Why Does My Dog Scratch The Carpet All Of A Sudden?

Why Does My Dog Scratch The Carpet? Photo of a French Bulldog dog after scratching the carpet.

Has your dog suddenly decided that their mission in life is to dig a hole to China on your living room rug? What’s up with this strange behavior? Take a look at what you’ll need to know.

Dogs will scratch the carpet when their natural burrowing instinct is triggered. They burrow in the ground to sleep safely in the wild, and “digging a hole in the carpet” is going to allow them to sleep safely in your home. This digging behavior is also a sign that your dog is uncomfortable and is trying to make their sleeping place more comfortable.

Sometimes, a sudden appearance of carpet scratching can also be your dog’s way of showing boredom, feeling fear or illness, asking for attention, communicating with other household pets, or alerting you to a potential issue on your rug itself.

That’s a lot of reasons. How do you know which is which and when to worry? More importantly, how do you get this destructive behavior to stop? All that, and more, is below.

7 Reasons why your dog is scratching the carpet all of a sudden

As introduced above, there are quite a few reasons for understanding your dog’s new scratching behavior. Taking a look at them in detail will help you sort out which of these is for everyone’s peace of mind.

  1. They are searching for a safe place to sleep
  2. They are trying to get comfortable on your carpet
  3. They are bored
  4. They are fearful or ill
  5. They want your attention
  6. They are communicating with other pets
  7. They are letting you know there’s a problem with your rug

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1. They are searching for a safe place to sleep

Dogs are naturally burrowing animals, so digging at the carpet is a natural behavior that helps them “make a place” for themselves in the carpet. They are trying to create a safe space to lie “in” so they won’t need to worry about predators or anything else getting at them while they rest.

2. They are trying to get comfortable on your carpet

Whether they are recovering from an injury or aging, sometimes a dog will struggle to get comfortable. While the carpet was once enough to keep them warm and cushioned, perhaps it might not be anymore. This is especially common if you recently replaced the carpet with a new one!

3. They are bored

If you’ve got a dog with high physical and mental energy levels, you’ll find that they are prone to igging when they get bored, even if that digging is your carpet fibers.

Thankfully, this is easy enough to fix by ensuring they get plenty of exercise and stimulation through puzzle toys and more. If this is the reason for their behavior, you’ll find that the increase in attention and stimulation will help “nip it in the bud.”

4. They are fearful or ill

A scared or anxious dog is going to try to hide away “in” your carpet. Same with a dog who is ill or simply not feeling their best. This is technically an instinctive behavior since dogs will want to protect themselves by hiding away when they know they are not feeling good.

5. They want your attention

Dogs are intelligent little creatures! They know that you don’t like it when they dig at things. So, naturally, they’ll start pawing and digging at your carpet specifically to get you to pay attention to them!

They want your love, affection, and undivided attention, and being a pain is going to do that for them. They might be cute, but they can undoubtedly be devious at times, right?

6. They are communicating with other pets

Dogs have sweat glands in their paws. Part of their communication, then, will be scratching at the carpet. Another pet will come along, smell that dog’s scent, interpret it as a territorial marker or a conversation, etc.

Most of the time, the digging, in this case, won’t be frantic. Just occasional, or after a new pet is added to the household and your dog is staking out his turf.

7. They are letting you know there’s a problem with your rug

It sounds weird, but it could very much be the case! That problem could be a good one — crumbs for them to nibble on — or it could be something not so good, like a pest infestation. Your dog is trying to alert you that there is some sort of situation going on with your carpet that you haven’t noticed yet.

Why is my dog digging the carpet at night?

If you notice that your dog’s new habit has started at night, specifically, physical comfort issues are most likely. Firstly, he’s uncomfortable sleeping on the rug. It could be due to the actual rug itself and your dog’s aches and pains, or it could be something like the temperature.

Some dogs will scratch carpets at night if they feel anxious about being separated from their “pack” (be it other household pets or their humans). It’s something to think about if it becomes a problem.

Why is my old dog scratching the carpet?

If you have a senior dog scratching at your carpet during the day or night, it’s most likely because he is feeling his age. Or, more specifically, he’s feeling the aches and pains of aging.

The carpet was okay for him to enjoy in his younger days, but now his sore body needs a bit more TLC. Consider getting him a proper bed for those senior years if you think this is the case.

The other thing is that senior dogs understand that they are more vulnerable to predators. So, that instinctive digging to hide themselves “in the ground” while they sleep may be stronger with your dog feeling as vulnerable as he is.

Why do female dogs scratch the carpet?

Sometimes unspayed female dogs will scratch the carpet while in heat. She is signaling to the male dogs that she’s in her heat cycle, and the scratching both ease her discomfort and helps get her the attention she wants.

This behavior should fade once she is spayed, but occasionally it can take a bit longer for it to stop.

Sometimes, scratching at the carpet can signify that she is going into labor, too, assuming that she’s pregnant. If you notice that she’s creating her whelping den, then you can soon expect babies!

Photo of a Beagle dog after scratching the carpet and burying his nose in it.

How to stop a dog from scratching the carpet

No matter what the reason might be, it’s totally fine to feel frustrated with your dog’s need to scratch at the carpet. You can also stop this habit without compromising your dog’s needs! It’s all about taking the proper approach.

The first thing to do is understand the underlying cause of the scratching. At the same time, it’s understandable if you can’t determine the issue; at least working to understand if there is an underlying pest problem or a health issue first will help you narrow in on the reasons why your dog is scratching.

Once you understand the concrete reasons why it’s happening, you can address the issues! For example, offer your dog a plushy bed instead of a carpet. It’ll keep them more comfortable and will be warmer. If they are anxious, work with them to help curb their anxieties and help them enjoy their overall quality of life a lot more.

While there will be some issues that you can correct, like in the examples, sometimes the digging is just an instinctive behavior. In that case, you’ll have to make your peace with the fact that you can’t stop this behavior, only retrain it to something else. An instinct can’t be stopped or turned off, after all.

If you simply can’t stand the thought of your dog pawing at the carpet because of this instinct, consider replacing your carpet with something else that you don’t mind him pawing at or taking it up entirely. 

How to prevent your dog from scratching the carpet

Whether you’re looking at this before this behavior happens or after it’s started happening, you’ll be happy to learn that you can use the same approach to work with it.

As soon as you see the behavior happening, redirect your dog to something else. Perhaps curling up on the couch with you or playing with a toy. When he stops the behavior and plays with the toy instead, or he settles down, reward that behavior.

On that same line of thought, it’s essential to withdraw affection (or not offer it) when you notice your dog scratching at the carpet. They’ll associate the “reward” with the scratching, and it’ll make them more likely to do it again — as we talked about above as one of the reasons.

All in all

Whether it’s an instinct or something learned regarding a specific meaning, your dog’s behavior of scratching at the carpet is vital to understand in what it could mean and just how your dog is trying to communicate their thoughts or feelings. 

In most cases, a dog scratching at a carpet is an instinct that comes from their days of burrowing in the ground so that they can sleep safely and comfortably.

However, sometimes a dog’s sudden start-up of scratching your carpet could be a sign that he is bored, stressed, sick, wanting attention, in communication with other pets, or trying to tell you that there’s a problem with the carpet itself.

You’ll want to know how to determine which of these issues it is to help you keep everyone safe and happy!

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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.