Why Do Dogs Scratch the Carpet?

Why Do Dogs Scratch the Carpet

As a dog owner you get used to their strange habits, many of which are easily explainable. But there’s one which often has people confused, and that’s when dogs scratch at the carpet. Young and old dogs do it. Male and female dogs do it. Some dogs do it after a walk, some when lying down, under your bed, when excited, or in the middle of the night.

There often aren’t any obvious reasons why dogs scratch the carpet… until now. I’ve put together the most common reasons for carpet scratching and attempted burrowing.

Why does my dog scratch the carpet ? Dogs scratch carpet for many reasons including boredom, excitement, following their natural instincts, and dealing with anxiety. Whatever the reason, find the root cause as it could point towards an unhappy dog with bad carpet ripping habits.

I don’t want to alarm you though. Many dogs will scratch the carpet before lying down due to instinctive behavior to make the area comfortable and safe, before bedding down. It’s in their heritage before they were domesticated.

However, if a dog is scratching the carpet before lying down it could mean something more serious.

1. Dogs like to scratch carpet as an instinctive behavior

Dogs love to dig to the ground. It’s in their genes. Back before domestication, wild dogs would scratch the ground to create a secure resting spot.

They’d also put their burrowing skills into action if they needed to warm up or cool the sleeping area they were eyeing, depending on how hot or cold the weather was.

Despite our dogs being domesticated today, they have retained this scratching of rugs and carpets, together with that burrowing instinct. So, to some extent, why your dog scratches the carpet at night is possibly because they are expressing their instinct for comfort and safety.

It’s simply an instinct thing.

They’ll also scratch to make their preferred sleeping spot on the carpet warm or cool. Plus, your dog knows a bit of pawing here and there will make your floor rug a little fluffier if they want a comfortable napping spot.

If you observe keenly, there’ll be times when your dog will appear as though they’re digging at your carpet in the night, like this dog here. Once they’re done, they will lie down and sleep.

2. Marking territory on your carpet

Dogs have scent glands between their toes and under their paws. These glands release a unique chemical scent whenever a dog scratches on anything, including a carpet.

If your dog scratches the carpet briefly, but regularly then it could be because he wants to spread this scent on that specific carpet surface and leave their claw scratches.

The Psychology Today website said:

“Ground scratching may be viewed as a composite signal combining chemical and visual components that carry information over different distances at different speeds.”

So, why dogs scratch the carpet like a bull, could simply be there way of warning other pets in your home (or any other unwanted person) not to mess with their spot. Yes, that’s right, your cheeky dog treats your rug as their possession.

When dogs scratch the carpet with their back legs, it’s very similar to what you might see when they poop outdoors… but without the poop (hopefully).

You will observe your dog kicking up the grass outdoors with their back lets after doing a poop, it’s instinctive. Experts believe it’s the dog’s way of letting other dogs know that this is their territory, as by kicking up grass and urine, their scent is being spread further.

It’s the same indoors when your dog starts to scratch the carpet with their back legs. The scent of your dog’s paws, poop and pee are all indicators to fellow dogs of territorial boundaries, or to send a signal they have been in the neighborhood.

You might not have any other strange dogs in your house for your dog to be marking territory, but the instinct is still there.

But if a strange dog was to come into your house and near the carpet, they will know exactly who has been here and who’s home it is.

3. Your dog has lots of energy to release

If your dog goes to scratch the carpet when excited, it could be because he has a lot of excess energy that needs using up. Your rug is often the only available outlet to get rid of the pent-up energy.

It might be time to go for a walk, or play tug of warjust don’t let him win all the time!

why dogs scratch carpets
Dogs can look guilty when you catch them scratching at carpet (https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-chocolate-labrador-retriever-731979/)

4. Food hunting mission on your carpet

Dogs are scavengers and don’t know when to stop eating. Given half the chance they will get up onto the kitchen counter and try to grab food and leftovers. This is why your carpets and rugs are so appealing, particularly those in rooms where you eat food.

It’s all because of those tiny crumbs of food trapped in your rug? Your dog may be scratching the carpet to win themselves the tasty crumbs. There’s no way they’ll let these tiny pieces go to waste!

5. Hiding cherished items

Dogs will also scratch the carpet like a bull when trying to hide and bury something you’ve just handed them. For example, it could be a toy, a bone, or any other treat.

We can also blame this on their natural instinct as dogs know that burying a precious possession in the soil is the best way to keep it secure. Your dog is scratching the carpet with his claws as he possibly thinks your rug can also play the soil’s role.

6. Illness or injury is a possibility

Your dog could dog scratch the carpet after a walk due to an injury. Perhaps there’s a tick or splinter in the pads of their paw. Also, dogs with an itchy infection on a paw might turn to carpet scratching to ease the itchiness.

Aside from physical illness, conditions such as Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD) can make your canine friend exhibit destructive habits like scratching your carpet excessively.

  1. Attention seeking

If your dog feels like they’ve missed you and want to spend time with you, they might decide to go on a carpet scratching spree to get your attention.

This is often something that puppies will do when you leave them alone at night. A young dog will scratch the carpet in the middle of the night to make noise, wake you, and get your attention.

Handy Hint: If you have a younger puppy, here’s what you need to do when they start crying in the crate at night.

8. Fear and separation anxiety

Sometimes, your dog might choose to scratch at your carpet in the middle of the night, or when left alone as a fear response.

Perhaps a stranger has come to your home, and your dog is afraid of them. Or they sense a thunderstorm is coming. In this case, carpet scratching will signal that your dog is trying to distract themself from the unpleasant situation.

Also, if your dog is having it rough when you aren’t around, scratching your carpet might be their only way of coping with the separation anxiety.

dog scratches carpet before lying down
This dog just scratched the carpet then lay down (https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-labrador-retriever-inside-rug-4567363/)

9. When boredom kicks in

Dogs can also scratch the carpet before they lie down when they are bored. This habit is something some dogs will do when a fun idea pops into their head when they have nothing better to do.

If taking a nap to escape the boredom doesn’t seem like the best option, your dog will keep themself entertained with your carpet… or possibly even the drywall!

10. Can’t contain the excitement

Some of us do the moonwalk when we are happy (don’t we?). But our dog friends obviously can’t.

Instead, they’ll pull ridiculous stunts like scratching the carpet when excited to keep calm.

11. The curiosity is too much

If there’s something on your rug or carpet that piques your dog’s interest, nothing will stop them from playing detective.

They’ll apply their scratching skills to investigate the chicken broth stains on your carpet, the weird-smelling fragrance, or just to feel the texture of the new carpet you brought in.

How do I stop my dog scratching the carpet?

Here are a few ways to help you protect your rug’s appearance before it’s too late, and ensure you don’t have to make another carpet purchase because of your dog, again. You might be able to stop your dog scratching the carpet with the following tips.

Create them a safe and comfortable space

If your dog loves napping on your carpet and scratches it whenever they want to lie down, create a comfy crate bed for them, so they have an alternative napping place.

Be firm

Don’t hesitate to issue commands like “no,” “stop,” or “leave it” when you catch your dog red-handed ripping your carpet. Give them a treat or heap praises when they obey to encourage them to see your carpet as a scratching-free zone.

Get rids of smells and temptation

Clean your carpet thoroughly and regularly to get rid of any smells or food crumbs that might attract your doggo.

Exercise your dog regularly

Be sure to engage your dog in daily exercises, so they don’t have any more energy to destroy your carpet.

Distract them

Try to divert their attention away from their carpet, especially if scratching is what they do when excited. You can throw them their favorite chew toy, or take them for a stroll.

Invest in a scratching post

Give your furry friend an alternative to scratch on — for instance, a pet-appropriate post or scratching pad (like this on Amazon).

Spend more time with your dog

Spend quality time with your pooch so they don’t feel lonely most of the time.

Give them toys

Ensure your canine friend has interactive toys to play with to avoid pursuing this destructive habit out of boredom.

Vet check

If the scratching habit goes out of hand, take your dog for a vet check so they’d rule out an underlying condition.

Related questions

Why do dogs scratch the floor for no reason?

Dogs have a natural burrowing instinct. It’s normal for them to scratch the floor as though they are digging the ground.

Why do dogs scratch the carpet before lying down?

It’s a behavior they inherited from wild dogs back then. They scratch the carpet to prepare a comfortable resting spot that suits their preferred temperature (either warm or cool).

How do I stop my dog from scratching the carpet?

As mentioned earlier, you can: Provide your dog with a pet scratching mat or post, a cozy sleeping area, train them to leave the habit by issuing commands, give them enough fun toys to play with, and divert their attention, among other solutions.

Why do dogs scratch the bed before they lie down?

Dogs are seen to scratch their beds before lying down to mark it with their scent as their own. They also do it due to an evolutionary trait where in the wild dog ancestors would scratch the ground before lying down to create a hole, or dry space to bed down and sleep at night.


Nothing gets you furious in seconds than seeing your dog pawing your stylish carpet. Like any other concerned dog parent who loves keeping their home décor damage-free, you may be wondering why on earth your furry friend does this.

Hopefully I’ve helped you to understnd better why dogs scratch the carpet when you’re out, after eating, or when they want to lie down – or even after a bath and a poop!

You’ve probably come across your canine companion busy with their scratching and digging ritual in your backyard. And you never really bother because it’s all happening outdoors.

But your carpet, of all places?

Walking in on your dog scratching your carpet like a bull is enough to make you conclude your furry friend knows the real meaning of “to hit where it hurts.” Because for sure, their carpet scratching habit can give you a mini-heartbreak!

Sadly, our lovely canine companions don’t care one bit about the aesthetic value of our pricey carpets.

End of story.

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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/boxer-dog-lazy-animal-boxer-dog-1562522/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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