3 December 2014Your new puppy has captured your heart. You've invested time and money into your new pet, and that includes spending hours shopping for the best dog beds on the market. Two days after introducing your pup to the adorable, lacy bed with its pink canopy, the expensive piece of pet furniture is in tatters. Why do dogs scratch their beds with their constant digging and scratching? Read on to find out!
Don't Worry, It's Perfectly NormalDogs of every breed, age, size, gender and background, exhibit this behaviour. It may begin early in life or show up in old age. There's no need to worry that your dog might have a mental disorder or that you have done anything to cause the problem. Dog owners all over the world face the same challenge. Keeping your dog comfortable and providing bedding that won't become confetti within a week takes a little understanding and patience.
Bed-Scratching: The SymptomsBed-scratching behaviour is characterised by pawing, scratching and rolling around in the area where your dog intends to rest. Many dogs repeatedly circle before settling down. Some nose their way under blankets to create a tunnel or cave where they can hide. Dogs often treat a pile of blankets like a playground, but they will also scratch their resting area even if no bedding is present. If your dog decides to sleep on your cold kitchen tile, he may scratch and paw at the floor around him. Any surface he decides to sleep on is fair game.
Why Does My Dog Scratch Her Bed?Several factors are responsible for bed-scratching habits. Your dog's behaviour may be due to one or more of the following.
Natural InstinctBed-scratching is a natural instinct. Your dog's wild ancestors scratched at piles of leaves, dirt and pine needles to create a comfortable mound of bedding. In the wild dog's world, digging and circling shifted sticks, rocks and grass into more comfortable or uniform positions. The nest also served as protection against predators. Manipulating the materials around them could help conceal their position, and make them feel less vulnerable. Burrowing under leaves and dirt could create a warmer or cooler space where dogs could escape the harsh weather and extreme temperatures. Many domesticated dogs still retain the burrowing behaviour; that's why your dog builds a fort in his blankets.
Territorial BehaviourBed-scratching can be territorial behaviour. Dogs are naturally driven to mark their territory. You're probably aware that dogs urinate on objects to claim them as their own, but that unpleasant behaviour isn't the only way to get the job done. Dogs have glands in their paws that leave a distinctive scent on bedding or other objects whenever they scratch. You may only see a tattered blanket, but your dog may see and smell a space that he has made his own. Dogs are more likely to return to a bedding spot if they already feel it's theirs. This may be why bed-scratching behaviours sometimes begin or intensify when a new pet or person has moved into the house, or there has been another type of major change in the household.
A Learned HabitBed-scratching can be learned. Although scratching could be territorial when it occurs after a new animal enters the home, it could also be a learned or mimicked behaviour. This is especially true if the new pet is another dog. Dogs tend to copy the behaviour of other dogs. If your new dog circles and scratches with glee, your other dogs may just join in for fun.
Maternal InstinctBed-scratching is part of canine maternal instinct. If your female dog is getting ready to have her puppies, her bed-scratching behaviour will suddenly increase. In this case, it's called nesting, and it's a natural, hormonal response. She's making a nest for the arrival of her new pups to keep them warm and safe.
Strategies for Managing Scratching BehavioursIf simply creating a comfortable spot for your dog to sleep could stop the madness of bed-scratching, life would be easier for dog owners. Unfortunately, even the best dog beds can't eliminate natural instinct. Here are a few tips that may help you keep the household intact.
- Try adding more blankets to your dog's bed, or provide softer textures.
- Place one very heavy, large blanket on the bed.
- If your dog is scratching on your floor and leaving marks, consider training classes or invest in nail caps.
- Try relocating the bed to a more private area.
- Invest in a high-quality dog bed that provides support, comfort and durability.