Why do dogs scratch the carpet?

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Rachel Rodgers
27th Mar 2024
6 mins read
Summary
There’s a few reasons why your dog might be scratching the carpet. From boredom, to enjoyment. Find out why they do it and how to stop it.
Any dog owner knows their furry friend will have a few quirky habits. One of the common ones isscratching the carpet. So why do dogs scratch the carpet? We’ll explore what your pooch might be up, to and how to stop them and replace the carpet with a different (less expensive) outlet.

Why do dogs scratch the carpet?

Dogs scratch the carpet for lots of different reasons. It may be through boredom, enjoyment, stress, or even just because it feels good on their paws and claws. Here’s a closer look at the different reasons why your pooch might be shredding some threads. It’s important to try and figure out why your dog does something to help you figure out what to replace the habit with.

Instinct

Firstly, scratching and digging are natural instincts for dogs. Wild dogs would dig to make a cosy place to rest, or to make a den. That’s why some dogs will scratch the carpet before lying down, or dig around in their bed before they sleep. They also dug and scratched to find hidden things like food. Even though our pet dogs don't search for dinner under the living room rug, the urge to dig is still in their genes. And they’ve decided the carpet is an easy outlet for that.

Boredom

Another reason for scratching is boredom. If they’re not getting enough exercise or stimulation from other activities, your dog might be trying to entertain themselves. Breeds with working backgrounds can sometimes find being inside duller if they’re not getting enough enrichment. Bored dogs will give themself something to do, like scratching, digging, or chewing. And doing it might help them relax and get rid of any excess energy.

Anxiety and stress

If your dog is feeling worried or stressed, scratching and digging can be a form of stress relief. It might help your dog feel better and get some nervous energy out, so they keep doing it as a way of soothing themselves.

Attention seeking

If your dog notices you pay attention to them when they scratch the carpet, they’ll quickly figure out it's a way to get your attention. Even if it’s not for the right reasons, attention is attention! Even if you start inoring them when they do it, it can be a “learned behaviour”. A leaned behaviour is something a dog keeps doing even when the original motivator (attention) isn’t there any more.

For their nails or paws

Dogs with long nails might scratch the carpet to help relieve discomfort. They might also be cleaning their paws if there’s something sticky or uncomfortable on them. For example, they might be trying to get rid of any dirt on them. Makes your dog feel better, but maybe not you with the double whammy of scratched and dirty carpets.

Scent marking

When dogs scratch the carpet it can be a way of communicating, especially to other animals. Dogs have scent glands in their paws which will leave a scent behind on the carpet when they scratch it, marking their territory. This is also why you’ll see dogs kicking up the grass after a wee when they’re outside. It’s a way of leaving their scent signature.

Separation related behaviour

If your dog is only scratching the carpet when you’re not there, it could be a separation-related behaviour. They might not be used to your being away and haven’t been trained on how to cope when they’re alone, or they’re struggling to learn this. Scratching carpets might be helping them feel better as a way of trying to cope. As we mentioned, it can help relieve stress.

They’re bred to do it

Dachshunds, Jack Russell Terriers, and other Terrier breeds were bred to be doggy digging machines. It’s in their working history to dig to find rodents, or head underground for prey like badgers. That’s why Dachshunds have such big paddle-like feet, they’re built-in shovels! So these guys have strong digging instincts, and you might notice they dig or scratch their beds and blankets too.

They enjoy it

Finally, like many weird doggy habits, your pup might be scratching the carpet simply because they like it. It probably feels pretty good on their paws and claws, and they might find it fun. And since your dog doesn’t know how expensive carpets, they won’t worry about it or realise they’re doing anything “bad”. They might not realise that it’s not for them to scratch, they just know they like doing it. And given digging and scratching are natural behaviours, that’s why it’s important to help your pup find an appropriate outlet. So they can dig and scratch to their heart's content, but in a way you’re happy with too.

Why do dogs scratch the carpet at night?

As mentioned, dogs have the instinct to dig to make a comfy place tor rest. So your dog might scratch the carpet at night because they’re trying to get comfy. But, since your dog is probably alone at night, they might be digging because they’re bored, or want attention. All the same reasons apply for a dog scratching at night compared to the day, so you’ll have to watch your dog and try to figure out what makes the most sense.

How to stop your dog scratching the carpet

If your dog's habit of scratching the carpet is causing a problem, there are ways to help stop it. First, make sure your dog is getting enough exercise, playtime, and mental stimulation. Since many behaviours like scratching are ways of relieving boredom, it’s good to rule it out as a reason. 
 
It’s then time to rule our other reasons. Do you notice a pattern for when your dog digs? Is it when visitors come around? After something particular happens at home, like the hoover coming out? Or when they’re left alone? These things could be making your pup stressed, and they’re scratching up the floor for stress relief.
 
Try to make their environment calm and secure. You can use pheromone diffusers, set up a cosy space for them, and try to teach them that whatever is happening isn’t so scary after all. This is especially true for separation-related behaviours, as you’ll need to help teach your dog that being alone isn’t something to get worried about. If you’re feeling stuck, talk to your vet who can refer you to an accredited behaviourist who’ll be happy to help.
 
Finally, you can also try redirecting their scratching habit. Try making a spot in your home or garden where your dog is allowed to scratch and dig. Maybe a blanket, or a sand pit. You can hide toys or treats in the blankets there to encourage your dog to dig these instead. When they use this area to scratch and dig, give them praise or treats to let them know that digging is okay there. Eventually, they’ll realise that digging the carpet isn’t what you want, but digging there is.

Recap: Why do dogs scratch the carpet

There are loads of reasons why dogs scratch the carpet. It can be instinct, learned behaviour, stress relief, boredom relief, or simply because it feels good. Understanding why your dog does it and addressing underlying causes can help redirect the behaviour. With more appropriate outlets, your dog can safely dig and scratch to their heart’s content while your carpet is kept in good condition.

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