Why do dogs scratch the carpet?

Updated July 19, 2017

Digging is a natural action for a dog that dates back to its undomesticated roots. Your dog, if it could speak, might not even be able to tell you why it is digging at your carpet, as it is a largely instinctual behaviour. In other cases, your dog may have an agenda for the digging and clawing at your carpet.

Reward Seeking Behaviors

Carpet digging may be a treasure hunt for your dog. Past rewards are now the catalyst for continued scratching at the rug. Another reward for an active dog is for some action to emerge. Perhaps at some point, the threads in the rug began to pull up which is exciting, especially for a bored dog. Any kind of action can encourage your dog to continue the behaviour.

Comfort Zone

Reflecting on the roots of canines in ancient times, dogs were obviously without the creature comforts of today's pampered pet. In order to sleep, centuries of wild dogs dug dens, scraped up grass and trampled a spot until it became softer, warmer and safer. This instinctual behaviour continues today as a reflexive action in domesticated dogs.

Emotional Responses

Dogs are emotional beings and scratching is a sign of a dog trying release emotions. The behaviour is a repetitious one that can provide a soothing sense of comfort. Boredom and separation anxiety will also give way to repetitious behaviour like digging. Other anxiety behaviours include compulsive licking, chasing the tail, pacing and whining. Similarly, a dog that feels neglected will engage in digging behaviour just to get your attention. Obviously, if a dog wants out of the room, it may dig at the carpet as if building a tunnel.

Breeds Most Likely to Dig

Dogs that were originally bred for their ability to dig and kill vermin are terriers and dachshunds. Chihuahuas and small dogs are often high strung and prone to anxiety behaviours like digging. Working dogs and sporting dogs, like beagles, Labs, shepherds and retrievers, like to keep busy and are also prone to getting bored enough to start clawing at the carpet.

Curbing Carpet Scratching

Volumes have been written as to how to stop bad behaviours in dogs. If you dog is not harming the carpet by digging, then, let it be. In order to meet your dog's emotional needs, be sure your dog gets plenty of attention, a lot of exercise and stimulation throughout the day. This may curb the carpet digging. It is very difficult to break an innate, instinctual behaviour in a dog. An expert in canine behaviour conditioning may be able to help with a program of positive reinforcement.

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