Chihuahua laying on carpet

Why Dogs Scratch Carpet: 7 Reasons

Introduction: Dogs Don’t Understand Carpet

Before you can even attempt to gain a true understanding of this common behavior, you must first understand this: Dogs don’t understand the concept of carpeting in the same way that you do. Thus, the dog will be motivated to (literally) treat the carpet like dirt.

For this reason, dogs will often roll around on the carpet, drag their butts on it, dig into it with their claws, and gnaw it with their teeth. This is just an extension of their natural digging behavior. Still, comprehension is necessary if we are to tackle this problem.

Your Dog May Just Be Looking for a Treat

You may not realize it, but you drop food crumbs every time you eat. Unless you are an extremely tidy eater who keeps your food over the plate at all times, you are dropping crumbs on a daily basis. Of course, many of them are too small to see.

When a tiny little crumb falls from your hand or mouth and becomes lodged in the fibers of the carpet, it may be a while before the vacuum cleaner comes along and removes the litter. In the meantime, your dog is likely to sniff it out.

Although these little crumbs are often too small to see, they are not too small for a dog to smell them. Thus, a dog who smells something tasty in the carpet might dig like crazy in order to get the treat.

The best way to deal with this issue is by exercising tidier eating habits and by vacuum-cleaning your house a little more often. For extreme cases, try vacuuming after every meal. The dog won’t dig if there is no motivation for them to do so.

Your Dog Might Just Want to Dig

A dog laying on a carpet

It is perfectly natural for a dog to dig. If you’ve ever watched a dog digging holes in the dirt, you probably know that they enjoy this activity quite a bit. As far as your dog is concerned, that nice new carpet is just another patch of grass.

So, don’t be terribly surprised if you see little fluffy trying to bury a bone or a chew toy in your carpeting. Dogs like to hide their valuables just like many other creatures. Some dogs like to collect prized items in a “stash.”

Your Dog May Be Preparing for a Nap

Like cats, dogs like to walk around in a circle right before they lie down. They also tend to claw and dig at their bed before settling in for a nap. This behavior is less pronounced in dogs but is still quite common.

There are many potential reasons that your dog might do this. It could be that this action is meant to check out a potential bedding spot before settling into it. Pawing at the ground is a good way to tell if the ground is dry.

This can also tell the dog if there are hazards in the bedding area. You may notice that dogs dig gently when they dig before bed. This is because they aren’t really trying to dig. They’re just testing the ground.

Imagine living in the woods for a moment. You might imagine yourself climbing trees, picking berries, or hunting, but what about a place to sleep? If you don’t have time to build a shelter, your best bet would be to find a soft, dry patch of ground.

Something Might Be Making Your Dog Too Excited

I have only had to deal with this particular problem on one occasion. I moved into a house in the country that had a slight problem with mice. Actually, it was just one mouse, but he was very active. I didn’t like this mouse, but the dogs really hated him.

Whenever they heard this little mouse scratching or chewing behind the walls, my dogs would flip out. They wanted to get the mouse so badly that they began digging into the carpet and even the walls themselves. Naturally, this was not acceptable at all.

In this case, the solution was obvious: Discipline the dogs and kill the mouse. One snap of a trap later, the problem was solved. My dogs haven’t acted up in this way ever since.

This brings me to the point of this section: A dog who is digging at the carpet and tearing it up may simply be excited by something. Rodents like mice and rats are common culprits because most dogs aren’t particularly good at catching them.

If the culprit turns out to be a non-vermin animal, killing may not be the way to go. Native animals need to be preserved, so consider the use of an animal deterrent device, of which there are many. They have scent-based deterrents, water-squirters, and more.

The scent of another dog can also excite a dog. In fact, virtually any new and fascinating smell might trigger your dog to dig for the source. Studies have shown that dogs are very good at sniffing out patches of carpet for the smell of other dogs.

Your Dog May Be Bored

White English bulldog lying on carpet

A dog who has nothing to do is more likely to get into trouble. If you’ve ever dealt with small children, you know that this principle applies to them as well. The best way to remedy the issue is by giving your dog something to do.

At this point, many dog owners are probably thinking about buying some nice dog toys to keep their pet occupied when they are home alone. Although this isn’t really a bad idea, it also isn’t quite enough. toys will only provide light amusement, at best.

If you really want an awesome dog toy, try making a rope ball and dipping it in beef broth. You can use a type of knot, commonly called the “monkey’s fist,” to create a compact ball of rope. Make sure you use rope made of natural, non-toxic fibers.

The next step is to dip the rope ball in a pot of hot beef broth. Put the pot on the stove and heat it on a very low setting. You don’t want a lot of heat, as this will break down the fibers of the rope and reduce its life. Let it soak overnight.

The nature of the “monkey’s fist” knot is that it leaves a long tail-piece hanging from one end. If this piece is long enough, you can make it into a second, smaller rope ball. This means that two dogs can play tug-of-war.

And that brings me to the importance of canine company. As I said, toys are only a source of light amusement for most dogs. To really feel happy and have fun, dogs usually require company. So, consider the possibility of getting another dog.

Nothing will entertain your dog as well as another dog. That being said, you need to be careful about leaving them alone together. If your first dog has bad habits, the new dog may pick them up, and then you have doubled your problem.

A little bit of separation, combined with some discipline, can prevent the above-described situation from happening. From day one, the new dog must learn only what you want him to learn. This may help the old dog to learn a few things as well.

Your Dog May Be Seeking Escape

A cute dog on a carpet

This isn’t usually the case, but it may be that your dog is simply trying to get out of the house. Most of the time, dogs want to stay wherever their master may be. This is why dogs are less likely to run away than cats.

However, there are many instances in which a dog might want to get out of the house. For one thing, a strong predatory drive might trigger this behavior if an animal is seen through the window. We covered this kind of scenario earlier.

It might be that your dog is looking to mate. Females in heat will sometimes go to great lengths to get out and have their fun. When a male dog smells a female in heat, he goes even crazier. Never underestimate the determination of a horny male dog.

Your dog could also be rebelling against the presence of a new animal. Roommates will sometimes have this problem. For example, let’s say roommate A has a Bull Mastiff, and roommate B has a Chihuahua. Can you see how this might be a problem?

Faced with such a large and intimidating enemy, the Chihuahua may be compelled to seek escape by any means necessary. If this means going through the floor, they will try their best to get through that floor!

In the example given above, it is important to remember that the owners are the source of this problem. You can’t just throw two dogs together and expect them to get along. You may want to check out our article about helping dogs to get along with one another.

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How to Stop This Behavior

An adorable dog on a white carpet

For many people, the key question to this whole issue is: How do I stop my dog from ruining my carpet? Well, don’t panic. There are many solutions, and some of them are pretty easy.

If your dog digs into the carpet while you are watching, correct them immediately. Harsh physical discipline is not the way to go, but a slight tap on the head or on the butt can do a lot to get your message across. Anything more is a bad idea.

Remember: If one slap didn’t stop your dog from digging in the carpet, two slaps probably won’t do it either. This is where we can see that physical discipline has real and definite limits. They key is to communicate, not to terrorize.

Striking fear into a dog will teach them nothing except fear. So, when you correct this behavior, make sure that you are just harsh enough to get your message across. Anything more is both unnecessary and morally questionable.

If your dog only does this behavior when you are not around, you have a more complex problem. When you come home and find your carpet in a wreck, your initial reaction is crucial. Do not just “blow it off” and deal with the problem later.

Instead, grab the dog and show them the torn-up patch of carpet. Make sure they know that they have displeased their master. If the dogs’ tail is wagging, they probably think that you are playing. When you are convinced that the message is understood, give them some affection.

If you come home and your dogs have not torn up the carpet, you should give them all a treat. This could be anything they like, as the type of dog-treat doesn’t matter. What matters is that your dogs understand; good behavior has good results.

If you have a really extreme problem, you might consider investing in a pet cam. These are devices that are set up in your home to record your pets while you are away. These products aren’t exactly cheap, but they might be your only option for troublesome cases.

Pet cams will allow you to quite a few things. Most of them will allow you to interact with your dogs via a smartphone. This can be great for dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. When you are away from home, you can still say hello to your little friends!


As you can see, this is a perfectly natural canine behavior that serves many purposes. Unfortunately, most of those purposes involve mischief that you probably don’t want your dog to find. We don’t have the option of ignoring this behavior.

Not only is the dog tearing up your home, but they are also exposing themselves to a serious choking hazard. Carpet fibers can even cause an intestinal blockage if your dog eats enough of them.

As a final note, we would like to remind you that destructive behavior is best dealt with when the dog is very young. The longer you allow them to do this, the more they will come to enjoy it. Think of this problem as a virus that cannot be allowed to grow.

"If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two."
-- Phil Pastoret

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