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Home > Dogs > Why Do Dogs Scratch at Their Bed: 5 Reasons

Why Do Dogs Scratch at Their Bed: 5 Reasons

Beagle puppy in dog bed at home

If you watch your dog as they are about to go to sleep, you might notice a particular behavior. Your dog might stand and scratch at their dog bed. Whether the sleeping spot is a fancy bed you probably spent too much on or an old pile of blankets, your dog might paw and scratch at it before lying down. Why is your dog doing this? This is a simple question with a very interesting answer. Dogs can scratch their beds for a number of reasons, and all of them are deeply connected to their ancient past. Here are five reasons that dogs might scratch their dog beds before going to sleep.


The 5 Reasons Why Dogs Scratch at Their Bed

1. Territory Marking

One of the reasons that dogs scratch their beds is to mark their territory. Dogs are covered in oils, and scratching or pawing the ground excretes some of these oils into the dirt. While people do not have noses strong enough to detect this scent, other dogs do. By scratching their beds, dogs are leaving a trace of themselves that lets other dogs and animals know that another dog was sleeping there. In many cases, this acts as a deterrent to keep animals away from the place where dogs sleep.

2. Defensive Posturing

brown dog laying on white and gray bed on the floor
Image By: Andrew Neel, Unsplash

Animals are the most vulnerable when they are sleeping. In the wild, it can be a harrowing experience to bed down and go to sleep. Scratching at the ground is often part of a dog’s circling behavior. Dogs will often circle and paw the ground before they sleep. After a dog is done, they will curl up into a ball to go to sleep. Curling up helps defend a dog while they are sleeping because it puts most of a dog’s bones facing outward. When a dog curls up, they put their spine, tail, skull, and legs in front of their soft underbelly. If something came up to attack a sleeping dog, they would first hit bone which would prevent them from injuring the dog’s organs. Scratching their bed is a part of this routine that sets dogs up for defensive success while sleeping.

3. Comfort

One simple reason that dogs might scratch their bed or the ground is to get comfortable. Dogs will clear out the area of debris like rocks, sticks, and leaves so that they can lie down on soft dirt. No one wants to lay on sticks, not even a dog. This scratching action helps clear the area of materials that will leave your dog with a smooth and comfortable area to sleep in. Your dog might do this in a dog bed in order to smooth out the bottom or to move toys out of the way in preparation for sleep.

4. Temperature Regulation

red welsh corgi pembroke cute dog lying down on a dog bed
Image By: Jus_Ol, Shutterstock

Another reason that dogs may scratch their bed is for temperature regulation. Think about how you flip your pillow over to get to the cool side. Scratching serves a similar purpose. In the wild, dogs will scratch the ground to turn up loose dirt. The dirt under the surface is often cooler than the dirt on the surface. This gives your dog a cool place to lay that has not been baking in the sun all day. A dog might even get up in the middle of a nap, circle, and scratch the bed again in order to get a better temperature for themselves.

5. Ancestral Instincts

If most of these scratching behaviors are related to the wild, why do they do it to their fancy dog beds? A dog’s scratching is deeply connected to ancestral instincts that exist deep in your dog’s DNA. Even if your dog is safe, warm, and cozy in their dog bed, they will still scratch because their instincts are telling them that they should, even if it will not improve the quality of their dog bed. In many cases, your dog will not even know why they are scratching their bed. It could be connected to any one of the four previously mentioned reasons, or it could not be connected to any of them. Scratching behavior is a powerful instinct, and your dog will do it out of ancestral habit rather than any concrete reason that you can readily point to.

divider-dog paw

Should You Worry About Your Dog Scratching the Bed?

Dog Bed
Image By: Jamie Street, Unsplash

No. In most cases, you should not worry about your dog scratching at their bed. Scratching is a completely natural behavior that your dog does for a number of beneficial or instinctual reasons. The only reason that you should worry about your dog’s scratching behavior in regard to its bed is if it becomes obsessive or destructive.

Some dogs are prone to falling into obsessive habits such as licking, digging, or scratching. If your dog is obsessively scratching the dog bed, you might want to consider trying to mitigate the behavior. Similarly, if your dog is ripping or tearing the dog bed to the point where they are destroying the dog bed, you might also want to consider getting a new dog bed or mitigating the behavior. Otherwise, you should not worry about your dog scratching their bed before they are going to sleep.



Dogs might scratch at their beds for a number of different reasons. They might want to make their bed more comfortable, or they might be trying to make themselves cooler before bedding down for a nap. Whatever the reason, the behavior is deeply connected to ancestral instincts that go back dozens of generations to wild dogs. In most cases, this type of behavior is completely natural and completely benign.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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