Why Do Dogs Scratch The Carpet

dog scratches carpet

As owners, we observe our dogs doing some rather strange things sometimes, which can often be confusing to people. One such behavior is scratching the carpet in your house, so why do dogs scratch the carpet and how can you prevent them from ruining your well-kept home.

The reason why your dog is scratching the carpet is to create a hole or burrow most likely for sleeping. You will often find dogs digging and scratching your carpet in the nighttime. If the behavior is more apparent during the day then your dog may be bored or stressed causing them to be more destructive. 

A dog’s instinct to scratch the ground can be a difficult behavior to analyze, this is why it is important to assess every possible reason and not just the most obvious. In this article, we take a deeper look into this unusual behavior and give some great advice on how to manage your dog’s destructive tendencies.


Why Do Dogs Scratch The Carpet

Ok so let’s start with some of the main reasons your dog is digging and scratching at your carpet.

Sleeping Positions

In the wild dogs will travel around in packs, living off the land, whether it is sleeping, eating, hunting, or playing the wild is still the ancestral homeland for your domesticated dog. Even though your dog can no longer survive effectively in the wild they still possess some of those canine instincts that people talk about some often. Managing territory and the pack mentality are two of the biggest genetic hand-me-downs dogs have but there are other behaviors that come through instinct.

Many owners will notice their dog commonly circles an area before lying down to sleep. Scratching the ground uses the same instinct, this is your dog trying to burrow a secure and comfortable hole in the ground. Furthermore, a dog will opt to dig or scratch a carpet as it is soft and has the illusion that it will easily create a burrow for your dog to sleep in.

Boredom Or Frustration

Most destructive behavior in dogs can be attributed to boredom or frustration, this is especially true in younger dogs such as puppies. Scratching the carpet in your house will be almost irresistible to a frustrated dog, this is because it is soft and easily destroyed. Dogs will tend to focus on an area of destruction when they see cracks forming, so if your dog finds he is able to scratch some carpet away he will most likely continue on that area until there is nothing left.

Frustration in dogs is caused by limited mental and physical stimulation, so you will tend to find your dog misbehaves more often when they haven’t been for a walk. Lack of physical exercise is not the only way your dog can become frustrated, mentally stimulating your pooches mind is just as important as a 3-mile run.

Your dog may still be frustrated if they are walked on a leash, this is because they cannot interact with the environment as much as when they are off lead. If you do walk your dog on a leash try to allow them to sniff and smell anything they want, this will get their minds working.

Interesting Smells

Dogs have a sensational ability to smell anything, even if it is not visible to humans. Your dog could start digging and scratching the carpet because it can smell something in a particular spot. If you have dropped food or spilled any tasty liquids you may find your dog gravitates to a particular area.

The area of a dog’s brain that processes smell is many times larger than that of a human, so although dogs are not advancing technology or building rockets for space travel, they can detect and memorize thousands upon thousands of different smells. Check out our article on “How Far Can A Dog Smell”, this includes more detailed information on the amazing scent abilities of our pooch. Knowing this owners should keep in mind that cleaning an area of spilled food or drink may not entirely rid the area of the smell.

Although your dog has the ability to smell things that are no longer visible, they may not be smart enough to realize that the fibers of the carpet are what contain this smell. This can only mean that your dog thinks digging into the carpet will unearth the goodies underneath. Of course, you know this is not to be true so if you leave the area open to scratching you may find you have no carpet left in that area once your dog gets to it.

Dog Sniffing

Digging With Zoomies

An excitable dog can often be a hard one to handle, this is because excitement can sometimes lead to destructive behavior. Of course, this destructive behavior is different from destructive behavior caused by frustration.

The zoomies can occur on many different occasions, this includes after a walk, bath, or around other dogs, essentially it is caused by excitement. The bursts of energy will be what cause your dog to dig at the carpet, it is an outlet for that energy they are needing to release.

Try to calm your dog down after any exciting event that could get them riled up, as previously identified, these activities are commonly a walk, bath time, or when meeting other dogs. If you cannot calm them down think about keeping them away from any soft flooring such as carpet, the kitchen could be a good idea. If you want to learn more about the zoomies particularly when they happen after a walk, then check out our article on the zoomies here.

Learned Behavior

Encouraging cute and funny behavior can be the cause of unwanted behavior. As an example, if you allow your dog to dig whilst out for a walk and in turn laugh with encouragement, they may end up thinking it’s ok wherever they are.

Encouraging this behavior is fine just so long as your dog is able to recognize when to scratch and when not to scratch. Your dog should soon learn to not scratch the carpet if you tell sharply whenever they begin to scratch an area you don’t want them to.

If you have problems with your dog digging, whether it’s scratching the carpet or your perfectly manicured lawn, there are some things you can do to allow your dog to dig and scratch without consequence. Check out our article on how to stop your dog digging, which should provide some insight into stopping this frustrating habit.

Why Do Dogs Scratch The Carpet With Their Back Legs

Dogs will scrape their feet against the ground in order to spread their scent, this is due to the scent glands located in a dog’s paws. If your dog is scratching the carpet with their back paws like a bull then this would indicate they are attempting to spread their scent onto the designated area. 

If you are out walking your dog you will notice this action taking place after your dog goes to the toilet. Urinating against an area will effectively spread a dog’s sense, but many owners don’t realize that when their dog is pooing they are also attempting to spread their scent. This is why dogs circle and roam for ages before settling on a place to unload, in addition to this you are more likely to see your dog scratch the ground with their back legs after they have unloaded. Check out this article from PetMD on why dogs kick their back legs after pooping.

This type of scratch only happens for a short period of time and there is no destructive aim involved. Despite this, I would recommend being cautious if your dog is doing this action on your indoor carpet. As this action is territorial your dog may up the ante and begin urinating on items or even worse. In addition to this, you should be even more careful if your dog proceeds to do this in someone else’s house, especially if they have a dog of their own.

How Do You Stop A Dog From Scratching The Carpet

There are a few ways in which you can deter a dog from scratching your carpet, some are quick fixes and others are more long-term.

Deterring A Dog With Smell

This method can be extremely underrated and finding a smell that dogs hate can certainly be difficult. Lemon is most likely the best dog deterrent as they absolutely hate it, the acidic nature of lemon combined with your pooch’s incredibly sensitive nose will keep them away. If there is a particular area of carpet that your dog is digging then place a bowl or plate with some lemon juice or slices in will hopefully keep them away from the area. In addition to this, I would not recommend spraying lemon juice onto your carpet as it could affect the color of it, of course, if you really wanted to do it this way try it out on a small inconspicuous area first.

Although lemon juice is one of the best smells for deterring dogs there are some others you may wish to try out yourself, these include.

  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Vinegar
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Chilli
  • Cumin

As highlighted above be cautious when using these on your carpet as it could affect the color, I suggest placing it on a plate or within a mesh container. Although most dogs will not want to touch any of these there may be some dogs that are just different, Because of this I would suggest watching your dog interact with the smell first before leaving it alone with them, dogs are strange creatures and you would want your pooch eating any of these.

smells dogs hate

Sharp Sounds

This is a common training technique, used to startle a dog and get their attention. The method is usually performed as a clap or in some cases, a click will suffice.

In most cases, your dog will know after the second or third attempt they are being naughty and so this is purely testing the boundaries. This is why it is so important to be consistent, as soon as you start telling them not to scratch you need to continue doing it every time. If you encourage this behavior even once during the training process you may end up starting from the beginning.

Below is a set of short steps to prevent your dog from scratching the carpet.

  1. Watch your dog for any carpet scratching, wait until they scratch before performing the next step.
  2. As soon as they start scratching clap loudly and say in a stern voice no, look for your dog’s reaction. If they stop and walk away praise them with affection.
  3. It is likely your dog will attempt to scratch the carpet again and so be prepared to carry out steps 1 and 2 again.
  4. Once you have established a consistent reinforcement, you can begin to limit your command to vocal only. This vocal command such as “No” should be said as soon as you see your dog think about scratching the carpet, of course, be sure that is his intention otherwise he may become confused.

These steps are fairly simple and as I say with all dog training consistency is key, dogs have a one-track mind so reiterating to them what you want is the best way forward. As you may have noticed I have bolded the term positive reinforcement as it is so important to establish to your dog what is wrong and what is right. If you want to use treats that are perfectly OK, treats will give your dog the cue that they are doing something correctly.

Cleaning Your Carpets

OK, so I don’t mean this is the generic sense, cleaning your carpets normally compared to thoroughly could make the difference.

As discussed previously, dogs have a great sense of smell, and any scent from food or otherwise will be easily detected within a carpet. If there is a particular area that your dog concentrates on, it would suggest there are smells engrained within the fibers of the carpet.

The only way to properly clean an area like this is with an approved carpet cleaning detergent. You should be able to apply the detergent manually and scrub the area, of course using a carpet cleaning hoover would be easier. If you do have a carpet cleaning then giving the entire carpet a clean could be a better idea. This is because cleaning one area cleaning would change the color of the carpet in comparison to the rest of the carpet.

If you want to learn more about keeping your home clean with dogs then check out our article on how to keep your house clean with muddy dogs. This article is great for getting on top of those issues that come with winter and mud.

Muddy Paw Prints

Changing Your Rug

This is a tip that I have heard from many other dog owners and something I do each year. Whether you have short-haired dogs or long-haired dogs, muddy outdoors dogs, or posh indoor dogs rug changes are almost always needed.

First and foremost training your dog not to scratch the carpet is the most important thing you can do although sometimes your dog may get away with scratching and digging your rug. In addition to destroying the rug, you may find your dog creates dirt which in turn changes the color.

It is best to have a rug that doesn’t cost too much, although you are probably already in this mindset if you have had a dog for a while already. Rugs can easily be added to your yearly expenditure and this way you are always going to have something fresh a new each year.


Having a dog is an absolute joy and their individual personalities give every owner great pleasure. however if your dog starts to become destructive and scratches the carpet on more than one occasion, you will have to think about stopping this behavior soon. Try out some of the tips in this article and see if it helps, remember each dog is different so trial and error or minor adjustments may help teach them to stop. If you found this article helpful remember to check out more of our content from the homepage, all about dogs and the wonderful lives we live with them.

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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