You walk into your living room only to find Fido attempting to dig to China in his bed. The behavior is perplexing to say the least. What could he possibly be trying to achieve? Though odd to us, digging and circling behaviors are quite common in dogs. By a careful examination of the history of the modern canine, we can gain greater understanding as to what makes our favorite furry friends tick. Though our dogs' behavior is often puzzling to us, it is nearly always deeply rooted in logic. When we observe our dogs' actions through the lens of their origins as dogs in the wild, we can gain powerful insights. Dogs attacking their beds is a common canine phenomenon. While we cannot definitively say what our dog's motivation may be for the physical assault on his bed, we know with a certainty that this behavior is seen in many dog-loving homes throughout the world. It is normal and natural for our dogs even if it does leave us scratching our heads in wonder.
The Root of the Behavior
Though it may seem far from normal to us, dogs attacking their beds is a phenomenon seen in many homes with dogs. There are a number of reasons why dogs dig, circle, bite, or chew their beds. Determining the motivation behind your dog's obsession with his bed will help you to better understand him and what this action is providing for him. Some dogs attack their beds because they are bored. In the absence of other more fulfilling things to do, dogs will create their own fun. Unfortunately, we usually don't like the things they get up to when left to their own devices! It is well known that dogs like to chew. Working on a bone or toy with their jaws is very calming for them and provides your dog with a valuable means of stress relief. Dogs are not that discriminating about what they select to exercise their chompers on. However, things that are plush or stuffed definitely pique their interest. After all, what could be more satisfying than sinking your teeth into something soft then ripping it to smithereens? That is the equivalent of dog heaven! The dog bed you so lovingly selected for Fido is the perfect target for a bored dog to chew. From Fido's perspective, there's a whole lot of fun just waiting to happen in that designer dog bed!
Other dogs attack their beds to help burn off pent up energy. Our dogs need daily exercise to truly thrive. It is good for their bodies as well as their minds. Dogs who are inactive can become hyperactive and destructive. Attacking his dog bed is but one way for Fido to use up all of that excess energy he's got inside of him. To avoid the problem of boredom, ensure that Fido gets a daily walk. Even if it is just a short one, it will help improve his focus and outlook immeasurably and will reduce any unwanted behavioral problems. Providing access to plenty of varied and fun enrichment toys will also help to keep Fido's brain engaged, so that he doesn't have the time or interest to chew on or attack things that you'd rather he not. It is also possible that anxiety is at the root of your dog's bed attacking ways. Dogs who are anxious exhibit chewing behaviors as a means to self-soothe. Of course, digging behaviors could also just be your dog's way of getting comfy! Just as we like to arrange our blankets properly to ensure we are warm and cozy, so too do our dogs have preferences for their bedding.
Encouraging the Behavior
While all of these theories are plausible, it is equally possible that your dog's penchant for attacking his bed has more ancient origins. In the wild, dogs would need to source a secure and well-hidden den area to house their pack. This would be particularly important to mother dogs who would need a camouflaged area to keep their young safe while they were out procuring food for the puppies to eat. A den that was easy accessible to predators could easily spell the end of an entire litter or even a pack. Once suitable housing was found, it would then be important to properly prepare the den area. Dogs in the wild would dig or repeatedly circle before finally settling into one comfortable position. Why is this? Digging was often a means for the wild dog to ensure that there were no unpleasant "surprises" hiding in his bedding. It would not be a welcome discovery to nestle in for a good night's sleep only to find a snake entwining around his neck! Though our dogs need not fear predators or safety risks in their beds in our homes, the instinct remains powerfully strong and will not be denied. Though the modern dog may not even understand why he is doing what he is doing, he is hard-wired to continue the behavior through years of breeding and well-embedded survival strategies.
Circling was also a behavior that was helpful to dogs in the wild. Ground in wooded areas is often not level, and it is uncomfortable to sleep on uneven surfaces. But more than this, wild dogs needed to remain hidden from view in order to afford their pack the best opportunity to survive. The act of tamping down the ground through circling levelled the ground but also created a slight indentation in the earth for the dog and his pack to nest in. This allowed the wild dog a small additional measure of "disguise" from the prying eyes of potential predators. But more than this, circling also afforded the wild dog a different vantage point from which to detect the presence of danger. If your dog likes to engage in attack behavior towards his bed, there are some measures you can take to help him with this. For some dogs, it is simply an instinctual behavior that is not harmful for them or their owners. If this is the case with your dog, it is not necessary to do anything to change it unless it bothers you.
Other Solutions and Considerations
For dogs who chew or eat their beds, it is an entirely different matter. As with most behaviors we want to change, sometimes prevention is the best approach. If at all possible, restrict access to your dog's bed when you cannot be there to supervise. The foam and stuffing in dog beds can be a choking hazard. Dogs that choose to ingest these materials are at a great risk of respiratory or gastrointestinal distress. Though your dog might not enjoy laying on a blanket instead of a cushy dog bed, it may save both of you a great deal of heartache in the long run. Provide satisfying alternatives for your dog's chewing enjoyment. Raw meaty bones, Kongs stuffed with yummy treats, stuffed toys, or balls are all extremely satisfying for your dog to play with and will give your dogs many hours of euphoric chewing. This is the most effective means of relieving boredom in your dog, especially when you cannot be there to engage with him.
Ensure that Fido receives regular exercise. A dog that has proper mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis is far less likely to get himself into trouble. If you cannot be home to walk Fido yourself, consider a dog walker or even a few days a week at a reputable, responsible doggy day care service. You did purchase Fido's bed for him to enjoy! If Fido using his bed for the purpose it was intended is important to you, you can begin by using a clicker and treats to shape the behavior you want to see from him. By lavishly praising calm and quiet behavior in his bed and filling it with toys that are a suitable match for his chewing habits, you will soon be able to teach Fido that his bed is for resting, and his toys are for chewing and never are the two to meet!
Yes, attacking dogs beds is a perfectly normal behavior for our dogs. Through careful observation, we can ascertain if there is something more concerning behind this instinctual action and formulate a plan to help Fido get the release he needs without destroying his bed in the process. Keeping your dog mentally and physically stimulated on a daily basis is key to a happy, healthy, non-destructive dog!
By a Parson Russel Terrier lover Jason Homan
Published: 03/23/2018, edited: 01/30/2020