As humans, a routine is a critical part of our lives. In particular, a bedtime routine is quite typical for each of us. As it turns out, our dogs also have a routine that you might have noticed if you are a dog owner: they scratch at their beds with their front paws before lying down to sleep or even take a nap. While this might seem odd to us humans, there is a reason our four legged friends behave this way: it goes back to their wild instincts. Despite the fact that dogs evolved from wolves over the course of thousands of years, they still have many of those instincts that dictate their behavior.
In particular, scratching at their beds is something that was very common in dogs before they were domesticated. In the wild, scratching at a “bed” or the ground was how wolves or wild dogs made sure they were laying down to sleep in a warm, safe, and comfortable place. This scratching is how a dog might dig a hole or even create a nest of sorts to rest in when in the wild. Also, dogs and wolves both have scent glands on their paws that secrete pheromones when they scratch. This is a way to mark their territory in the wild—or inside your home. This is also similar to some dogs that kick up dirt after they go to the bathroom, which also helps release those scents from their paws.
While some scratching of a bed before laying down in it is quite normal, excessive digging or scratching could be a sign of something more serious happening with your dog. This could be a sign of anxiety, so consider a visit to your veterinarian if this becomes a major issue for you or your favorite four legged friend.