Why Do Dogs Scratch their Beds?

Dogs have been our loyal companions for thousands of years, and in the time, we have come to understand many of their behaviors. Yet, some activities still leave us puzzled.

Take, for example, dogs scratching their beds before lying in them?

The act of dogs scratching their beds before lying down might seem like a random or even destructive behavior, but in the world of canine instincts and behaviors, it becomes clear that there’s more to this simple act than meets the eye.

Let’s look at why do dogs scratch their beds?

Dogs scratch their beds because:

  • it’s instinctual
  • it’s a routine or habit
  • it’s a nesting behavior
  • it’s part of their playtime
  • to change their temperature
  • to create a safe place to sleep
  • to be comfortable
  • to mark their scent
  • to keep their nails shorter
  • something is bothering them such as bugs or skin ailments

1. Instinctual Behavior from Ancestral Times

The act of scratching or digging at the ground before settling down is believed to be an instinctual behavior that dates back to a time when dogs were wild animals. Before the comforts of modern dog beds, dogs had to make their own sleeping spots. Scratching and digging at the ground served several purposes:

Temperature Regulation

By digging into the ground, dogs could reach cooler layers of earth during hot weather, or warmer layers during colder times. This helped them regulate their body temperature and create a more comfortable sleeping spot.


Digging a shallow hole or depression in the ground provided a more concealed and secure place to rest, protecting them from predators or other threats.


Just as we fluff our pillows or adjust our blankets, dogs would arrange the ground to their liking, ensuring a comfortable sleeping position.

2. Scent Marking

Dogs have a much more developed sense of smell than humans. Their noses are not just tools for detecting scents but also for communication. By scratching their beds, dogs might be depositing their scent, marking their territory, and signaling to other animals that this is their spot. This behavior can be likened to humans putting name tags on their belongings.

3. Natural Nail Maintenance

While it might not be the primary reason, scratching can also serve as a way for dogs to naturally file down their nails. In the wild, regular movement over varied terrains would naturally keep a dog’s nails in check. In our homes, where such natural abrasion might be lacking, scratching at tougher surfaces like beds or carpets can help maintain nail length.

4. Behavioral Issues and Health Concerns

While the act of scratching is often natural and harmless, excessive scratching can sometimes indicate underlying behavioral or health issues:


Dogs infested with parasites like fleas or mites might scratch their beds in an attempt to find relief from the itching.

Skin Conditions

Allergies, fungal infections, or other skin conditions can cause discomfort, leading to increased scratching behavior.

Anxiety or Stress

Just as humans might have nervous ticks or habits when anxious, dogs might scratch or dig when they’re feeling stressed or anxious.

If you notice excessive or aggressive scratching, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health concerns.

5. Routine and Ritual

Dogs are creatures of habit. Once they develop a routine, they tend to stick to it. If a dog has gotten into the habit of scratching its bed before lying down, it might continue to do so out of ritual, even if the original reason for the behavior no longer applies.

6. Nesting Behavior in Female Dogs

Female dogs, especially those that are pregnant or in heat, might exhibit increased nesting behavior. This includes scratching or digging at their beds to prepare a comfortable spot for themselves or their future puppies.

7. Exploration and Play

Puppies, with their boundless energy and curiosity, might scratch at their beds simply out of playfulness or exploration. They’re learning about their environment and testing out different behaviors, and scratching can be a part of that learning process.

Final Note on Why Do Dogs Scratch their Beds?

The act of a dog scratching its bed is a multifaceted behavior rooted in instinct, comfort, communication, and sometimes health or behavioral concerns.

While it’s often a harmless and natural act, understanding the reasons behind it can help dog owners ensure their pets are comfortable, happy, and healthy.

If you ever find yourself puzzled by your dog’s behavior, remember that they have a rich world of instincts and communications that we’re only beginning to understand.

Observing, learning, and sometimes just appreciating these behaviors can deepen the bond between human and canine, reminding us of the rich tapestry of nature and evolution that connects us all.

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