As a dog behaviourist, I’ve often been asked why our canine companions exhibit certain behaviours that, while endearing, can sometimes be puzzling or even slightly destructive. One such behaviour is the act of digging or scratching at beds and couches. To understand this, it’s important to delve into the natural instincts and historical background of dogs, as well as consider the environmental and psychological factors that influence their actions.

Instinctual Behaviours

First and foremost, it’s essential to acknowledge that digging is an instinctual behaviour for dogs. This behaviour can be traced back to their ancestors, who dug into the earth to create a comfortable resting place. This was not only for comfort but also served as a method to regulate temperature, providing a cool spot in hot weather and a warm, sheltered area during colder months. Even though domestic dogs have evolved significantly from their wild ancestors, these instincts persist.

Moreover, wild canines often dig to hide food or find hidden prey. While our domesticated friends do not need to hunt or hide food for survival, the innate desire to dig can manifest in other ways, including on your furniture.

Seeking Comfort and Security

Dogs often dig or scratch at their sleeping areas to create a more comfortable and secure environment. Just as humans fluff their pillows or adjust their blankets before settling down, dogs use digging as a way to “prepare” their resting spot. This behaviour can be particularly noticeable in dogs that do not have access to beds or blankets that suit their nesting instincts.

Marking Territory

Dogs have scent glands in their paws, and by scratching or digging at surfaces, they can leave their scent behind, marking the area as their own. This behaviour serves as a way to claim territory and make them feel more secure in their environment.

Attention-seeking Behaviour

Some dogs learn that digging or scratching at furniture draws attention from their owners, whether positive or negative. If a dog notices that this behaviour results in interaction, they may repeat it to elicit a response from their human companions.

Boredom or Anxiety

Digging can also be a manifestation of boredom or anxiety. Dogs that do not receive enough physical or mental stimulation may resort to destructive behaviours, including digging at beds and couches, as a way to entertain themselves or relieve stress.

How to Manage This Behaviour

Understanding why dogs dig is the first step in addressing the behaviour. Providing an appropriate outlet for this instinct, such as a designated digging box in the garden, can be beneficial. Ensuring your dog has plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation can also reduce the likelihood of them turning to your furniture for entertainment.

For dogs that dig for comfort, providing a comfortable bed with blankets that they can “nest” in may satisfy their nesting instincts. For those marking territory or seeking attention, consistent training and reinforcement of desired behaviours can help redirect their actions.

In conclusion, while digging on beds and couches may sometimes be frustrating for dog owners, it’s a behaviour that stems from natural instincts and emotional needs. By understanding the root causes and providing appropriate outlets and solutions, it’s possible to satisfy your dog’s innate needs while preserving the sanctity of your furniture. Remember, patience and consistency are key in modifying any behaviour.