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Why Do Dogs Scratch The Couch? 9 Reasons + 5 Tips To Stop It

Why Do Dogs Scratch The Couch

A couch is a lot of things to humans.

It’s a place to relax and watch TV.

You can sit and rest after a long day at work.

And it’s where visitors sit when at your house.

But then your pooch decides to scratch hard making a hole in it.

Goodbye, sofa. You’ve served us well.

You ask yourself, “Will this happen all the time?”

But don’t worry!

There’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

Keep reading to find out:

  • 5 tips to stop couch-scratching in your dog.
  • 9 weird reasons why dogs scratch the couch.
  • Proven ways to beat boredom out of your dog.
  • What self-rewarding is and why you shouldn’t let your dog do it.
  • And many more…

Why do dogs scratch the couch?

Dogs scratch the couch because of boredom. But your dog could also be doing it because of frustration, anxiety, discomfort, or self-reward. Scratching to nest or burrow is another. It could also mean that critters are hiding in the couch.

9 reasons why dogs scratch the couch

#1: Boredom

Dogs get bored if left alone for some time. They need some entertainin’ if you come home to scratched furniture. 

Your pooch is a social creature who loves to do activities with their humans or doggy friends. 

Mental stimulation and activity are also important for your pooch. 

If these needs aren’t met, like your dog is home alone while you work, they’ll become man’s bored best friend.

Biologist, Charlotte Burns, wrote an essay about the effects of boredom in animals. She outlined triggers for boredom:

  • Monotony. 
  • Predictability.
  • Confinement.

She continues that animals will find ways to entertain themselves when bored. 

This happens because your dog wants to have something to do, but they can’t.

Boredom can result in exploration and learning. But with domesticated dogs stuck in the home, there is no proper outlet for their energy.

As a result, your dog will:

  • Destroy your pillows.
  • Scratch your furniture.
  • Chew your toilet paper.
  • Dig holes in your garden. 

All in the name of looking for something fun to do.

If dogs are left all alone every day, this starts to have a dangerous effect on their minds.

This study makes the point that animal brains can shrink when there’s no stimulation.

This can lead to inflexible behaviors in your pooch where correction is hard to do.

Your dog can become so used to boredom that they do not respond to stimuli.

Their brain has become so damaged, they cannot give reactions anymore.

Warning: Being bored every day is dangerous for your dog. Dogs are made for activity and socialization. Keep your pooch entertained even when you’re not at home.

Want to know how to do this? Keep on reading until the end.

You might also be interested in: 11 Weird Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Walls + How To Stop It

#2: Your dog doesn’t want to be left alone + separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is your dog’s panic response to being left alone. About 20% of dogs in the US have this condition.

This happens to dogs who have been left alone for long periods. As a result, dogs can have mild to severe separation anxiety.

Here are the early signs to look out for when your dog:

  • Always has to be near you.
  • Starts to panic when you get ready to leave.
  • Can’t be put in their own space without trying to escape.

What’s the difference between boredom and separation anxiety?

Some boredom behaviors are like separation anxiety behaviors.

But they’re different.

According to Positively, Dog Trainer Victoria Stillwell’s website, there is a sure way to find out.

Put a video camera in your house and record your dog’s behavior when you aren’t there.

If your dog does these within the first 30 minutes, there is a possibility of separation anxiety:

  • Excessive barking.
  • Continuous whining.
  • Actively trying to escape.
  • Destroying household items (doors, windows, furniture, etc.).

And here are the things bored dogs do after you leave:

  • Be calm after you leave.
  • Go to sleep in their bed.
  • Start chewing or scratching after waking up.

A dog like this is fine with being alone but not without something to do.

#3: A frustrated pooch on your hands

Dog Scratches The Couch When He's Frustrated

Scratching on your sofa can be a sign that your dog wants to let out some frustrations.

Has your family gone through some changes? (Moving to a new house, new dog, family members going away, etc.). 

Your dog might be reacting to the changes in their life. 

They can’t talk. 

So their only way to show frustration is through their bodies. 

Someone I know had this experience. 

My friend and her family have four dogs. 

They recently added a Pug puppy to the mix. 

The new dog took the spot of youngest away from Hela, an American Bully. 

All Hela’s puppy stuff got handed down to the new puppy, Gigi.

Soon it became clear that Hela liked playing with Gigi. 

But she did not like Gigi using her things. Even when they were already too small for her.

One evening, my friend noticed that Gigi’s hand-me-down bed was missing. 

They all looked high and low for it. 

The bed was found underneath the sofa. 

It looked like it went through a paper shredder. 

It was torn right in the middle and fluff was everywhere. 

Gigi had been using the bed for only 2 days.

The only dogs allowed inside the house were Gigi and Hela. 

And guess who stayed behind while Gigi got her vaccine shots? 

Little old Hela. 

My friend was at odds with what to do. 

But they solved the problem by giving treats to both dogs when they were together. 

And giving lots of love and praise for both.

Now, Hela and Gigi are best friends. 

They sleep cuddled together. 

And Hela doesn’t mind if Gigi takes a nap in her bed.

Dogs like a routine. If it’s disrupted in some way, they can lash out. 

We’d call them problem behaviors. 

But your dog is voicing out their frustrations in the only way they know how. 

This study says that your dog can feel that they have no control over the environment.

And this is a reason for frustration.

Other reasons include:

  • No access to safety.
  • Reduced or delayed reward.
  • Competition for a limited resource.
  • Barriers preventing them from getting something.

Note: As dog parents, it’s important to try to understand our doggos. Don’t let your dog feel unheard, or those behaviors will continue or even get worse. 

#4: Your dog’s getting a mani-pedi

Scratching is a way to make their nails shorter. 

Long nails are uncomfortable for your doggos. 

It makes walking or running painful. 

Overgrown nails can damage your dog’s paw pad. 

And the discomfort from the nails will cause problems with your dog’s spine and gait. 

Without regular trimming, your dog’s nails can curve inside and grow into their paw pad. 

It must be hell for your doggo. 

As their paw pads are always in direct contact with the ground.

Arthritis is another possible result of long nails. It’s a disease that affects bone joints.

Studies have shown that it happens more often in older dogs. It’s diagnosed in more than 50% of 8 to 13-year-old pooches.

How are long nails and arthritis connected?

Long nails cause your dog to stand unnaturally. This forces their bones to accommodate their posture. 

And doing this for a long time damages the bone cartilage.

The result?

The bone joints rub together without the cartilage. It causes pain and inflammation of the joints.

#5: It’s a hiding instinct 

“Must hide this for future use.”

Scratching at your couch might mean your dog wants to store their loot.

Hiding food is a behavior that is present in your pooch’s many times removed relatives, the wolves. 

In the wild, they don’t get to eat every day. 

So wolves dig holes. And hide some of their kill to save for their next meals. 

Your dog inherited this behavior. 

And now you are the receiver of holes in your couch because your dog wants to hide their toy.

#6: They smell prey

Dogs have very sensitive noses. 

PetMD states that a dog’s nose is 100,000 times stronger than humans.

It’s so strong they can form a picture in their brains using their nose. 

Scratching at your couch can mean your dog has smelled something.

One likely reason is bugs. 

Did you know that stink bugs can get inside your house?

It happens during autumn. 

Adult stink bugs look for warm places to spend the winter holidays.

They sneak into your house through even the smallest holes.

And find their way into your furniture.

Their smell alerts your doggo.

“What da heck is dat smell?”

“Must. Find. It.”

And your pooch interrupts their vacation. 

Their senses alert them if small bugs are scurrying about your couch.

By scratching, your doggo is on high alert and wants to get to their prey.

Do you remember my friend’s dog, Hela?

She has been known to hunt a mouse or two. 

Hela lives in an old house in the countryside.

The house has many nooks and crannies for mice to hide.

A lone mouse will pop out every once in a while.

And Hela is ready to catch them all.

My friend tells me that Hela and Gigi work in tandem to catch the mouse.

Well, Gigi just barks like mad and Hela does the actual work.

Hela doesn’t eat it, though. She shakes the mouse and paws at it as if saying,

“Eh? Why aren’t you moving? I wanted to play some more!”

Some dogs like to hunt. It’s like a big game to them.

According to the AKC, the hunting breeds have great hunting instincts:

  • Beagles.
  • Pointers.
  • Spaniels.
  • Retrievers.
  • Bloodhounds.

Compared to others, these dogs love chasing smaller animals (sometimes bigger ones!). 

If your dog is one of these breeds, you will observe behaviors such as:

#7: Your dog is nesting or burrowing

Is your dog pregnant?

Scratching and digging where they sleep is a nesting behavior.

Nesting is your dog’s instinctive way of preparing a birthing place for the puppies. 

This involves choosing a safe spot as their nest and filling it with blankets, clothes, or fluffy toys.

But, if you have a male dog, this action is also intuitive.

Burrowing is a behavior that came from digging a nest on the ground as a safe place to sleep.

It’s also why your dog loves burrowing under your blankets. 

A hole in the ground kept your doggo’s ancestors safe from bigger predators that might come in the night.

You might also want to know: Top 10 Reasons Why Chihuahuas Burrow (Under Blankets)

#8: The couch is uncomfortable

Your doggo may be wondering,

“Why is momma’s sofa so uncomfortable?”

Scratching at the couch may be their attempt to solve the problem.

Some dogs may feel hot and bothered by your couch fabric.

Has your dog dug holes in your yard and slept in them?

This is a way for your dog to cool down, especially during the summer days.

Scratching at the couch fabric is their way of uncovering the “cool” and more comfortable part of the couch.

#9: Scratching = self-reward

Your dog might keep doing it because it makes them happy.

A self-rewarding behavior is something that your dog does. It’s because the action gives them a satisfying feeling.

It helps your dog feel better by doing it. 

And they do it because it relieves stress, hunger, or boredom.

For example, your dog scratches the couch because they’re bored.

The scratching resolves the boredom because your pooch has something to do.

Beware if your dog feels self-rewarded for the behavior. 

Because they will keep and keep on doing the scratching.

5 tips to stop your dog from scratching the couch

It’s best to correct the couch-scratching in your dog. But how do you help your pooch learn that it’s not okay?

Keep reading the tips below and try them on your dog:

#1: Put a blanket on your couch

Put a physical barrier between your dog and the couch, such as a thick blanket. 

You can also buy sofa protectors that keep your dog from scratching and keep your couch clean.

According to the AKC, preventing your dog from learning bad behavior is easier than correcting it.

#2: Redirect your dog’s attention

Once your dog starts to scratch your couch, steal his attention with a:

  • Command.
  • Favorite toy.
  • Verbal interruption.

Redirect with the command “Watch me” or a toy

Teach your dog this command through these steps: 

  1. Get your dog’s attention by holding out a treat in front of them.
  2. Stretch out your hand to the side. If your dog follows the treat, wait.
  3. Eventually, your dog will look at you. Mark the action with a Good! or a click. Before giving the treat.
  4. Repeat until your dog starts looking at you automatically.
  5. Mark the action with a Good! or a click, then give the treat.
  6. Repeat a few times to cement the behavior.
  7. Start adding the Watch me command before stretching out your hand to the side.

Do the steps above but with your dog’s favorite toy. This is another option if your dog isn’t food motivated.

Use verbal interruption

Once your dog starts scratching your couch, shout out a word that your dog likes, such as:

  • Walk.
  • Treats.
  • Outside. 

And if you have your dog’s attention:

  1. Let your dog Come to you and Sit
  2. Give your dog treats for performing the command.
  3. Once your dog has relaxed, give them a toy. This allows them to work out their excess energy.

#3:  Leave them toys for entertainment

Bored dogs can do a lot of damage to your sofa. Leave them toys that stimulate their brain like:

  • Kong toys.
  • Snuffle mats.
  • Treat-dispensing toys.
  • Interactive puzzle toys.
  • Automatic ball throwers.

Switch out the toys every now and then. This prevents your dog from getting used to the toy and becoming bored with the predictability.

1 sure way to prevent boredom is through playtime.

Watch this video for game ideas with your dog:

#4: Keep them in another space without couches

Let your dog understand that the couch is not the place for them. 

  1. If your dog is scratching at your sofa, lead them to a closed-off area without couches.

Use gates or other devices to keep your dog in their space.

  1. Give your dog treats when you get to their space.
  2. Repeat a few times until your dog starts going on their own.
  3. Give your dog treats when they do so.
  4. Add a command for the place Bed, Kitchen, or Room.
  5. Alternate treats and praise when your dog does it.

Do this exercise, and your dog will have a positive association with their space.

They’ll understand that it’s a safe and happy place.

#5: Check the couch for critters

If your dog is still scratching no matter what you do, this may be a problem within the couch.

Mice, rats, and other small creatures could be nesting inside your couch.

Turn your couch over and check for entry holes at the back and under the furniture.

If there is none, try removing the couch.

If your dog starts scratching the floor underneath the couch, there may be something underneath.

One dog owner shared on the Internet that their dog would scratch at a part of their floor no matter what they did.

It turned out that there was a nest of wasps living below their floor.

Scary! Good thing the dog could hear the wasps and warned the family about it.