Why Does My Dog Scratch My Bed Sheets?

Sometimes, it’s adorable to watch your dog scratch at seemingly nothing. Other times, such as when you’re sleeping or have a delicate comforter, it’s frustrating. 

dog on bed sheets

First and foremost, it’s essential to note that this behavior is entirely normal for all dogs. Wild canines, like wolves or foxes, will dig holes in the wild for various reasons. That leftover bit of wild DNA compels your dogs to dig a hole in your backyard or aimlessly dig at your bedsheets.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your pup may be scratching at your sheets.

Reasons Why Your Dog Might Be Scratching Your Sheets

They’re Trying to Get Comfy

Just like we toss and turn and rearrange our blankets and pillows when we’re trying to sleep, your dog may be trying to get comfy so they can nap. If your dog only scratches right before they curl up, it may be that they’re trying to get the fabric to lay the way they like. 

They Think There’s Something Hidden

If your dog has had treats or toys in your bed before (or if you indulge in an in-bed snack), your pup may catch a whiff of a scent left behind and start digging to find it. Of course, there’s nothing hidden under the sheets, but the smell is enough to make Fido want to be absolutely sure.

They’re Feeling a Maternal Instinct

If you have a female dog, they may try to make a nest from time to time. This habit is usually more prevalent with pregnant dogs. Your dog’s hormones might encourage her to create a hospitable environment for puppies, whether or not she’s expecting.

They’re Marking Their Territory

Dogs are territorial creatures, and it’s natural for them to want to mark their territory in the area they sleep. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that your dog will want to pee on it. Your pup has sweat glands in their paws that let them mark their territory cleanly. In some instances, they’ll scratch at your sheets to mark their territory. Or they’ll simply walk in circles before they settle down to layer their scent.

This behavior is more prevalent after you change the sheets on your bed. Although you’re excited that the sheets don’t smell like dog anymore, your dog will be very confused about the sudden change and will want to get their area smelling normal again.

They Learned It from Another Dog

If you have more than one pup in the house, then you could cause a chain reaction of dogs scratching at your sheets. If one dog instinctively digs at the sheets, then the other dogs may want to join in for territorial reasons or because they think it will be fun.

They’re Checking Your Bed for Pests

Sometimes, your dog can detect ticks, lice, or mites in your bed before you do. If they think there are bugs in your bed, they’ll scratch at the sheets with determination. If your pup seems like they’re concentrating on their dig and they don’t lay down after a few minutes, it’s best to check the sheets.

They Might Be Too Hot

If your dog overheats while lying on your bed, they may try to scratch your sheets to create ventilation, cool themselves down, and get comfortable. If it’s the summertime, make sure that your room isn’t at an uncomfortable temperature to help your pup cool down.

They Want Your Attention

In some cases, your dog may just be trying to get your attention. If you doted on them and gave them affection the first time they scratched at your sheets, then they may be trying to elicit a similar response from you. Or sometimes they’re feeling bored, and they dig at your sheets as a way to indicate that it’s playtime.

Are There Differences Between Big and Small Dogs?

Not necessarily. Dogs of all sizes instinctually dig, but if you have an extra-large dog, they’re probably not sleeping in your bed with you anyways. (Or maybe they are. We don’t judge.) It has less to do with size and more of whether they have access to your sheets in the first place. But it is common for dogs to scratch at their own beds as well.

Do Certain Breeds Do It More Than Others?

Yes, some breeds are more inclined to dig than others. Terriers are more prone to digging because they were initially bred to catch small rodents by digging in the dirt. This instinct can still be present even if you’ve never taken your pup on a gopher hunt and will manifest into them pawing at your sheets.

How to Stop Your Dog from Scratching Your Sheets

If you don’t mind your dog scratching at your sheets, then you don’t have to do anything to correct the behavior. If it isn’t harming anyone, then there’s no pressure. But if it’s happening at all hours of the night or destroying your linens, then here are some steps you can take to retrain your pup:

  • Implement a no-dog-on-the-bed policy and reward your dog for sleeping in their own bed, on the floor, or in their crate. 
  • Keep the bed free of toys and treats so your dog doesn’t think that there’s something hidden under the sheets.
  • Keep your room at a comfortable, regulated temperature.
  • Tucker your dog out in the daytime with a long walk, a trip to the dog park, or a long play session.
  • Clip your dog’s claws regularly.
  • Find a seamless comforter you like and avoid embroidery on your sheets if you’re worried about them getting damaged.
  • Lay down a blanket specifically for your dog, so if they dig, they’re scratching their blanket instead of your sheets. This also prevents them from needing to mark their territory each time you wash your sheets.
  • If the habit persists and you don’t want to kick your dog off the bed, you can contact a professional trainer to correct the behavior.

Here are some other common questions about dogs that may also be helpful: Why Does My Dog Bury His Head in Me? Why Does My Dog Lay His Head on Me? Why Does My Dog Sleep Between My Legs? Why Does My Dog Lick My Pillow? Why Does My Dog Stand Over Me? Why Does My Dog Stretch So Much? Why Does My Dog Put His Butt on Me? Why Does My Dog Sleep With His Tongue Out? Why Does My Dog Lay On My Clothes? Why Does My Dog Nibble My Ear? Why Does My Dog Hump the Air? Why Does My Dog Lick Other Dogs Pee? Why Does My Dog Push Against Me? Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs? Why Does My Dog Lick My Eyes? Do Dogs Get Tired Of Barking?  and if you are after our pet portraits, you can see them here.