There are several reasons why dogs scratch the carpet, ranging from boredom to genetics, but one thing that’s for certain, is that it’s infuriating for owners! Although it might seem cute to start with, this apparent need to burrow quickly becomes problematic for both your carpet and your sanity. With that in mind, we’ve put together a blog explaining just why exactly dogs feel the urge to carpet-scratch, as well as what you can do to stop it!
Why does my dog scratch the carpet?
Before you can attempt to stop your dog from digging at the carpet, you need to know what’s driving it to do so. Otherwise, you’re essentially going at the problem blind, and with little chance of success. Let’s first look at some of the reasons why dogs do scratch the ground:
Firstly, boredom and attention-seeking can often be a cause. When your dog wants attention, they’ll often act up, just as a naughty child or toddler might do; they’ll do something they know they’re not supposed to, precisely because it’s more likely to elicit a reaction from their owner, and grant them the attention they’re so sorely after.
Some dogs are more prone to “burrowing” than others. My excitable, little 1-year-old Scottie-Cairn cross, for instance, loves nothing more than to dig, whether that be her bed in the middle of the night, the flower bed or, yes, even the carpet.
Certain breeds, and in particular ‘ratters’ like terriers, for example - which were bred to hunt out small rodents, often from small, difficult to reach places and holes in the ground - seem especially hellbent on happily digging away… So, that urge to scratch the carpet may well simply be instinct, and nothing else! It still doesn’t make it any less irritating for us owners, though!
Animals like nothing more than to feel safe and protected from prey, and dogs are no exception. Many will dig at the carpet in attempts to make a more snug, sheltered nest space in which to relax or sleep. Of course, with carpet this doesn’t really work, but if you’ve noticed the same behaviour extending to blankets around the house, then you’ll notice this nesting behaviour.
Linked to that idea of feeling safe is dogs scratching the carpet as an anxious response to perceived threats. The primal rationale behind it is simply to dig their way out of danger. So, if you’ve noticed it occurs more during fireworks, lightning storms or when the student house next door is having a party, again, then it might well be anxiety prompting your pooch to scratch.
5. Nail filing
No, your dog hasn’t suddenly become interested in entering the local beauty pageant… What they’re doing is trying to scratch down their claws - to literally file them away - when they’ve become long to the point of being physically uncomfortable. If you’re concerned about the length of your dog’s claws, the best thing to do is to take them into the groomer’s, as they’ll be able to expertly and easily get them back down to a length that your dog finds more comfortable.
6. Too much energy!
Have you got a particularly active dog breed? Do they get enough exercise and/or stimulation? If not, then your dog might be scratching the carpet as a means of venting some pent-up energy. If this is the case, then you’ll probably notice the behaviour going hand-in-hand along with certain other ‘hyper’ behaviour types, such as barking, constantly racing around, and chewing.
How do you get your dog to stop?
So, we’ve established the various reasons as to why dogs scratch the carpet, but what about stopping the behaviour? After all, it’s all very well knowing about the cause of an issue, but it counts for very little if you can’t then fix the issue, itself! Fortunately, there are several means and ways of weedling out this nuisance behaviour before your carpet gets too damaged.
The key to preventing the scratching is identifying the correct root cause, and applying the appropriate corresponding response. For instance, for a dog that’s scratching the carpet out of boredom, a good idea would be to up their daily exercise, if at all possible. People often try to overcomplicate dog behaviour, when in reality, it’s most often simply about finding the cause, and applying the logical solution. What, then, are the tips for each ‘cause’?
Dealing with scratching out of boredom
If your dog is bored, hyper or frustrated, then the carpet offers an attractive target at which to direct their feelings. That is, of course, unless there are other, more enticing distractions on offer! Make sure your dog a) has a plentiful supply of different toys (made with sustainable materials if possible), and that they’re b) readily available to them!
Which toys should I get?
Struggling to know which toys to get them? Fear not, we have a great and varied selection of toys, ranging from squeaky toys made from recycled plastics, through to tough treat balls, all of which are likely to keep your dog entertained, and more importantly, away from scratching the carpet!
The more engaged you can keep your energetic dog, the better. Here’s our suggestions for the best toys to suit your dog’s needs:
Rope toys - These toys can be great for tug-of-war and can help satisfy your dog's urge to chew.
Reinforced rubber toys - Many of these durable toys can be filled with treats or peanut butter, providing your dog with a fun and tasty challenge. If you’ve got a heavy chewer, these are as close to indestructible as you are going to get!
Interactive puzzle toys - Puzzle toys, such as treat dispensers and treat balls, can be great for dogs who are easily bored.This style of toy requires your dog to problem-solve or use their nose to find treats, keeping them engaged and entertained.
Ball launchers - These toys can be a great way to get your dog moving and burning off energy without damaging your carpet.
Chew toys - Durable chew toys can be a great way to satisfy your dog's natural chewing instincts and prevent them from turning to your carpet.
Frisbees - Dogs love chasing after frisbees, and it's a fun way to get them moving and playing.
Soft toys - Soft toys can be a good option for dogs who like to cuddle and carry toys around with them.
Squeaker toys - Toys that make noise, such as squeakers and rattles, can also be effective at keeping dogs engaged.
Of course, all dogs have different likes and interests so you may need to take some time to tap into what your pup enjoys but offering a variety of toys will help to keep them entertained. Whatever you choose, your carpet will thank you for it in the long run!
Dealing With Instinctive Scratching
This is a trickier one because there’s no problem that needs to be addressed, as it were, the dog just knows, deep down, that for whatever reason, it wants to dig! It’s not an impossible task, though, and eradicating the behaviour (or at least minimising it as much as possible) revolves around a lot of positive reinforcement.
The key to this is establishing a solid ‘leave’ command; once your dog associates the leave command with a high-value reward such as a piece of chicken, or a little cube of cheese, then should they ever go to scratch the carpet and you catch them in the act, you can cut them off with a swift leave command; in this way, your dog will learn not to scratch the carpet by association.
Dealing with “bed-making” scratching
This is possibly the easiest scratching scenario to rectify; if your home doesn’t have blankets, cushions or throws around, then the next comfiest thing, at least in your dog’s eyes, is going to be the carpet. The fact that the carpet isn’t mouldable or malleable won’t make a jot of difference to your canine companion, they’ll just keep trying, regardless!
So, the solution here is simply to have a lot of old blankets and throws that you don’t mind getting a bit tatty, and placing them around the room so that your dog has more nest-making opportunities. You should find they quickly reject the carpet in favour of the (actually comfortable) snuggly blanket.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do dogs scratch the floor?
Dogs may scratch the floor for a variety of reasons but a particularly common reason is to mark their territory. Dogs have scent glands in their paws, so scratching the floor leaves behind their scent and marks the area as their own.
Other reasons that your pooch may scratch the floor include:
Trying to bury something, for example, a bone or toy.
A coping mechanism for stress or anxiety.
Understimulated and bored.
If you have noticed that your dog is scratching at the carpet excessively, you may want to investigate further to ensure there are no underlying issues.
Will scratching the carpet damage it?
Persistent scratching of the carpet will eventually cause damage. If you have a dog that keeps digging away at your flooring, it can result in fraying and create bald patches in the carpet as well as also causing damage to your dog's claws, which can lead to other health problems.
Is it necessary to take my dog to the groomer to file their nails?
It is not always necessary to take your dog to the groomer to file their nails but if your dog's nails are too long, you should get them trimmed to prevent discomfort or injury. A professional groomer can help to ensure that your dog’s nails are trimmed safely and to a correct length.
How can I tell if my dog is scratching the carpet out of anxiety?
If your dog is scratching the carpet out of anxiety, you may notice the behaviour occurring more frequently during stressful situations such as fireworks or thunderstorms. You may also notice that your dog exhibits anxious behaviours alongside the scratching, such as panting, pacing, or trembling.
Can training help prevent my dog from scratching the carpet?
Dog training is definitely an effective method in preventing your dog from scratching the carpet. Basic obedience training will help to establish boundaries and discourage unwanted behaviours, as well as providing your dog with plenty of mental and physical stimulation that will redirect their energy and prevent destructive behaviours.
If you’re finding that your dog continues to scratch at the carpet, no matter what you try, then there are still a couple of other options before you resort to pulling your hair out. The first is simply to keep the dog in a non-carpeted part of the house, however this can be quite restrictive for them, so the other, more common option, is to buy other rugs and mats to go over the carpet, in the hope that your dog will scratch at them rather than the carpet.
Whether they’re scratching out of boredom, frustration, anxiety or anything else, carpet scratching is a habit you want to nip in the bud, if at all possible. Fortunately, for the most part, understanding the reasons behind the scratching will stand you in good stead, and leave you well placed to try and eradicate the behaviour before it gets out of hand.