Why Do Dogs Scratch Before They Lay Down?

Imagine the end of a long and tiring day. When it comes to finally getting some time to rest or sleep, we can simply collapse into our beds or couches and drift to dreamland.

Wildlife enthusiasts believe wolves slept with their noses to the wind in order to pick any threatening scent in the air. Another reason they did this was to stamp down the grass, leaves, or snow and create a level, comfortable surface before finally resting.

Scratching the ground is away to spread their scent and mark their territory, communicating to other dogs or animals that this is their nest or place of rest.

If you have a dog at home, youve likely noticed theyve got some strange bedtime ritualslike turning in a circle a dozen times before settling down or snuggling up with their favorite blanket. You may have even noticed your favorite pup scratching and digging at their beds (you may even have a pile of dog bed stuffing on your floor as proof!).

Digging became a way for dogs living in areas with particularly cold or wet weather to find protection against their environment. To mark territory Like cats and many other four-legged creatures, dogs have scent glands on the bottom of their feet, which secrete a distinct pheromone.

If they think theres something exciting hiding under the cushions of their bed, like some leftover food or a toy, they might dig as a way of uncovering it.

Indoors, my dog, Baby, has a hard plastic-bucket bed. Her bedding is made up of layers of quilts and rugs I find at thrift stores. When its time for her to settle in for the night, shell scratch at or dig into the covers, circle the bed several times and then finally curl up to sleep. Outdoors, by the end of each summer, there are at least two spots in the yard that shes converted into little sleeping pits. No matter your dogs size, breed or age, most seem to perform one or more of these strange bedtime rituals. A patchy lawn is one thing, but it can be a different matter when we discover holes in our furniture cushions or duvet covers or scratches on our hardwood floors. Lets take a look at why dogs scratch their beds and other similar dog bedtime rituals.

If you own a dog, chances are you’ve seen the way they walk in tight circles, stomp with their paws, or claw and dig before lying down. Depending on the dog and the situation, circling behavior can be cute (or, if excessive, can be annoying — especially if you’re trying to sleep).

“I have also heard that circling the area and thus flattening it leaves a visible sign to other dogs that this territory has been claimed,” says author and sociologist Leslie Irvine in an interview with “Life’s Little Mysteries.”

1. Circling Their Bed

You might have seen your pup circling their bed before they collapse into it. Dog behaviorists believe this was inherited from wolf ancestors.During the days of the wild, wolves would do the same ritual, which is believed to be a self-preservation method to ward off or spot any attacks in the wild before they fell asleep.Wildlife enthusiasts believe wolves slept with their noses to the wind in order to pick any threatening scent in the air. Circling where they slept helped determine the direction of the wind at the time and better position themselves before they went to sleep.Another reason they did this was to stamp down the grass, leaves, or snow and create a level, comfortable surface before finally resting.

2. Scratching The Ground

Scratching the ground before settling into bed is another ritual you might have noticed your dog doing. And though you might feel like it’s only purpose is to scratch up your floors, it’s actually another innately inherited behavior handed down by dogs’ non-domesticated ancestors.Dogs, like wolves, have scent glands in the bottoms of their paws as well as between their toes that secrete pheromones. Scratching the ground is away to spread their scent and mark their territory, communicating to other dogs or animals that this is their nest or place of rest.Scratching the floor was also a way for them to create a shallow nest where they can retain body heat in case they were sleeping in the cold.

Why do dogs scratch their beds?

We can’t see or sense it, but when dogs circle and scratch at their beds, they are actually staking a personal claim to that special place. One surprising feature of a dog’s paw pads is its scent glands. When dogs get ready for bed, then, their feet serve two purposes.Scratching at their beds and circling before lying down both help our dogs chase away any unwanted pests and mark an area with their unique scent. If another dog tries to use it, the unique odor sends a message: This bed is already occupied by a dog who has put in the work to get it just right.

Why do dogs dig in their beds?

Home thermostats are set for our comfort, rather than that of our dogs. If the heating or air conditioning bothers your dog, he relies on the same strategies as he does outside. By digging a bed in a shady spot during summer, or one exposed to direct sunlight in winter, dogs use ground temperature to their advantage. They dig to cool down or warm up.Dogs also dig in their beds to make themselves more comfortable. It’s the same impulse that leads us to twist, turn and fluff our pillows before finding a position that feels good. Unfortunately, our pups don’t know the difference between grass and home furnishings. Digging can change the ground — or the chair or couch — to be softer, more inviting and more restful.