Dogs are oddballs, aren’t they? Sometimes they behave in ways that make us scratch our heads and think “why in the world are you doing that?“. If your dog is a digger, you’ve probably asked the question “why do dogs dig in their bed?” This is one of those weird things that nearly every dog does…now it’s time to find out why!
Dogs Dig In Their Bed Because of Survival Instincts
Humans have instincts just like animals do. Think about a newborn human baby. Does anyone teach the baby how to swallow? No, yet they instinctively know how and without this instinct they wouldn’t be able to survive.
However, humans can think much more logically than animals, and as we get older, we can control our instincts. Animals, on the other hand, cannot logically think through why they are doing something, so they will often behave in ways that seem odd.
We need to remember that even though we domesticate dogs, they maintain their survival instincts as if they were still out in the wild. They don’t sit there and think “now that I am in a safe house with a loving family, I no longer need to do this.”
Here are just a few instincts you’ll most likely see in your dog (other than digging in their bed)
- Marking their territory (primarily in male dogs)
- Burying their food
- Digging in the yard
- Barking at night
This list could go on and on. Some breeds have different instincts than others. For example, most dogs in the hound family will keep their nose to the ground when running and walking, whereas a sheepdog will keep their head up and rely on their vision just as much as their sense of smell.
Now that you understand the basic answer to why your dog digs in their bed is because of instincts, let’s get into the details of WHY this instinct developed so you can get a better idea of what they are expressing when doing it.
If you want this behavior to stop, towards the end of this article we will go over a few ways to get your dog to stop digging and scratching the bed.
3 Instincts That Cause This Behavior
What’s the number one priority of wild animals? Hint – It’s most likely your number one priority also…safety!
If you do a simple search for “wolf sleeping” you’ll notice they dig out a small surface in the ground to sleep in. They do this to decrease their chances of becoming another animals dinner. By sleeping even just a few inches under the surface, it helps hide them from potential predators.
Another way it helps protect them is by clearing any potential dangers that could have been right underneath them. For example, if a wolf were to lay on a snake or scorpion accidentally, that could potentially be deadly. By digging out a small surface in the ground, they are clearing the ground of potential danger.
2 – Temperature Regulation
Humans have sweat glands that help us regulate our body temperature. When we get too hot, we begin sweating which helps cool us down. Dogs don’t have sweat glands, but they do have the ability to regulate their body temperature in ways we can’t.
One of the ways is through panting. Have you ever noticed how on hot days dogs pant even when they weren’t running around? When they pant, they are allowing cold air to flow through their body which causes warm water to evaporate. We won’t get too scientific here, but that’s one method of temperature regulation for dogs.
The other method is known as conduction. On one of those blazing hot summer days, you’ve probably seen your dog spread out on the tile or some other cold surface. They aren’t doing this for comfort reasons alone; they are trying to regulate their body temperature. By using conduction, when they lay on a cold surface, the surface will pull heat out of the body which will cool their body temperature.
When humans go to bed, we have the ability to place more sheets over us when we get too cold and remove sheets when we get too hot; dog’s don’t have this ability. On hot days, when they scratch at the ground, they are removing the hottest part of the earth’s surface and are able to lay on a cooler part. On a cold day, the opposite is true, they are removing the coldest part of the surface and exposing a warmer part.
3 – Marking Territory
Territory is everything to dogs, and they want to make sure all the other dogs around them know this is their territory. They mark their territory in a variety of ways; one of the most common ways male dogs express this behavior is by urinating all around their region letting other dogs know not to come in.
Digging where they sleep is their way of letting all the other dogs know “this is my sleeping area, not yours.” By digging where they sleep, they are transferring most of their unique smell to that exact spot, preventing other dogs from “stealing their bed.
Can You Stop Your Dog From Bed Digging?
Once we go over the most common reasons dogs dig at their beds, one of the main questions we receive is “can this behavior be prevented”?. The simple answer is no, it can’t be prevented. However, you can significantly reduce the number of times this behavior is taking place.
Help Them Feel Safe
Remember, the number one reasons dogs dig at their bed is for survival. If this behavior is persisting day in and day out, your dog might not feel safe. There are several things you can do to help your dog feel safer. The first step is to move their bed to a more private location. Most dogs enjoy sleeping near their masters, but some dogs want exclusion when sleeping. On the other hand, some dogs may be afraid of exclusion. If their bed was already in a private location, you could move it closer to your room.
The next thing you need to ask yourself is if other dogs ever slept in that bed? Remember, everything is about territory for dogs. If there was ever another animal sleeping in their bed, they may continue to scratch and dig the bed until the other scent is gone.
Don’t Wash Everything At Once
In an ideal world, I would tell you never to wash your dog’s bed because they HATE IT when this happens. However, asking dog owners never to clean their dogs bed isn’t realistic. None of us want our homes continually smelling like a dirty dog.
One trick to help your dog “cope” with washing the bed is to make sure you don’t clean everything at once. Does your dog have blankets, pillows, or toys that they go to bed with? If so, only wash one thing at a time, never clean all of them at once. This will make them feel more comfortable knowing something smells like them at all times.
Do You Need This Behavior To Stop?
Before you try to stop this behavior, it’s important to ask yourself why? Part of being a responsible dog owner is understanding that your dog is going to have instincts that might seem odd, but it’s part of who they are. If they are digging at your bed, that’s a good reason to get them to stop. However, there are plenty of dog beds that are made to withstand digging. It would be worth investing a few extra bucks in one of these beds rather than trying to change your dogs instincts.
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