Learn Why Dogs Dig At Their Blankets - Canine Behaviour Explained
It’s a funny thing when you think about it. Your dog sniffs at their bedding, circles a couple of times, scratches the surface, and lays down. It’s a come ritual that we have all witnessed many times.
Today we are going to explore the reasons why dogs dig at their beds and blankets in such an instinctual way, and if there is a way of preventing them from destroying their bedding.
Not All Digging Is Created Equal
I guess it is a little cruel to start with the wrong reason why dogs dig in blankets as opposed to the right reason, but it makes sense to debunk sometimes.
Not all digging stems from the same motivation. If your dog is a natural digger outside, you may be surprised to learn that this likely has nothing to do with the practice of digging or scratching the carpet, bedding, or blankets before lying down.
Digging outside has a whole host of motivations behind it. We wrote an entire guide on why dogs dig holes in the yard, but the cliff notes version is:
- It is an inherited practice from their wolf ancestors
- To hide things that are precious to them by means of burying them
- They may be denning while pregnant
- They are trying to climb under the fence to escape
- Because it’s lot’s of fun and they may be under stimulated
And even though there is quite a range of doggy behaviour and triggers here, your dog is not (likely) digging at their blankets for the same reasons as digging at the garden.
Why Do Dogs Dig At Their Beds?
Okay, so where did the practice of digging at bedding come from?
Why do dogs scratch their bed?
There are two main reasons.
1. They are simply marking their territory.
Your dog’s paws contain many scent glands that secrete information yielding pheromones.
Dogs are not the only animals to do this either. Ever wondered why your cat may be kneading your lap before laying down? It’s the same principle. They are communicating that this is their spot to rest that just happens to be attached to you.
2. They are nesting
The nesting side of scratching at the floor or bedding is also linked to a dog’s nature to circle their resting place before they sleep.
“Walking around a spot was a way to stamp down grass, leaves or snow and create a soft, level surface — something akin to carving out a nest. After she circles, does your dog scratch at the bedding or carpeting before curling up? Just like circling, the digging action is probably an ancestral behaviour related to staying safe and comfortable.” says Denise Maher from Vet Street. (2)
Think of it as the ritual of tucking yourself in for a comfy night’s rest.
Can You Train Your Dog To Stop Scratching Their Beds and Blankets?
I hear you. Your precious pup has clawed at a bed so much, the fabric is tearing, or the cushioning is now a misshapen shadow of its former self. You dread to think that you’ll need to buy yet another dog bed for your pup. You spent so much time researching the very best dog bed for them the first time after all!
But, unfortunately, digging for the reason of nesting or scent marking is very much an ingrained behaviour. In fact, you’ll find that many dogs that are not so keen on digging holes in the garden will habitually scratch beds and carpets before laying down.
It’s extremely difficult to stop a dog from being a dog. But, there are ways to minimize digging so your yard and garden don’t look like Swiss cheese.” - Stephanie Gibeault from tAmerican Kennel Club (3)
The same can’t be said of scratching at beds as it’s just canine nature
However, all is not lost! I wouldn’t leave you hanging with no solutions whatsoever. Prevention is the best policy here.
It’s best to assume that your dog will scratch and dig at their beds to make themselves comfortable and preempt any destruction.
How? Well, you need an indestructible dog bed for very strong diggers.
Here are our top tips!
- Look for hardy materials
Look for nylon, taut-woven velvet, and even polyethylene plastics that are scratchproof. These are far more likely to stand the test of time than cheap polyester beds.
- Raised dog beds are impossible to destroy
Raised dog beds are excellent for dogs who habitually destroy their regular beds by digging. Because they are made up of a taught breathable mesh platform stretched over a steel frame, they are completely scratch proof and surprisingly comfortable for most dogs.
- Plush doesn’t always equal vulnerable
By this I mean to say, don’t avoid plush and soft beds just because they look more likely to be torn up. While your judgement may be right in many cases, it’s not true in all cases. By reviewing the testimonials and materials of the bed you are eyeing, you can make the best decision for your pup. My old dog has a soft velvet bed that stands up to her scratching incredibly well!
Conclusion: Scratching At Beds Is Natural
Rest assured that your dog is exhibiting perfectly normal and innocent behaviour by digging at their bed. Of course, if things get to an obsessive level where they are tearing out the stuffing of bedding, then you may want to involve a dog behaviourist.
If your dog, like most dogs, is lightly scratching a couple of times on their blanket before resting, there is nothing to worry about. For strong diggers, invest in higher quality, scratch-proof bedding and everyone is happy!
Generally, no. This isn’t the same science behind hounds and hunting dogs being more dig-happy in gardens. In their case, there was an evolutionary advantage to digging holes proficiently as we as humans used them to hunt for prey. In the case of digging bedding, the same rules don’t apply.
However, you may notice that dogs in multi-dog households dig at their beds and blankets more often because they are likely sharing with other members of the pack. So each time they get comfortable on a bed, they want to stake their claim again. I am sleeping here tonight - not you!
From my anecdotal evidence, I perceive this to be entirely true. While my oldest dog did dig at her blankets and beds a little bit before we adopted more dogs, it became a much more pervasive habit after the other dogs moved in.
- Andrei, J. “3 Things Dogs Do Before Lying Down To Rest, And Why!”. DogTime Editorial. Retrieved April 17, 2021. https://dogtime.com/dog-health/dog-behavior/83860-things-dogs-do-before-lying-down
- Maher, D. March 19, 2012. “Why Does My Dog... Walk in a Circle Before Lying Down?”. Vet Street. Retrieved April 17, 2021. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-does-my-dog-walk-in-a-circle-before-lying-down
- Gibeault, S. October 25, 2019. “Why Do Dogs Dig?”. American Kennel Club.Retrieved April 17, 2021. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/why-is-my-dog-digging/