Your dog does the usual dog things.
Sniffing, nosing you, maybe chasing their tail from time to time. But one day… you notice them scratching the floor.
“What’s that all about?” you think, on the verge of scratching your head.
Good news! You won’t ever have to ask yourself this question again.
Buckle up because you’re about to learn:
- Whether you should stop this dog behavior and how.
- What your dog is telling other canines by scratching at the floor.
- How scratching the floor makes your dog feel more comfortable.
- And this is just the beginning…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog scratch the floor?
- People also ask:
- 9 reasons why your dog scratches the floor (like a bull)
- How can I get my dog to stop scratching the floor? 7 tips
Why does my dog scratch the floor?
Your dog scratches the floor due to one or more of the following reasons: to comfort themselves, prepare the place where they’d sleep, acting out on their instincts, claiming their territory, doing it for fun, reacting out of an emotional issue, having a medical problem, or investigating a smell.
People also ask:
9 reasons why your dog scratches the floor (like a bull)
I have good news.
Just because your dog is scratching the floor like a bull doesn’t mean they’re getting ready for a fight.
What it could mean though is that they’re…
#1: Scratching for… comfort
Dogs also have preferences about temperatures like we humans do.
So what happens when your dog feels too hot or cold?
They can’t turn on or off the airco. Or the heating.
But they what they can do dig a hole. When they’re in the wild at least. And search for coolness or warmth there. Depending on the weather.
#2: Your dog is making their bed (literally)
Dogs tend to scratch before lying down. My dog Lissa does it every time after she chooses a comfy place on our bed.
This can happen when your dog doesn’t have a dedicated sleeping place. Then they’ll have to work with what they’ve got. So they’ll either spread the bedsheet or try to dig.
In Lissa’s case, she has a dog bed. One that’s round and has soft lifted edges. She loves her bed. But it’s in my workroom. And at night Lissa wants to be where I and my boyfriend are.
This leads her to the bedroom. So whenever she wants to make herself comfortable, she starts walking on the duvet. Then she noses and scratches. Finally, she circles the place a few times and settles.
This behavior is also known as nesting.
Pregnant dogs do it too. That’s how you can tell the birth is near. Future mom dogs need a place to give birth to their puppies. They’d do this in a den.
This choice is dictated by instinct. In the wild, a momma dog with her puppies out in the open would be vulnerable. Not only to the weather conditions but also to predators.
But pregnant or not, all dogs like having their own comfy space.
#3: It’s an ancestor thing
Domesticated or not, dogs will be dogs. Meaning, they’ll keep instincts that remained from their ancestors. Such instinct is scent marking.
Michael D. Breed explains this in his book “Animal behavior”. He adds that this behavior is also typical of cats.
What’s more, research revealed that dogs’ ancestors-wolves, used to scent mark their territory.
Either by defecating, urinating, or ground scratching. That’s how they’d put boundaries, create bonds, and reproduce.
#4: Scratching for… fun
Does your dog show satisfaction whenever they scratch at the floor?
If so, here’s the answer to your question. Some dogs do it just for the fun of it.
You might think that scratching is an unusual way for a dog to entertain themselves. Well, not really. It all boils down to personal preference.
You know, for some people football is life. Then there are those who wouldn’t play it even if they got paid. So you see, everyone’s definition of fun is different.
#5: Claiming what’s theirs
Dogs might scratch at the floor to leave a “mark” so to say. And a message to other canines. It says “Move on, this spot is reserved.”
This is achieved with the sweat glands in dogs’ paws. The scent glands leave a trace whenever the dog scratches the ground.
By doing this, your dog achieves two things. Apart from their unique scent, they also leave a visual trace. And they claim their spot.
Just like this dog here:
Research shows that spayed female dogs are more likely to scratch the ground after they urinate or defecate than intact ones.
This is how other dogs become aware of your dog’s presence.
Territory marking behavior is seen in coyotes and wolves. They’d also scratch the ground, and pee on a nearby tree, bush, or grass.
#6: Medical issue
Is your dog’s scratching destructive?
Does the floor look deeply scratched, almost as if your dog’s life depended on it?
Then your dog could be suffering from a medical issue.
If your dog is in pain, it’ll show somehow. Despite the fact that dogs will try to hide it.
The reason they do that has to do with their survival instinct. Because if they show they’re suffering, they could become an easy target for other predators.
But even if your dog is trying to hide their painful state, you’ll notice something is off. It’s most likely stress that will give them away.
The more the stress levels go up, the more scratching they’ll do.
#7: Emotionally-based scratching
Here are the emotions that could be causing your dog’s floor scratching:
An anxious dog will look for ways to calm themselves down. One behavior is scratching the floor. It’s a calming attempt.
If the reason is separation anxiety, you’ll notice scratches after you get back home. But your dog won’t do this in your presence.
Separation anxiety can be seen in some rescue dogs who have been abandoned. And are afraid of reliving this traumatic experience.
A bored dog will look for ways to entertain themselves. After all, dogs are all about play, and they’re opportunists above all.
According to VetStreet, what you’re seeing could be displacement behavior.
An excited dog might want to do something they can’t. As a result, they will substitute the behavior they’re unable to perform with another one.
For example, your dog sees a cat or a squirrel in the yard. Their instinct tells them to go after it. But they’re in the house and can’t. So instead, they start scratching at the floor.
#8: Your doggo – the investigator
Dogs are naturally curious. They tilt their heads when they see something they don’t understand and give it their best attempt.
If your dog has their nose on a new or interesting smell, they might try to get to the bottom of it. Literally.
This also applies to certain sounds your dog might hear. Even if you hear nothing.
#9: It’s an insect-chase-away ritual
You could also call scratching a ritual. And a very important one at that.
If your dogy wasn’t domesticated, they’d be doing this in a den.
But why scratching?
By doing so they’d let critters know this place is taken. By dog and no one else.
Smart. And much needed.
And even though your dog has a dog bed and all the toys they could ask for, instincts are instincts.
Plus, the desire to have the “bed” for themselves is strong. It’s like they’re saying “This is mine. Period.”
How can I get my dog to stop scratching the floor? 7 tips
#1: Comfort your dog with a dog bed
Your dog would love to have their own bed. The more it resembles a den, the better.
Dogs love round beds, with soft elevated edges. In other words, a nest-looking bed.
Whenever my dig Lissa goes in hers, she doesn’t feel the need to scratch. She just goes in and curls up.
Bear in mind that if this is the first time your dog has their own bed, they’ll need time to get used to it. That’s when you can introduce positive reinforcement techniques.
Simply reward your dog for getting anywhere near their new bed – for sniffing it, or putting a paw in. Once they have an interest in the bed, toss them a treat.
Dogs are smart. And they also seek comfort. So as soon as your dog comes across a soft spot like that, they’ll take the opportunity to try it out.
All you’ll have to do from there on is ensure you reinforce that behavior.
#2: Have fun with your dog… that’s an order!
Interact with your dog. Preferably more than you do now.
If your time is limited, which is understandable, set aside one hour or thirty minutes just for playing together.
But really try to be fully present. No smartphone scrolling. No TV watching. And no talking over the phone.
Look at your dog. Talk to your dog. And play with them.
Tug of war. Fetch. Anything, as long as you see it sparks a light in your dog’s eyes.
The idea is to drain the energy out of your dog. So that when you start working again or meeting with friends, or whatever it is you’re doing, your dog feels content.
One more thing though.
Be consistent. Set apart a dedicated time for your dog every day. This way you’ll prevent their energy from building up. And leading to undesired floor scratching.
#3: Let your dog at it
Are you worried that your new expensive carpet or floor would fall victim to your dog’s nails?
If your eye is twitching just at the thought of the possibility, then you should skip this tip.
Good. If you see your dog is growling and enthusiastically scratching, just let them be.
See, we humans have video games, movies, YouTube, and whatnot entertainment opportunities.
Sure, your dog might be cuddling with you during a movie, book, or video game session. But the way you both see this same experience is different as the sun and the moon.
Yeah, your dog loves touching you – being close and cuddling. But… they need their own source of excitement.
While cuddling is cool and all, it’s about chilling. Scratching though is a form of exercise.
#4: Distract your dog
You don’t want your dog to be scratching at the carpet or the floor?
Then try this easy method to steer their attention away from it.
Provide them with something more interesting to do. Take their favorite toy, lift it up in the air, and make a smacking sound with your lips.
Now that you’ve got your dog’s interest, make them work for the toy. Tell them to perform a simple action such as “sit” or “lie down”.
Then give them the toy as a reward.
#5: Chewables to the rescue
Regardless of a dog’s age, one thing that applies to all canines is that they love chewing. It’s engaging and time flies when they’re doing it.
Besides, if the reason for your dog’s scratching is anxiety or OCD, you’ll need to substitute the activity with another one.
There are many options to choose from:
Dental toys are great for your dog. Not only will they keep your pooch occupied but they’ll also prevent plaque build-up.
In the long term, that’ll save you a lot of worries. And spare your dog from stressful vet procedures such as teeth cleaning.
Dogs love a good challenge. And if you provide them with one, they’ll leave your floors and carpets alone. All that energy will go into solving the “puzzle” you gave them.
A famous and effective example of a puzzle toy is the Stuffed Kong. It can provide your dog with hours of entertainment. As they try to figure out how to get the tasty treats out of there.
And once they manage, the experience would prove to be rewarding in itself. This will stimulate your dog to continue their quest for treats.
Last but not least there are rawhides you can give to your dog. Dogs love them. And these chews can entertain your dog for hours and even days.
How much a rawhide will last depends on the size and age of your dog. And how fast they chew.
A small dog such as a Chihuahua or a Mini Spitz would need a softer chew than a Husky for example.
So far so good. But there’s controversial information about whether you should give rawhides to your dog or not.
The main concerns of dog lovers include the ingredients rawhide chews are made of. And the country they’re produced in. Particularly ones made in China.
Rawhides come from slaughterhouses. They’re leftovers from the leather industry. The ones produced in the US are pricier but safer than those coming from China.
Now, about how your dog takes onto them…
If your dog chews rawhides slowly, then you shouldn’t be worried. The reason is that the pieces that break off are small. They become softened by the saliva and the dog can digest them.
But if your dog chews fast, there’s a risk of choking. Or swallowing pieces that have not yet softened. Which can cause obstruction.
Consider getting a rawhide chew that has no artificial coloring. Look at the ingredients. And monitor your dog the first time you give them this chew.
#6: Keep it clean
The floor I mean. If they’re no alluring smells, your dog won’t go on a digging treasure hunt.
So make sure you don’t spill any liquids or drop tasty pieces of food. Without cleaning properly afterward.
#7: Calm your dog with the power of music
Not just any music though. Forget heavy metal or pop.
Instead, choose classical music. Piano would do. But harp tunes could also be beneficial and calming to an anxious dog.
You could simply type “music for dogs’ ears” in Spotify and choose a playlist you like. Just make sure to see how many hours the music will go on. So it can cover the period you’re away for.
BONUS: Get expert help
Don’t feel bad if you’ve tried some techniques and they didn’t work. It’s important to remember that all dogs are different. And there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution.
But if you’re still struggling to manage your dog’s scratching, it’s worth consulting a professional. I mean not only a vet but also a behaviorist.
If the reason doesn’t prove to be medical that is.
A behaviorist can then model the behavior. And handle excessive scratching.
Don’t worry if you aren’t able to go and speak with a professional at the moment. You can reach out to a certified vet or a behaviorist on Just Answer and get an insight into what’s going on.