You and your dog have called it a day…
You’re about to go off into dreamland when suddenly, you get interrupted.
Your dog gets up and insanely scratches your bed sheet.
It makes you think…
“What could’ve brought this behavior?”
And whatever it is, it has delayed your good night’s sleep.
But don’t worry, we’re here to enlighten you…
And let you sleep at night.
In this article you’ll find out:
- 3 kinds of instincts that tell your dog to scratch.
- The explanation behind a dog’s pursuit for warmth.
- Other signs of stress in your dog besides scratching.
- 11 reasons why your dog scratches your bed sheets.
- And much more…
Table of contents
Why does my dog scratch my bed sheets?
Your dog scratches your bed sheets as a result of instinctive behaviors. These are denning, chasing, and if your dog’s pregnant, nesting. It could also indicate a need for comfort, warmth, and attention. Other reasons for this behavior include imitation, scent-marking, stress relief, and boredom.
11 strange reasons why your dog scratches your bed sheet
#1: Trying to chase away critters
Dogs have a lot of instincts.
Your dog’s ancestors mostly functioned with these impulses. Which lets them survive and try to live a fruitful life.
Despite domestication, numerous instincts in dogs aren’t gone.
It’s encrypted in their biology to act in certain ways at certain times.
One example of that is scratching.
Dogs scratch for many instinctive reasons. It depends on the situation.
In this case, they scratch to chase away critters.
Long time ago, dogs in the wild used to get rid of insects before lying down.
This behavior gets passed on until now.
And so, your dog will start scratching your bed sheets before relaxing.
Wait. Don’t worry…
I’m not saying there are insects in bed.
Like I said, this is an instinctive behavior.
So whether there are any critters around, your pooch would still do it.
Let a few moments pass and your dog will finish their pursuit.
After all, they might only be doing it to answer to their biology.
#2: Seeking comfort
Have you ever had those moments of stirring around the bed? One where you’re not comfortable, and so you try to find the right position for you.
Unable to be cozy, you turn your pillow to the other, colder side. Or you fix your blanket’s way of wrapping around you.
Remember that next time you see your dog scratching your bed sheets.
Because just like you, your dog is trying to find the right sleeping area or set-up.
And so they scratch, and scratch.
Maybe they aim to remove that blanket you have because they prefer laying on just the covers.
Stirring accompanies this behavior, too. Where they’d often get up, scratch, and lie down.
Then they’d do it again.
Until they find the most comfortable, suitable, set-up to sleep.
You can stop this behavior by softly telling them to.
Let your canine know that that’s how you prefer your bed to be.
And you’re sorry that they can’t make any changes.
If it doesn’t bother you, there’s nothing wrong with providing your dog their version of comfort.
#3: Seeking warmth
The feeling of heat is important to a dog.
This warmth-seeking behavior has stemmed from when they were puppies.
Puppies are sensitive to temperature.
For the first week of their lives, little pups can’t regulate their temperature alone.
They gotta have their momma doggos as their source of warmth.
But, since your dog has grown, they don’t need to depend on their mothers anymore.
And so, they seek warmth from other sources. And through many different ways.
One of many different ways to produce heat is scratching.
Your dog scratches your bed sheets because they can be feeling cold.
With that, they want to warm up their surroundings. So that they can be warm, too.
It has something to do with heat inputs – the temperature around them will define this.
So say you have your air conditioner on in the room. You set it at a temperature that’s too cold for your pooch.
Therefore, the heat input for your dog is low.
So the scratching commences!
Fido is attempting to increase the heat input by applying friction on your sheets.
After that, your dog will lie back down in the scratched area. By doing so, they absorb the heat they created through scratching.
Remember: Temperature regulation is critical in a dog. For your reference, a dog’s normal body temperature should be 101°F (38.3°C) to 102.5°F (39.2°C). So make sure you put your dog in a room with the given temperature.
Other signs that your dog is feeling cold:
- Curling up like a donut.
- Hunching posture and a tucked tail.
#4: Maternal nesting
You’re gonna be a grand fur parent!
You probably already know that as this behavior shows when the time of birth is near.
When a soon-to-be mom doggo does this behavior, it means that they’re nesting.
Nesting is an innate way for your dog to get ready for giving birth.
Other than bed sheets, they can target other blankets, towels, and even paper.
They’re on a quest to find the best spot to give birth. And their maternal instincts will not prevail.
This happening is most common in dogs expecting their first litter ever.
It usually occurs in less than one or two days before the puppies’ arrival to the world.
Research says that 71% to 80% of mother dogs with multiple puppies exhibit a nesting behavior.
The frequency of this behavior can increase along with uterine contractions.
Watch out for these other signs of parturition:
- Lack of attention.
- Reduced appetite.
If, along with the nesting, these signs show… better get ready!
Remember to also watch your dog closely. Even though some dogs prefer isolation as they give birth.
Other times, your dog may want your moral support.
Whichever it is, buckle up because it’s going to be a wild ride.
With that, I hope you find your grand fur babies amazing!
#5: Scent marking
Your dog’s scratching could be their way of marking what’s theirs.
I bet you already know that your dog has sweat glands on their paw pads.
These sweat glands are merocrine glands.
Your dog’s merocrine glands leave a smell that’s distinctive of them during scratching.
Therefore, this helps them mark their territory in your bed sheets.
Scent marking is important for the canine family.
Despite domestication, your dog’s still bound to practice it.
It’s because this behavior is a way for them to communicate.
It plays a part in their social life by shaping their group and emotional bonds with other dogs.
So, yes. Your dog could be marking your bed as their own.
And it means that they plan on sleeping on it repetitively.
On the same spot where they scratched and left their scent.
So say you just washed your bed sheets, and your dog starts scratching.
It might be because they lost the smell that they left there. And your furry friend wants to reestablish it as theirs.
Once they successfully leave their scent, you’re going to find them on the same spot of your bed…
Only until you wash it again, and the cycle repeats.
#7: Imitated behavior
Just like kids, one of the best ways dogs can learn is through imitation.
Don’t believe me?
Study suggests that dogs are capable of ‘automatic imitation’.
Puppies’ interactions with their humans shape their actions. It’s because these puppies observe and copy behaviors that they’ve seen.
But of course, we’re talking about scratching the bed sheets.
I doubt that your pup has ever seen you do this behavior the way they do.
So your dog must’ve learned this from another canine.
For example, they are the 2nd dog in your family. And that you got them when they were a cute little pup.
So, the 2 of your dogs just met. And they’re slowly starting to get to know each other.
That unfamiliarity affects your pup’s social learning.
Your first dog before your new pup exhibits this scratching behavior in front of them.
Not once, but many times.
In this study, puppies showed that they are more likely to learn from an unfamiliar model.
Even more than they can learn from their mothers!
Turns out, puppies paid greater attention to a strange subject.
It could have something to do with their curiosity.
With that, as time passes by, your pup has grown fond of the behavior.
It’s a nice Saturday afternoon.
You may have plans for today, but you suddenly decide to cancel.
After all, there’s nothing wrong with taking a rest after a tough week at work.
And so, you lay down on your bed, and you relax.
All of a sudden, your dog jumps on your bed and scratches your sheets.
Fido could have so much energy. And if you won’t play with them or take them for a walk, they will constantly scratch.
They could also start doing other attention-seeking behaviors like:
- Gazing at you.
- Running around.
- Constant barking.
- Destructive behaviors, e.g., chewing your shoes.
Either way, they use their energy. It also effectively gets your attention.
“Win-win!” says your unwavering pooch.
Let’s look at ourselves for a few minutes.
What’s your cathartic method?
A catharsis is an activity that lets us release pent-up emotions.
It differs from one person to another.
It could be writing in their journals. For others, it could be cleaning their whole apartment in a day.
Whatever it is, the purpose of it is to let go of the stress-giving energy. And you hope that catharsis will provide you a purification of your emotions.
Scratching your bed sheets could be a cathartic method for your dog.
Yes, your dog could be stressed, too.
To the point that they create behaviors that help them alleviate it.
At this point, you’ve known that there are many reasonable causes for this behavior. With that, it can be hard to tell if this is stress-related or not.
Scratching is like normal behavior for your dog.
So, you might not even deduce at first that it’s stress. But it can be.
What causes a dog to be stressed?
- Crowded places.
- Disruption in their routine.
- Unfamiliar objects, like new furniture.
- Loud noises, from construction, fireworks, etc.
- Sudden life changes, like moving to a new home.
- Presence of new people, maybe you had your new workmates over.
So how can you tell that scratching is a stress-related behavior?
For a start, it will be a persistent behavior. Your dog will release their energy whenever they have to, every single time they get stressed.
Other signs include:
- Constant whining and barking.
- An evident change in body posture.
If your dog is indeed stressed, here’s what you can do:
You should first identify their stressor.
Once known, extract your dog from their irritant.
Or you could also remove the stressor away from them.
Can you think of a skill you learned when you’re bored?
Or a habit you picked up every time you feel dull?
If we’re to ask your dog this question, their answer might be their scratching behavior.
Yes, this action can show your dog’s boredom.
And this isn’t the fruit of only one occurrence.
It can be from a series of under-stimulation.
Every time your dog is left on their own, they figure out what to do for the day.
You’re working on a big project for work.
This project requires you to do a lot of overtime.
Once you get home, you still focus your energy on this project. After all, so much depends on it.
On the other hand, your poor doggo is waiting for your affection. And they’ve been waiting the whole day.
This incident keeps going on for weeks, until the project gets approved.
Once you’re available for your dog, you noticed the behavior just now.
On all those days you worked on your big project, your dog developed this habit.
Mostly, to fill their need to release the energy that they can’t share with you.
Their scratching behavior couldn’t be the only practice that they started doing.
Here are other learned behaviors your dog might do when they’re bored:
- Excessive barking.
- Falling over trash cans.
- Nibbling on your shoes.
- Chewing on whatever they can reach.
Have another big project coming?
Either yes or no, here are ways to prevent under-stimulation on your dog:
- Take them to furry play dates. Socializing has many benefits for your dog. And it doesn’t matter what their age is.
- Regularly exercise them. Establish a routine exercise for your dog. Walk them before you go to work. They will likely nap and stay (less) out of trouble.
- Mentally stimulate them by leaving behind interactive toys for them. Regularly challenge your dog’s mind. if you’re around, you can play hide-and-seek with them. You can also organize a treat hunt around your house.
You can start with this puzzle game that ‘busts your dog’s boredom’.
It hides kibbles in different compartments. It’s up to your dog to get their hands on their well-deserved treats.
In the wild, denning is important for your dog’s ancestors.
Denning lets a canine create their site.
This site is where they take care of their pups.
In fact, a great den for parental care is said to increase the health of their offspring.
Another component of a great den is proximity to resources.
Dogs will create a den closest to reservoirs to ensure plenty of food.
Lastly, their den is their shelter against threats.
In the present, your bed is all of these for your dog.
It is also a much more comfortable place for them to sleep.
But, your dog doesn’t have to worry about their den’s proximity to resources. They have you now as a source.
They also won’t need to build a shelter against threats. You already provided your home for their protection, too.
Despite that, your dog will still display this behavior. It’s because their instincts tell them to.
So as your dog scratches your bed sheets, they’re building a place for them.
And it’s not that surprising that dogs choose to precisely den on your bed.
A study found out that dogs tend to den in areas with high human activities.
They prefer to be closer to people.
For the reason of choosing to ask humans for food rather than scavenging.
So your dog chooses the den that is closest to you as an instinct, as well.
It’s up to you whether or not you would like to correct this behavior.
If you choose to do so, get ready and stay patient.
Suppression of their instincts is what got them domesticated by us in the first place. Yet again, it took us 1000 years.
This is a natural behavior you’re trying to halt.
It may not be detrimental to their well-being, but it can make your dog unhappy at first.