All dog owners know that dogs love to dig. As puppies, this habit is pleasing. Most of the time, we consider it cute. Watching them dig a shallow hole into the ground or gently wrestling with furniture is a sight for sore eyes. However, as they get older and bigger, this cute habit becomes destructive and costly. It can leave you with holes in your furniture and your wallet.
In some cases, they might not have picked up the habit as pups, but later on, as they age. Nevertheless, the question remains the same. Why do dogs dig on furniture? Is there a way to deal with this digging and scratching behavior?
Why Would a Dog Dig on Beds and Couches?
When dogs scratch or dig, you must know they are not intentionally trying to upset you. They are several reasons why dogs will dig on furnishings:
Pre-sleep rituals are routine activities that most pups perform right before falling asleep. These are part of your dog’s instinct. These pre-sleep rituals include circling, scratching, rolling around, and digging. In some cases, they love to play with blankets. They could use the blanket as some sort of pillow, or they might want to burrow under it and hide.
Nevertheless, your dog performs these acts instinctively to clear out, protect, and mark their area for a more comfortable sleeping position. To you, it might seem silly, but it makes them feel relaxed.
Digging is a part of a dog’s instinct. They get this behavior from their wild ancestors. These wild ancestors used their paws to gather pine needles, piles of leaves, grass, and dirt to create a place to rest. The wild dogs would dig and circle to fashion these items into a comfortable sleeping area.
They didn’t only dig to create a space for sleeping but also to protect and hide from predators. Furthermore, they would dig holes and hide under leaves to protect them from extreme weather, such as cold winter nights and hot summer days.
Today, dogs still have this instinct and perform several acts due to these instincts. Some actions your dog might take instinctively include:
- Digging holes in the ground during the hotter seasons.
- Circling several times before eventually lying down.
- Lying under a blanket.
- Sleeping in cramped and dark places.
A major reason dogs dig is due to their breeds. Dog breeds differ, and some dogs were bred to “go-to-ground.” For example, Dachshunds and Terriers were bred to hunt critters that naturally live underground. Therefore, digging became second nature and instinctual behavior you should expect from them.
Other instances of breed heritage are northern breeds, such as Siberian Huskies. These breeds are used to living in cold areas with lots of snow. Therefore, to stay warm, they would dig into the snow. Alternatively, they could create beds in the soil for a relaxing nap spot.
Unfortunately, your dog might not know the difference between some dirt in the ground and your $3,000 couch.
When a Dog Smells Food
You aren’t the only one that looks for lost items in the couch cushions or a pile of clothes on the bed. Just as you might be looking for a remote in the couch cushions or your cellphone on your bed, your dog might have similar tendencies.
Safe to say, they won’t be looking for a remote, but they might smell some popcorn or other small pieces of leftover food. When your dog smells food, it is only natural that they would want to dig it out and possibly eat them. In other cases, they might have left a squeaky toy in the cushions and dug, hoping to uncover it.
Protecting Their Possessions
Most dogs tend to be possessive and sometimes go to any lengths to protect items they love, such as their favorite toys. One of these ways is to dig into the ground and bury these prized possessions.
Therefore, to hide and protect precious objects from being taken, your dog may want to dig into a couch or bed and stuff their items there. This behavior usually occurs when there are multiple dogs in a house.
Dogs scratch and dig on furniture if it has bugs in it. You might have no idea these bugs might target your furry friend. Hence, your dog might start scratching furniture to protect themselves against these biting bugs or stop them from making sounds.
Dogs love to mark territory, and this is another primal instinct they inherited from their ancestors(wild dogs). A wild dog would mark their territory to fend off other dogs.
Today, most male dogs urinate on everything and anything, including humans. They do this to leave a scent and let others know not to come around these areas. However, all dogs have scent glands within their paws. These scent glands give a distinct pheromone unique to each dog.
Therefore, if you catch your dog scratching or digging on bedding or furniture, they release their scent and mark their territory. You might see a condemned item, but to your puppy, that marked item is theirs and theirs alone.
There are instances when your dog isn’t following their instincts, looking for food, or even battling bugs. Sometimes, they have nothing better to do and decide to dig into your furniture out of boredom. It’s better to get your dogs their own dog beds.
Dogs are social creatures that require interaction a majority of the time. Hence, if they do not get any form of stimulation from you, they would have to find it themselves.
Normal Puppy Behavior
As puppies, dogs scratch and dig often, which is entirely normal. They do this as a form of exploration and recreation. Most pups go through this stage because they are new to their surroundings and are just exploring them.
Maternal Instinct (Nesting Behavior)
A female dog on the brink of giving birth will instinctively start digging, pawing, or scratching her surroundings. Her natural instinct comes from a hormonal need to create a safe and comfortable environment where she can nurture her pups while keeping them warm and protected.
Nesting usually occurs when the dog is about to go into labor. So, if you see your pregnant dog exhibiting this behavior, you should start getting ready to welcome her new pups.
Female dogs do not have to be pregnant for them to start displaying signs of pregnancy. When a female dog is in heat, her body produces hormones to ready her for pregnancy. But, if she doesn’t get pregnant during this period, her hormone level reduces. Coincidentally, this increase in hormones tricks her body into thinking there are pups in her womb. Therefore, she starts to exhibit behavior such as nesting.
As we’ve mentioned, dogs like to get territorial. This is truer than ever when you introduce other animals like a cat, puppy, or other four-legged creatures into your home. The established dog would start to circle, paw, scratch, or even urinate to assert dominance and mark its territory.
Your new puppy might copy this unwanted behavior, not knowing what it means. Therefore, you do not need to concern yourself with this behavior because your puppy isn’t getting territorial too. It is typical for your puppy to mimic the behavior of the established dog, and in some cases, they do it to gain attention.
Dog Owners Encouraging the Destructive Behavior
If you catch your puppy digging on your furniture and start laughing at their antics, you might inadvertently reward the behavior. The same rules apply to any positive response you give to this deed. Your puppy might see that behavior as acceptable or a way to make you smile and make it a habit.
In other cases, they might be digging to get your attention and may make a game out of you chasing them. To some domesticated dogs, this chase game is more exciting than being ignored all the time.
When your dog excessively circles or constantly digs, it could mean there is an underlying issue you need to address. These compulsive behaviors indicate that your dog is anxious, in pain, or has other health issues. For example, a dog in pain may dig or circle obsessively before lying down in the hopes of finding a sort that eases their pain. Alternatively, your dog could be suffering from separation anxiety.
If you notice any abnormal symptoms in your dog, you should seek the help of a veterinarian as soon as possible.
What to Do When You Have Dogs Digging and Scratching Furniture
Before you learn how to train your dog not to dig, you need to know that different techniques work for specific causes of the digging behavior. Also, you need to decide if you prefer your dog to sit next to you on the couch or if you rather have them on the floor.
With these two factors in mind, here are some ways to keep your pet from destroying any more of your valuable furniture. In addition, you might need to use more than one of these tips to curb your dog’s behavior.
Buy a Dog Bed
If you have been letting your pup sleep on your bed or the floor, you should consider getting them a dog bed. After purchasing this new bed, do not allow your dog to sleep on your furniture. Let the dog bed become a space where your dog can go to feel safe and relaxed. This way, your puppy is less likely to wreak havoc on your bed or couch.
For Go-to-Ground Dogs
When you decide to make breeds prone to digging members of your home, there is nothing you can do about their digging behavior. Therefore, instead of trying to curb the habit, you should find other outlets for them to release their frustration.
We suggest you create a digging area outside where your dog can cut loose. Consider building a sandbox, then let your dog watch you as you dig their toy in the sand.
If you do not have the space outside or would rather not have your dog play out, you can create solutions indoors. All you have to do is fill a cardboard box with old cloth towels, shredded newspapers, or other materials they can dig through. With this simple solution, you help your dog release some pent-up frustration and spare yourself some heartache.
For Northern Dogs
As mentioned above, northern breeds are accustomed to the snow and cold weather. Therefore, to stop them from digging on your bed or couch, you must find them a nice chilly bed spot outside. Additionally, you could try creating an outdoor sandbox for them as well.
If you opt for indoor dog beds, you should consider making them cool for your dog. You can do this by putting some old sheets in the freezer for a couple of hours. Afterward, spread these cooled sheets over your dog’s bed and watch them jump on it. Finally, you could consider buying dog beds specially designed to help cool your pet off.
Ensure you vacuum your cushions frequently to stop your dog from constantly digging into furniture and looking for food or their dog toys. Check for any crumbs and get rid of them as often as possible. If the toy is still in decent shape, you can offer it to your pup. With nothing in your cushions, your pup should have no reason to want to dig into them.
Treat Bug Infestations
When dealing with bugs, your canine companion needs your help. It would be best if you protected them from these irritating and dangerous parasites because they can cause adverse reactions.
Furthermore, these bugs affect your health, not just your dog’s. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to eliminate any bugs as soon as you notice them. Invest in safe products for your pooch, and endeavor to treat the entire house, not just furniture.
Offer a Better Option
If you have a puppy that likes to hide its toys or treats in your bed or couch, the best thing to do is to offer them a better option. For example, you can take their toy and lace it with peanut butter or other things they like.
Afterward, place the toy in the dog’s bed or crate. The goal of this exercise is for you to help your puppy associate their favorite treat or toy with a location that is not your furniture. This way, anytime your furry friend wants to create a secret stash, it won’t be in your couch cushions or bed.
Keep Your Dog Busy
As we mentioned, dogs are social beings, and when you leave them with nothing to do, they tend to find something to do regardless of the consequences. Therefore, it is up to you to offer your pet an activity to partake in. We suggest playing a game with them.
You could try hiding a treat or toy and have them find it. This activity can keep them occupied and engaged for hours and save you the heartache of saying goodbye to yet another couch.
Ignore Attention Seeking Dogs
If your puppy uses digging on the couch or bed to get to you, you can find another way to reward them. This means not paying attention when your dog is digging on your furniture. We understand that this could be tough because all you want to do is stop them and save your couch. However, it would be best to ignore your dog until they ask for your attention in a way that doesn’t cost you money.
An example is teaching your pooch to sit next to you when they want your attention. You could also consider training your puppy to bring a toy to you; this method could act as a way for the pooch to pay you for your attention.
Create a Space for Nesting Dogs
Nesting means your dog is creating a safe space to birth her puppies. Therefore, if you do not want her scratching, pawing, or digging at your bed or couch, you should offer her a warm, protected place.
We suggest you find her a safe place away from your furniture because, besides the scratches your couch might endure, you might also end up with a stained, smelly couch.
Obedience Training With Positive Reinforcement
If your pet has behavioral problems, you can always teach them basic obedience. Now, we are not saying digging on your bed or couch is a behavioral problem (in most cases, it is normal). However, you can use basic obedience training to get your dog to move to their own comfortable bed or area.
You can put your companion on a leash and walk them to their bed. You can place your dog on the bed and offer them a treat for doing what you want when they lie down. With time, your dog will think of its bed as a place to get rewards.
Therefore, they would always want to be there to earn rewards. In addition, you must know that food should not be the only reward you give your dog. Consider offering them their favorite toy to let them know they are behaving well and you are happy with them.
Remember that you do not have to give your dog a treat every time they go to bed. It is just a measure you must take to get your canine companion accustomed to their own bed. Once going to their bed becomes a habit, you won’t need to give out rewards.
Exercising is a fantastic way to get your dog to stop digging in your furniture because it has several benefits. First and foremost is the fact that it is a form of distraction for your dog. So, if you notice your dog digging indoors, it might be time to take a walk outside or play a game of fetch.
Besides acting as a distraction, exercising is a great way to relieve stress and burn excess energy. As we’ve mentioned, anxiety and stress are one of the reasons why your dog might be digging indoors. Therefore, taking them outside can help them ease that stress and calm them down.
Exercise can lower your dog’s stress hormone levels while increasing dopamine and endorphin levels. Hence, you are left with a tired and happy pooch at the end of the day. They might even go back indoors, too tired to scratch or dig, and fall asleep.
Adopt Another Dog
Now, this isn’t always the answer, and it might not work. Furthermore, you might not have the resources, or other family members do not want another dog. However, if you do, we suggest adopting another dog. This is especially important if you have a dog that experiences distress when they are alone.
Therefore, by adopting another dog, you give your pup someone to play with when you are not around. Even when you are around, this new dog can keep them distracted and away from your furniture. Keep in mind that this technique will not work for separation anxiety. In a case like this, your pet needs a human partner.
Crate training is essential for your dog, especially if you have a full-time job and won’t be around most of the time. This training ensures that your pooch isn’t digging on your couch when you are not around and provides a safe and secure space. It also gives your dog limited access to your furniture, reducing their tendency to dig on them.
Invest in Puzzles
Your dog needs to be mentally stimulated the same way they need physical stimulation. So, if you are going out for a while or too tired to take them outside, you can give them some puzzles to solve.
They might not be working very hard physically, but mentally, they are doing a lot of work. Therefore, they would end up just as distracted and tired as they would from running outside.
You can find several puzzle toys online, and some of the best ones include Kong toys, ball treats dispensers, and snuffle mats. The best part about some of these toys is that they work your dog mentally and physically, so they get all the fitness they need.
How to Protect Your Furniture From Dogs Digging on It
Teaching your dog not to dig on your furniture may take a while. During this period, do not get frustrated or angry at your companion. Instead, find ways to protect your furniture until they handle this behavior. Here are some things you can try during this period.
Set Up Dog Gates
Consider setting up doggy doors around areas you do not want your dog having access to. This way, you can leave the house or go to bed knowing your pup won’t be able to damage any more furniture until you’ve efficiently found a way to handle the digging.
Trim Your Pup’s Nails
Taking your dog on a spa trip is another way to go. Now, when we say a spa trip, you do not have to take them to the groomers. You can give them all the treatment they need at home. In truth, all you really need to do is trim their nails.
Trimming your dog’s nails can help reduce the damage they would cause if they snuck past you and ended up on the furniture. You should try and cut your dog’s nails every three to four weeks. This trimming can protect your furniture and all hard surface areas. It can also reduce the chances of your dog getting a nail infection. If you notice that the nails are still too sharp after trimming, you can gently file them.
Use a Protective Covering
Consider opting for a protective covering to prevent your dog from scratching the couch. You can buy a protective covering; there are numerous specialized sofa covers on the market. You can use a thick blanket if you do not want to spend money on a covering. All that matters is that your couch is safe for the duration you will be correcting the habit.
Conclusion: Why Do Dogs Dig On Beds & Couches?
Ultimately, as a dog lover, you should know that these animals digging on your bed or couch is normal domestic dog behavior (except when there are health issues). However, it can be frustrating having to change your furniture frequently because your puppy can’t seem to stay away.
Fortunately, they are safe methods you can use to divert their attention and eventually deal with this behavior. Hopefully, with the use of this article, you can do just that. Remember that all dogs differ; some of these techniques might not work on yours. With that said, there are several methods you can try, and one or more of them should work out for you.