Is your pet perpetually digging in the carpet? Have you ever wondered what’s behind this quirky behavior? If so, consider the following reasons.
Smoothing the way for a snooze. In the wild, dogs not only dig at the earth to loosen the soil and create a more comfortable niche for napping but to protect themselves from the potential threat of other animals nearby. Although today’s dogs are blessed with comfortable cushions and pillows, couches and beds, their instinct to dig is still strong, resulting in the sight of them vigorously pawing at the floor, then turning in circles before finally lying down.
“Foraging” for food. Even the most conscientious dog owner is bound, now and then, to walk around while eating, dropping tempting crumbs here and there. And since dogs have an extremely powerful sense of smell, they’re capable of sniffing out whatever’s been lost in the fibers of your carpet, and inevitably try to find it, no matter how futile those attempts may be. To prevent this from happening, vacuum your carpets regularly to rid them of all food remnants and errant crumbs.
Reacting to stress or separation anxiety. Dogs often resort to digging in the carpet as a way of calming themselves. If your dog frequently digs in the carpet near the front door, for example, he may be expressing his anxiety at your daily departure for work. To protect your carpet from being chewed or even ripped up, consider, if feasible, having it trimmed back and the edges bound, or, at the very least, laying a plastic runner or a strip of another durable material on top of it.
Hiding their “treasures.” When dogs find a ball or a toy they truly love, they’ll do whatever they can to protect it. If given their druthers, they would bury it in the yard for safekeeping. Inside, however, their sole option is to bury it elsewhere – hence their futile digging in the carpet in an attempt to create a safe hiding spot for it.
Coping with boredom. Without sufficient mental and physical stimulation, a dog’s behavior can, all too quickly, turn destructive. Given his need to be and stay entertained, when you’re gone for the day, your dog may resort to amusing himself by obsessively digging in the carpet.
Handling increased heat. As the temperatures rise, outdoor dogs will usually dig a hole under a tree – the deeper the better – to cool down their bodies in the refreshing coolness of the soil. Your dog will instinctively repeat this behavior indoors by trying to dig a hole in the carpet. If he’s already begun digging in an attempt to “cool off,” turn on or increase your air conditioning (or fans) as quickly as possible to keep him from overheating.
To keep your dog from destructively digging into the carpet, you must discover the reason behind it. If he’s digging because he’s bored, restless or anxious, provide him with various toys (always include one that slowly dispenses treats) specifically designed to keep him mentally stimulated and physically satisfied for hours on end. If, on the other hand, he’s digging near the door when you’re home, it could be his way of signaling to you that he needs to be taken outside to potty.
In other instances, the most effective way to curb this unwanted behavior is through training. Whenever you hear the familiar sound of your dog’s paws digging in the carpet, make a noise to attract his attention. Then, call him over and ask him to sit. Once he’s in the “sit” position, reward him with a high value treat. Repeat this exercise again and again, patiently, and persistently, for however long it takes, until he finally makes the connection and learns that digging in the carpet is NOT acceptable.
Article by Nomi Berger. Nomi is the bestselling author of seven novels, one work of nonfiction, two volumes of poetry, and hundreds of articles. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and has been writing as a volunteer for animal rescue groups in Canada and the U.S.A. since 2013.