The sight of your dog digging furiously in your bed can be very confusing at first (if not amusing). Yet, it is a common behavior seen across most dog breeds. So why do they do it? Here are all the reasons and, perhaps more importantly, what you can do to stop it!
So why does my dog dig on my bed? Dogs dig on beds for a variety of reasons, and some breeds are more predisposed to perform this behavior than others. The fact is that digging is a natural behavior for dogs, which stems from their wild ancestors. However, anxiety, boredom, and/or medical conditions can also increase the frequency of this behavior.
For the most part – the reason is fairly simple – it’s a natural instinct.
Nonetheless, it can become extremely troublesome if your dog continues to rip up your bedsheets time after time.
Or they are performing this more than what can be considered ‘normal.’
Sometimes it may require intervention; at others, it could merely be a sign of old age and a result of medical issues or medication.
Either way, read on to learn more about why dogs perform this behavior and the steps to take to save your bedding!
- 1 Why Does My Dog Dig On My Bed?
- 2 How To Stop Your Dog Digging On Your Bed
- 3 Finally
Why Does My Dog Dig On My Bed?
Your dog digs on your bed because of an innate instinct that can be traced back to his wild ancestors. Digging provides a dog with comfort, the opportunity to claim its territory, the ability to hide something or keep themselves occupied. It’s circumstance-dependent, of course.
Before our beloved canines became our pets, they were consistently exposed to the elements, so they would often dig down into the substrate to create a ‘bed’ that is warm and sheltered from the wind and rain or one that is cool and shady in hot weather.
Despite now living indoors, it appears that this instinct remains strong in our canine companions!
Even so, iIt can be frustrating watching your dog dig around on your bed, ripping out stuffing, just to then lay down on the mess he has made!
However, to dogs, this is a completely normal comfort-seeking behavior.
He is simply making a cozy sleeping area, much like you would plump your pillows and arrange your covers ready for bed.
The instinct to dig down may have also been a way for your dog’s ancestors to remain hidden from potential predators and threats in the wild.
Aside from comfort, bed digging could be a territorial behavior, so it is more often seen in guard or herd dog breeds or dogs living in multiple dog households.
It is also commonly seen in scent hound breeds and terriers.
Dogs have scent glands in their paws, so when they scratch at a surface, they are leaving behind a distinct pheromone that can be picked up by other dogs.
In the wild, scratching would also leave a visible sign for other dogs to find, which indicates that the territory belongs to another dog.
It is important to recognize that even though digging is a natural instinct, there may be occasions where the behavior signifies something more, especially if it is a new behavior that has suddenly appeared in your once placid dog.
Here are a few other possible causes for ‘bed digging that may require further intervention or advice from a vet:
This is seen mostly in dog breeds that are bred to be active, which include gun dog breeds like Labradors.
These dogs have a strong desire to keep busy, so with nothing else to do, digging in your bed may be the perfect opportunity to flex the muscles that haven’t been used in a while!
With energetic and intelligent breeds like this, you must walk them regularly and give them plenty of play opportunities.
Without this, they can become destructive, which means you will need to buy new bedsheets often!
If you notice your dog’s digging behavior has become more erratic and seems to be more stress-fuelled than fun, it could be a sign of anxiety.
At this stage, your dog’s search for comfort becomes more of a compulsive, repetitive behavior rather than an enjoyable one, especially if it is combined with frequent urination and defecation in different areas of the house and excessive vocalizations.
If this occurs, you will need to find the source of the anxiety and remove it.
Destructive behaviors like this are commonly seen in dogs that are left home alone for long periods.
So if you are at work all day, it is best to find a pet sitter or dog walker to break up the length of time your dog is left alone.
Sometimes it can be as simple as the temperature of your home, or the general environment that you are keeping your dog in.
Loud noises, lack of room to roam etc.
Failing that, you may need to call in the services of a pet behaviorist or seek advice from your local vet.
To Hide Something
This is an extension of the territorial digging behavior noted above, so it is mostly seen in dogs living in multi-dog households.
Items your dog may try to hide include favorite toys or tasty snacks to prevent other dogs from finding them.
This is not a negative behavior as such, but if it is performed regularly, it may indicate anxiety or a feeling of insecurity which may require further investigation.
Expectant Mothers Preparing To Whelp
If you have a pregnant female, you may notice her digging around in your bed or another comfortable spot more often when she is close to whelping.
Expectant mothers are driven by instinct, so she may well ‘rearrange’ her chosen nest site again and again for several days to ensure the area is comfortable, secure, sheltered, and warm enough for her pups to survive the first few weeks of life when they are at their most vulnerable.
As A Response To Pain
Excessive digging in your bed could also be a sign of an underlying medical condition, especially in elderly dogs, or if the behavior is accompanied by whining, panting, or other signs of distress.
Dogs that have developed painful musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis, may obsessively dig around in your bed to try to find a position that will relieve the pain.
If you are ever in any doubt or your dog suddenly develops this type of behavior, it’s best to seek the advice of a veterinarian.
Perhaps surprisingly, a dog may also dig in your bed simply because they have seen another dog doing it! This is a phenomenon known as ‘allomimetic behavior.’
As highly social animals, dogs often rely on other members of their pack to teach them new skills (especially puppies), warn them of danger, and generally keep the pack together, which is a method of survival.
Have you ever noticed that when one dog barks, then all other dogs in the vicinity bark too?
This is an example of an allomimetic behavior.
Other examples seen in social animals such as dogs include sleeping, eating, and running.
How To Stop Your Dog Digging On Your Bed
At first, your puppy digging in the bed covers may seem adorable, but sooner or later, it becomes more of a nuisance. So how do you stop your dog digging on your bed?
The good news is that there are numerous measures you can take which may reduce your dog’s unwanted habit.
However, the first option should always be to try to determine the root cause of the problem, especially if it is anxiety-related or due to a medical condition.
Other measures include:
Trimming Your Dogs Nails
Regularly trimming your dog’s nails may reduce the damage he inflicts on your bedding and other household fabrics he has taken a liking to!
As a general guide, you should aim to trim your dog’s nails once a month or so but be careful not to trim them too short!
Like most animals, a dog’s nails have something called a ‘quick,’ which is a network of blood vessels and nerves that runs partway up the nail.
By gently pressing down on your dog’s paw pads, you will be able to see the quick more easily, which will prevent you from cutting too close to it.
Do ensure that you purchase a good quality pair of nail cutters for the job, and make sure your dog is held comfortably but firmly to prevent any nasty accidents.
Here is a pair of trimmers I recommend from Amazon. Just look at those reviews. Frighteningly positive.
It is also a good idea to offer a treat or verbal praise after the job is done to encourage your dog to build up a positive association with the experience.
Giving Your Dog Plenty Of Opportunities To Play
Dogs are highly intelligent and energetic animals, so always ensure you offer regular opportunities to play, which could include regular walks, interactive toys with treats hidden inside, or a good old-fashioned game of fetch.
If your dog has been digging in your bed because of boredom, this extra stimulation should go a long way towards reducing any destructive behaviors.
You can also re-direct your dog’s digging behavior by hiding treats around the house for him to find, offering forage boxes filled with shreddable and non-toxic materials such as recycled paper or leaf litter, or setting up a dirt box in your garden.
Or simply get your dog a Kong toy in an appropriate size from Amazon.
Giving Your Dog His Own Bed
This one may seem a bit obvious, but it works!
Consider investing in a large, durable dog bed or crate and fill it with old blankets and other soft materials.
This may take a bit of trial and error as every dog will have their own preference, but it is worth the effort.
Make sure that you place the bed in a secluded, quiet area of the house so your dog recognizes it as a safe spot for him to rest.
Crate training may also be beneficial here, as it will help your dog build up a positive association with his new bed.
Just consider the timing here. Dogs should not be left in a crate too long!
Dogs are the most popular pet worldwide for a reason! Their affectionate, playful natures make them the ideal companion for many families.
However, as owners, it is important for us to recognize that dogs have specific requirements that need to be fulfilled in order for them to remain happy and healthy.
Digging is often a sign that something is not quite right.
Sometimes it’s something small and can be easily resolved.
At other times it can mean something more severe is going on.
So it’s essential to remain vigilant and see how this behavior develops and evolves over time.
Do your best to look for causes and potential solutions.
You may even need the support of a vet.
Either way, do act promptly.
And do all you can to educate yourself on your own dog’s needs and wants.
By understanding our dog’s behaviors, we can learn to see the world through their eyes and further strengthen our bond.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.