By Megan Kriss | Dog Behaviour
Have you noticed your dog digging their bed? It can be confusing when a dog does this, but it’s rarely something serious. Let’s look at why dogs dig at their beds and how you can handle it.
Most dogs do this, but many owners aren’t sure why. Sure, the scratching can be annoying, especially if it’s noisy or puts a hole in the bed, but is it a sign of an underlying problem? Let’s take a closer look at this odd habit.
Whether you want to stop digging or are just curious, it’s important to know why dogs dig at their beds in the first place. Here are five of the most common reasons.
Just like us, dogs want a safe, comfortable bed (like the ones on this list).
In the wild, wolves dig to create a smooth sleeping surface, add padding, flush out small animals, conceal themselves, and create a sleeping space that protects them from extreme temperatures.
This instinct has lingered in domestic dogs, who scratch at their beds to make them cozier.
When you think of dogs marking with their scent, you probably think of urination, but they can also mark with the glands on the pads of their feet. Your dog doesn’t want to wet the bed any more than you do, so they opt for the latter option when putting their scent on their bed.
Digging is also very common if another animal has been on the bed. My dog, for example, often digs at her bed after one of the cats has napped there.
If a dog wants to save something for later, their only option for keeping it safe is to bury it. Your dog might be digging to hide a favorite treat or toy, especially if there are other animals around.
Breeds bred for small game and varmint hunting, like Jack Russells and Beagles, may be particularly prone to dig, for this reason. Dogs with a particular attachment to a toy may also be especially driven to hide it.
Alternatively, your dog may be trying to find something.
Most often it’s that toy or treat from earlier, but your dog also might be digging because they notice a strange smell or sound coming from their bed.
Some dogs just like to dig. If you’ve taught your dog not to dig outside or on the couch, he might reserve digging for “his” space. If you can live with that, there’s no need to worry.
For other dogs, the game is in the destruction. This is not only annoying, but can also be dangerous if your dog accidentally ingests part of the bed.
If this sounds like your dog, positive training and resolving anxieties are the best ways to prevent digging (more on that in a moment). But in the short-term, you may need a chew-proof bed. We have a list of the best options here: https://www.thedogclinic.com/dog-beds/chew-proof.
If your dog doesn’t curl up and relax after they scratch at their bed, or if you come home to find a destroyed dog bed and a bunch of untouched toys, your dog is probably scratching due to anxiety.
Just like humans engage in compulsive behaviors when we’re stressed, like nail biting and fiddling with our hair, scratching and digging at their bed can be a compulsive behavior in stressed dogs. Your dog may also scratch other furniture or even the door you left through.
The best way to stop your dog digging varies depending on why they’re digging. Here are a few tips that may help.
If your dog seems to be having a hard time getting their bed the way they want it, watch and see if you can figure out what they’re trying to change.
Try adding or taking away blankets to help fix lumps and make the bed warmer or cooler, or switching blankets to provide a more appealing texture. Washing the bed can break up lumps and remove any unusual smells.
If they’re trying to hide, move the bed somewhere more private, but if they continue to dig at the spot even when the bed isn’t there, it may be time to call an exterminator to check for pests. Don’t let your dog hide food or treats; hidden food can spoil and attract pests.
If your dog seems to be marking their bed, avoid washing your dog’s bed at the same time as any blankets or pillows on their bed so that something smells like them at all times. If you have multiple pets and one of them isn’t happy about sharing a bed, make sure each pet has their own and discourage them from using each other’s beds.
If you can live with it, letting your dog dig at their bed or bury their toys is a great way to keep them from trying to dig somewhere more problematic, like furniture or the laundry. If their digging is annoying or damaging their bed, give them a small pile of old towels or blankets to use instead.
To curb the digging altogether, distract your dog with a new toy or activity when they start to dig and reward your dog when they choose the desired alternative. Keep your dog from getting bored with their toys by rotating a small selection.
Dealing with anxiety is trickier. Talk to your vet to try to identify the cause of your dog’s anxiety, but don’t expect a quick fix. Anxiety can be treated with lifestyle changes or medication, but neither resolves anxiety overnight. Providing a safer, healthier outlet for their anxiety, like chewing on a toy, can help in the meantime.
There are lots of reasons your dog might dig at their bed, from comfort to play to anxiety, but there’s usually no reason to worry.
The key is to keep calm, figure out the cause of the digging, and go from there. Generally, there’s no reason to stop the digging, but if your dog is destructive when they dig at their bed or if it annoys you, it’s easy enough to stop them by providing a more appropriate alternative.
Does your dog dig at their bed for one of these reasons? Do you know of another reason that dogs dig their beds? Or do you still have questions about why dogs dig in their beds? Share your thoughts with me in the comment section below.