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If you're a loving dog parent, you already know about your dog's behaviors, but you might not know why they do them. For example, why do dogs dig in bed? You know the feeling all too well. You're closing your eyes and finally falling asleep for the night when you feel your bed start to shake and hear the sound of your dog's claws digging into the bed.
Your dog may even dig in other places, such as the couch, their bed, or the carpet, before they lay down for a nap. But why do dogs scratch their beds? Dogs dig in bed for many of the same reasons they dig outside; it's an instinctive behavior passed down from their ancestors that allows them to mark their scent, make their bed cooler and more comfortable, and deal with boredom and anxiety.
- Is It Normal For Dogs To Dig In Bed?
- A Dog's Natural Instinct To Dig
- How To Reduce Digging
- Final Notes
Is It Normal For Dogs To Dig In Bed?
If you're wondering, "Why does my dog dig on my bed?" you'll be happy to know it's completely normal behavior. While digging inside and outside is a common behavioral problem, it's part of their ancestry as wolves dig their sleeping area before going to bed for the night. All types of dogs dig their sleeping areas before actually falling asleep. But why do dogs dig in bed? Here are a few possible reasons why our dog is scratching the bed:
Dogs can mark their scent through glands in their paws, which is why your dog might wipe their feet outside after doing their business. Your dog digging in bed may be due to territorial behavior that allows them to mark their territory without urinating since dogs prefer not to mark their beds that way.
Dogs dig in bed to make it more comfortable. While you may fluff your pillows, dogs will do it to remove any uncomfortable objects and make their sleeping space more comfortable. Even though you may think the bed is already comfortable, dogs in the wild dig to remove rocks and debris that may be uncomfortable to sleep on. Even though your bed doesn't have any hard objects, dogs will instinctively do it before falling asleep because it's what their wolf ancestors did.
If you're wondering, "Why do dogs scratch beds?" it may be to cool the area before falling asleep. On hot days, dogs may dig holes outside to lie in to regulate their temperature.1 Dogs may do this inside to cool sheets by digging to pass air through bedding to cool it down before laying on it.
Hiding Food & Toys
Dogs dig to hide food and toys inside and outside. If you have a terrier or another breed that loves to dig, you might find them hiding toys in the yard every now and then. However, dogs will also hide things inside under the blankets. Some dogs stock up on food, while others protect their bones and toys to ensure they know where they are when they want to return to them. While pet dogs typically don't have to worry about where their next meal is coming from or other dogs stealing their toys, they may still hide their belongings to protect them.
It's important to note that dogs in multi-dog households or those with pet parents who frequently take away their toys may hide things in the bed more often. Therefore, if your dog is digging in bed and moving the covers, it might be because they're looking for their favorite toy or hiding it so no one else can get it.
Digging is a form of mental and physical stimulation. Dogs who don't get enough exercise are more prone to digging, even digging in their beds. Since digging works certain muscles, it can help dogs get rid of pent-up energy by allowing them to exercise. Dogs of all types may dig for exercise, but breeds prone to digging, like terriers, might do it more often.
Dogs dig in bed when bored, especially if you're already asleep and there's no one to play with. Digging is entertaining for some dogs, and if they have the energy to burn after a day of lazing on the couch, they may dig to release that energy and reduce boredom.
As we've mentioned, digging is a dog's way to reduce pent-up energy. Therefore, anxious dogs may dig to reduce their anxiety and keep themselves focused on a task. Think of it like self-soothing. Dogs may dig inside or outside to reduce anxiety, so you may find them digging at the bed because it's a soft place that allows them to easily use their nails without getting hurt. However, all types of digging, especially anxious digging, can be destructive, especially on soft beds and sheets. Ultimately, anxiety negatively affects your pet’s quality of life and should be addressed as soon as signs become apparent.
A Dog's Natural Instinct To Dig
As we've mentioned, digging is an instinctive behavior. Wolves dig for many reasons, and some breeds were used for hunting underground animals like moles.2 In addition, some animals' instincts were made stronger through breeding and training. For example, rat terriers were used to hunt rodents on farms by following them into tunnels by digging.
Digging is normal behavior for dogs, but some types of digging can be a behavioral problem, especially if the digging is destructive. Your dog has the instinct to dig because their ancestors did it to hide food, catch prey, create shelter, and alleviate stress and frustration. Therefore, your pet dog does it for the same reasons, even though they're in a different environment when digging in bed. For example, if you share your bed with your dog, you might notice them shifting the covers by digging. Dogs do this in the wild to remove rocks and debris from their sleeping area. Therefore, even though your dog would most likely be comfortable sleeping on the blankets the way they are, your dog has a natural urge to scratch the bed.
How To Reduce Digging
Since digging is part of a dog's normal behavior, you shouldn't scold or punish them. However, if their digging destroys your belongings or poses a risk to them or others, you can redirect the behavior. For example, if your dog keeps digging up your yard, there are several ways to deter the behavior and train them not to. The same is true for digging in bed. However, unless your dog's nails destroy your blankets, there's no reason to redirect the behavior. A few ways to stop a dog from digging in bed include:
- Exercise: Many dogs dig for exercise, even at night. If your dog is digging, consider whether or not they've had enough exercise that day. If you have a high-energy breed or a breed prone to digging, giving them more exercise throughout the day may prevent digging.
- Mental Stimulation: Remember, dogs like to dig when they're bored, especially if they've been left alone for long periods of time.1 Digging may be an attention-seeking behavior or a way for them to prevent boredom. Therefore, providing your dog with mental stimulation throughout the day might curb some of their digging at night. If your dog feels satisfied and not bored, they won't engage in destructive behavior.
- Providing Their Own Sleeping Area: If your dog disrupts your sleep by digging in bed at night, you can provide them with their own sleeping area with a pet bed where they can dig freely. This will give them a place where they can sleep without worrying about having enough space while ensuring they can dig to make the bed as comfortable as they want. But, of course, some pets love sleeping in bed with their pet parents, so you may have to tolerate some digging every now and then. Ultimately, if your pet is digging excessively, you should talk to your veterinarian about the behavior for treatment.
- Removing Food & Toys: If you let your dog eat or play in bed, consider removing any toys and crumbs before bed to prevent digging. Of course, you should also prevent them from burying food and toys in the bed in the first place.
- Training Basic Commands: Teaching your dog basic commands can help them determine appropriate behavior from inappropriate behavior. For example, teaching your dog something as simple as "leave it," can help them understand when they're doing something wrong, such as digging in bed.
- Changing Indoor Temperatures: Since dogs may dig in bed to adjust the temperature of the materials, you can adjust your indoor temperature to deter digging. If it's too hot, consider turning your air conditioning on at night to ensure your dog has a cool place to sleep.
- Treating Anxiety: If your dog is digging in bed and you think it may be a result of anxiety, keep a log of additional behaviors surrounding the digging as they may help with diagnosis. Unfortunately, it's difficult to determine what's making a dog anxious, so treatment and management are crucial for preventing potentially destructive behaviors like digging. Consult a vet if you believe your dog has anxiety.
- Buying a Pet-Proof Bed: Whether your dog sleeps in bed with you or their own pet bed, some materials are more durable than others. For example, there are bed sheets, blankets, and even mattresses designed for sleeping with pets to prevent their nails from causing rips and tears. In addition, you can buy a more durable pet bed made of tougher materials if they frequently destroy their beds.
Dogs dig for many reasons, but the most important thing to remember is that it's an instinctive behavior passed down from their ancestors. Of course, some dogs are more destructive than others with their digging, but if your dog is digging in their bed, it's likely because they're trying to make it more comfortable. However, there are some instances where digging could indicate something serious like anxiety. If you find your dog digging in places other than the bed, they could use digging to self-soothe to reduce anxiety.
Treating your dog's anxiety is crucial to prevent them from digging. Talk to a Dutch vet to discuss dog anxiety and possible treatments to ensure your dog lives a happy, healthy life.
Youngerman, Claire. "Digging in Dogs." Animal Health Topics / School of Veterinary Medicine, 24 Nov. 2021, https://healthtopics.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/health-topics/canine/why-does-my-dog-dig.
Stephanie Gibeault, MSc. "Why Does My Dog Dig? Identify and Channel Your Dog's Digging Instincts." American Kennel Club, 25 Oct. 2019, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/why-is-my-dog-digging/.