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Should You Be Worried About Your Dog Scratching the Floor?

At A Glance

Dogs scratch the floor for several reasons, which could be a cause for concern in some cases. In most instances, it’s because scratching comes instinctively to dogs whereby they mimic digging a hole in the ground. However, it can also indicate:

  • They’re in pain, especially when juxtaposed with barking, whining, or discomfort
  • They’re suffering from a mental or physical illness like separation anxiety, cognitive disability, and others

Dogs do all kinds of peculiar things in and around the house and scratching the life out of the floor is one of them.

But, why do dogs scratch the floor?

It could be as harmless as them doing it for entertainment or as serious as a sign of an underlying medical condition. That’s why, you need to get to the bottom of the matter and prepare yourself to remedy it with the best possible solution.

dog scratching the floor

Reasons Why Your Dog Scratches The Floor

There are a handful of reasons why dogs scratch the floor.

Instinct

A dog scratching the floor could simply mean it’s giving in to its natural instinct. Burying items that a dog considers precious is natural and something its ancestors did when burying food.

You may have noticed your dog hollows out the earth in the backyard before placing a bone in the crater for safekeeping.

Dogs instinctively bury their prized possessions away from other animals or pets.

If you have other pets in your home, chances are your dog is attempting to bury a toy or meaty treat.

Cognitive Dysfunctions

You’re probably thinking, “Why does my dog scratch the floor so much?”

A dog is likely to scratch the floor if it is experiencing cognitive decline from illnesses such as dementia.

It’s not uncommon to see older dogs exhibit restlessness or confusion alongside excessive scratching. According to East Bay Veterinary Clinic, more than 50% of dogs above the age of 11 suffer from dementia.

Boredom

Dogs find comfort in burrowing or digging when stressed out or bored. So it’s only natural that your dog expresses itself by scratching the floor if it has nothing to do.

Pet owner Shanae says that such behaviour is an outburst of your dog’s boredom. She adds, “Digging is a common characteristic when a dog is feeling bored. If your dog is digging at your carpet or floors, try taking it out for a nice long walk or run!”

The solution?

Spend more time with your dog, particularly if you don’t work from home!

Dogs need constant attention. So carve some time out in a day to spend time with your doggy.

Pain

Arthritic dogs often scratch or paw at the floor when they’re in pain. If your dog scratches the floor repeatedly and whimpers, visit your vet to get a diagnosis.

“Maintaining mobility through reasonable exercise is important regardless of a dog’s age and the extent of their arthritis”, advises veterinarian Dr. Kathy Davieds.

An active lifestyle is paramount for dogs, especially if it means delaying or curbing the debilitating effects of arthritis.

dog on the floor

Emotional Issues

Loud noises can cause a dog to nervously resort to floor scratching. It’s how dogs respond to physical distress.

Thunderstorms and fireworks can cause a dog to behave anxiously. Installing soundproof windows, using noise-canceling headphones (not advisable for fidgety dogs), or cuddling with your pet under a warm blanket can calm it down.

Floor Temperature Control

A dog has its way of adjusting to the temperature of hardwood or tiled floors.

But don’t be surprised to see scratches on hardwood floors when temperatures fluctuate. Dogs instinctively want to create a burrow and nestle in a cooler hole in the ground or warm up surfaces before lying down.

Placing a throw rug next to your dog’s bedding or favorite spot on the floor can give it a place to rest at ease without scratching the floors.

Nesting

If your dog fluffs up pillows or spreads sheets with its front paws on more than one occasion, chances are it’s pregnant!

Sometimes your dog may circle its bedding and paw at the surface to make it plusher. This natural behavior is just your dog prepping its ‘den’ for new pups!

Dogs exhibit maternal behavior when a litter is on the way. Ultimately, pregnant dogs instinctively rearrange and tweak their surrounding environment to make it safe and comfy.

Quora community member, Harriet C from Wisconsin, shares her dog also loves to scratch and create a burrow before sleeping.

“It doesn’t matter to her that there are no leaves, grass, or brush there to move into a nest area. It’s something her ancestors have been doing for millions of years, and for her, it’s appropriate behavior to get ready to sleep”, sums up Harriet.

a dog in pain on the floor

Physical Discomfort

Dogs have their way of communicating physical discomfort by scratching the floor.

Pay extra attention to persistent floor scratching, whining, restlessness, disorientation, or erratic behavior.

Chances are your doggy needs medical attention for a possible clinical problem such as arthritis, indigestion, constipation, or physical injury.

Territory Protection (Scent Marking)

Scent marking is normal behavior in dogs for warning off predators or other pets.

Dog parent Jordi Noguer observes how his dog leaves behind a scent to keep other pets from entering its territory. He shares that since dogs sweat through their paw pads, scratching helps them “douse” a particular spot with their “essence”.

The sweat in a dog’s paw contains pheromones. The scent may be picked up by other animals as a sign to stay away.

What the Fact! Concrete is excellent scent absorber for dogs. Once smeared with their sweat, the smell clings onto the surface for long and doesn’t vanish easily

A dog’s scent may not always be a reason that keeps other animals at bay. Other animals sense a marked territory when they see a dog scratching the ground. This form of visual display is called demonstration marking.

Demonstration marking is when animals pick up on visual cues of a territory that a dog has scratched. This could explain why your dog is scratching the ground when another pet or animal is close by.

On the corollary, dogs may paw or scratch at the ground to eliminate odors from defecating or urinating if they didn’t intend to mark territory.

Dr. Andrea Y. Tu, DVM, Medical Director of Behavior Vets of New York, explains, “Pawing at the ground could be a learned behavior to cover up the scent they involuntarily left behind while peeing or pooping.”

Separation Anxiety

Your dog may resort to carpet scratching because it’s anxious when you’re gone, a type of separation anxiety, explains the Humane Society.

Dogs with separation anxiety project certain telltale signs like freaking out when you leave the house, destroying toys or other items, or looking unhappy when you leave.

They’ll express their emotions by barking, scratching surfaces to cope with anxiety, and making the house a mess. It’s wise not to ignore these signs.

So what can you do if your dog gets antsy every time you leave?

  • Train your dog to respond to sit-stay commands.
  • Use positive reinforcement techniques to reward your doggy when it successfully sits still. Over time doing so will keep your dog calm when you walk into or leave a room.
  • Help your doggy feel comfortable in its surroundings by taking frequent walks around the neighborhood or regularly meeting people with pets in a dog park.
  • Speak calmly to your dog when you leave so that it doesn’t get alarmed and resort to destructive behavior when you depart.
  • Remain calm when you return home and restrain your excitement. You don’t want your dog to go into a frenzy.
  • Avoid leaving your dog at home when it’s not used to the idea of being away from you. Take it slow by having someone come over when you leave.

Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour

A dog may sometimes get the urge to scratch the floor repeatedly if it’s used to doing so. Chances are it’s nothing but an annoying habit. This type of OCD is normal until it takes a turn for the worse.

Notice how often your dog scratches the floor and if the act is followed by whining, discomfort, confusion, barking, or agitation. Seek your vet’s help if floor scratching becomes incessant or is accompanied by concerning behavior.

Dog owner Alex H. attests to the fact and advises dog owners to take action instead of letting compulsive floor scratching slide.

“It’s best to interrupt this behavior immediately, but if the dog is not easily distracted or is showing other signs of stress such as obsessively chewing or barking, you should consult a trainer or ask your vet for advice”, adds Alex.

dog chewing a toy

How To Stop Dogs from Scratching the Floor?

Floor scratching can be stopped or minimized with a few helpful tricks that you can try at home:

Get Fun Chew Toys

Get chew toys for your dog to keep it distracted and its mouth and paws busy.

Feisty dog breeds like Terriers and Golden Retrievers need plenty of indoor or outdoor playtime. Toss a tennis ball or frisbee in your porch or backyard to keep your doggy on its toes.

Your dog will love KONG chew toys!

They aren’t just fun to play with but can be stuffed with treats. Your dog will be happily preoccupied with gnawing on these vet-approved toys.

Chew toys of this type also come in handy for those who need to keep their dogs mentally stimulated and distracted from floor scratching.

dog on a walk

Get Active

Take your dog on frequent walks to initiate an active lifestyle from when it’s a pup.

Dogs get easily bored and resort to floor scratching. Plus, going out for a run or walk with your dog will boost its energy levels.

The ones that tend to be lethargic have more time to sit around and indulge in scratching the floor.

Also Read: How to Teach a Dog to Walk on a Leash?

Get Your Dog a New Bed

Dogs end up scratching the floor when they’re nesting. A new bed can help them feel safe and comfortable in a nest-like crevice.

Many dogs prefer to rest in circular beds with elevated edges. The raised edges help them rest their heads comfortably, according to ASPCA.

Fill the bed with your dog’s favorite toys so that it’s encouraged to sleep there instead of on the floor. Give it a treat whenever it successfully gets into the bed and stays there.

When choosing a new bed, keep these tips in mind:

  • It should be soft and slightly firm or lined with faux fur for extra comfort
  • It should be large enough to accommodate your dog (undersized dog beds will force your dog to move to the floor)
  • Keep it odor-free, clean, and inviting by regularly cleaning the bed per the instructions on the label

dog in the vet clinic

When To See A Vet

If your dog exhibits distressing symptoms such as compulsive floor scratching accompanied by barking, whining, pain, or discomfort, it’s time to schedule a visit to the vet.

dog on a floor

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Dogs Scratch the Floor Before Lying Down Or Sleeping?

Scratching and pawing at the floor, followed by circling the area, is a natural instinct that dogs abide by when they nest. It’s their way of preparing the floor for a comfy nap.

Why Is My Dog Digging The Floor After Pooping?

Dogs (and even cats) dig a hole and bury their poop in an effort to hide it and mask the smell. This is meant to keep predators off their trail.

Train your dog to poop only outdoors so that floor scratching doesn’t become a habit.

dog peeing

Why Do Dogs Scratch The Floor After Peeing?

Like pooping, dogs will want to instinctively conceal their urine by digging a hole, but because they’re indoors they’ll end up scratching the floors.

Do Dogs Scratch the Floor In Pain?

Yes, dogs can scratch the floor when they’re in pain. It can originate from an injury or painful illness such as arthritis, dental disease, or stomach cramps.

dog on the floor

Why do dogs keep scratching the floor?

As you know now, floor scratching can range from perfectly normal to worrisome. But if it bothers you or gets detrimental to your pooch’s help, scratching can be stopped or minimized.

It’s best to seek help from your vet to find the best solution.

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Paul Andrews
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-andrews-172490189/

A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.