Dogs can be destructive and take part in bizarre behaviour that frustrates and baffles us dog-parents.
Recently, we’ve seen a spate of questions surrounding dogs who scratch at the carpet in the middle of the night. Not during the morning, day or afternoon but in the middle of the night when everyone’s gone to bed.
We have got a first-hand experience of this issue. Out late German Shepherd did the same on and off for some time.
In most cases, it seems innocent and doesn’t last very long. If it does (or did) for you, there must be an underlying issue that we’ll try and find today. And we both know the resolution is the easy part once the issue is found.
The most common reason dogs scratch the carpet at night is their inherited digging instinct. As canines, they instinctively find a comfortable and relatively safe place to sleep when left alone at night. You can easily resolve this habitual issue with trust, care, and training.
Why would a dog scratch at the carpet at night?
There’s no one reason why a dog would scratch at the carpet at this particular time of the day, but there are a few potential causes that you can work through to try and help your dog move on from it.
1. Hereditary Digging Instinct
Certain breeds are compelled to dig as it’s in their DNA. These breeds are typical ‘hunting’ or ‘working’ dogs to chase small prey out of holes.
If not properly exercised and stimulated, these breeds will release their frustration when left alone in the middle of the night on any surface they can find – including carpets.
If you have a working or hunting breed, it’s important to train them that digging and scratching indoors (or even elsewhere) is not desirable and divert their frustration elsewhere, such as a toy.
Dogs who have not been stimulated enough physically and mentally during the day are more likely to be naughty and try and take their frustration out on other things, such as the carpet.
Not all bored and frustrated dogs will react this way, but it is a potential cause worth looking into. The most important thing to do is ensure they get enough exercise during the day and that they have some kind of toy, preferably a chew toy, to keep them occupied at night should they need it.
Generally, dogs don’t do much in the middle of the night other than reposition themselves and perhaps go for a drink.
3. They’re uncomfortable.
If your dog faces physical discomfort at night, such as the room temperature is too hot or too cold, they’ll try to dig underneath the surface to find a comfortable spot.
4. Separation anxiety
Digging and scratching at the carpet in the middle of the night can be a key sign that they’re struggling with separation anxiety but should only really be seen with new dogs in the home or puppies.
An established dog is unlikely to develop separation anxiety without a sudden life change suddenly. There’s no cure to separation anxiety, but it does need to be addressed slowly and positively.
It’s too much of a complicated subject for this article, so we recommend researching further. If separation anxiety is not addressed, it can lead to much more than just scratching at the carpet in the middle of the night.
5. Their nails are due for a clipping.
Long nails can be irritating for a dog, and they will try and deal with it themselves if they’re not given a session with dog nail clippers. This could be a reason for dogs scratching at carpets and doors throughout the day, not just in the middle of the night. If they’ve got long nails, it can make walking uncomfortable and affect their posture and should be addressed quickly.
We have a guide on sedating a dog for clipping to make it easier.
5. They can smell food.
If someone has spilt food on the carpet and it’s left a scent, your dog could be convinced the dog that the source is under the carpet. And if they keep digging, they will find it.
This is also the case with bits of food getting underneath furniture or even their bed.
6. Your dog is ill.
It does fall in the discomfort category, but it’s more serious than that. If your dog is physically or mentally ill, it might be scratching or digging out of discomfort and irritation.
It’s best to get them checked by a good vet for illness if none of the reasons I gave above resonates with your doggo’s situation at home.
How to stop your dog from scratching the carpet at night?
Generally, this sort of behaviour stops after some time as your doggo gets comfortable at home. If it doesn’t, you can help your dog move out of this “phase” by training them.
Whenever your dog scratches the carpet, you clap loudly to grab their attention. After that, you can give an alternate command and a reward for listening and executing the command.
To sum up, here are the steps you must follow to resolve this issue:
- Find the reason for this behaviour.
- Figure out what you can do to resolve the underlying issue. Take steps to ease their anxiety or boredom. Get them checked if needed.
- Make preparations to distract them from scratching whilst training them to understand it’s a bad habit.
- Lay down some protective rugs or mats until your dog has learnt.