Why do dogs scratch the bed before lying down?


Have you ever noticed your dog scratching the bed or floor before settling down for a nap? This common behavior can be puzzling to many pet owners. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this peculiar habit and shed light on the various factors that contribute to it.

The Instinctual Nature of Dogs

Dogs are descendants of wolves, and despite centuries of domestication, they still retain many of their ancestral instincts. Scratching the bed before lying down is one such instinctual behavior that has been passed down through generations. Let’s delve deeper into the possible reasons behind this behavior.

1. Marking Territory

One possible explanation for dogs scratching the bed is to mark their territory. Dogs have scent glands in their paws, and by scratching the surface, they leave behind their scent. This action serves as a way of claiming the area as their own and communicating their presence to other animals.

1.1 Scent Communication

Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell, and their ability to detect various scents is far superior to that of humans. By scratching the bed, they release pheromones from their paws, which act as a form of communication. Other dogs can pick up these scents and gain information about the dog who left them, such as their gender, reproductive status, and even their emotional state.

1.2 Establishing a Comfort Zone

Scratching the bed can also be a way for dogs to establish a comfortable sleeping spot. By rearranging the bedding or making a nest-like area, they create a cozy space that suits their needs. This behavior can be particularly prevalent in breeds with a strong nesting instinct, such as terriers and hounds.

2. Preparing a Den

Another possible reason for dogs scratching the bed is their natural inclination to create a den-like environment. In the wild, wolves and other canids would dig and scratch the ground to create a den for protection and shelter. This behavior is deeply ingrained in dogs, and scratching the bed can be an instinctual way of preparing a comfortable sleeping area.

The Role of Anxiety and Stress

While territorial marking and den preparation are instinctual reasons for dogs scratching the bed, there can also be underlying emotional factors that contribute to this behavior. Anxiety and stress can manifest in various ways, and bed scratching can be one of them.

3. Alleviating Anxiety

Dogs may scratch the bed as a coping mechanism for anxiety or stress. Just like humans bite their nails or fidget when feeling nervous, dogs exhibit repetitive behaviors to self-soothe. Scratching the bed can provide a temporary sense of comfort and help alleviate anxiety.

3.1 Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common condition in dogs, especially when left alone for long periods. Bed scratching can be a symptom of this anxiety, as dogs try to release pent-up energy or seek comfort in their familiar sleeping area.

3.2 Environmental Stressors

Environmental stressors, such as loud noises, changes in routine, or the presence of unfamiliar people or animals, can also trigger bed scratching in dogs. This behavior serves as a way for them to cope with the stress and regain a sense of control over their environment.

Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Beds Before Lying Down

Why do dogs scratch their beds before lying down?

Medical Considerations

While instinctual and emotional factors play a significant role in bed scratching, it is essential to consider potential medical reasons behind this behavior. Certain health conditions can cause discomfort or itchiness, leading dogs to scratch the bed excessively.

4. Skin Irritations and Allergies

Dogs can develop skin irritations or allergies due to various factors, such as environmental allergens, food allergies, or parasites. Itchy skin can drive dogs to scratch their beds in an attempt to relieve the discomfort.

4.1 Fleas and Parasites

Fleas, ticks, and other parasites can cause intense itching and discomfort for dogs. If your dog is scratching the bed excessively, it is essential to check for any signs of infestation and consult with a veterinarian for appropriate treatment.

5. Dermatitis and Infections

Dermatitis, which refers to inflammation of the skin, and bacterial or yeast infections can also lead to itching and scratching. Dogs may scratch their beds as a reflexive response to relieve the discomfort caused by these conditions.

5.1 Hot Spots

Hot spots, or acute moist dermatitis, are localized areas of skin inflammation. They can be incredibly itchy and painful, prompting dogs to scratch vigorously. If your dog consistently scratches a specific area of the bed, it is crucial to inspect their skin for any signs of hot spots.

FAQs about Dogs Scratching the Bed

  1. Why do dogs scratch the bed specifically and not other surfaces?

    Dogs primarily scratch the bed because it offers a soft and comfortable surface for them to rearrange, mark their territory, or prepare a den. However, some dogs may exhibit similar behavior on other surfaces, such as carpets or rugs, depending on their individual preferences.

  2. Is it necessary to discourage dogs from scratching the bed?

    Discouraging dogs from scratching the bed depends on the underlying reason behind the behavior. If it is purely instinctual or due to natural nesting instincts, it may be challenging to eliminate entirely. However, if the scratching is excessive, causing damage to the bed or discomfort for the dog, seeking guidance from a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer may be beneficial.

  3. Can training help prevent dogs from scratching the bed?

    Training can be effective in redirecting a dog’s behavior, but it may not entirely eliminate the instinctual urge to scratch the bed. However, providing appropriate alternatives, such as a designated scratching post or a comfortable dog bed, can help minimize the damage caused by excessive scratching.

  4. Should I be concerned if my dog scratches the bed excessively?

    If your dog scratches the bed excessively or displays signs of discomfort, such as redness, swelling, or hair loss, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian. Excessive scratching can be an indication of underlying health issues, such as allergies or skin infections, which require professional attention.

  5. Can I use anti-itch creams or sprays to alleviate my dog’s scratching?

    It is not recommended to use human anti-itch creams or sprays on dogs without consulting a veterinarian. Dogs have different skin pH levels and may react adversely to certain ingredients. It is best to seek professional guidance to ensure the appropriate treatment for your dog’s specific condition.

  6. When should I seek veterinary help for my dog’s scratching?

    If your dog’s scratching is persistent, intense, or accompanied by other symptoms, such as hair loss, sores, or changes in behavior, it is advisable to seek veterinary help. A veterinarian can conduct a thorough examination, diagnose any underlying issues, and recommend the appropriate treatment plan.


Scratching the bed before lying down is a behavior deeply rooted in a dog’s instinctual nature. It serves various purposes, including marking territory, preparing a den-like environment, and relieving anxiety. However, excessive scratching should not be ignored, as it can be a sign of underlying medical conditions or emotional distress. By understanding the reasons behind this behavior and seeking professional guidance when necessary, pet owners can ensure their dogs’ well-being and comfort.

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