Why Do Dogs Scratch The Floor? Behavior Explained

We love our dogs and they are precious, but you got to admit they are sometimes…weird, at least by human standards.

It is common to find your pooch engaging in strange behaviors, some that look funny and others that make you stare in bewilderment.

One such behavior is scratching the floor.

You might have walked in on Jackie a couple of times focused on sliding his paws all over your tiled floor before lying down, similar to the act of digging holes in the yard.

This behavior may leave you with many questions:

Why is my dog scratching the floor all of a sudden? Why do dogs scratch the floor before they lay down?

It is cringe-worthy but could be more normal than you think.

There are many reasons brought forth by experts for this behavior, and if you’ve ever been confused or curious about it, then join us as we analyze why dogs scratch the floor.

Is it healthy or a cause for concern?

Read on to find out! 

Understanding This Dog Behavior

With dogs, we should always keep in mind that most of them did not originate in the 21st century.

They’ve lived in older periods with no tiled floors, duvet, refrigerators, or urban apartment complexes.

The acts we find odd today were survival skills in the past. To meet their basic needs, some dogs had to use these skills to feed and get shelter.

The behaviors passed down through generations and got to your beloved pooch who started manifesting it. 

On a topic similar to this (digging), the American Kennel Club listed genetics as one reason behind the habit. [1]

Digging, howling, barking, and scratching can all be biological.

With this in mind, some factors may cause the modern dog to resort to primitive instincts.

For starters, Jackie could be looking for comfort. Perhaps the tiled floor is cold and he’s looking for a warmer spot to lay down in or vice versa.

Dogs that needed to take care of themselves in the wild (or beside their owners in history) would scratch surfaces to find the right place to rest.

Sleeping is a basic need, after all.

Another factor is that of territory. Just like some people with sweaty palms, some dogs sweat through their paws.

This sweat releases a particular scent that becomes more obvious as the dog scratched the floor.

Many owners have concluded that it is a way of marking territory. This can be traced back to survival instinct, as well. 

Of course, it may not be that deep. Your pooch might just be entertaining itself because of boredom or pent-up energy.

If dogs have nothing keeping them busy, they would find ways to have fun. This includes scratching the floor. 

Rule Out Medical Conditions

The above explanation all points towards this behavior being a form of survival.

However, you must be sure it isn’t linked to any medical condition before you take it for granted.

Primitive instinct can also rear its head as a sign of something more troubling.

If your dog is in pain, it may want to express that by many means like whining and scratching floors, a demonstration of it trying to ‘escape’ from the pain. 

Furthermore, some medical conditions are known to cause bad behaviors in dogs.

Experts have cited that brain inflammation, hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism can induce aggression, which can start with behaviors as subtle as scratching floors to mark territories. [2]

There are some emotional factors too. Like humans, dogs react outwardly when something is emotionally disturbing.

Fear and anxiety can make a dog scratch the floors. Companion pooches that are prone to separation anxiety engage in many behaviors when alone. [3]

Scratching the floor is one such behavior.

A bad storm or too many visitors can trigger anxiety in canines.

If you notice that your dog is anxious or fearful, talk to the veterinarian about ways to help.

Why Do Dogs Scratch The Floor?

With all that precedes, here are the common reasons dogs scratch the floor and how to determine each one:

1. Comfort

Dog Lying on the floor

If your dog constantly scratches the floor before lying down, it is a clear sign that it is looking for a comfortable spot.

This would often happen during extreme weather, as your dog would want a cool surface during the heat and a warm one for the cold. 

2. Anxiety or Fear

Does your pet scratch the floor anytime you’re about to step out of the house?

It could be a sign of separation anxiety.

While companion dogs are more susceptible to this, they are not the only ones.

Worker sled dogs like the Siberian Husky can suffer from separation anxiety.

There are ways you can handle this, some of which we’ll explore later. 

3. Territory

Some dog types like Terriers tend to display territorial behavior more than others.

This is often accompanied by signs of aggression like growling, snapping, barking, and chasing in extreme cases.

You can predict that your dog is being territorial if the scratching occurs amidst other fiercer behaviors. [4]

4. Boredom/Fun

Have you exercised your pet today? If not, then the scratching could be a sign of boredom or stress relief.

Your dog might also chew objects, scratch walls, or dig holes in the yard for fun. 

5. Medical issues

Not every illness makes a dog scratch the floor, but some that cause pain could push the ailing pooch to act this way.

If your dog is scratching because of pain it may also whine and moan.

This would indicate that it is not comfortable.

Illnesses have their symptoms, so you can tell that your dog isn’t healthy when it displays these symptoms while scratching.

Also Read:
Why Do Dogs Roll In Dead Animals? Science Explains

How Can I Get My Dog to Stop Scratching The Floor

Beagle Dog Laying on Floor with Front Paw Stretched

Should you encourage the behavior, ignore it, or try to stop it? It depends on the situation.

Many pet parents aren’t comfortable with it because of the possible marks the nails can leave on the floor and the cringing sound it sometimes makes.

You also shouldn’t ignore it if it is tied to an underlying condition.

Therefore, here are some ways you can get your dog to stop scratching the floor:

1. Exercise your pup regularly

If boredom or pent-up energy is the most likely reason, it means you might have not been exercising your pet properly.

Even low-energy toy breeds need some physical and mental activities.

Ensure you meet up its daily exercise quota.

2. Provide a comfortable place for it to sleep

Rather than let your dog lie on the floor, you can get it a bed it will feel comfortable in.

Dogs usually enjoy a round bed that looks like a nest. Your dog would need some support to get used to sleeping on the bed.

Use positive reinforcement to encourage it, such as giving it treats when it gets on the bed. 

3. Divert its attention

You can also curb the habit by distracting it once it starts scratching. Using its favorite toy to get its attention is a good plan.

You can also keep it busy with some games to prevent it from resorting to scratching. 

4. Seek a veterinarian’s counsel

In the case of illnesses, injuries, and other forms of pain, get your dog to the veterinarian to figure out what is wrong.

You can also get the vet’s counsel on how to ease fear and anxiety. 

5. Do not encourage it, but do not be harsh either

While you shouldn’t overlook the behavior or give it an ‘A+’ for scratching, don’t be harsh on it either.

The dog might be confused over your reaction as it is acting from instinct and doesn’t see it as wrong.

Also Read:
Why Do Dogs Like Sticks? Dog Behavior Explained

Why do dogs scratch the floor before lying down?

Scratching on the floor is an instinct, and when it does so before lying down, it might be that it’s looking for a comfortable spot. 

Why do dogs scratch their butts on the floor?

If your dog is scratching or dragging its butt on the floor, it most likely is a sign of itching or irritation.

Inflammation and infection are some common causes. Take it to the vet if it gets too much. 

Why do dogs scratch the floor at night?

The main reason dogs scratch the floor at night is to find a good and comfortable nesting spot, as they used to do in the wild. 

Why Do Dogs Sleep With Their Bum Facing You?

Final Thoughts

There are several reasons why your dog may be scratching the floor, tiles, or even their bed.

Like many other strange behaviors, scratching the floor is an odd habit that is part of being a dog. [5]

Just as humans yawn, click fingers, scoff, or even pick a nose, dogs have their quirks as well.

As long as these habits aren’t tied to medical issues or emotional troubles, take them as part of the pet parent experience and work to curb them from getting extreme.

You May Also Like:
Why Do Dogs Like Sticks? Dog Behavior Explained

[1] AKC: Why Do Dogs Dig?
[2] Pettable: What are Some Common Medical Causes of Aggression in Dogs?
[3] Animal Surgical: Signs of anxiety in dogs (and what to do about it!)
[4] Journal of Mammalogy: Ground Scratching by Male Domestic Dogs: A Composite Signal
[5] Pet Health Zone: Why Dogs Do Strange Things

Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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