The Root of the Behavior
As most, if not all, dogs seem to exhibit this behavior, it is believed to be an inherited trait, hence your dog, though domesticated cannot help but act this way. Charles Darwin called this vestigial behavior, which is behavior that is inherited. In the wild, this behavior is driven by a survival instinct. Dogs share their territories with dangerous animals such as snakes, spiders, ants, and scorpions that might attack them in their sleep. Therefore, before going to bed, wild dogs and wolves will scratch and paw at the ground to satisfy themselves that they are not going to share their sleeping area with dangerous animals or insects. Dogs that sleep outside are thought to look out for these same dangers and that is why they will dig around in their kennels.
Another reason why dogs do this is to mark their territory. When dogs scratch their paws on the ground, they emit hormones that signal other dogs to keep off. Dog experts say that this would explain why dogs seem to scratch at their beddings more when new canine members join the family. The hormones also serve another purpose; because your dog knows its own smell, he will come to identify with his sleep area and only want to sleep there. Dogs also make their bed for safety. Your dog’s ancestors were accustomed to living in dens that protected them against predators and bad weather. While inside their dens, they would dig a depression into the ground and use anything around them, including twigs, leaves and soil, to make a comfortable bed. When your dog burrows in his blankets, he is doing what his ancestors did, only instead of leaves, he uses his blankets to create a protective fort.
Nesting, as observed in female dogs just before they go into labor, is also similar to making a bed. When a female dog is getting ready to welcome her new puppies into the world, she will make a soft bed that will provide a soft landing for her newborns. When dogs get close to labor, their bodies emit hormones that trigger this desire to nest or make their beds. Female dogs that are still nursing their young also nest to provide a comfortable place for their puppies to feed and sleep.
Encouraging the Behavior
Two, it is possible your dog does not feel safe in his current sleeping room. To make him feel safe, relocate his bed to a more secluded area. You could also create a canopy over his sleeping area to create a more enclosed sleeping area. Three, if you cannot stomach the damage your dog is causing, get him nail caps. This way, he can satisfy his natural need to dig into his bed without damaging bedding or leaving scratch marks on the floor. Lastly, investing in a good quality dog bed might be the way to go if you don’t mind the expense. Certain dog beds are designed to withstand damage while providing comfort and support.