Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Bed?

If we adopted our dog’s bedtime habits, we’d jump on the bed, run in circles a couple of times, scratch at the duvet, dig up the bedding, then flop down ready for a good sleep.

That would be weird, right? Have you ever watched your dog going through the motions, and wondered what he was thinking? Why do dogs scratch their bed?

Figuring out why our dog digs, scratches, and circles, will need some digging around in the past. Here are some of the reasons behind our dog’s strange habits and what we can do about them.

Why Do Dogs Dig In Bed? Where This Habit Comes From

Way back before dogs were man’s best friend, they lived in the wild. Their habits kept them alive. Digging, scratching, and circling were all part of finding a safe place to sleep each night. Let’s take a look at where the four different behaviors originated.


Dogs in the wild slept out in the open, exposed to the weather and predators. They would dig up their sleeping spots for two main reasons.

Temperature Regulation

Under extreme hot or cold conditions, a dog’s tendency to dig a sleeping hollow had a lot to do with warming up or cooling down. In icy cold conditions, dogs would dig down into the soil to find shelter and warmth.

In hot weather, digging a hollow into the soil offered the dog an opportunity to cool down. Dogs regulate their temperature through their footpads. Digging puts their footpads in direct contact with the cool soil.

Territorial Marking

Dogs are eager territory markers and will often urinate on objects to stake their claim. This isn’t the only way they can stamp their name on something. Dogs have scent glands in their paws that will mark the area they’re digging in with their scent. Digging is a dog’s way of claiming its spot.

What to us may seem like a trashed blanket, will actually be something the dog has marked as its own. Dogs are creatures of habit and will happily return to a spot that carries their scent.


Scratching is less destructive than digging and is all about the dog’s comfort. Just as we fluff our pillows before bed, scratching is also a way of making a hard surface soft and comfortable. Breaking up a hard surface creates a softer surface to sleep on. Why do dogs scratch at the bed? It would move leaves and underbrush in to cover the bare dirt to make sleeping more comfortable.


The habit of circling a few times before lying down has been linked back to wolves. Before sleeping, a wild wolf would turn a few circles with their noses in the air. This helped them to find which direction the wind was coming from. They’d sleep facing the oncoming wind to warn them of the approach of an enemy.

Circling also had to do with tramping down the grass and leaves to make a comfier sleeping place. For warmth, wild dogs would circle in together and snuggle up to share body heat.

Circling has the added bonus of driving out any snakes, rats, or other critters that could cause problems for dogs.


Does your dog enjoy making a blanket fort? In the wild, dogs burrowed under dirt and leaves to create an insulated space to protect them from temperature extremes. It also provides camouflage to hide the dog’s position and helps them feel less vulnerable. This burrowing instinct is what causes our dogs to bury themselves under their blankets, too.

Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Bed Now?

As dogs became domesticated, the need to do things for survival has fallen away, but behavior patterns remained written into their genes. When survival instincts show up in our safe, happy homes, they sure look strange.

Even though their actions aren’t necessary for survival our dog’s behavior can help us understand our fur buddies. Here are some other reasons a dog may take to digging in his bed.



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