Why do dogs dig at carpets? Perhaps your dog doesn’t agree with that yellow-vomit carpet you just put in so he’ll dig at the carpet to rebel against your latest remodeling job. Jokes aside, dogs can care less about your decorating skills (or lack of).
When it comes to digging at indoor carpeting, it’s time to look beyond wacky canine behaviors, and instead take a peek at what really may lie behind a dog’s habit of scratching and digging at carpets. Rest assured, dogs have their own good reasons for engaging in certain behaviors and digging at carpets has several. So put on your investigative hat and let’s take a look at some “pawsibilities.”
So you go to work, come back, and notice that your dog has managed to scratch the carpet nearby the entryway, what gives? You dismiss it as silly doggy behavior, but the next day the carpet has almost been totally ripped off, what’s happening? If the casualty is always the same carpeted area by the door, there may be chances your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety.
Next time you leave the house, turn on your camcorder on and record what happens in your absence. If your dog paces, whines, barks, drools and starts digging at the carpet and door, you may be looking at a case of separation anxiety.
Have a dog trainer, behavior consultant or your vet take a look at the recording. You may need to work with a professional to help teach your dog some better coping skills so he’s more comfortable when he’s left home alone.
Digging Before Lying Down
We feed dogs in shiny bowls, give them soft pillows and let them wear collars studded with rhinestones, but we often forget that dogs may still exhibit behaviors that are reminiscent of their past. Digging at the carpet, rug or at the bed before lying down is an instinctive behavior that may no longer seem to serve a purpose, but has managed to survive despite many years of domestication. In the old days, the dog’s ancestors may have dug and circled before lying down for the purpose of scaring off any potential critters and to make a comfy “bed.” Because dogs back then may have been particularly protective about their sleeping areas, the digging may have also added some visual and olfactory signs (dogs have scent glands in their paws) meant to inform other animals that the area was taken.
If your dog doesn’t normally dig year-round, but then he starts digging at the carpet when the dog days of summer are in full swing, there are chances your dog may be digging out of instinct to keep cool. Yes, dogs dig when they’re hot too. Ask the owners of certain livestock guardian dog breeds who have craters in their yards from their dogs digging up resting spots to keep cool. Normally, dogs would dig holes in the dirt in shady areas such as under a tree, but since most dogs nowadays live in homes, they may still dig out of instinct. If this is the case, you may want to turn that AC up a notch or two.
Digging for a Den
If you own a female dog who is pregnant, digging the carpet or digging the couch may be a sign that puppies are soon on the way. Back to a dog’s past, mother dogs in nature would dig up a den for their puppies so they would be protected from the elements. Fast forward to modern times, your dogs may still retain this instinct despite being domesticated.
If you have a whelping box, you may want to direct your dog there by placing it in a quiet area of your home and making it as welcoming as possible. A whelping box offers a safe, warm and clean place for mother dog and her pups.
Is your dog digging at the carpet when you give him a bone or a special toy that he cherishes a lot? If so, your dog may be digging to bury his bone or toy. Yes, it may sound odd, but dogs still retain this old instinct of burying things they care about.
It doesn’t matter if your dog digs at dirt, the couch or the carpet, the instinct is still there. If your dog has this tendency and you want to curb the behavior, you may want to give a bone or treat that can be consumed in just one sitting or perhaps you can try giving an interactive toy that will keep his mind occupied on the present time rather than focusing on saving it for later.
If your dog is bored, under-excised and isn’t provided with enough mental stimulation, he may figure out his own venues for entertainment, and rest assured, you won’t like them. Some dogs may bark, some dogs may whine, some dogs may chew and some others will dig holes in your carpet.
Some dog breeds are more prone to digging than others. Dachshunds and several small working terriers have been selectively bred for digging to hunt ground-dwelling critters so they’ll be more likely to dig if they’re looking for something to do. Engaging these fellow with more activities such as brain games, training and doggy sports may help re-direct their instincts to something more acceptable.
Digging for Attention
If you are away for most of the day, your dog may not be getting enough attention. Greeting you when you come may be the perk of the day and your dog may feel neglected if you only come home to eat dinner, watch a movie and then go to bed.
At this point poor Rover may enjoy any type of attention and that includes negative attention! If scratching at the carpet while you are watching your favorite show gets you to stop looking at the screen to scold your dog, your attention-seeking dog may enjoy it, so granted he’ll keep digging at the carpet for more of it. If you notice this trend in your dog, you may want to dedicate more time with your pal.
Dogs need exercise, mental stimulation, training and games. If you’re too busy, you may want to hire a pet sitter or a dog walker to keep your dog company. And hey, you can take advantage of those commercials, and use them to positively interact with your dog with a game of fetch or a brief training session!
Finally, there are dogs who will dig at the carpet when they are anxious. If your dog is scared of something, he may dig in an effort to escape. It could be that your dog is frightened of the noise of helicopter hovering low or the noise of a car back firing.
Dogs who are scared of thunderstorms may have a strong instinct to go hide under a bed or closet and they may dig while they are there out of instinct and sheer panic. If your dog is scared of noises or suffers from anxiety, you may want to ask your vet about calming aids.
A dog trainer or behavior consultant may be able to offer some behavior modification protocols that can be used along with calming aids that will take the edge off so that your dog can cognitively function and learn better coping skills.