Why does my dog scratch the carpet? – I asked my vet during the regular checkup.
He smiled and said that it was simply an instinctual behavior in most dogs. Dogs love to burrow and even in the wild, dogs live inside dens and caves. Also, the scratching action is a way of relieving stress.
In this guide, we will cover all the reasons why your dog might scratch the carpet, your bed, and even the floor!
Why Does my Dog Scratch the Carpet? 11 Common Reasons
Following are some of the main reasons why dogs might indulge in this obsessive scratching, digging, and burrowing behavior:
1. It is a breed thing
My 8-year old Cocker spaniel Coco always scratches her bed or the carpet before laying down on it.
She has actually destroyed a lot of linen this way. The destructive behavior has increased off-late and it mostly occurs when we leave her home alone. Chances are that she gets anxious when we leave.
But I have also seen her scratch the carpet while I am working in the same room. So, I guess, it is simply a breed thing and not separation anxiety alone. Other dog breeds that burrow are Chihuahuas, Golden Retriever, and even Yorkies.
Also check out the reasons why Chihuahuas like to burrow.
2. Instinctive behavior
Dogs often act out of natural instincts. Your pet might dig and scratch because some part of its brain has retained the natural instinct of wolves and wild dogs. These animals often scratch and dig in the soil and even burrow.
This may be some kind of self-protection/self-preservation behavior. Having a den-like atmosphere might help your pet feel more secure, comfortable, and protected from the elements. Domestic dogs have retained these instincts through evolution and that is why even indoor dogs dig, scratch, and burrow.
3. Separation anxiety
As mentioned earlier, my dog always burrows in our beds when we leave her home alone.
Some dogs with severe separation anxiety indulge in destructive behavior like chewing up furniture, excessive barking, and so on.
I am sure my dog does not dig or scratch out of malice. In fact; dogs are incapable of anger and hatred. Therefore, the scratching and digging behavior is more of a soothing action that dogs indulge in to placate themselves.
4. Generalized anxiety
Dogs can also go through periods of stress and anxiety. An older dog may be losing its sight or sense of hearing and may feel anxious about it. Other times, changes in circumstances could also cause a dog to experience stress – arrival a new pet, dog owner’s new job that keeps them out all day, arrival of a new baby, etc.
Stress and anxiety can be triggers of sudden digging, burrowing, and scratching behavior in dogs.
5. Anal gland issues or dogs with intestinal worms
Dogs with impacted anal glands or anal sac often scoot on carpets. Once your dog has scooted across the carpet to relieve itching and pain, it might resort to the carpet scratching action. This might help them remove their scent and even traces of feces from the rugs or carpets.
If your dog has intestinal worms or parasites, then too it might scoot on the carpet and then try to scratch the small tapeworm eggs or segments from the carpet.
6. To transmit their scent
Carpet scratching can also help dogs transfer their scents to the carpet. Dogs paw pads contain scent glands which secrete scents through scratching action. Your dog may be trying to get its scent from the dog’s paw onto the carpet.
This could be a form of territory marking behavior where your dog tries to show its dominance to another dog or house pet.
7. Out of boredom
Most dogs will indulge in carpet scratching and burrowing when they are bored. Lack of mental stimulation and physical activity might prompt a dog to indulge in this kind of behaviors. In the next section we will talk about how mental stimulation can prevent carpet scratching behavior.
8. For warmth and comfort
Most dogs also scratch their beds and carpets before lying down upon it to ‘warm’ up and ruffle the area. The scratching may help the dog gather the carpet in layers or bunch it up. Lying down on the rough surface might be comfortable for your dog.
9. Obsessive compulsive disorder
In some pets, the digging and scratching can get obsessive in that; the dog will do it every now and then. Proper training and discipline may be necessary to prevent damaged carpets, dog beds, and rugs. You must start training your pet early on (from puppyhood itself) to prevent this abnormal behavior.
10. Positive reinforcement from the pet parent
Often, a dog owner might treat or reward their pet when the latter start scratching the carpet. They think that doing so will distract their dog. Instead, it reinforces the behavior because your dog thinks it is acceptable to scratch the carpet as he/she gets treated or rewarded for it.
11. Health issues
Dogs with thyroid imbalance can also show many behavioral changes and one of them is excess scratching and digging. If your dog has suddenly started destructive behavior or abnormal behavior like scratching carpet, then please have it examined by your veterinarian.
Why Does a Female Dog Scratch the Floor?
Female dogs often start scratching and nesting behaviors just before they go into heat.
One of the main reasons of carpet or floor scratching, digging, and burrowing in unsprayed female dog is to create nests or prepare for whelping.
Hormonal issues can also cause many behavior changes in unsprayed female dogs.
The most common reason for carpet scratching is that your dog wants to transfer its scents to the floor so she can mark the area as her own.
If needed, get your dog spayed as spaying is not only known to prevent behavioral issues and territorial aggression, it can also prevent certain cancers.
Why Does my Dog Randomly Scratch the Floor?
Scratching the floor helps your dog mark its territory. It does so by transmitting the scent from the dog’s paws to the floor. Some dogs also scratch the floor to reduce the sharpness of dog’s nails or to remove pieces of debris stuck in it.
Female dogs scratch the floors due to hormonal changes, just before their heat cycle, if they are un-fixed.
Many dogs scratch the floor around their food bowls, treat boxes, and treat dispensers too. They think that doing so will get the treats out of the box! Instead of touching the actual box, they might scratch the floor adjacent to the treat dispenser! It is cute but also quite silly to watch a dog do that!
Why does My Dog Scratch the Carpet Especially at Night?
Most dogs that scratch the carpet at night want to create a ‘nest’ or burrow. This helps them feel safe, warm, comfortable, and protected.
Often, night-time scratching is prevalent in female dogs too – although some male dogs will also do it if the dark makes them anxious.
They do this just before they sleep – so they might even scratch their dog bed, your bed (if they are allowed on it), and the rugs and carpets in your home.
The nesting behavior stems from natural instinct – dogs feel the need to do it just like their wild ancestors/wolves dig in the soil to create a burrow or den-like atmosphere.
How to Prevent Your Dog’s Carpet Scratching Behavior?
Here are some ways to stop or control this abnormal behavior in dogs:
1. Reduce stress
If your dog is scratching due to stress, then it is best to remove those triggers of stress. For example, a dog with separation anxiety might show this unwanted behavior. Try spending more time with your dog. If needed, hire a pet-sitter during the day so your pet does not feel alone.
2. Provide adequate physical exercise
All dogs need exercise and without it, they are bound to get bored. Boredom is one of the main triggers of unwanted behaviors like digging, carpet scratching, etc.
Check with your vet how much exercise your dog needs. This will vary from breed to breed, your dog’s age, as well as its overall health profile.
3. Stimulate your dog mentally
Your dog also needs mental stimulation. Without mental challenges, your dog is sure to indulge in abnormal behavior and even destructive behavior like indoor urination, chewing furniture etc.
Invest in some puzzles for dogs. Many puzzles provide hours of entertainment and mental stimulation. This will keep your dog young, happy, and tired as well.
4. De-worm your pet
Deworming your dog will reduce eggs of tapeworm, roundworm, etc. This will prevent scooting and subsequent carpet scratching.
5. Clean your pet’s anal glands
Prevent anal gland impaction by cleaning your dog’s anal glands regularly. You can also feed special dog food to prevent such impaction. This can further prevent scooting behavior and keep your carpets clean.
6. Avoid treating your pet
When you want your pet to stop scratching and burrowing, say a loud NO or clap your hands. Avoid treating your pet when it digs or scratches. Instead, treat it when it is calm.
7. Provide your pet with a safe and comfortable area to sleep
Crate training can also prevent carpet scratching behavior in dogs. Dog owners often think that crating a dog is cruel.
8. Spay/neuter your dog
When the time comes, fix your dog. This surgery can prevent many unwanted behaviors like territory marking, scent transferring etc. In female dog, the spaying surgery can prevent hormonal issues and also behavioral changes and mood swings.
9. Treat underlying health issues
If the above steps do not stop the carpet scratching behavior, see your vet or a dog behavior specialist. This will help you understand the root cause of the digging. Issues caused by thyroid imbalance can be prevented with medication.
FAQs on Why Does My Dog Scratch The Carpet?
1. Why does my dog go crazy when I lay down on the floor?
To most dogs, when the dog parent lies down on the floor, it is a sign that they want to play! Your dog will rush over to lick you and may even sit or sleep on you! You come down to your pet’s level which gives the dog an opportunity to access you better!
2. Why is my dog scratching the floor like a bull?
Bulls scratch the ground to get into the fight-or-flight mode. With dogs, that isn’t the case. Although your dog will have the same energy and zeal as that of a bull, its needs behind floor/carpet scratching are entirely different. It is an instinctual digging/nesting behavior that provides your pooch with solace and safety.
3. Why does my dog scratch the ground with its hind paws after pooping?
My female dog does this. She scratches the ground after peeing. The scratching action helps the scent glands from its paw pads release her scent into the soil. This helps in territory marking. The released scent and pheromones are also absorbed into the ground for other dogs to sniff and acquire ‘important messages’!
Why does my dog scratch the carpet?
Dogs scratch carpets when they want to sleep, for safety, warmth, and reassurance. Dogs with separation anxiety might also scratch carpets when they left alone at home. This action is comforting to them.
The most important reason behind carpet scratching is to release scents from the dog’s paw pads. These scents help dogs mark their territory.
In rare cases, dogs might scratch the floor when they have a hormonal imbalance or thyroid issue. We hope this guide helps you decode your dog’s carpet scratching behavior.