Anyone who has a dog will agree that they display a lot of odd behaviors that we don't quite understand. For instance, have you ever noticed Scruffy scratching your floors before laying down for a nap or at bedtime? If so, this peculiar act may have you scratching your own head wondering why. As is the case with most dog behavior analysis, there are varied opinions on the subject from a multitude of sources and experts. So if you have ever asked yourself why dogs scratch the floor before lying down, you may be interested in some of the reasons behind this behavior. Let's dig a little deeper into the matter and see what some of the experts think.
The Root of the Behavior
We have all heard it before, some behaviors your dog exhibits can be traced back to their more primitive ancestors. Before dogs became domesticated companions they lived in the wild fending for themselves for food, shelter, and survival. Most of the experts agree that a lot of those instincts are still hard-coded in the DNA of domestic canines. So what are some of those instincts behind scratching at the ground or floor before Scruffy lays down?
One of the most popular reasons is simply for reasons of comfort. In the wild dogs will scratch to dig out an area as a sort of nest or den to sleep in comfortably. Aside from creating this den space, scratching at the ground also serves to aid in controlling the temperature of both the dog and the sleeping area. For example, if the weather is warm and the ground too hot to lay down comfortably, your dog may scratch out an area to reveal cooler earth for a bed. Additionally, if the weather and ground are colder scratching or digging the area can help build up the sides of the sleeping area for warmth.
Aside from comfort, the issue of territory may also play a part in the scratching behavior. Since dogs sweat from the pads on their paws, instead of their skin, this leads some to think the scratching is a territorial act. The sweat that is released from special glands on the bottom of the paws is a unique scent that is enhanced when your dog scratches at the ground or floor. When this scent is released it serves as a means for your dog to claim their territory.
The most simple reasoning behind this scratching behavior is entertainment. That's right, entertainment. Some dogs are happy entertaining themselves, and find scratching and digging to be quite delightful. If your dog is bored or needs to release excess energy, he or she will look for ways to relieve the boredom. Scratching and digging seem to fall under that category of entertaining stress relievers.
Encouraging the Behavior
The next logical question to ask yourself would be is this behavior something that should be stopped. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to that question. If your pup's scratching and digging are causing damage to your home or lawn then you may want to try and find out exactly why he or she is scratching.
One suggestion is to make sure that your furry friend has a comfortable place to sleep. It has been found that most dogs prefer a round shaped bed that has raised edges. This type of bedding can feel more like the nest or den they are trying to accomplish through scratching. Make sure that when you first introduce the new bed to your pup you give them some form of reward when they do lie down on it. Positive reinforcement will help encourage them to want to sleep where you want them to sleep.
If it seems to be just a release of excess energy then the solution could be as simple as extra play time or a longer walk. By adding in more exercise as a means of releasing energy or fending off boredom you may see an end to the scratching. Even if the scratching and digging do not stop completely the extra exercise may greatly reduce the potentially destructive behavior.
Other Solutions and Considerations
The worst-case scenario behind your pooch scratching or digging too much could be medically related. It has been shown that certain medical conditions can cause destructive behavior in dogs. One of the most noticed of these behaviors has been scratching and digging. If you have concerns the behavior is medical your vet can help you determine if there is something wrong.
Emotional issues, such as fear and anxiety, may be another point of concern that is causing your dog to scratch. Things such as being scared of a storm or strangers being present in the home can cause your dog to want to escape. This need to escape could result in the scratching and digging at the floor to create an exit point. Make sure you speak with your vet about ways to ease fear or anxiety in your fur-baby.
So now that you know the scratching and digging are most likely just primal instinct you can decide if the behavior is destructive and needs to be addressed. 'Furtunately' the issues behind this scratching and digging are not generally dangerous to your pet. Just watch over them and enjoy all the little quirkiness that comes with being a dog owner.