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Why Do Dogs Dig in Their Beds? Sleeping Rituals Explained

Written by: Jordyn Alger

Last Updated on January 30, 2024 by Dogster Team

chihuahua dog on the bed

Why Do Dogs Dig in Their Beds? Sleeping Rituals Explained

Anyone with a dog knows that they are their best friend, but that doesn’t mean we always understand them. Dogs do strange things, like digging through the trash or barking at nothing. If you’ve ever caught your dog digging in their bed and wondered what they were up to, you’ve come to the right place. Digging in the bed is most probably a reminder of dogs’ wild instincts inherited from their wild ancestors. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at common canine sleeping rituals so you can determine the difference between normal and concerning behavior.

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Why Dogs Dig in Their Beds

While your dog’s behavior may seem strange on the surface, there is often a purpose behind their actions. So, what’s the purpose behind digging in its beds? It is an instinct leftover from when dogs spent most of their lives outdoors.

When it was time to curl up and go to sleep, not just any old place would do. Wild dogs needed a place that was safe and comfortable to sleep. After finding a good place to rest, they would dig to remove branches, rocks, or other sharp debris that may be covering the area. If the spot is covered in tall grass, they’ll flatten it to verify that there are no bugs, rodents, or snakes in their space.

In hot climates, they might also dig to remove the warm topsoil so they can lay on the cooler dirt. In cold climates, shifting the dirt around and creating a burrow helps keep them warm. While most dogs sleep indoors these days (and in much more comfortable beds than those made of dirt), this instinct hasn’t left them. If you see your dog digging in their bed before they snuggle in for the night, that’s just their natural behavior shining through.

golden retriever puppy lying on a dog bed
Image Credit: Olena Rudo, Shutterstock

Is Digging in Bed a Normal Behavior?

Do you fluff your pillows before bed? That impulse you have to make your bed more comfortable is similar to what your dog experiences when they dig in their bed. It is a perfectly normal behavior that is not something you should worry about.

The only time that you should be concerned is if the behavior seems stress-driven or compulsive. If your dog is spending lots of time digging in their bed and appears agitated while they do so, then this could be an indication that something is wrong.

Other Reasons Dogs Dig in Their Beds

Digging in the bed is a common behavior in dogs due to their instinct, but not all dogs who dig in their beds are doing so for that reason. Below, we will discuss a few other reasons your dog may be digging in their bed, both normal and abnormal.

Jack Russell Terrier in lounger dog bed for travel inside the car
Image Credit: FedBul, Shutterstock

Separation Anxiety

Digging is a typical behavior in dogs with separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety will often dig as a means to escape confinement and reunite with their owners. Other signs of separation anxiety include excessive vocalization, destructive behaviors, and house-soiling.

These dogs often try to stay close to their owners, even following them throughout the house when possible. They rarely want to spend time alone and become agitated when apart from their owners, even for brief moments such as when their owner is in the restroom.

Dogs with separation anxiety are often hypersensitive to your departure routine and may become distressed. For example, when you put on your shoes and grab your keys, your dog may whine, tremble, salivate, or become destructive. When you return home, your dog may be exceptionally clingy.

Pregnancy

If you have an unspayed female dog, she may be pregnant. If that is the case, she could be digging in her bed due to nesting behavior. Typically, this behavior occurs late in your dog’s pregnancy, so there shouldn’t be a question of whether or not she is pregnant.

However, if you are uncertain, common signs include morning sickness and an enlarged abdomen. To confirm for certain that your dog is pregnant, talk to your vet. In the later stages of pregnancy, your dog may dig in her bed because she is nesting.

Nesting occurs when she prepares a space to welcome her puppies into the world. If your pup doesn’t usually dig in her bed but has begun doing so during her pregnancy, the dog nesting behavior could be the reason.

white and brown short coated dog lying on white pet bed
Image Credit: Chewy, Unsplash

Play or Boredom

A common reason that dogs dig in their beds is because it is a form of play. Rambunctious puppies may be prone to digging in their beds more often due to their lively, energetic personalities. At the same time, a dog that is frequently bored may make a habit of digging in their bed to try and entertain themselves.

While digging is a natural and normal behavior, excessive digging due to boredom can become a problem if your dog makes a habit out of it. It could cause them to be rough with their belongings, forcing you to replace their bed much more frequently.

To keep your dog from using their bed as a toy, ensure they have plenty of other outlets for their playful behavior. Training and exercising with your dog every day will keep them physically and mentally stimulated, and providing them with a rotation of toys will ensure they are entertained.

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Final Thoughts

Dog behavior isn’t always easy to understand, even when it’s ingrained into their instincts. As strange as watching your dog digging in their bed may be, the behavior isn’t typically a cause for concern. As long as your dog is not anxious or compulsively digging in their bed, you don’t have any reason to worry.


Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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