Comfort or Compulsion? Understanding Why Your Dog Digs Their Bed 20 Dec 2023

Comfort or Compulsion? Understanding Why Your Dog Digs Their Bed

"Why do dogs dig on beds?" is one of the most common questions new dog owners have, and it's a good one. Digging and scratching are natural canine behaviours, but what's the real reason behind your pup's bed-digging compulsion?

Although digging behaviour is an instinct for your dog, it can be an inconvenient or damaging habit, especially if your pooch is digging compulsively or causing damage to their dog beds. And you can still take some actions to discourage and prevent your pup from wrecking yet another bed.

We've done some digging of our own to uncover the reasons behind your dog's bed-digging habits.

Most Common Reasons Why Dogs Dig Their Beds

As with most puppy or dog behaviours, there can be a myriad of reasons as to why they do what they do, and the same can be said for bed-digging. But if you can figure out why your dog is always scratching at their bed, you might be able to end the problem or at least help reduce it.

Some of the most common reasons why your pup may be digging their bed are:

The Instinctual Roots of Bed-Digging in Dogs

Digging is a natural behaviour for dogs, as it gives them a sense of security and comfort. In the wild, digging shelters an animal from predators or harsh weather conditions while also helping to regulate body temperature.

While domesticated dogs no longer need these benefits, they still carry this instinctive behaviour from their ancestors. It’s similar to how we’ve ‘inherited’ the fear of certain threats, like spiders – we don’t need to be scared of them in the same way our ancestors living in the wild did, but the fear remains nonetheless.

Bed Digging or Scratching Can Indicate Anxiety

In addition to being a remnant of ancestral instincts, bed-digging can indicate that your pup is anxious or stressed. If your pup is feeling overwhelmed, they may use bed-digging as a coping mechanism to soothe themselves and calm their nerves.

There could be numerous reasons why your four-legged pal is feeling anxious, including

  • Separation anxiety
  • A change in surroundings
  • Loud noises

It’s normal for dogs to experience some level of anxiety, but if it’s a continuous problem, it’s important to take steps to help your pup manage their stress and live a happy, healthy life. You could contact their regular vet or seek professional advice from a dog behaviourist if your dog's digging behaviour suddenly increases or their anxious nature is constant, and you can’t identify a cause.

Environmental Causes of Dog Bed-Digging

Certain environmental factors can amplify a dog's bed-digging behaviour, leading to more frequent or intense episodes – most notably, a change in their environment.

Dogs are territorial creatures, so when their home is disturbed or their usual routine is disrupted, they may become unsettled and start digging in their bed as a comforting ritual.

Even small changes can trigger stress, like moving the position of their food bowl or bed. Something you might not particularly think is a ‘big deal’ can have a huge impact on your pup’s behaviour.

Possible environmental causes of stress in your dog:

  • A new pet (or person) in the home: If you’ve just introduced a new pet into your home or someone new has moved in, your dog may become anxious and start bed-digging. It’s strange for another creature to cross into their territory, so it’ll take them a bit of getting used to.
  • Temperature: Dogs may dig at their beds to create a cooler spot in hot weather or, conversely, to burrow deeper into warmth during cold spells.
  • Pests: especially fleas or mites, which can cause a dog to scratch and dig at their bed in an attempt to get rid of the irritants.
  • Their bed has moved positions: If you’ve moved your pup’s bed while rearranging the house, they may feel the need to dig in order to recuperate “their” spot.
  • Boredom: Dogs may start to dig at their bed out of boredom or as a way of entertaining themselves while you’re away.

This is closely linked to the previous point on stress and anxiety – very often, the result of these changes is stress, which then leads to scratching at their bed.

The Impact of Breed on Dog's Bed Scratching

Different dog breeds have varying instinctual behaviours, including some being more prone to digging.

This behaviour is particularly prevalent in breeds that have been historically used for hunting, such as Terriers and Dachshunds, which are bred to dig and burrow to capture prey. These breeds may dig at their beds as an instinctual carryover from their ancestral duties.

On the other hand, breeds like Labradors and Golden Retrievers, which were bred for activities that don't involve digging, such as retrieving waterfowl, are generally less prone to this behaviour. But that’s not to say they won’t.

They’re Trying to Get Cosy

Often, a dog's behaviour of scratching or digging at their bed is merely a quest for cosiness and comfort. It once again stems from their wild ancestors who would scrabble around in the dirt to create a comfy, warm, and safe spot to rest.

This inherited trait manifests itself today in the way dogs 'fluff up' their dog beds. By digging or scratching at their beds, dogs can adjust the temperature and texture to suit their preference, much like how we might toss and turn, fluff up our pillows, or rearrange the duvet before settling down for the night.

Their Bed May Not Be Comfortable Enough

Alternatively, their bed may not be comfortable enough. Purchasing a really good quality dog bed is important – just as you invest in your own mattress, you should invest in your pet’s. If they’re uncomfortable or don’t find their bed inviting, they’re more likely to choose another spot in the house that may not be as desirable or scratch at their bed until it suffices.

In essence, this seemingly odd behaviour is a completely normal part of a dog's bedtime routine, aimed at creating the ideal sleeping environment.

Shop Cosy Dog Beds

Tips to Redirect Bed Digging Behaviour

Of course, you’re probably most concerned with how you can reduce their bed digging. But understanding the possible cause (or causes) is key to preventing it from happening in the first place.

It's possible to redirect your dog's bed-digging behaviour with a bit of time and perseverance. Typically, this is done by providing alternative outlets for their natural instincts or by changing aspects of their environment that may be contributing to the behaviour.

It's important to remember that patience and consistency are key when trying to fix an unwanted behaviour. Redirecting your dog's behaviour doesn't mean suppressing their natural instincts but rather guiding them towards healthier and less destructive outlets.

Remember, every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. So, it's crucial to tailor your approach to your pet's specific needs and habits.

Effective Methods to Redirect Dog Scratching Behavior

Offer Digging Alternatives Digging is always going to be a natural instinct for your dog.
You can redirect their digging tendencies to a designated spot in your garden or invest in a 'dig box' for your home. This lets your dog dig without causing damage to your home.
Provide Sufficient Exercise Sometimes, dogs scratch their beds because they're bored or have too much energy. Regular exercise is a main form of defense against unwanted dog digging. As a dog lover, you probably already provide your dog with exercise and stimulation, but adding in an extra 10-minute walk or throwing their toy in the garden more often can make all the difference.
Use Positive Reinforcement Many studies have shown that positive reinforcement is the most effective way to train dogs. Make sure you're rewarding your dog when they display positive behavior such as getting in their bed with minimal digging or 'fluffing'. Verbal praise, treats, and pats all work well.


Tips to Reduce Compulsive Digging

As well as redirecting your dog’s digging, you can do things to help reduce or prevent it, too.

Effective Methods of Reducing & Treating Compulsive Digging

Make Environmental Adjustments If your dog's feeling stressed from environmental changes, revert back to how you had things before (if that’s possible, of course).

If you’ve moved furniture around, you should move it back to where it was before. If you’ve introduced a new pet to the home, make the introduction gradual.

Anxiety Relief If your dog's obsessive scratching is rooted in anxiety, introducing methods for anxiety relief can be beneficial. This could involve calming music, anxiety wraps, or calming scents.

In more severe cases, vet-prescribed anti-anxiety medication may be necessary.

Be a Comforting Presence Sometimes, simply spending more time with your dog can help. Dogs are social animals and may resort to obsessive behaviors if they feel lonely or neglected.

Regular playtimes and cuddle sessions can make your pet feel more secure and reduce their need to scratch compulsively.

Consult a Professional If the compulsive scratching continues despite your best efforts, you should seek professional help.

A certified animal behaviorist or a veterinarian could provide valuable insights into the cause of the obsessive behavior and suggest specific treatments or strategies.

Provide Suitable Bedding Dogs prefer a comfortable spot to sleep. The more comfortable your dog's bed is, the less likely they are to dig at it.

Replacing your dog’s existing bed to one that’s more tailored to their sleeping habits and preferences can make a world of difference.

At Bronte Glen, we’ve carefully crafted a great range of dog beds to suit all pups – from high-sided Cosy Beds for dogs who like to cocoon up to flat Vet Bedding for sprawlers.

Our collections:


Find the Best Bed for Your Dog

Upgrade Your Furry Friends Sleeping Area With Bronte Glen

Although dogs scratch their beds instinctively, it can be the bane of pet owners' lives. Bronte Glen's pet beds are designed to help your furry friends get a good night's rest without having to worry about their scratching.

The durable and comfortable beds are made of high-quality materials, providing your pup with support and comfort while they drift into dreamland. You can drop us a message or give us a call if you’d like advice on which bed is best for your pup. Or, check out our Dog Bed Buying Guide for a breakdown of our collections.

So what are you waiting for? Upgrade your pup's sleeping area today with Bronte Glen!


While bed-digging is normal and instinctual for many dogs, excessive or obsessive digging can indicate a problem, such as stress or anxiety. If you notice your dog digging at their bed more than usual, coupled with other signs of distress, it's recommended to consult a veterinarian or a pet behaviourist to help your dog feel better.

Yes, the type of bed can influence your dog's digging habits. Some dogs may dig less if their bed is already 'perfect' for them. A plush, cushioned bed might be appreciated by breeds that enjoy burrowing, while dogs that tend to overheat might prefer a raised or cooling bed.

Absolutely! There are a few ways you can reduce your dog's compulsive digging yourself, depending on the cause. If your dog is stressed due to environmental changes, providing extra comfort can help them re-settle into their routine.

You can also try calming products such as supplements, diffusers, and creams to reduce their anxiety. If compulsive digging doesn't improve, contact your vet for advice.

A blanket can be helpful in making your dog feel more secure in bed. Although tucking your dog into bed might feel like something 'pet parents' would do, it can actually be beneficial for your dog.

Being covered by something can help them feel protected and secure while they sleep. If it smells like you, it can be even more effective.