As you get ready to climb into bed at night, you’ve probably
noticed your dog’s normal bedtime routine. Maybe they circle a few times around
the bed before lying in it, or maybe they dig around the blankets a bit. Even
stranger, does your dog “make” their bed before getting in it? Some dogs appear
to be unhappy with the way their bed looks or feels, and end up piling their
blankets into a nest or pile. Some dogs may even move their bed to a different
place in the house
What is it about their beds that makes them so unsatisfied? Why do they move their beds?
The Root of the Behavior
Long before dogs had beds, wild canines performed similar pre-bed routines as domesticated dogs. Circling, for example, is used not only for comfort but also for safety and territory. Circling around an area allows the dog to monitor their surroundings before settling in. It also allows dogs to mark their scent in their chosen spot since dogs have scent glands in their paws. That’s partly why you see dogs kicking up grass or leaves when they potty in an unfamiliar area. Additionally, dogs in the wild might trample an area for a bed to rout out any pests or small threats in the grass, like snakes, insects, or rodents. They’re ensuring that their bed is safe, comfortable, and protected.
Dogs may dig at their beds for some of the same reasons: to mark it as their own space and to make it more comfortable. Digging on or around their bed is a leftover behavior from their distant, biological pasts when dogs were wild. It doesn’t matter that they get blankets or a bed to sleep on because to a dog, a bed is a bed, whether it is leaves and grass or soft and fluffy blankets.
Another possible reason why dogs move their bedding around could be concealment. In the wild, dogs would dig down to hide behind grass or whatever could conceal them outdoors. Attempting to find a low spot, even indoors, might be just another leftover behavior from their wild roots.
If your dog is actually moving their bed from room to room, it might be a little of everything. They may be looking for more privacy (or less, to be with you), or a warmer or cooler spot in the house.
Sometimes, new beds or blankets go untouched in favor of a bare floor or the same ratty blanket they’ve had for years. It’s a matter of familiarity and comfort for dogs, and some don’t take well to new scents.
Encouraging the Behavior
While it may be slightly bothersome to deal with your dog’s bedtime routine, it’s totally normal for your dog to make themselves comfortable. The same way you might adjust your blankets or fluff your pillow, your dog has a specific way they like their bed. That might include moving it to a different room of the house or burying themselves among a heap of old blankets.
If your dog digs at a spot on your floor, make sure to provide a blanket or a dog bed for them to use. Not every dog enjoys sleeping in a bed. You can try different beds to see if your dog has a preference of one kind over another. There are many options available online or in pet stores. Orthopedic beds are available for elderly dogs, and there are even some designed to be slightly elevated, which is generally cooler than foam or cotton mattresses. Sometimes, none of these will do, and your dog will determinedly sleep wherever they feel like it.
If your dog scratches at the floor instead of their bed, you can put a rug down in the area they normally scratch, which will help protect your flooring. It’s important to be consistent with your dog’s dedicated bed area. Having their own space is both comforting for your dog and also helps maintain boundaries. It teaches your dog that you have your own area and they have theirs, which should keep Fido off of your bed at night.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Digging at the floor or their beds is normal and comforting for dogs. Keep damage to a minimum by keeping their nails trimmed and keeping their areas protected by towels, rugs, or blankets you don’t mind them wearing down. Probably, your dog will situate their area in the way they think works best. Even if it’s not what you would do, it all makes sense to them. Sometimes, anxiety might cause dogs to dig on the floor. If your dog digs persistently at their bedding, or your floors, make sure there are no other health concerns to worry about. Have your dog checked out by a vet to make sure.
Our beds are one of our favorite, most comfortable places. We spend about a third of our lives in bed, and most of us put a great deal of thought into how soft or firm we like it and even the kind of sheets and pillows. Dogs can be much the same. They might remind us, on occasion, of their wild roots, but dogs love to be warm, safe, and comfortable just like we do.