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Why Dogs Scratch the Carpet – 8 Reasons + Solutions

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Why do dogs scratch at the carpet?

The main reason why dogs scratch at the carpet is because your pup is following a very normal instinct and routine to settle down. While instinct might be the most common, it is not the only reason why they might be pawing away. Here are the most common reasons why your dog might scratch at the carpet, the bed sheets, or the floor:

  • Making a bed
  • Separation anxiety or stress
  • Boredom
  • Excitement and playfulness
  • Attention seeking
  • Scents and smells
  • Hiding treasure
  • Breed instincts: staying cool, hunting, searching!

For many of these, your dog is just being a dog so you can have fun with weird things dogs do! It is one of the many reasons we love having dogs, they have unique breed instincts and can experience the world very differently from us.

That said, sometimes indoor digging behavior can be excessive or damaging. If you need to stop your dog from indoor scratching, it helps to understand why they are doing it. We will cover each of the reasons listed and what steps you can follow to prevent your dog from excessive scratching.

Having grown up with dogs inside and outside the house and having raised terriers over the last 18 years, we have seen lots of digging, scratching and pawing. Especially with a our jack russel terrier, Thandi. She had a strong hunting instinct and really liked to get her paws on things.

So we definitely have seen it all. Sometimes we are cracking up at the crazy scratching, sniffing and squeezing themselves under the couch for a tiny crumb. Other times we have come home to shredded furniture because our young dog was left with too much to do while we were gone.

It is all part of the journey and adventure with dogs. Let’s dig into it!

Speaking of adventures, it is because of people sharing their stories and opinions that we are able to make this guide. If you have traveled with your dog in the United States or other countries, share your experience!

1) Making a bed

Dog scratched the bedding and messed it up

If your dog is pawing and scratching before settling down

Many dogs have a natural instinct to paw and scratch at surfaces before settling down to sleep. This is a behavior that is ancient and can also be observed in wild wolves as they create a sleeping spot by moving leaves, dirt, and debris. It is a strong survival instinct that can help preserve energy.

When it is hot, being able to shelter in a bed of cool earth helps protect from the heat. When it is cold, our furry friends can paw the bedding around them to help preserve heat. Pretty much like how we gather blankets around ourselves! Huskies will even bury themselves into the snow to create a nice warm cocoon, even in very cold environments.

A great dog blanket to meet your dogs’ needs

Here is a fun and comfy way to focus this instinctive behavior. Provide your dog with a soft and comfortable blanket they can paw and scratch at. This will not only satisfy their natural instinct but also protect your carpets, bed sheets, and floors from damage.

If you have a dog that does a lot of scratching on your sofa, you might want to protect the whole sofa with a cover.

Calming dog beds

Investing in a calming dog bed can also help curb your dog’s need to scratch at surfaces. These beds are designed to provide a sense of security and comfort, which may help your dog settle down more quickly without the need to scratch.

On the other hand, you might want to give your dogs a chance to scratch and burrow. For dogs who need to really nestle in, you might prefer one that is specifically made for burrowing.

2) Anxiety and stress in dogs: scratching to calm down

An anxious dog is sitting on its bed

Dogs can experience anxiety and stress just like humans, and one way they may cope with these feelings is by scratching at the carpet or on furniture. Our Norwich terrier, Denver almost always will scratch away in his dog carrier after one of his training classes. He does that vigorously for a minute or so before settling down.

It seems like he is just letting off the stress and energy from all of that hard work!

Separation anxiety in dogs

Separation anxiety is a common issue for dogs and may lead to destructive behaviors, including scratching. To help alleviate your dog’s separation anxiety, gradually increase the time you spend away from them and provide them with interactive toys to keep them occupied while you’re gone.

Create a safe space for your dog

Creating a safe and comfortable space for your dog can help alleviate stress and anxiety. This could be a designated room or a cozy corner with a bed, toys, and blankets. Providing a familiar and secure environment for your dog will help them feel more at ease when they are alone or experiencing stress.

3) Bored dog

A dog is lying on its bed looking bored

A bored dog might resort to scratching the carpet or other surfaces to pass the time or burn off energy. This behavior can be particularly prevalent in high-energy or intelligent breeds that require mental and physical stimulation.

My dog is bored – a few simple things that are good for both of you!

To combat boredom, establish a routine for your dog that includes regular walks, playtime, and training sessions. Engaging your dog in activities like fetch, tug-of-war, or agility courses can also provide mental and physical stimulation. For social dogs, they may enjoy visiting dog parks.

For working and hunting dogs that show a lot of curiosity or intelligence, you really want to find activities that exercise their brain as much as their body. Activities like agility, rally and obedience can be a great way to bond and for your pup to focus, have fun and to flourish.

Toys for bored dogs

Invest in puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, or chew toys to keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated. These toys can help prevent boredom and reduce the likelihood of destructive behaviors, such as scratching. The key here is boredom. If you notice that they aren’t paying attention to their favorite toy anymore, add some variety and see what they do!

Get these toys easily from Amazon. Just a few ideas to get you started. Our dogs love the squirrel puzzle!

4) Excitement and play

A puppy is burrowed in a blanket

Dogs often scratch and paw at surfaces during playtime, as it’s a natural way for them to engage with their environment and have fun.

Dog exercise ideas to keep your pup healthy and happy

To ensure your dog has ample opportunities for play and exercise, consider activities such as hiking, swimming, or joining a local dog park or playgroup. These activities will not only keep your dog engaged and happy but also help to minimize destructive behaviors.

How to calm an overly excited dog

Dogs can get really amped up and start digging and scratching furiously at things because they are excited. Of course we want them to have fun, but not so much that they might upset or hurt themselves or others.

If your dog becomes too excited during playtime the first thing to do is to move them away from the source of excitement. Usually this is other dogs or people. Sometimes it might be a toy that they are obsessed with.

Create some distance between your pup and that super exciting thing. Then it is time to move their focus to something else that is also interesting to them, like a good treat! Use calming techniques like gentle petting, soothing words, or offering a favorite toy or treat.

Just like with stress and anxiety, desensitization is very useful here too. You and your dog can work up towards that super exciting thing slowly until they are able to handle themselves. Teaching your dog to settle on command can also be helpful in managing their excitement levels.

5) Attention Seeking

A large dog is digging for the person's attention

Some dogs will scratch or paw at the floor, furniture (and our legs!) to get their owner’s attention, especially if they have learned that this behavior results in the desired response.

Dog barking for attention? What to do when your dog is barking or pawing for attention

If your dog is attention seeking, it’s essential to teach them alternative ways to communicate their needs. Reward your dog for using appropriate behaviors, like sitting or lying down, and ignore attention-seeking pawing or barking.

To stop attention seeking, you need to do the opposite and ignore it. Just as important, though is to find ways that your dog can ask for things and get their needs met. It is a two way street. Otherwise, you just have both a frustrated dog and a frustrated pawrent.

An example of this is in our own home is with Denver. He is crate trained. For safety reasons, we do not want him to paw or jump on the crate door. When we get home, he is very, very excited and wants desperately to get out. If he jumps on the crate door or paws at it, that is a no go. If he barks, that is a no go. We tell him to settle and wait before we open the door.

This is a hard thing for him to handle because he really wants out! But now he has learned. So usually he simply does circles and makes excited noises before coming out. He let’s us know how much he wants to see us, and we can let him zoom out and greet us!

6) Scents and Smells

A dog is sniffing in the grass

Dog sniffing and scratching the floor

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and they may scratch or dig around to uncover interesting scents or food crumbs.

Regularly vacuum and clean your floors to minimize tempting odors. Additionally, avoid leaving food or treats on the floor to discourage this behavior.

My jack russell kept pawing at the couch and digging around instead of settling down for a cuddle. I was curious but also ready to relax After 5 or 10 minutes of this behavior. Then Eureka, she found it – a little snack that must have fallen off my plate from earlier.

7) Hiding Treasures

A dog is digging a hole in the dirt instead of digging the carpet

Some dogs will scratch at surfaces in an attempt to hide or bury food, bones, or toys. Every dog we have had does different things to protect their precious things. It is a natural instinct driven by the need to protect valuable resources.

Snuffle mats are a fantastic way to feed into those scent instincts! It provides a way to feed your dog while also giving them a natural activity to use their nose and paws to find their food.

Here is another great way to focus this behavior and make it fun at the same time. Provide your dog with a designated area, such as a toy box, where they can “bury” their treasures safely. We have known some people who teach their dogs to even put things away by using this instinct!

They teach the dog a command like “hide it” to get a toy and take it to the toy box.

8) Breed instincts!

A large dog is standing in the field for hunting

Dogs scratch to hunt, dig, and stay cool. Certain breeds, such as terriers or hounds, have a strong instinct to dig or hunt, which may lead them to express those behaviors by scratching indoors.

To address breed-specific instincts, provide your dog with an appropriate outlet, such as a designated digging area in your yard or engaging them in scent work or earthdog trials. By allowing your dog to express their natural instincts in a controlled manner, you can help prevent unwanted scratching indoors.

Note that some breeds like Chow Chows or Huskies might be digging as a way to stay cool. Understanding what your dog has been bred for can help you understand how best to focus their scratching or digging instincts.

The AKC is the official resource on breed standards and would be good starting place to learn more.

Solutions: how to stop a dog from scratching the carpet

With each reason above, there are a few solutions, but let us quickly summarize them here

Why they are scratchingWhat to do about it
For comfort: making a bed, settling down– Create a safe, comfortable space for your dog
– Provide a soft, comfortable blanket for scratching
– Try a calming dog bed for anxious dogs
Separation anxiety– Put your dog in their safe space
– Gradually increase the time spent away from your dog.
– Leave them goodies as you go
Boredom, excitement, playfulness– Do something fun!
– Teach them to settle on command (if they control themselves, good things happen!)
– Regular walks, playtime, and training sessions
– Puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, or chew toys
Attention seeking– Communicate well with your dog. Find an appropriate way for them to tell you what they need (instead of barking, whining, scratching, pawing)
Smells, hiding things and marking– Look for hidden toys, crumbs and other tidbits, or even signs of critters!
– Find creative and fun ways from them to focus hiding instincts (putting toys away, a designated play area, etc)
– If they are marking (leaving their paw scent), discourage this indoors and find places (outside) where they are free to scratch and mark
Breed instincts– Many dogs were bred with specific jobs in mind. Find ways for them to use those finely honed instincts! Designated digging areas, scent work, earthdog trials. Check out the AKC for ideas.


Why do dogs scratch the floor before lying down?

Dogs scratch the floor before lying down as a natural instinct. This behavior can help them create a comfortable space to rest, regulate their body temperature, and release their scent to mark their territory.

How do I get my dog to stop scratching the carpet?

To stop your dog from scratching the carpet, first determine the underlying cause. Address the issue with proper training, exercise, mental stimulation, or providing alternative outlets for their instincts. You can also use deterrents such as double-sided tape or furniture protectors to discourage scratching.

Why do dogs dig at blankets?

Dogs dig at blankets for similar reasons they scratch at the carpet. It could be due to natural instincts for creating a comfortable sleeping area, regulating their body temperature, or marking their territory. It might also be a sign of anxiety, boredom, or seeking attention.

Can scratching damage my dog’s nails or paws?

Excessive scratching on rough surfaces like carpets can cause damage to your dog’s nails or paws. If you notice your dog’s nails or paws are injured, cracked, or bleeding, consult your veterinarian for appropriate treatment and guidance on how to prevent future injuries.

Wrapping up: Why do dogs scratch at the carpet?

In conclusion, dogs scratch at the carpet for a variety of reasons, such as natural instincts, boredom, anxiety, or seeking attention. Usually it is just what dogs do! It might be based on instinct or your dog’s unique personality.

When their behavior is getting a bit much, try and determine the underlying cause of your dog’s behavior. Then you can take steps to address it and create a calmer, happier environment for both you and your furry friend. From providing mental stimulation and exercise to creating safe spaces and designated digging areas, there are numerous ways to help your dog find alternative outlets for their energy and instincts.

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