It’s perfectly normal to come across your dog digging in the front or back yard. In fact, you should be a bit concerned if your dog doesn’t dig at all. That’s because to most dogs, digging comes naturally and is part of their daily ritual.
However, imagine coming home to the sight of your canine friend digging at your carpet! This is not an ideal situation. Much as digging is a behavior that’s engrained in dogs, the carpet should be the last place you want your pooch to carry out his digging rituals.
So, like any concerned pet parent, you could be left wondering, why do dogs dig at carpets?
Answer: As we’ve already indicated, the main reason why dogs dig at carpets is that digging is an instinctive behavior. Although dogs have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years, they have retained most of their natural traits. In the wild, digging was one of the ways dogs searched for burrowing prey. Dogs would also dig when trying to escape from other predators, hide their food, and stay comfortable, among other reasons.
Granted, digging is one of the many evolutionary behaviors that our canine friends carried over when we domesticated them. But as you shall find, not all digging rituals come naturally. Some could be inspired by various causes other than the dog’s natural instincts.
Read on as we unpack other possible reasons why your dog might be digging at your carpet and what you can do to redirect the behavior.
Top 8 Reasons Why Dogs Dig At the Carpet
1. Searching for Food
One of the reasons why your dog might be digging at your carpets is that the dog is trying to search for food. This is especially true for fluffy carpets that tend to trap food morsels and crumbs.
It doesn’t matter how seemingly tiny the food crumbs are, the dog just wants to ensure that those tasty bits don’t go to waste.
2. Hiding Things
Dogs are notorious for hiding things that they lay claim to. Your dog won’t care if the carpet doesn’t offer enough depth to cover his toys, bones, or the television remote; he will just want to hide it. In most cases, this behavior happens at night.
You may wake up at night and find your canine friend busy digging at the carpet and wonder, why does my dog scratch the carpet in the middle of the night?
Well, be careful because the next morning, you may just miss your television remote in the place you usually keep it.
3. Territorial Behavior
Dogs are naturally territorial animals. They prefer to spend a great deal of their waking hours marking their territories as a way of warning potential intruders.
In a dog’s world, everything located within his patch belongs to him. That includes his toys, furniture, carpets, and even his owner. Since dogs consider carpets as part of their possession, digging at carpets is an excellent way of declaring who owns the carpet.
It’s also worth noting that dogs have scent glands located at the bottom of their paws, between their toes. These scent glands secrete pheromones that the dog deposits on surfaces as a way of marking their territories. So, digging at the carpet allows your pooch to seamlessly deposit these pheromones and declare who is boss.
4. Investigative Behavior
Another common reason why your dog could be digging at your carpets is that the dog is trying to investigate something underneath the carpet. Dogs may not be as curious as cats, but they’re curious enough to want to check out whatever piques their interest.
Now, there are numerous things that could spark your dog’s interest in the carpet.
First, the dog might be drawn to the carpet by a delicious smell, such as the scent of beef broth that spilled on the carpet. The smell could also be from a fragrance that your pooch naturally loves.
In some cases, your dog might dig at your carpet when following after the scent of a potential intruder, such as a neighbor’s cat that strayed into your home.
Another thing that could stimulate your dog to investigate your carpet by digging is if there’s a fascinating sound coming from it. Remember that dogs’ sense of hearing is far more advanced than ours. So, a sound that’s seemingly as feeble as a mouse racing across the carpet is all it takes to pique his curiosity.
5. Change of Routine
Dogs, like most other animals, are creatures of habit. A small change in their routine is likely to trigger a series of aberrant behaviors, such as digging at the carpets. You may have acquired a new carpet and wondering, why does my dog scratch the carpet all of a sudden?
Well, that’s simply the dog’s way of letting you know that he’s trying to get used to the new carpet. In some cases, dogs will dig at new carpets if they do not love its color or texture. It’s their own way of protesting for not consulting them before changing your carpet.
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Some dogs tend to dig at carpets as part of displacement behavior, which often emanates from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a form of anxiety that sets in when you’re always gone but do not make enough provisions to keep your dog stimulated in your absence.
Some of the symptoms of separation anxiety include;
- Compulsive behavior like excessive digging, scratching, barking, howling, or growling,
- Excessive vocalization,
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea and dehydration, and abdominal pain,
- Bladder and bowel incontinence,
- Relieving himself in inappropriate places,
- Eating disorders, such as overeating or under-eating,
- Self-destructive behavior like excessive grooming or licking, and
- Sleeping either too much or too little
In addition to digging at your carpets, dogs suffering from separation anxiety might also scratch and destroy your furniture. Maybe you’ve always asked yourself, why do dogs dig on the couch? Well, digging or scratching on the couch might be a displacement behavior resulting from separation anxiety.
There’s a raft of measures you can adopt to deal with separation anxiety. However, the convention is to take your dog for veterinary checkups to ensure the condition doesn’t get out of hand.
7. Excitement or Boredom
It’s convenient to imagine that your pooch will remain active all day long. However, dogs also do get bored. And when that happens, they resort to all manner of naughty behaviors, such as digging at your carpets.
Digging or scratching on your carpets is the dog’s own way of trying to release its pent-up energy. In most cases, the dog is trying to draw your attention to the fact that he needs to be stimulated.
8. Den Digging
One of the frequently asked questions by dog owners is, why do female dogs scratch the carpet?
Generally, female dogs scratch the carpet when looking for a perfect den to birth their pups. If your dog is nursing, she may dig at the carpets looking for a prime spot to lay her pups and provide them with warmth.
But den digging isn’t unique to female dogs. Male dogs may also dig as a way of trying to make their sleeping areas safe and comfortable. That helps settle the question, why does my dog dig at the carpet before he lays down.
How to Stop Your Dog from Digging in the Carpet and Furniture
Right off the bat, let’s reiterate that the remedy you adopt to try and help your dog stop digging at your carpet depends on the underlying cause of this aberrant behavior. Therefore, the onus is on you to uncover the root cause of the problem before applying the right solution.
That will also help you to determine whether the problem is the kind you can solve on your own, or if it warrants a visit to the vet.
Generally, the following are some tips you can implement to prevent your dog from scratching on your carpet.
1. Give the dog other things to scratch at
As we’ve already indicated, your dog could be scratching at your carpet because he’s bored or excited, and has a lot of pent-up energy.
If this is the case, the best way to remedy the problem is to get your pooch an alternative surface to scratch at. Consider investing in outdoor posts or pet-safe scratching mats.
2. Offer enough stimulation
Scratching posts and mats may help to draw a dog away from scratching your carpets. But if the dog is suffering from separation anxiety, then you need to consider more ways to stimulate him.
If you live a traveler’s lifestyle where you only appear home haphazardly, ensure your pooch remains stimulated in your absence.
An excellent way to go about this is to get the dog plenty of interactive toys, such as ball launchers and laser-emitting toys. You might also consider leaving the television, radio, and lights on throughout the day. If you have some cash to spare, you won’t go wrong investing in a dog sitter.
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3. Clean the carpet regularly
You probably already understand the importance of sweeping and vacuuming your carpet regularly. Not only does doing so reflect well on your home’s overall sanitation standards, but it can also prevent your dog from scratching at the carpet.
That’s especially if the dog is drawn to the carpet by fascinating smells. Make a habit of removing food spills from your carpet before they set in. Also, avoid using fragranced cleaning agents on your carpet, as that might also attract your dog.
4. Go slow on routine changes
There are no two ways about this. Whenever you want to make a routine change, especially one that will likely affect your dog, take it slow.
For instance, you might consider visiting the shopping mall with your dog and familiarizing him with a carpet that you intend to buy. That way, the dog will not become too disoriented when you finally bring the carpet home.
5. Make your dog’s sleeping area safe and comfortable
Scratching at the carpet during the day is bad enough. But digging at the carpet at night is outright annoying. Not only will you wake up to a torn carpet, but your sleep may also be affected.
Your best solution here would be to make your dog’s sleeping area as comfortable as possible. That means getting the dog warm bedding, toys, and other things that make him feel safe and drift to sleep much faster.
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In addition to the above tips, you can also help your dog stop digging at your carpet by training him. While you’re at it, remember to offer the dog a treat each time he does something admirable. If everything else fails, enlist the services of your vet.
Scratching on or digging at carpets is a behavior that comes naturally to most dogs. As a loving and caring pet owner, you should try to uncover the underlying reasons behind this aberrant behavior. It’s only then that you can adopt the right remedy, which includes implementing any of the tips we’ve reviewed above.