I know my life wouldn’t be near as fulfilling without my dogs. They are so much fun to have around. We’re lucky enough to have two, one male dog and a female dog, both are excellent at keeping each other entertained as much as they do us.
It’s funny to watch them play and see their personalities and oddities shine through. For instance, one dog loves playing in the lake. Every time I take them she swims almost nonstop while our other dog runs up and down the shore leery to get more than a couple of toes wet.
When we’re at home and the garden hose is out, however, the situation completely flips. The dog who won’t swim wants to play and be sprayed with the water coming out of the hose while the swimmer runs to the other side of the yard to avoid getting wet!
All of that to say, dogs have funny personalities and can act very strange. At least to our worldview! My dogs being picky about water is one thing, but what about dogs that are acting strangely in other ways? For instance, a dog that backs away when you reach for him is probably signaling something to you. As a responsible dog owner, you want to know what your dog’s odd behavior might mean.
So, what about dogs that scratch bed sheets? Why does my dog scratch my bed sheets? The reason your dog scratches your bed sheets is likely related to instinct, comfort, anxiety, marking territory, feeling safe, boredom, or learned behavior. I’ll go through each of these reasons (and more!) in detail below.
Dogs have strong instincts that help dictate a lot of their behaviors. But what kind of instinct would cause them to scratch a bed sheet? Good question! Especially, because bed sheets most certainly weren’t around when our pet dogs’ instincts were being shaped.
Instinct to Dig
A common explanation for your dog scratching your bed sheets (or most things) is that she is trying to fulfill the instinct to dig. All dogs have this instinct, but some breeds have a stronger desire to dig than others.
The wild ancestors of beloved, domesticated good girls needed to dig for a variety of reasons. Whether it was to bury food or make a more comfortable and safe place to sleep, they needed to be good diggers to survive.
Some dogs have a stronger desire to dig than others because they were bred for it. Breeds that like to dig a lot include many varieties of terrier, mini schnauzers, and dachshunds Other popular breeds have varying desires to dig.
Another potential explanation for why your dog scratches your bed sheets is that she is acting on her instinct to nest. If you’ve never heard of this before, it might seem a little weird, after all, you think of birds when you hear the word “nest” not dogs. Yet, as den animals, dogs also create a nest.
Female dogs who are pregnant (or believe they are pregnant) want to make a soft, safe place for their puppies to come into the world and spend the early weeks of their lives. So, they will often create a comfortable space for their future litter.
This behavior can also result from false pregnancies. The desire to make a nest is hardwired into some dogs and they can’t help it! If your dog scratches your bed sheets because she is acting on her nesting instinct, don’t be too mad. Just provide her with some blankets or a dog bed to scratch and arrange instead.
Another instinct that can lead to your dog scratching your bed sheets is that she is marking her territory. Even if your dog gets along with everyone and everything in your home, the instinct to mark is still there. Dogs have a scent gland in their paw and can mark their territory using it.
Dogs often communicate with each other through scent. When a dog scratches a surface, she is leaving her scent behind for other dogs to find. This helps them understand who lives in an area and what the social hierarchy looks like.
If you have more than one dog in your home, they could already be marking their territory throughout the house without you even noticing. Still, even if you only have one dog, she might feel the need to mark her territory by scratching your bed sheets.
Comfort comes in many forms. Luckily for us and our beloved pooches, whom we sometimes struggle to understand, we can all relate to the idea of getting more comfortable. While your dog may not actually improve their comfort much by scratching your bed sheets, it won’t be for lack of trying.
Attempting to adjust bed sheets or really anything your dog is about to lay on comes pretty naturally for her. Whether she is trying to arrange the sheets in a more comfortable way to lay on, or trying to fluff them up or compact them to make them cooler or warmer, your dog will try her best to make herself a comfy spot to lay and doze off.
Anxiety can lead dogs to do all sorts of weird things. Sadly, some dogs don’t have the best history and are more prone to becoming anxious or even suffering from constant anxiety.
If your dog scratches your bed sheets because of anxiety, it’s important to be understanding.
Dogs can become anxious for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they were abused or neglected in the past, or maybe they have never been properly socialized and are scared of new people and situations. Whatever the reason, anxiety is no fun for anyone involved.
If you think your dog scratches your bed sheets because she is anxious, there are a few things you can do to help her feel better. You can start by trying to figure out what is making her anxious and then taking steps to address that issue.
You might also want to talk to your veterinarian about whether medication could help your dog feel less anxious.
Dogs need both mental and physical stimulation in their lives. If they don’t get it, they can become bored…and a bored dog is can become a weird or even a destructive dog.
Bored dogs often turn to chewing, digging, and yes, even scratching as ways to entertain themselves. If your dog scratches your bed sheets because she is bored, you need to find ways to help her stay busy.
The best way to keep your dog from becoming bored is for her to get plenty of exercise. A tired dog is a good dog! Take her for long walks, runs, or hikes, and play games with her like fetch and tug-of-war.
You should also make sure she has plenty of toys to keep her occupied. Toys stuffed with treats or kibble are a great option for dogs because they usually have to think and physically work to get them out.
Dogs are curious animals. Maybe you switched laundry detergents, or your phone buzzed from under the sheets, or something happened that, to us, is completely normal. If it is new or novel to your dog, she is going to want to check it out which might involve a little bit of scratching.
Learned It From Other Dogs
I’ve mentioned in other articles that our second dog practically trained herself. She copied what our first dog did any time we gave him a command. It wasn’t long before she understood what we were telling her even if the other dog was nowhere around. To say the least, I was very impressed with her intuition.
Though I love both of our dogs like crazy. And while they are both well trained they each came to us with some slightly annoying habits (silly … but a little annoying too!). Unfortunately, just as our good girl trained herself, she also taught herself some of our other dog’s odd habits.
If your dog is around another dog who scratches sheets and seems to get away with it, she might decide it’s something okay to do as well and start scratching too.
If you don’t want your dogs scratching your sheets and you already have one dog who does it, it’s best to get that dog to stop immediately, before your second dog picks it up.
Is It Okay For Dogs To Scratch Bed Sheets?
For the most part, this comes down to personal preference. If you don’t mind your dog scratching your bed sheets, then there is no reason to worry about it.
However, if it bothers you or if your dog is destructive when she scratches (i.e. she actually tears up the sheets or damages your mattress underneath them), then you need to find a way to get her to stop.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Scratching My Bed Sheets?
The first step is to figure out why your dog is scratching your sheets. You’ll probably take a different path to stop your dog from scratching them if she is doing it out of anxiety instead of for comfort. After you’ve figured out her reason, use the appropriate method(s) below.
Don’t Encourage It
I’m sure you love your dogs as much as I love our dogs. It can be almost impossible to have an interaction with them without telling them ‘good boy/girl’, scratching behind their ears, or patting their heads.
While that makes for a great relationship with your sweet pooches, it also means that you might accidentally be encouraging them to do something you don’t want them to do; like scratch your bed sheets.
Make a conscious effort to not do these things when your dogs scratch your bed sheets. Telling your good girl ‘no’ and then patting her on the head will send mixed signals and she might not realize you don’t want her to scratch.
‘No’, ‘Off’, ‘Back’, and more are all important commands for your dog to learn. They will help you keep your dog safe and polite.
These commands will also work wonders when you are trying to keep your dog from scratching the sheets. You may need to use them often for a little while.
However, with time, as long as you are consistent, your dog will come to understand that you don’t want her to scratch the sheets, and (with few exceptions) she will stop the behavior.
Make Sure Your Dog Feels Safe And Comfy
If your dog is scratching as a way to make a nice den for safety or comfort you can do a lot to help her out.
Invest in a nice, cushy bed for your dog to sleep on instead of the floor. Get some cozy blankets or a nice piece of fabric to drape over her bed. And make sure you keep your bedroom at a good temperature as well.
If you still want your dog in bed with you, try giving her reassuring safety pets. This one is tricky though, you don’t want to encourage your dog to scratch, so be sure to give this pet well before she starts scratching so she doesn’t associate the pet with scratching.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation Are Important
I briefly talked about this above. If your dog is scratching as a way to relieve boredom, you need to give her more things to do.
Get her some fun toys (especially ones that dispense treats), take her on walks and runs, or let her run wild in the yard with another dog.
The important thing is that your dog isn’t bored because all she had to do all day was lay down and not move. A tired and mentally stimulated dog won’t find many reasons to do things out of boredom; including scratching sheets.
Talk To Your Vet
Sometimes, especially in the case of anxiety, you’ll need professional help to get your dog to change her behavior.
Talk to your vet about what is going on and see if they can recommend a good behaviorist.
And, in some cases, your dog might need medication to help with the anxiety. This will probably be one of your last resorts and should only be used under the care of a professional.
Keep Your Dog Out Of Your Bedroom
If the other methods mentioned above don’t work or are taking a long time to work, you might need to keep your dog out of your bedroom altogether.
This could mean getting a baby gate to keep her out or crate training her and only letting her in when you are there to supervise.
It’s not ideal, but it will save your sheets until you can get the situation under control.
Protect Your Sheets From Scratching
If you’re in the process of training your dog not to scratch your sheets or you don’t care if your dog scratches your sheets as long as she doesn’t hurt them, then you probably want to take extra care to protect them.
If you regularly file your good girl’s nails (or hire a professional to do it), use a lint roller as necessary, and wash the sheets often they should stand up to your dog’s scratching without a lot of problems.
Conclusion: Why Do Dogs Scratch The Bed Sheets?
There are many reasons why your dog might scratch your bed sheets. It could be something as simple as your dog is bored, she’s trying to get more comfortable, she’s looking for something or she learned it from other dogs. Your dog could also be scratching your bed sheets due to something more serious like anxiety or it could be rooted in her instincts.
If your dog is scratching your sheets, the first step is to figure out why she is doing it. Once you know why your dog is scratching, you can use a better-targeted solution.
There are many things you can try to stop your dog from scratching your sheets. You can provide her with more things to do, train her not to scratch, keep her out of your bedroom, or simply take extra measures to protect your sheets.
If you’re struggling to get your dog to stop scratching your sheets, talk to your vet. They may be able to help you figure out why your dog is doing it and how to best solve the problem.
With a little patience, you should be able to find a solution that works for both you and your furry friend.