Why Do Dogs Scratch the Floor Before Lying Down?

Wild dogs did not enjoy the creature comforts afforded to modern day, domesticated dogs.
i westie in bed image by Alan James from Fotolia.com

Dogs display many behaviors that their humans don’t always understand. Scratching the floor before lying down is a common canine ritual that can be traced back to the time before dogs were domesticated for human companionship.

Natural Instincts

Wild dogs used digging behaviors like scratching the floor to create a “nest” or “den” in which to rest comfortably and securely. While domesticated dogs now have comfortable and safe places to sleep in their modern homes, the urge to scratch at the floor before lying down is literally coded into canine DNA, making it nearly impossible to resist.

Territorial Claims

Special glands found in the bottom of a dog’s paws release a special scent that is enhanced by scratching. By digging into the surface of the area where they plan to rest, dogs use the odor from their paws to claim the territory as theirs.


Some dogs scratch the floor before lying down to enhance the comfort of their sleeping area. In warm areas, dogs may scratch the floor to cool down. In cool areas, dogs may scratch the floor to create a cozy, warm den to curl up in. Scratching the floor before lying down also helps dogs find the most comfortable position in which to rest.


While it might not sound like much fun to people, some dogs are happily entertained by engaging in scratching or digging behaviors. Scratching the ground helps some dogs to relieve boredom and release energy.


Scratching on the floor comes more naturally to some breeds than to others. Terriers, for instance, have a reputation for being frequent diggers.

While scratching on the floor can be an amusing and endearing trait in most dogs, some dogs take their scratching behavior too far and create problems for their owners. Dogs that tear up carpets or dig up unwanted holes in the yard may need to be trained to curb or eliminate the digging behavior.

the nest