Does your dog like to "tuck" himself into your bed at night? If so, you're not alone. This behavior is a common occurrence for many dogs though its motivations are difficult to comprehend. After all, dogs in the wild didn't have comfy beds with fluffy duvets to rest their weary heads under each night. Yet dogs like to be comfortable too. For many of our modern dogs, there is no greater luxury than being curled up underneath a pile of warm, plush blankets with their favorite human close by their side. But you have to wonder, is there more to this behavior? Since logic is the premise behind most things our dogs do, it is a fair assumption that this action is rooted in something deeper than a mere desire to be close to us. Are our dogs just trying to find the most cozy position to catch a little shuteye? Or could this behavior have roots that go far deeper? Though we may never know the answer for certain, there are many different reasons why dogs like to burrow under the covers.
The Root of the Behavior
Many pet historians believe that prior to domestication, dogs were animals who liked to congregate in dens. Resting in a den-like fashion was a form of nesting, and this behavior is still observed in pregnant female dogs who are nearing the time to whelp their puppies. Many pet owners have observed that their dogs seem most at ease when resting in a small, covered, and confined space. This is perhaps why crates have become a favorite place for our beloved canine friends to catch a little shuteye or play with a much-loved toy away from the busyness of household living. In the wild, finding an area to sleep and unwind that was off the radar of predators would be a top priority and necessary for survival. An unexpected attack when a dog was most vulnerable could be disastrous. A premium was placed on securing small spaces that provided adequate warmth and safety.
Viewed through our dogs' eyes, our beds comprise the safest area in the home for them to rest. It is comfortable and its coverings provide insulation against potential inclement weather conditions and camouflage from predators. But more than any of that is the fact that it is the shelter where you rest. The greatest sense of comfort and security for your dog comes from being close to you. Because dogs were originally believed to have been pack animals, your dog feels most at ease when nesting near to his "pack leader." There is safety in numbers. Staying close to you provides him the opportunity to defend you if necessary and strengthens the pack. Though today our dogs have no need to fear predators harming them as they sleep, the instinct remains very much intact. For certain breeds such as terriers or other hunting breeds, it is hardwired into their genetic makeup for them to "go to ground." This going to ground involves burrowing in small, confined spaces on the hunt for prey. A narrow hole that might make a human feel claustrophobic feels quite natural to many dogs, and particularly, to those whose original jobs involved assisting their owners on hunting expeditions. These dogs not only participated in hunts, they relished them! The action of digging underneath the ground in pursuit of quarry was extremely gratifying.
Encouraging the Behavior
Yet burrowing is not limited to Terriers and other breeds intended for hunting purposes. Other breeds built for cold weather would often choose to burrow underneath snow to build a sleeping trough to provide adequate warmth on cold winter nights. Still, there are other explanations for this interesting behavior. For some dogs, digging then burrowing underneath the covers becomes a comforting ritual. It is as familiar as their own skin. Just as humans have a set pattern of routines that help us to feel settled, so too do our dogs. This is but one action that could be identified in this fashion. It could merely be part of the process of Fido making himself more comfortable, so he can get a good night's rest. In rarer cases, sometimes dogs burrow as a result of anxiety. Digging can be a compulsive behavior for some dogs. If you find your dog is a little overzealous in his digging efforts or is burrowing to avoid interactions with your family, there may be more to the behavior.
A thorough veterinary examination is helpful to rule out any potential medical conditions that might be causing your dog to retreat from family living to cope with pain. If the behavior finds no medical cause, it would be wise to consult with a professional dog trainer to get to the root of the problem. Just as with their human counterparts, weather and noise can also play a role in burrowing behaviors. When dogs experience a fright whether it is from thunder and lightning, a power outage, or fireworks, they run for cover! Since the safest place for a dog in the wild when under attack is hidden a small, covered space, it is instinctual for a dog to seek the same type of environment in our homes when they are frightened. By the same token, cold weather can have a similar impact on our dogs. Just as a blustery, snowy day leaves us longing to remain under the protection and warmth of the covers, so too do our dogs crave this simple creature comfort.
Other Solutions and Considerations
What can be done about dogs that like to burrow under the covers? If you prefer to keep your bed for human family members only, it is best to provide your pet with his own safe space in which to burrow and rest. This can take the form of a crate lined with blankets or even a dog bed specifically for Fido's use. When your dog understands that this bed is for him alone, he will take great comfort in going to it when he feels anxious or stressed or just needs a quiet place to chill. It is best to situate your dog's bed close to where you sleep to provide him with maximum comfort. He is most at ease when he is near to you. For those of you who enjoy snuggling up to your favorite furry friend under the covers, enjoy that special time guilt-free. There is no training involved to teach your dog this particular skill. He came hard-wired with it!
Dogs love to dig and burrow; some more than others. It is a normal and natural outworking of their instincts from ancient days when every dog had his own job. Though our dogs no longer need to hunt for their own food or even fulfill the traditional jobs for which they are bred, they still enjoy the comfort of lounging underneath warm, fuzzy blankets. Snuggle up with your favorite friend today!
By a Parson Russel Terrier lover Jason Homan
Published: 02/22/2018, edited: 01/30/2020