reasons why a dog may want to release tension. Each dog has their own energy levels and some will need to expend more than others. If a dog is happy and playing on our bed, they might simply be getting rid of their excess energy.

Dogs can experience something known as frenetic energy periods (FRAPs). These are periods of frenetic activity which appear as if the dog is freaking out for no reason. They don't last long and the dog is not in any trouble. They are self-contained episodes and we do not need to worry.

When the behavior is excessive, they show signs of distress or they have other behavioral problems, we should consider the possibility of stress. Stressed dogs won't just play on the bed to release excess energy, they are driven to distraction by an emotional problem. This is why we can see that jumping and playing on the bed can mean very different things depending on the context.

What to do in this case

If the dog is in the middle of a zoomie, we can simply let them tire themselves out. Once the energy is released, they will return to normal. In fact, trying to stop them can cause them harm, so it is best to leave them be. The only thing we might need to do is remove any objects or obstacles in their way.

If the dog is running on the bed due to stress, this problem needs to be addressed. We need to look at the various causes of stress in dogs and see which applies to our canine. We can then remove the specific stressor and provide support. This should be in the form of positive reinforcement, education and training to help redirect their emotions.

This process of assessment is easier said than done. If we have difficulty discerning the root of our dog's stress, we should speak to a canine ethologist who will be able to assess their needs and provide practical guidance on how to address them.

My Dog Loves Playing on the Bed - To release energy or stress

Learned behavior

Dogs learn very quickly to repeat behaviors that have benefited them in the past. As intelligent animals , they easily associate a behavior with a consequence. They will then repeat it or avoid it, depending on what is best for them on each occasion.

If your dog has ever rolled around on your bed and you have addressed it, they will learn that doing so will get our attention. Even if the attention is negative, a dog may do it to provoke us. This usually occurs because we are not providing enough attention. This can lead to the dog becoming bored. The dog playing on the bed and messing our sheets can be a provocation to get something they are lacking.

Some dogs may need attention all the time. This can be due to boredom, but it can also be due to stress, previous trauma, poor education or may other factors.

What to do if our dog needs attention

If you want to eliminate a behavior that has been wrongly reinforced, you should stop doing it completely. You can then reinforce another alternative behavior which is more preferable. This is something that not only avoids unwanted behaviors from our perspective, but which engenders well-being in the dog.

The most important thing is to never reinforce a behavior sometimes and punish it at others. Such inconsistency will cause confusion in the dog which can lead to serious behavioral issues. We should work on assessing their education and training. If we are not providing them the training they need, we may want to speak to a professional dog trainer to help. We should also provide affection and general support when they need it.

Playing on the bed is an activity which appeals to a healthy and normal dog. We should only stop the behavior if the context implies otherwise or if we do not want the dog to be on the bed for any reason. Take a look at our article on why my dog pees on the bed to learn about similar behaviors.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Loves Playing on the Bed, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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My Dog Loves Playing on the Bed