Why is my dog digging in the carpet?

It’s an uncommon, but odd and mildly amusing behaviour that our dogs engage in from time to time – digging in the carpet.  But what does it mean if anything?  Holidays4Dogs digs for clues!

I can’t say I’ve seen this behaviour in my own dogs but I did see it in a Springer spaniel I was looking after once.  Frantic scratching at the carpet as if he was desperate to dig his way through the floorboards.

As odd as it may look, there is probably a simple explanation as to why your dog might do this.  It’s certainly nothing to be worried about, unless of course your dog is scratching holes in an antique rug or wearing the nap away on an expensive shag pile carpet!

Dogs love to dig; it’s in their genes and if they can smell food on the carpet this may very well incite them to dig in an attempt to find a tasty morsel – even a single crumb! Sometimes, digging may be accompanied by rolling on the carpet – the same behaviour that is commonly seen in dogs when out and about in the great outdoors – and often when they have found something quite revolting!

Digging may also be a precursor to settling down on the carpet – again dogs instinctively do this in order to make their resting place more comfortable to lie on.

Some dogs, like my Springer spaniel friend, dig in the carpet as a means to try and ‘kill’ something else – in his case; a shadow.  Springer’s are renowned for shadow chasing and I quickly noticed that it was the movement of shadows and not the carpet that was encouraging him to ‘pounce’ and dig – rather like he would do in the natural environment with the possibility of prey to be had; like a rabbit in a hole.

Digging in the carpet can also be a displaced activity and frequently seen in nervous or anxious dogs.  If a dog cannot perform one activity, he may show his frustration by doing another.  Some dogs will scratch at the carpet as if in an exaggerated form of play bowing – particularly if the other dog they want to play with is not interested!  Some dogs will scratch and also bite at the carpet in excitement.

Occasionally, some dogs will scratch the carpet as a means of attention seeking, particularly if they receive attention for doing it – such as a reprimand or being given a toy or treat – he quickly learns that carrying out the behaviour gets the immediate attention of his owner.

If your dog is an avid carpet scratcher there are a couple of things you can do to discourage him.  You could try making a noise that will not startle him, but will distract him and interrupt the behaviour.  You can then call the dog to you and ask him to do something else such as sit or lie down, offering him a treat for doing so.  Puzzle and treat dispensing toys like the Kong (see our other Holidays4Dogs article on this) can be great for engaging a bored dog and will provide him with a more appropriate outlet for his energies.