Mention “sofa” a few times.
Is your pooch a huge fan of your sofa?
So much that they scratch the heck out of it?
It’s not exactly easy to replace it.
And you wonder,
“Why do they do this?”
“How can I stop it?”
Keep reading to discover:
- 13 reasons why dogs scratch the couch.
- 5 tips to stop your pooch from doing this.
- Why you shouldn’t ignore couch scratching.
- PROVEN: a study reveals how scratching is a root cause of separation anxiety.
- And many, many more…
Table of contents
- Why do dogs scratch the couch?
- 13 reasons why dogs scratch the couch
- How can I get my dog to stop scratching the couch? 7 tips
Why do dogs scratch the couch?
Dogs scratch the couch because they’re bored. It also happens due to separation anxiety, isolation distress, stress, or canine OCD. It’s a self-rewarding, displacement, burrowing, or nesting behavior. It could mean they’re scenting the couch, or it smells interesting.
13 reasons why dogs scratch the couch
Sometimes, couch-scratching is just normal for your dog’s breed.
It might be an extension of their instinct to dig in the ground.
They can’t exercise it because they’re inside, so they do it on the couch instead.
Breeds prone to digging are:
- Cairn Terrier.
- Jack Russell.
- Siberian Husky.
- Bedlington Terrier.
- Australian Shepherd.
#2: Normal puppy behavior
Puppies love to scratch and dig.
VCA tells us that it’s a form of play and exploration.
This usually happens a lot during the puppy stage.
The cute little doggos are exploring the world.
And this is why there are many times you come home to find that your home is a warzone.
But as your pup matures and trains, this behavior phases out.
#3: Interesting smells
Your dog might scratch your couch because they smell something inside.
Food crumbs might have made their home on your sofa.
Or your doggo senses small insects who have taken refuge there.
There’s one, in particular, that does this.
Brown marmorated stink bug
The EPA tells us that this is an invasive insect that lives in most of the US.
They came from Asia in the 1990s via shipping containers.
And today, most farmers consider them a problem.
Because they like to munch on high-value crops and ornamental plants.
In addition, they also bother people in their houses.
During the wintertime, they seek shelter in the warm buildings. And some may hide in the furniture.
They release a stinky odor from scent glands in their abdomen.
And your pooch may smell this. So this is why you see them scratching at the furniture.
#4: Scenting the couch
This is an interesting behavior from dogs.
It happens as a result of territorial marking.
And it’s similar to scratching the ground after they poop and pee.
Which AKC says signals that a dog is scent-marking their territory.
Dogs have sweat glands on their paws. These also produce pheromones.
And they scatter their scent by scratching the ground.
The couch-scratching might be an extension of this behavior.
And when they do that, your dog’s just making themselves at home.
#5: Burrowing instinct
Dogs got this behavior from a wild time in the past.
When their ancestors had to make their own dens to sleep in.
They dig these holes in the ground that gives them safety from other animals.
And protection from the elements.
Modern dogs don’t do it often. But we see it when they scratch at their beds.
Or when they dig at the carpet.
“Are there dog breeds who do burrows today?”
Huskies often do it to cool down in the warmer months.
My friend’s Husky, Yuki, does this during the summer.
Yuki gets supervised outside time every day.
But after a few rounds of playtime, she’d search for a place to cool down.
And a few moments later…
She’d be lying down in a Yuki-sized hole underneath the shade.
You might also be interested in: 13 Simple Ways To Keep Your Husky Cool (How-To Guide)
This is a behavior seen in pregnant doggos.
It’s caused by their maternal instinct.
When they’re getting ready to have their pups, they’ll prepare their “birthing bed”.
They’ll scratch at your bed or the couch.
Or your pooch will carry toys around. And pile it up on their bed.
Momma dog nests because she wants a safe and warm spot for her puppies.
But there are also other situations where this can happen.
When a dog’s in heat, their body produces hormones to prepare the body for pregnancy.
If this does not happen, hormone levels decrease.
And sometimes, this tricks their body into thinking that there are puppies.
Blue Cross states this is why female dogs will start to display signs of pregnancy:
- Swollen belly.
- Loss of appetite.
- Behavioral changes.
- Mammary gland secretions.
These signs will last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks. And it will disappear without any problems.
“How can I prevent phantom pregnancy in my pooch?”
The surest way to do it is through spaying.
This is a surgical procedure that removes the ovaries and the uterus.
Spaying offers a lot of health benefits for your doggo.
It prevents mammary cancer. And UTIs like pyometra.
Pyometra is a very dangerous condition to go through.
Your dog’s uterus lining thickens.
And this causes hyperplasia. Which PetMD explains as a pus-filled cyst inside the uterus.
“What are the signs of pyometra?”
Dogs with this condition usually display:
- Closed cervix.
- Lack of appetite.
- Vaginal discharge.
- Frequent urination
- Enlarged abdomen.
#7: Displacement behavior
Do you twirl your hair when you’re feeling awkward while talking?
Or do you bounce your knee when feeling stressed?
If you do, then you’re displaying displacement behaviors.
And your dog does them, too.
Dr. Patricia McConnell describes these as what animals do when they have conflicting desires. And they’re not sure what to do.
For example, your pooch is friendly towards other people. But they know that it’s not polite to just run up to others and jump on them.
They’re suppressing their desires by doing these:
- Tongue flicks.
Most scratching behaviors happen because a dog gets bored.
And bored dogs can get into all sorts of trouble.
“Why do dogs get bored?”
They are social creatures who need to have interaction.
Their wild ancestors had a lot of space and time to explore their world.
But the modern dog is mainly confined to the 4 walls of their house.
Without stimulation, dogs will find it themselves.
#9: Self-rewarding behavior
This is a natural result of boredom.
Your dog does self-rewarding behaviors to fulfill a need.
For example, they will do these:
- Counter surfing.
So if your dog doesn’t have anything to do, they scratch your poor sofa.
Voila! They have an activity. Problem solved. Or is it?
Warning: Self-rewarding behaviors can result in canine OCD.
Which is a behavioral problem that’s difficult to correct.
Look out for reason #13 for more information.
Did you move to a new place?
Or were there recent changes in the family dynamic?
Did your dog have bad experiences?
If yes, then the couch-scratching might be the result of all the stress they’re feeling.
“What is stress for dogs?”
VCA describes stress as feelings of strain or pressure.
In humans, it’s easy to spot the signs of stress. But not so in dogs.
In fact, stress signals are like their normal behaviors.
The difference is an increase in how much they do it.
Look out for these signs in your pooch:
Other signs include changes in their body posture and behavior.
Stressed dogs try to hide or escape. Or they might have involuntary bowel movements.
Warning: They could also try to defend themselves if they feel threatened. Move them away from the stressor and lead them to a quiet spot.
You may also wonder: Can Dogs Die From Stress Of Fireworks? 9 Dangers + 7 Tips
#11: Isolation distress
Does your dog cry when you leave?
They might be experiencing isolation distress.
This happens when your pooch doesn’t like being alone.
But their anxious behaviors often stop soon after you leave.
- Look for you.
But they’ll settle down on their bed and maybe go to sleep.
This is completely different from separation anxiety.
Which I’ll discuss in reason #12.
#12: Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety happens in dogs because they get anxious that their dog parents leave.
It can start when their hoomans are getting ready to go out.
According to this study, they will:
And when they leave the house, the stress escalates.
It reaches such a high level that the pooch will display these behaviors:
- Escape attempts.
- Excessive barking.
- Destructive behaviors.
- Inappropriate elimination.
- Repetitive activities (pacing, panting, etc.).
“How can I treat separation anxiety in my dog?”
For many years, behaviorists have recommended using desensitization and counterconditioning techniques.
And yes, these have been successful in treating separation anxiety.
But new research has suggested that there is a new way to look at this disorder.
The scientists heading this say that there are root causes, the same as any disease.
Root causes of separation anxiety
The researchers say that this term shouldn’t be the whole diagnosis.
There are underlying issues that need addressing for a successful treatment.
In examining over 2,700 dogs of 100 different breeds, the study found 4 causes:
- A form of boredom.
- Wanting to get to something outside.
- Reacting to outside noises or events.
- A focus on getting away from something inside the house.
The researchers continue that frustration is often at the root of this behavior.
So the focus of the treatment should be on what causes this frustration to build up.
It can start with not wanting their hoomans to go away.
But other events also influence why it happens. And scratching can be one of them.
Further reading: Why Does My Dog All Of A Sudden Have (Separation) Anxiety?
#13: Canine OCD
I talked about addicting self-rewarding behaviors in reason #9.
Now, I bet you’re wondering why this happens to your dog.
You see, self-rewarding behaviors often produce the feel-good hormones in their body.
And your pooch gets addicted to this feeling. They try to do it in times of anxiety or stress.
The other name for this is Canine compulsive disorder or CCD.
“How do I know that it’s CCD?”
According to Tufts University, the common identifier is normal behaviors that become excessive.
It becomes so repetitive. Dogs find it difficult to resume their daily routine.
It can be behaviors such as:
- Eating dirt.
- Chasing tail.
- Drinking water.
- Snapping at flies.
- Sucking on their flanks.
“Why does this happen?”
Research has shown that there’s a genetic component to CCD.
German Shepherds and Bull Terriers are likely to chase their tails.
And Doberman Pinschers have a tendency to suck their flanks because of a specific gene present in their DNA.
But AKC tells us that there are other causes.
- High anxiety.
- Excessive arousal.
- Not enough attention.
- Absence of a job to do.
- Lack of physical and mental stimulation.
How can I get my dog to stop scratching the couch? 7 tips
#1: Redirect focus
It’s important to catch your dog in the act of scratching.
Doing that makes this tip more effective.
Step 1: Get their attention. You can call their name. Or make a loud, startling noise.
Step 2: Once you have it, tell them to go “Down” from the couch.
Step 3: Lead them to their space. And perform a few commands. Such as “Sit”, “Lie down”, or “Roll over”.
Step 4: Once they calm down, you can give them a treat to reinforce the behavior.
Doing these will take their attention away from scratching the sofa. And it gives them a job to do with the commands.
Scratching the couch can be a sign of boredom or stress.
This means that your dog has excess energy to spend.
So take them outside for a walk around the block.
Or throw a few balls for them to chase.
Dogs need to have regular daily exercise.
This helps your dog to lower their stress hormone levels. And it increases endorphin and dopamine levels.
In the end, you’re left with a pooch who’s tired and happy.
They won’t even have enough energy to scratch the sofa.
#3: Puzzle toys
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise.
If you’re leaving your dog alone, give them puzzles to solve.
Much like exercise, it tires them out. Because it tickles their brain.
And it gives them something to do.
There are a lot of effective puzzle toys on the Internet.
Here are a few that you can buy:
Most of these toys can give physical and mental exercise to your pooch.
So in getting one of these, you’re hitting 2 birds with 1 stone.
#4: Clean your sofa
Interesting smells might be the reason that your pooch is scratching your couch.
So give it regular deep cleans.
Do it after those times when you eat while watching TV. Or spill cookie crumbs on the sofa.
In the end, you have a clean couch. And your dog doesn’t try to dig a hole in it anymore.
#5: Put a protective covering
Sometimes the best solution is the easiest one.
If your pooch scratches your couch, then put on a protective covering.
This can be a thick blanket. Or a specialized sofa cover.
The important this is your dog can’t destroy it anymore.
And you can focus on correcting the behavior.
#6: Crate training
This is an essential skill for dogs to learn.
Especially if you have a full-time office job.
It keeps your pooch away from the couch while you’re at work.
And it gives them a safe space that they can call their own.
Watch this video for a step-by-step method to effective crate training:
#7: Adopt another dog
Now, this isn’t a hard or fast rule.
But it can be one of your options.
Especially when your dog experiences distress when left alone.
A companion gives them someone to play with.
So it offsets the boredom.
And with another dog, they’re not really lonely.
But if your dog has shown signs of separation anxiety, this isn’t the solution.
In that case, your best choice is a certified animal behaviorist.
They will use desensitization and counterconditioning techniques to lessen your dog’s anxiety.