Why Does My Dog Scratch My Bed Sheets?

Why Does My Dog Scratch My Bed Sheets? Photo of a dog under the bedsheets.

Dogs are always up to some strange antic or another. Is your dog scratching your bedsheets and leaving you totally perplexed as to why? If so, here’s what you need to know about this behavior and what you can do.

If your dog is scratching your bedsheet, they want to make a cozy nest for them to enjoy. That’s right, your dog is taking over your bedsheets and making a bed in them, whether you like it or not. Other less common reasons for scratching sheets include cooling the bed off, scoping the bed for parasites, showing dominance, working through anxiety, or camouflaging himself.

Reasons for my dog to scratch my bedsheets

Here are some of the top reasons why your dog has decided that digging a hole in your bedsheets is a good idea:

  • Creating a comfortable spot
  • Temperature regulation
  • Checking for parasites
  • Dominance behavior
  • Dealing with anxiety
  • Camouflage
  • Instinct

Creating a comfortable spot

Your dog has decided that something in the way you have your bed organized isn’t working for them. So, they’ll scratch and pull and poke and make your bed much more comfortable for them. This behavior is called nesting if your dog is pregnant, which means she is getting ready to have her puppies!

Temperature regulation

Your dog is too hot and is trying to “beat the heat” right out of the sheets. Or, they are too cold and are looking to snuggle in and get warm. You may also notice other symptoms like panting excessively or burrowing in and shivering.

Checking for parasites

Your dog has reason to believe that there are parasites like ticks or fleas, or bed bugs in your sheets. They are dutifully trying to scratch them out. This behavior does not imply that you definitely do have parasites, but you can certainly use it as an excuse to clean or change your sheets!

Dominance behavior

Your dog will scratch at the sheets to show dominance over you and any other animal who otherwise would be in bed. They are marking their territory with scratching. If you add new pets or people to your household, this might come and go.

Dealing with anxiety

When your dog is anxious, scratching may help the work out that anxiety. The anxiety may be short-lived or long-term. It’s always a good idea to watch if this behavior is especially uncommon but pairs with other signs of anxiety. Something very legitimate might be making your dog uncomfortable.

Camouflage

Your dog is trying to blend in with the blankets. It’s pretty cute when you think about it. It might be a safety behavior, or it could just be for fun — like hide and seek for dogs. If your dog likes to burrow, this is likely.

Instinct

Dogs like to dig. Sometimes they dig for worms; sometimes they dig because they’re bored, and sometimes they just dig because it feels good. Don’t worry; we’ve got tips below to help you with this instinctive behavior!

How to protect my bedsheets from my dog

If you’re still working through just how you can stop your behavior, one of the things that you’ll want to do is protect your sheets from damage. After all, their claws are sharp, and the behavior is unsettling for us humans. So, here’s what you want to know how to protect your bedsheets from your furry friend.

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Rely on cheap sheets

If you are worried about your sheets being destroyed, especially until you learn how to redirect the behavior, you will want to rely on cheap bedsheets or old ones. Just put on bedding options that you don’t care about, and you’ll notice that your worry will decrease substantially!

Get durable sheets

If you want to go the other way by relying on sheets that will hold up to your dog’s claws, you can do that too! Get good quality, durable sheets such as those intended for kids or even pets themselves. Quite a few options are pet-tested and approved, much like couch fabrics and so on. Modern brands know to make sheets durable enough for pets!

Don’t allow them to sleep in bed with you

Simple but effective! If your dog scratching your sheets and destroying them bothers you so much that you are stressed, don’t allow them to sleep in bed with you or other times throughout the day. Just make your bed an off-limits zone, and you won’t need to worry about damage done to your sheets.

Trim their nails

In all honesty, no one enjoys trimming their dog’s nails. However, it is an essential part of their health, and the important thing is that it will keep them from destroying your sheets with their otherwise sharp nails.

Sometimes dogs will scratch at things to trim their own nails. It isn’t always the case, but it can be from that biological behavior. If you keep their nails short and maintained, they won’t feel the need to trim their nails on your bedsheets (or anywhere else, for that matter).

How to prevent my dog from scratching my bedsheets

If you’re a recent pet parent and are worried about your dog scratching your bedsheets, you can work preventatively! When looking at “nipping this behavior in the bud,” you’ll want to focus on behavior rewarding and obedience training.

Dogs live to please their humans above all else. This means that they will scratch the bedsheets if you reward them for it. This means that you’ll need to ensure that you aren’t unintentionally rewarding them for this behavior! Don’t give them scratches or pets or love after they’ve scratched something. Redirect their attention (more on that below), or they’ll continue to do what gets them love and attention.

The second preventative measure is going to be obedience training! If they know the command “stop” and “down” and “bed” (referring to their own,) they’ll listen to you when you direct them to stop scratching on the bedsheets. The key to that is ensuring that they know the command, what it means, and that they listen to you!

How to stop my dog from scratching my bedsheets?

If you’re coming at this from the opposite point of view, you’ll want to learn how to stop this already existing behavior instead! Here are some tips to help you save what’s left of your bedsheets and to help your dog learn that this is not acceptable behavior:

  • Provide a dog bed
  • Don’t wash their bedding often
  • Redirect behavior
  • Provide a safe digging spot
  • Keep temperature comfortable

Provide a dog bed

If they have their own spot to scratch and dig at, they’ll do it there instead of your bed. Even if they are allowed to sleep on your bed, make sure they understand their “digging zone” is on their own bed and not yours!

Don’t wash their bedding often

Dogs will often be upset if their previously wonderful-smelling dog bed smells like fresh linen. Frustrated that their bed no longer smells like them, they’ll jump onto your bed and “start over” by scratching your sheets. They may even scratch at their own bed too. 

As much as possible, allow their bed to smell like them regularly (wash their bed twice a year, for example), and they’ll be more content to lie in their own scent instead of getting into your linen-smelling sheets!

Redirect behavior

Every time you see your dog acting on the behavior, redirect it. Get a toy and show them how much better it is to play with it. Or, use obedience training (such as what you read above) to stop it outright. Be consistent with this behavior redirection, as dogs will learn what you are asking for easier. If you only redirect it sometimes, it won’t work.

Provide a safe digging spot

Since dogs can sometimes dig just because it feels right for them to do so, as mentioned above, have a designated digging spot. For example, a sandbox or a part of the yard that isn’t used. They’ll enjoy digging to their heart’s content, but your sheets will be safe!

Keep temperature comfortable

When you’ve exhausted every other option, try to lower the temperature or increase it, depending on how your dog is reacting to the temperature itself. This will get them to settle in easier since they won’t be too hot or too cold!

All in all

Dogs will scratch at your bedsheets for a variety of reasons. The top ones include creating a safe space to sleep, cooling off or warming up, checking for parasites, showing dominance or anxiety behaviors, or camouflaging themselves for safety or general comfort.

While your dog scratching at your bedsheets is perplexing, it makes sense to them! These tips will help you get to the bottom of what’s going on and get your sheets back! Know someone struggling with this behavior in their dog and in need of some support? Share this with them!

Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.