why does my dog scratch my bed sheets

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Have you wondered what are some of the reasons behind your dog’s obsession with bed sheets?

As a dog owner, you may have noticed with concern a puzzling routine from your canine friend before sleeping.

Most dogs can get a little hyperactive to nest out a cozy sleeping spot, before settling down and curling up for a restful night.

Don’t worry, we are here to provide you with the answers to this behavior in dogs.

First of all, it’s important to note that this behavior is not unusual in dogs and there’s nothing wrong with it when done moderately.

Follow along with this post as we explain this behavior in detail and provide you with practical solutions to address this behavior if it becomes a concern to you.

Understanding This Canine Behavior

For us to understand why dogs dig into bedding, and their scratching behavior, we have to go back and look at the history of wild dogs in relation to this behavior.

The ancient wild dogs had an instinctual behavior known as denning, where they would build shelters for retreating and sleeping at night.

Ideally, wild dogs would dig on soft ground surfaces to nest out sizeable holes and create a shelter that protects them against predators such as lions and hyenas.

The temporary shelter also protected the wild dogs from harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme cold or heat, and provided a safe place to sleep.

Modern dogs have since carried over the denning behavior, and even with domestication, they still scratch and dig in their sleeping spots for nearly the same reasons.

why does my dog scratch my bed sheets
Image Credit: Samson Katt from Pexels

6 Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Bed Sheets

The following are some of the common reasons that may prompt your furry friend to scratch your bed sheet before settling down to sleep:

1. They’re leaving a scent and marking territory

Dogs have scent glands on the underside of their paws known as eccrine glands.

These glands secrete distinctive pheromones with a unique smell, which leaves a scent trail when they scratch on surfaces.

Your dog may be scratching the bed sheets as a way of leaving a scent on the fabric for territorial marking.

They do this to claim your ownership by alerting other dogs that the marked space belongs to them, and that they should stay away.

2. They’re seeking comfort and security

The other reason why your furry friend may scratch your bed sheet is that they’re seeking a cozy and secure place to sleep.

Your bed sheet and bedding may have a smoother texture than that of the dog, and this would prompt the pup to jump into your space for personalized comfort.

Dogs would scratch and dig into their owner’s bedding to form a den-like structure. This creates a nest for a comfortable sleep and it also helps in retaining body heat during cold weather.

3. It’s a sign of nervousness or anxiety

If you feel irritated every time your dog messes with your bed, please don’t because this could be a sign that your furry friend is anxious about something.

A nervous dog with stress or bad emotional conditions may end up scratching and digging on your bed as a way of coping with the situation.

The bed is laced with your smell and the dog loves that. They can scratch on the sheet and mess with the bedding to feel your scent as a way of relieving anxiety.

Bed-digging behavior in dogs also provides them with a chance to release tension and direct pent-up energy to intensive behavior.

4. They’re bored

If your dog scratches on the bed without settling to sleep, they’re probably bored or frustrated about something.

Dogs are active animals and they require plenty of physical and mental stimulation throughout the day to keep them fit and healthy.

Failure to provide your dog with the required attention or challenges will encourage them to devise ways of entertaining themselves – scratching on your bed sheet is one of them.

This behavior keeps the dog physically active and mentally engaged and therefore it could be an outlet for boredom.

5. It’s a sign of medical conditions

If your dog’s scratching behavior is becoming obsessive and seems to be done with haste rather than a soothing moment, this may be a sign of underlying medical conditions.

Dogs with skin diseases or those infested with external parasites such as mites or fleas, may scratch on your bed sheet or other soft surfaces as a way of relieving discomfort.

If you’re worried about your dog’s scratching behavior, you should consult your vet to rule out any medical conditions.

6. They’re curious

Your dog may scratch your bed sheet or dig into your bed because they want to investigate something out of curiosity.

The dog suspects that there is a hidden treasure in your bed and therefore messes around with the sleeping area to discover what’s beneath the bedcovers.

This is common among dogs who love playing hide-and-seek games with their human family.

Younger dogs may also sniff and dig into your bedding as a way of learning more about their surroundings to discover new items.

Puppy scratching bedcover
Image Credit: Josh Sorenson from Pexels

If you’ve recently replaced your bed sheet, your furry friend may spend time sniffing and scratching it to discover the new scent and ensure their safety at home.

How To Address Bed Sheet-Scratching Behavior in Dogs

1. Provide alternatives for scratching

One of the best ways of addressing this behavior in dogs is by providing them with alternative outlets to scratch and play with.

Invest in high-quality scratching boards covered with soft materials resembling the fabric texture of your bed sheet, and encourage your furry friend to play with the board.

The alternative material should appeal more to your dog than the bed sheet. This will help the dog to shift their focus to safe alternatives when they need to scratch.

2. Provide regular exercises and mental stimulation

As the old saying goes ‘a tired dog is a good dog’. Make sure to engage your pup in regular physical and mental stimulation to keep them active and drive away boredom.

Set aside some time each day to walk your dog around the neighborhood and take them for occasional hikes.

Playing interactive games with your dog and providing them with puzzle toys will help in exercising their mental powers.

3. Address any medical conditions

If you’re worried that your dog’s bed sheet-scratching habit is a coping mechanism for an illness, you need to immediately address the underlying problems.

You can observe other signs and symptoms of medical conditions on your dog as you prepare to take them to the closest vet for examination.

Treating medical conditions early will help in recovery and prevent the dog from suffering painful symptoms.

4. Establish a consistent routine for your dog

Dogs respond best when they know what is expected of them and at what time. The best way to do this is by sticking to a predictable routine and training your dog to observe the timeline.

This will relieve your dog from boredom and stress resulting from uncertainties during the day, which could have contributed to emotionally-induced scratching behavior.

5. Use positive reinforcement in training

We encourage you to use positive reinforcement techniques to modify your dog’s scratching behavior.

When your furry friend scratches on their appropriate surface, instead of your bed sheet, praise their actions and reward them with a few treats.

Your dog will associate the experience with good things and they will certainly carry on with the desired behavior to match your expectations.

Never punish your dog for scratching on your bed no matter the frustration you may have. Scolding your furry friend for doing that which is natural will make the situation worse and may end up soiling your relationship.

6. Seek professional help

If your dog is still scratching on your bed sheet despite redirecting them, you can reach out to a canine behaviorist for personalized help.

An expert in dog behavior will assess your dog and work out a tailor-made program to modify their behavior correctly.

How To Prevent Dogs from Scratching Bed Sheets

Even though your dog’s scratching behavior can be adorable when done lightly, it may also turn out to be destructive and this can bother you.

Failure to address this problem may encourage your dog to continue with the behavior and in no time, your once valuable bed sheet may end up fragmented into pieces.

The good news is that there’s something you can do to address this behavior in dogs:

1. Choose the right bedding materials

Invest in high-quality bed sheets and blankets made with sturdy fabric materials. Stay away from cheap materials that can easily get destroyed by your pup’s claws.

Furthermore, you can consider covering your bed with a sturdy bed cover to discourage your furry friend from settling down or snuggling up on your bed.

2. Training and socialization

Teach your dog some basic commands like ‘leave it’ or ‘get off’ to discourage them from lying on your bed and scratching your bed sheet.

Socialize your dog with every room in your house and encourage them to sleep on their bed by furnishing them with warm bedding and a comfy dog bed.

Training your dog on social skills will also help them to adapt to different environments, making them less prone to suffer stress or anxiety.

3. Trim your dog’s nails

Keeping your dog’s nails short, well-trimmed, and filing will reduce the likelihood of damage to the bed sheet when scratching.

You can grind your dog’s nails every 3 – 4 weeks depending on how fast they grow. Keeping short nails will also prevent potential damage to furniture and carpet.

A well-groomed dog with short nails is less likely to get bacterial infections, and they also have a lower risk of breaking nails which can be painful.

4. Provide a well-balanced diet

Giving your dog a well-balanced dog food with the right nutrients is essential for their overall health, including skin and coat.

Dogs with unhealthy skin and tangled fur are likely to dig and roll on the bed as a way of seeking relief from itchiness and discomfort.

A good serving for your dog should be based on their age, size, and breed. Remember to factor in the treats and snacks given to your furry friend throughout the day.

5. Invest in a good dog bed

Sometimes your dog is interested in sleeping on your bed because they don’t have a comfy bed to keep them warm and secure.

Saluki on a comfy bed
Image Credit: Chewy from Unsplash

Provide your dog with a sizeable bed and furnish it with enough bedding to keep them comfortable and limit the amount of scratching they need to snuggle up.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Why is my dog digging in my bed sheet?

Your dog is probably marking the bed as their territory by leaving a unique scent excreted from the paw glands.

The other most common reason is that the dog is trying to create a cozy spot to settle down and snuggle up for a warm sleep.

Remember that every dog is unique, and there’s no general reason why they dig on bed sheets. This behavior is perfectly okay and it should only concern you when it gets uncontrollable.

2. Can scratching bed sheets indicate a health problem in dogs?

Bed sheet scratching in dogs is a normal behavior and there’s nothing wrong when done moderately.

However, if the dog intensively scratches the bed sheet continuously for a long time, this could be a sign of a health problem.

Obsessive scratching can be a sign of skin irritation around the paws, dry skin, or flea infestation. The affected dog will scratch intensively as a way of relieving itchiness and discomfort.

3. Why do dogs scratch bedding before lying down?

They do this to create a comfortable nest that will retain body heat and snuggle up with the bedding during sleep.


Different reasons make dogs scratch bed sheets before sleeping, and for the most part, it is normal behavior.

You may be worried when the scratching behavior becomes destructive or compulsive since these are signs of emotional distress or underlying medical problems.

Providing your dog with a well-furnished bed to keep them warm and modifying their behavior will help in redirecting destructive scratching.

Make sure to socialize your dog and help them understand the demarcation between your sleeping area and their crated sleeping zones.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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