A dog that is repeatedly scratching the floor can be quite a nuisance. Besides, if you have carpet or expensive flooring, you know full well how quickly it can damage. For others reading, you may have some concern for your dog; is everything okay? Having observed this behavior in my Cockapoo and questioned it myself, I decided to do some research to find out exactly what this behavior is all about.
So, why does my dog scratch the floor? Dogs can scratch the floor for both functional and emotional reasons, and it appears to be instinctual to all breeds. Boredom, an excess of energy, in an attempt to get comfortable, to mark their territory, and even stress and anxiety are all known causes.
Outdoor ground scratching is often a little different.
Usually, it is an attempt to eliminate the scent of another dog/animal.
So just be mindful here.
Nevertheless, dogs scratch and dogs dig; this is just part of a range of behaviors that they will display.
For the most part it is entirely normal and nothing to worry about.
However, if you notice that your dog is scratching the floor all of a sudden, excessively or if you observe other alarming behaviors, then you may need to investigate further.
Nonetheless, it is likely a behavior that you as an owner will likely want to stop or at least limit; especially if your home is incurring damage!
Let us now take a closer look at those different reasons why your dog may be doing this, before looking at whether you can, and how to approach stopping it if it is becoming an issue!
- 1 Reasons Why Dogs Scratch The Floor
- 2 Should You Stop Your Dog Scratching The Floor?
- 3 How Can I Get My Dog To Stop Scratching The Floor?
- 4 Finally
- 5 Related Questions
Reasons Why Dogs Scratch The Floor
Nobody can deny the difficulties faced by dogs in regards to their communication. Whether it be with other animals or us human owners.
As such, dogs have developed a range of behaviors in order to better navigate the world; and to interact with their environment appropriately.
Scratching the floor actually serves a purpose for a dog; as abstract as that may appear to be.
There are certainly specific reasons why a dog would want to do this, with the most common ones being:
Out Of Boredom
As bizarre as it may sound, your dog may be scratching the floor as a means of entertaining themselves, or to stave off boredom.
In fact, some dogs get quite a kick out of doing this and generally enjoy the process or how it feels on their paws.
This is why your dog may continue to do this, even if you keep them well occupied or there are plenty of toys and games for them to play.
But then it can also be a result of having little to nothing to do. Perhaps your dog does not have enough stimulation, be it physically or mentally.
Perhaps they are not getting enough exercise or access to the outdoors; it could be a simple excess of energy that they need to burn.
Out Of Anxiety And Fear
It is also certainly possible that your dog is anxious, or is suffering from fear.
Whether this is from noise (such as loud weather), new animals such as dogs coming to visit, or strangers coming by.
Either way, your dog may be looking for a means of escape, or as an attempt to control the space (and warn other animals/dogs of their presence) and ultimately make it feel safer.
This is more common in younger dogs, and those more nervous and insecure.
Usually, it’s a combination of the two of those, brought about by a lack of experience in certain situations/environments or without enough socialization from a young age.
This will also likely explain why your dog may be more likely to scratch at the ground when in unfamiliar places.
For Comfort And To Relax
Another possibility, and one commonly observed, is that your dog is scratching the ground in preparation for laying down.
This is an inherited trait likely passed down from their wild ancestors, who would scratch and dig at the floor to create a nest/den to shield in.
By scratching at the floor, a dog would also be able to temperature control the area prior to sleeping, while also making it more comfortable in the process.
For instance, in cold winters, dogs would dig into the ground to get respite, whereas, in warm summers, digging would enable access to cooler earth underground.
So, even if you are indoors – these are still instinctual behaviors that your dog could be turned to.
To Mark Territory
Another hypothesized reason for dogs scratching at the floor is as a means of marking territory.
They may be doing this for two reasons:
- To inject their scent,
- To leave a visible marker on the floor,
In regards to their scent, dogs actually sweat from the pads on their paws. So, by scratching at the ground they will be releasing their scent upon it.
This would serve as a warning to other dogs, that they are present and that this is their space. Its thought that this would help to reduce the potential for encounters with others in a confined space.
Equally, it has been observed in wolves (who are closely related), that the act may be to create an observable boundary.
A message to others that they should not cross the line (or risk being attacked).
This is known as ‘demonstration marking‘ and is mostly influenced by the presence of other dogs and strangers.
Not to their family, humans or to their own ‘pack’.
Should You Stop Your Dog Scratching The Floor?
Whether or not you attempt to stop your dog from scratching at the floor, will mostly depend on when, why, and how often your dog is doing it.
In other words, it depends on the cause.
A better way of looking at this is whether or not you perceive there to be a problem:
- Is it damaging your floor, whether that be a carpet, laminate, hard-wood flooring or your lawn,
- Is your dog showing signs of any other abnormal behavior, or do they look distressed in any way?
Generally, it is advised that you do not attempt to stop your dog while they are actively scratching.
Besides, it’s usually too late then.
Stopping them during the action is only likely to make them feel more vulnerable in the moment.
Instead, a better and somewhat safer approach is to take preemptive measures; techniques that prevent your dog from feeling the need to do so altogether.
So, you will need to monitor your dog and its body language.
Look for any causal factors in the environment, new situations, or any reasons for discomfort.
You may need to look at your dog’s items and accessories, you may even need to make some adjustments to the temperature of your home.
It could be that they need to be socialized and that you need to introduce them to more people, situations, and animals.
Ultimately, it’s about making your dog more comfortable, and taking away their perceived need to do so.
In time, you should notice this behavior naturally subsiding.
If you want to limit or prevent your dog from scratching the floor, there are some recommended actions that you can take.
Consider that each of the approaches below aligns with the causal reasons outlined above.
So it may be that some are more effective for some dogs than for others.
Either way, they should make a dog more comfortable in their home and will be useful nonetheless.
Provide More Comfort
First and foremost, ensure that your dog has access to a comfortable place to rest and sleep.
For instance, dogs much prefer a round and soft-shaped bed than they do with any raised edges. It helps provide a sense of nest/den (which comes naturally to them).
Ensure it is of sufficient size for your dog, and that you have plenty of blankets and soft cushions for them to rest and keep warm from.
It’s also a good idea to slowly introduce any new bed to your dog, and using treats can be a great reward and incentive to get them to do so.
If you suspect that your dog is scratching out of boredom or excess energy, then it may be as simple as taking them for longer walks or providing more play throughout the day.
Sometimes this is enough to stop the behavior entirely.
If your dog is home alone for long periods of the day, this is likely to have benefits outside of just scratching alone.
You can also consider getting your dog some interactive toys, like this Amazon bestseller, as a means of keeping them occupied.
Consider The Temperature
Another useful approach is to consider the temperature of your home.
If the season has recently changed, the room you keep your dog in has a draft, or the floor is generally quite cold, then providing some extra warmth may be enough.
Visit A Vet
Unfortunately, some dogs develop medical conditions and other ailments. Injury and illness can cause scratching, as well as other destructive behaviors, believe it or not.
So, if you suspect your dog is not at its best, which will most likely be visible by other symptoms; a general lack of energy, appetite, or enthusiasm, do consider taking them to a vet.
Sometimes with treatment, behaviors such as scratching go away.
Dogs scratch at the floor; it’s just part of who they are and when they come from.
Before they were domesticated and kept as pets, dogs were entirely reliant on their behavior and the rest of the pack for food, shelter, and survival.
Can we really blame them for this instinctual behavior?
Nevertheless, there is no denying that it can be irritating, damaging, and worrying.
So much so that it’s only natural to investigate and aim to get to the root of the problem.
While it can be caused by several reasons, by monitoring your dog and by paying close attention to them, it’s usually possible to find out why.
Usually, it’s nothing to worry about, especially with young, new or nervous dogs.
Thankfully, with a little bit of time, planning and preparation in advance, it can also largely be stopped.
But there is some indication that it could be down to medical issues.
So, if you do suspect something is not quite right – do not take the risk and do consult a vet.
Why Does My Dog Scratch The Floor Before Lying Down?
If your dog is scratching the floor prior to lying down, it is likely that they are trying to prepare the ground; making it more comfortable. It may be that the ground is not at a temperature that feels pleasant on their paws and that they are trying to either warm-up or cool down.
Why Does My Dog Scratch The Floor At Night?
A dog scratching the floor at night is most likely anxious or fearful of either something in their environment or from being alone. Sometimes a nightlight or being in visible distance to you is enough to stop this behavior.
Your dog may be trying to dig into the carpet to make it more comfortable, as a means of releasing stress and excitement, or because they can smell something that has been on it (food or the scent of another animal).
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.