Does your dog like to dig in their bed? This behavior looks silly and might even be confusing to dog owners, but it's very common among dogs! Why do they do it?
Although most of our dogs don't look a lot like their wild ancestors, there are aspects of canine life and behavior that our dogs have inherited. "Denning" is common among wild canines, and many domestic dogs find comfort with burrowing or digging in their beds. When pregnant, a mother dog will burrow or nest when she's about to deliver puppies. In addition, digging and nesting is natural and comforting for dogs of all ages.
We want our dogs to see their beds as a comfortable and safe space so it's important to be thoughtful about where in the home you place your dog's bed to make sure your dog feels included in the family, but also private and secure. Give your dog the opportunity to do what comes naturally to them which for many dogs will be going to their bed and digging before settling down for a nap.
Is there anything more comfortable than getting into bed at the end of a long day? Our dogs feel the same way, but dogs don't always look for the same thing in a comfortable bed as we might. Even if your dog spends a lot of their time napping in bed with you or on the couch, it's still a good idea for your dog to have a bed of their own, especially if they are a digger! Although for us a bed might be more comfortable with clean fresh sheets pulled, our dogs generally like a more rumpled customized bed. Again, connecting back to that natural burrowing instinct before settling down for a nap many dogs like to dig as a way to burrow and arrange themselves in bed. Even if your dog's digging doesn't seem to make a visual difference in the bed it might be different to your dog. Dogs have scent glands in their feet and so for some dogs scratching in the bed can help them to deposit more of their own scent.
There are dogs who are happy to flop anywhere for a nap, while other dogs have more elaborate bedtime rituals. Just like many of us have things that we need to do before bed like turn on soothing music, put our phones away and settle down with a good book, many dogs have their own bedtime rituals. These rituals often involve walking in circles and digging in the bed. Digging can also be a relaxing and ritualized way to get themself ready for sleep.
Does your dog get excited when they get a really good treat or a new toy? For some dogs one way of channeling that excitement is to find ways to try to save that treat for later. A common reason that some dogs will dig in their bed is to "hide" or try to "bury" things that are of value to them like chews, treats or toys! If your dog's bed has blankets or loose fabric your dog may be especially inclined to dig as they will be able to bury the treasure, but even if the bed doesn't have loose fabric many dogs will dig into the corners of the bed to save for later. For some dogs this can be connected to resource guarding, but for many dogs it's just a natural way to want to keep track of treats and treasures.
Digging is a natural behavior, but it's also a lot of fun and so the act of digging can be enjoyable and self-rewarding activity for dogs. Some dogs will even incorporate digging into their behavior when they have the zoomies or when playing with toys. When picking a bed for your dog, select one that is appropriately sized and durable enough to tolerate regular digging from your dog.
If your dog is crying while they dig, or seems distressed in any way, then it's a good idea to consult with your dog's veterinarian to make sure there aren't any underlying health conditions or pain causing the behavior.
Digging is a natural activity for dogs and many dogs enjoy digging in their beds. Dogs often dig before sleep because it taps into a deep natural instinct to burrow in similar ways their wild ancestors did. Your dog's bed is their safe space, and many dogs enjoy the opportunity to "decorate" the bedding and get comfortable through digging before napping. Although sometimes confusing to dog owners, digging in bed is generally not something for dog owners to be concerned about.