6 Reasons Dogs Scratch at Bed Sheets & Ways to Stop It

Dig in to why your dog always tries to paw at your bed sheets (or theirs!) and how you can get them to cut it out.

Published May 22, 2023
Maltese dog on bed with open snout

Do you scratch your head every time your dog digs into your bed sheets? This behavior is way more common than you think, but why do dogs do this? We unearthed the six reasons why your dog likes to dig around in your bed, and, fortunately, there are just as many ways you can prevent it. Let's dig in.

6 Reasons Dogs Dig in the Bed Sheets

You've probably seen your dog pawing around bedding - either on yours or theirs - as if they're looking for buried treasure. Sometimes, this seems random, and other times, they appear to have a plan. There are a few possible reasons behind this behavior.

  1. They want to get comfortable.
  2. They're marking their territory.
  3. They feel anxious.
  4. They're bored.
  5. They're hot or cold.
  6. They think you like it.
Fast Fact

Scratching around on the bed before lying down is a canine instinct known as "denning," where a dog creates a safe, comfy spot to rest. Naturally, your dog's modern "den "might be their dog bed or your bed sheets.

1. They Want to Get Comfortable

Just as you might fluff up your pillows or rearrange your blanket before settling in for an evening of Netflix, your dog could just be trying to get comfortable. This is especially common when they're in a new environment and want to make the bed feel "just right." Dogs with arthritis might also take longer to get comfy due to their joint pain.

2. They're Marking Their Territory

When you think of a dog marking their territory, your mind might immediately go to urine marking. Totally fair, but there are plenty of other ways dogs claim their property, including digging.

Canines have scent glands on the underside of their feet that leave a trail of chemical messages for other animals to get a whiff of. Scratching around your sheets might be your dog's way of letting any other pets (or people) in the house know, "Back up, my person sleeps here."

3. They Feel Anxious

Digging is a form of stress relief for dogs, so if your pup is anxious, that could explain the bed digging. Think of it as the dog equivalent of a person pacing when they're stressed. Look for other signs of anxiety, like vocalizing, panting, or changes in appetite or body posture.

4. They're Bored

Bored sad golden retriever dog under plaid

A dog who isn't stimulated enough will turn to destructive behaviors, such as barking, whining, and digging. Most dogs who are bored will dig just about anywhere (including your garden), but they might have a preference for bed sheets. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise and mental enrichment to prevent bored digging.

5. They're Hot or Cold

Wild canines regulate their body temperature by digging holes in the ground and lying in them. Your dog might dig in the sheets as a way to rearrange them and find a cool spot to lie down, or they might want to burrow to get a bit warmer.

6. They Think You Like It

It might sound strange, but your dog might think they're doing something positive by scratching at the bedding. Unfortunately, if they do, it's probably your fault. Once upon a time, you may have giggled and praised your dog when they performed this behavior, which unintentionally reinforced the scratching. Now, they just think it's something they're supposed to do. But don't worry because you can train your dog out of it just as easily.

Prevent Your Dog from Scratching the Bed Sheets

If you've had enough of your dog scratching and digging in the bed sheets, there are ways you can address this behavior. Don't expect overnight results, but begin implementing these tricks ASAP to shift the action.

  • Keep your dog's nails trimmed to reduce the amount of damage their scratching creates.
  • Redirect them to a snuffle mat where they can sniff around and dig to their heart's content.
  • Close your bedroom door to keep your dog off your bed.
  • Give your dog their own "den" in the form of a cushioned bed.
  • Keep your dog well-exercised and mentally engaged to prevent bored digging.
  • Take action to reduce your dog's stress level if you feel they're doing this out of anxiety.

Dig In Your Heels

Training your dog out of any behavior takes time and patience. You'll need to be consistent with redirecting your pup any time they start to dig in the sheets. Just be sure to avoid scolding them whenever they do resort to scratching. Instead, stick with positive reinforcement when they successfully resist the action. They'll get it in no time.

6 Reasons Dogs Scratch at Bed Sheets & Ways to Stop It