Got a dog who insists on scratching his way through your bedroom door at night? You aren’t alone. It’s a common problem in the wee hours and it will lead to sleep-deprived pet parents! Here’s what you need to know.
Stopping your dog from scratching the door at night involves you understanding what the cause is behind the scratching, first, and treatment, second. Common reasons for nighttime scratching include anxiety, boredom, curiosity, and physical needs. Treatment involves protecting your door and helping your dog no longer have the urge for nighttime scratching!
Below, learn about the different causes, how to figure out which your dog has, and what to do about it!
Why do dogs scratch on doors?
First and foremost: why doors? What do doors have, in particular, that walls don’t? Dogs don’t have the same understanding of space as humans do. So, when a door is closed, they see it as a barrier rather than something with a doorknob. It’s one that they can’t get through, so they scratch and scratch just like they would if it were a normal wall.
Basically, doors separate dogs from what they want to get to. Since they don’t have opposable thumbs, scratching at them becomes the best way to get to the other side.
Why is my dog scratching only at night?
As far as door scratching, specifically at night, there could be a few reasons why your dog’s chosen those hours, specifically. Common reasons include:
- Your dog is feeling anxious
- Your dog is bored
- Your dog is curious as to what’s going on behind that door
- Your dog has physical needs
- Your dog wants to get your attention
The first step to stopping the door scratching routine at night is going to be sorting out which of these your dog is struggling with! Let’s take a look.
He’s feeling anxious
The most likely situation for scratching at your door, especially if he doesn’t do it any other time of day, is that he’s anxious. Perhaps he wants to sleep with Mom/Dad and the door prevents him from doing that. Perhaps, instead, he wants to be able to see out the door of the bedroom so that can protect you properly while you sleep.
Dogs are prone to separation anxiety, so if your dog isn’t allowed to sleep with you overnight, this is the most likely cause. If he’s a guard dog, visibility and spotting a threat could make him anxious about protecting you properly.
If he’s left alone all day and you spend 6-8 hours sleeping at night, he’s going to be bored. Your dog may be scratching at the door simply because he wants to go out and get you to play with him, or entertain himself without you. This is part of why proper stimulation for your dog is important. But, more on that later!
He’s curious as to what’s going on behind that door
Let’s face it, dogs are just plain ol’ nosey. If something’s going on behind that door that they aren’t a part of, they want to be. If he’s separated from you, your dog wants to see what you’re up to. If he’s in with you but hears and smells anything going on out in the other room, he’s going to want to go check that out. You can’t win, huh?
He has physical needs
The most common cause might be that your dog has to pee or poop overnight. Sometimes, like clockwork, it’s just going to need attention. Of course, many will catch on to the fact that you’ll get up to take him out, so they’ll start doing it even when they don’t have to go!
He wants to get your attention
In this case, this would be the “something’s wrong, wake up!” kind of attention. Maybe a baby is crying, maybe something outside the door sounds bad, or anything just feels wrong and your dog feels the need to wake you and/or go investigate. This is often the most likely if your dog does it once in a while!
How to stop my dog from scratching the door at night
So, if you’re looking to stop your dog scratching the door, and the sleep deprivation that it brings, firstly, figure out which of these sounds most like your situation. From there, here are some tips to help!
1. Help him feel less anxious
It’s never fun to see our dogs feeling anxious, but it’s mostly because they don’t understand what’s going on or that you’re coming back, etc. If the anxiety is so bad that he simply can’t bear not being up with you, you may want to consider fear exposures to help him learn that a door doesn’t mean anything other than just being a door.
Regardless of whatever kind of anxiety he is feeling, be kind and patient in this process and never punish the behavior!
2. Give him plenty of fun and games during the day
If you’re gone to work all day, give him fun, immersive toys such as puzzle mats or just a great preferred tug of war toy and help him work some of that energy off. When you get home, make sure you give him plenty of love and attention through toys, cuddle time, and even a walk. This will tire him out and he’ll be happy to curl up in his bed for a nap.
3. Tell him sternly to go to bed
If he’s simply curious and you know he’s fine, otherwise, don’t be afraid to tell him sternly that it’s bedtime. Keep your voice firm, but kind, and tell his command to go to bed. He’ll learn to listen to you but won’t feel frightened.
4. Take him out and then straight back to bed, no fuss
If you think your dog really does need to go out (perhaps he’s doing his pee dance), then take him straight outside, allow him to pee for a set amount of time, and then back in. Don’t give him attention, pet him, or play. Just keep it straight-forward and your dog will learn that getting you up at 3 am isn’t going to do anything for them!
5. Listen to his signs and see what’s going on
If you think your dog trying to alert you to something (especially if his scratching is joined with barking or sharp noises), listen to him! Dogs have impressive hearing and sense of smell, so they may be able to detect something before you can!
What does it mean if my dog is scratching at the door in the morning?
Just like any other time of day, scratching would most likely be the fact that you’ve overslept your alarm and he has to go to the bathroom. Like, yesterday. Or, he’s super bored and you’ve overslept, so he’s trying to wake you up so that he can get his playtime in before you go to work.
How to protect your door from dog scratching?
Scratch marks are a huge eyesore when it comes to a homeowner showing guests around your space. If you’ve already got dog scratches on your door, then these tips will help you get rid of ‘em in no time!
- Lay a drop cloth around the door and trim
- Use coarse sandpaper to sand down the worst of the scratches
- Wipe the surface clean with water and allow to try
- Use putty and a knife to make the surfaces level
- Sand it down flush from coarse to fine sandpaper (in that order!)
- Paint, and voila
If you’re worried about protecting your door in the future, you can install a baby gate in front of it or a door guard to help keep those claws out of your wood! Of course, retraining this behavior is the best approach to keeping your doors safe and sound long-term.
Dogs are adorable and well-loved members of your family, but scratching at night is not one of their endearing traits, right? These tips will help you get to the bottom of the problem easier than you thought, and you’ll have fresh doors, too!
When dogs scratch at night, they might be feeling anxious, bored, curious, have to go to the bathroom, or be working to get your attention. You’ll want to help curb the behavior safely and protect your door jambs at the same time.
Surprised by what you read, or know someone who could use this advice to get some more zzzs? Share it with them and help them snuggle in for a well-deserved good night’s rest!