Scratching at your bed sheets is one of the less endearing things that dogs enjoy doing. It can result in scratched and damaged sheets, as well as introducing dirt from your dog’s claws into your bed. If you are getting fed up with rumpled and torn sheets you might want to read on to see why your dog does this, and also what you can do to help stop the behavior.
Reasons why your dog might scratch your bed sheets
1. Natural instinct
Some dogs are very driven by their natural instincts. Their ancient wild ancestors used to dig dens or shallow holes in the ground in which to lie. This gave them warmth and security as well as clearing debris out of the way of where they were going to lie. So your dog may just be trying to get your bedding into the optimum arrangement for his comfort.
2. Territorial behavior
Some dogs will scratch at things as a way of marking their territory. Dogs’ paws contain scent and sweat glands that leave a smell behind. We can’t usually detect this, but other animals with a more sensitive sense of smell can. Your dog may be rubbing his paws or scratching around your home generally, particularly if a new animal is being introduced into the household.
3. Maternal instinct
Female dogs may scratch around at bedding more often than usual if they are expecting a litter of pups. Their maternal instincts drive them to start performing nesting-type behaviors. They are just experimenting in trying to find somewhere safe and comfortable for their puppies. These nesting behaviors may also be seen in female dogs that are experiencing false (phantom) pregnancies, again, brought about by changes in their hormones.
4. Trying to find snacks/toys
Part of a dog’s natural instinct is to bury food, as a way of hiding it so that they can come back and eat some more later, without it being stolen by another scavenger in the meantime. Your dog may be scratching at your bedding to try and find previously hidden toys and treats, or because the scent of them is still on your bedding.
5. Excess energy
Some dogs will carry out seemingly random acts to burn off pent-up energy. Dogs can become frustrated and bored if they don’t receive enough exercise or mental stimulation. These dogs can start to show destructive behaviors or other quirks to try and fill their time. Make sure your dog is getting out for enough walks and consider things like agility classes to keep him busy too.
6. Attention seeking behavior
Some dogs will try to seek your attention, and not always in a positive way. If they feel like they aren’t getting enough of your time they could try and attract attention to themselves. Even negative attention, like being shouted at, is still better than no attention for some dogs. Alternatively, you may have accidentally reinforced his behavior by laughing or clapping the first couple of times he did it, again giving him attention.
Specific breeds prone to scratching sheets
Some breeds are much more prone to digging-type behaviors than others. Terriers, for example, are well renowned for their digging. Terriers were originally bred to dig and catch rodents, and these instincts remain strong even in our pet dogs today.
How to discourage your dog from scratching your bed sheets
As discussed, bed scratching is fairly normal behavior for most dogs, so unless it’s causing problems you may just decide to turn a blind eye. But if it is making you concerned, then here are some practical solutions that may help.
Don’t allow your dog on your bed
The best thing you can do to stop your dog from scratching at your bed sheets is to stop them from getting on your bed in the first place! While it can seem nice to share your bed with your pet, especially when they are a puppy, it’s not the most hygienic practice. Dogs can introduce dirt and parasites into your bedding, as well as increasing the amount of dander available for house dust mites to live on. This can make allergies and asthma worse for people that suffer from these conditions.
Make sure your dog has his own comfortable bed and praise him when he gets into it. Start training him to get off your bed by using a command word, like “down,” and praise him when he does as he’s told. Make sure everyone in your family is consistent—it can be confusing if some people let him on the bed and others don’t.
Keep toys/snacks out of the bed
If you decide you want to continue sharing your bed with your dog, you could help improve the situation by not allowing him to have any treats or toys up there. Not only will this help with hygiene again (fewer slobbery toys and half-chewed treats for you to roll around with), but will also make it clear that your bed is a place to sleep, not play, dig, and scratch.
Buy seamless covers/sheets
To avoid your bedding getting damaged, stick to seamless styles with no fancy embroidery or sequins attached that your dog could get their claws caught in and accidentally rip. You could consider laying an extra blanket or throw on top of your covers to help protect your bedding too.
Clip your dog’s nails
If you decide you can live with your dog’s scratching behavior, you could just make the chances of him damaging your bed or sheets less likely by keeping his nails trimmed. Shorter, blunter nails are less likely to catch and tear your bedding. If you’re not sure how to safely trim your dog’s claws then speak to your veterinarian or take your dog to the groomer for help.
Take your dog for a walk before bedtime
Tiring your dog out will mean he is more likely to just crash and sleep at bedtime. A dog that is tired and happy will be far less likely to be destructive. A quick walk or play in the garden may help get rid of any excess energy.
Dogs may scratch and dig at your bedsheets for a number of reasons, and it can become annoying if they do it frequently, especially if your sheets are damaged in the process! Hopefully, some of the suggested solutions can help to improve things—just remember to be consistent and positive with any training that you do. If you have concerns about your dog’s behavior then speak to a veterinarian or qualified pet behaviorist for further help.