Why does my dog scratch my bed sheets?

Often our dogs fit so cleanly into our lives that it’s easy to forget they’re descended from wolves. 

Dogs may have been domesticated for tens of thousands of years, but much of that wild behavior remains in today’s breeds.

If you have a dog that’s digging the bed sheets in your home, then you’ll probably want to understand what’s driving that behavior and how you can discourage it.

Why does my dog scratch my bed sheets?

It can sometimes be entertaining to watch our dogs digging at our bed sheets but it can frustrating, too, especially if they’re causing disruption to your sleeping pattern or causing damage to the bedsheets.  Before we offer a few tips on how to try and reduce the behavior it may be worth understanding the reasons why dogs dig at bed sheets in the first place.

Remember what we wrote at the beginning of this post: dogs are descended from wolves and some of those wild traits are still hardwired into our pets.

  •  Dogs are like humans:  they want to lay down somewhere that’s comfortable. For domesticated pets, this will be either in your bed or a bed of their own.  It doesn’t matter how big the comforter is or how thick the mattress, a dog will often scratch bed sheets or blankets to make a nest that’s cosy enough to sleep in.  In the wild, digging would be a way of clearing away any natural debris like twigs and rocks.

    Your dog may also be able to smell any snacks or toys they’ve been allowed to bring into the bed.  if you let your dog play or eat in bed, then they may be digging to find it.

    You know there’s nothing under the sheets but the scent left behind from those items can be enough to convince your dog otherwise.
  • Female dogs often nest when they’re due to have puppies but so will dogs who aren’t pregnant.  Your pet might just be feeling a little broody and is finding comfort in the creation of a soft, safe and nurturing spot.
  • Dogs mark territory using the sweat glands in their paws.  It makes sense that they want their sleeping spot to smell just like them.  You may have noticed your dog scratching at the sheets more frequently when you’ve just added clean bedlinen.  A clean bed smells nice to us humans but it won’t smell familiar to the dog. This is why you’ll often see dogs walking in small circles before settling (they’re laying their scent). Walking in circles is also one-way dogs do one last check before settling down.
  • Before we opened up our homes to them, dogs slept outside and the instinct to make a den or nest is still very much active in their behavior.  Dogs would dig the dirt and soil away to sleep comfortably and mark territory but they’d also do it to regulate their body temperature.  It’s quite a clever idea: in the cold weather digging into the soil will keep their legs and lower body warmer, allowing them to retain more heat.  In the hot weather, the reverse applies as the dirt is cooler.
  • Your dog’s breed can play a role in how prone it is to digging.  Terriers, in particular, were bred to dig and catch small rodents and that instinct can still be strong even in today’s pampered pets.

How Can I Stop My Dog Scratching My Bed Sheets?

If you don’t mind them digging your bed, then there’s no need to correct the behavior.  The dogs are just acting on hard-wired instinct and it can be quite cute and entertaining to watch.

  • You could have a no-dog policy on your bed.  It will take some training but by encouraging the dog to sleep elsewhere (in their own bed, on the floor, or in a crate, for example), they’ll learn sheets aren’t for tearing up.
  • Sometimes, the scratching may also be an attempt to get into the bed and under the covers.  It isn’t as if a dog can lift them with fingers the way that we can.  If you’re happy for a dog to sleep inside the bed, then this could reduce their desire to scratch.
  • Keep toys or snacks out of the bed so that the dog won’t feel encouraged to dig for them.
  • Pay attention to how hot or cold your bedroom is at night so your dog doesn’t need to dig to keep warm or stay cool.
  • Buy seamless covers and sheets and avoid ones with embroidery.  This should help to reduce the amount of damage a dog can do.
  • Keeping your dog’s claws short will help, too.
  • If there’s room on the bed, you could add their blankets or sheets so that they’re not scratching into yours. You might even like to crumple them up to encourage them to settle on the spot.  There’s the bonus that the area will smell of them already, too.  This can be helpful when you’ve changed the bedsheets as it means they’ll still be a part of the bed that smells like them.

If you were wondering ‘why does my dog scratch my bed sheets?’, we hope you’ve found some useful information so that you can better understand why your dog is digging in your bed.

Remember, too, that if the behavior is especially destructive or is getting worse, then it’s probably wise to contact your veterinarian for advice.