Have you ever noticed your dog dig and scratch at their bed, or turn around, lie down, get up and turn around some more? Don’t worry, it’s not a sign of canine insanity. This behavior, also called “denning,” is totally normal and natural. Denning results from the canine instinct to sleep (and therefore be vulnerable to predators) in areas that are comfortable, protected, and camouflaged.
Several things can trigger this pre-sleep ritual:
Fidgeting around in their bedding may be your dog’s way of manipulating the temperature to comfortable levels. Dogs have limited sweat glands, so they sometimes have to get creative and adjust their environment to cool off.
Outdoors, digging holes removes sun-exposed dirt and allows the dog to rest in the cooler soil beneath the surface. Indoors, overheated dogs may scratch at their beds or blankets to get the same effect. Just like flipping over to the cool side of the pillow!
Dogs also burrow when they are too cold. In nature, a warm, dry den provides protection from the elements. Your dog mimics that behavior in a wad of blankets so they become their own little space heater!
Hide And Seek
As mentioned, dogs have an instinct to sleep in a well-hidden place. Before they were our pampered pooches, canines had to fend for themselves in places where protection is never guaranteed.
Animals are incredibly vulnerable while sleeping, so using camouflage is an invaluable survival mechanism. Though the average domestic dog doesn’t have to worry about nighttime predators, your pup may still be motivated to hide during sleep due to this instinct.
Yup, they really like hiding! Not just themselves, but also food, toys, and random objects like socks or tv remotes (just in case you’re looking for it later). Some dogs do this more than others, so if you’re constantly wondering why all your socks are missing their match, try checking the dog bed.
Scratching at the bed can also be your dog’s way of claiming their territory. Dogs have scent glands in their paws, so they use scratching to disperse their unique odor and mark something as their own. Their incessant fussing at that new memory foam mattress bed may be a sign that they really love it and don’t want anyone else laying a paw on it!
Female dogs may have an urge to dig at their bed to prepare a comfortable place for their puppies shortly before giving birth (or whelping, if you want the technical term). This behavior, known as “nesting,” can even happen in dogs who have been spayed and are definitely not expecting a litter anytime soon.
We all like to be comfy when we sleep—that includes dogs, too! Just like we arrange our blankets and fluff our pillows before tucking in, dogs sometimes dig their beds to make it comfy as possible. Just a few bed scratches and your pup is snug as a bug in a rug!
Anxiety Or Boredom
If you start to notice a more aggressive type of digging, or even chewing, at their bed, this could be a sign that your pup is feeling anxious or bored, and they’re not sure how else to get that energy out. It’s a good indicator that it’s time to add some extra walks, exercise through play, or time at the dog park into their schedule.
Excited digging looks almost identical to the fast, aggressive pawing or chewing of the bed that happens when your pup is anxious or bored. The difference is that this type of digging can be typical during play, or maybe when a guest comes to visit.
Your dog may be getting a sudden burst of energy and not know how to get it out, so their bed takes the brunt of the abuse. Try letting them outside for a few zooms across the yard, or go for a quick walk to shed some of that excess energy. A durable bed helps, too.
Featured image c/o @bella.and.masha.the.poms