As odd as it might seem scratching and digging is a natural behaviour for dogs, but when you find your expensive carpets, rugs and floors being scratched and dug at it can get annoying pretty quickly and it can make quite a racket too! If you’re wondering why do dogs scratch the floor, then Zigzag has all the answers.

In this guide we’ll be giving you the reasons why dogs scratch at floors, figure out if you should stop them scratching your floors, our top tips on preventing floor scratching in dogs, and give you some advice on whether you should be worried about your dog’s floor scratching habit.

Zigzag is a training app with a difference. Not only do we have a personalised training programme that’s based on your pup’s age and developmental milestones, but we also make time for all those breed quirks that make terriers want to dig, and retrievers want to carry around anything they can. Not just that, we have a team of professional dog trainers to help you along the way, so you’re never alone and help is always just a click away.

sleeping puppy in blanket
Photo by Isabela Kronemberger on Unsplash

Why do dogs scratch the floor?

Dogs scratch on the floor for a variety of reasons, including boredom or frustration, anxiety, attention-seeking behaviour, wiping their feet, giving themselves a paw-dicure, separation-related problems, breed-specific behaviour, or claiming something as theirs through scent.

Let’s dig in (pun intended) as to why dogs scratch the floor:

1. Boredom

Pet dogs can often live pretty boring lives, far removed from what they were bred for, and what their normal physical exercise and mental needs might have been. If they’ve got nothing to do then there’s a tendency to go self-employed, so your dog might scratch at your floors for this reason.

2. Anxiety and Frustration

Digging and scratching are both behaviours that can be related to anxiety and frustration because it makes your dog feel good.

3. Attention seeking

If you only pay attention to your dog when they scratch your floor (because it’s annoying, right?), they may learn that scratching floors makes you notice them. 

Even if they scratched the floors in the first place for another reason, it can become a ‘learned behaviour’ and continue even if the original motivation is no longer present!

4. To file their nails

Dogs who have long claws may scratch the floor to relieve any discomfort or as a way to file them down themselves. Yes, some dogs do like to give themselves a paw-dicure!

5. To clean their paws

If your dog is a bit of a clean freak, or they have something sticky on their paws, they might scratch the floor in order to get any dirt off of them.

6. Scent marking

Dogs have scent glands in their paws, so you’ll often see them kick up grass

When out on a walk to leave their scent behind, your floors might seem no different, and your dog is just making sure that everyone knows the floors are their territory!

7. Separation Anxiety

If your dog is digging and scratching at floors or carpets, and it only happens when you’re not there, it can be a sign of separation-related problems. This is known as displacement behaviour and it occurs because it makes the dog feel good.

8. They’re bred to do it

If you have a breed of dog that’s bred to be a canine digging machine such as a Jack Russell Terrier, Dachshund or other terrier or breed known for digging, then you will often find that they dig their beds and blankets, your flower beds, grass, and yes possibly your floors too!

Corgi puppy with tongue out
Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

Should I stop my dog from scratching the floor?

Yes, most likely! Floors are not cheap; if your dog is damaging the floor, you should stop them. It’s also worth considering why they’re scratching the floor. If there is a behavioural issue or an emotional reason, we must do everything possible to keep our dogs happy!

How to stop dogs scratching the floor

If you have a dog who scratches the floor, you’ll want help in trying to stop it, right? Read our tips to prevent floor scratching in dogs. 

Don’t forget if you have a problem like this, you can reach out to our professional dog trainers in the Zigzag app for more detailed advice.

Find out the cause of the floor scratching

Figuring out the root cause of your dog’s floor scratching (or any problem behaviour) will always be the best thing to do first, as that will determine how you ‘fix’ the problem.

If only a particular spot block access to that area

Some dogs will prefer scratching at a particular place, especially carpets! If that’s your dog, blocking access can often help break the habit. You could use a puppy playpen or baby gate as an easy way to provide a barrier.

Clean the area well with a pet odour cleaner

If your dog seems to be scratching to mark their territory, it may be that they’re trying to cover up the scent of another animal who may have been (or peed!) on the floor before. Clean the area with an enzyme spray (you’ll find it at your pet shop) and see if that stops them from scratching the floor.

Trim your dog’s nails

If you think they’re scratching the floor to try and wear down their nails, trim their claws. You can use a pair of dog nail clippers, a rotary nail sander, or a nail file, or make them their own scratchboard.

Read our guide to dog nail clippers, to choose the best for your dog.

Clean their paws

Inspect your dog’s paws when you bring them in from walks or they’ve been out in the garden. Give their paws a clean, or pop them in the bath and rinse them off.

Give your dog things to do to prevent boredom or frustration

Puzzles and interactive games can provide easy ways to enrich a dog’s day-to-day life. Increasing physical exercise if appropriate for their age, and planning short positive reinforcement training sessions will help to lower stress, and decrease boredom and frustration.

Provide an outlet for digging and scratching

If you have a breed of dog who loves to scratch and dig at things, then giving them an outlet for this very normal behaviour is a great way to stop them from doing it in inappropriate places. Creating a digging pit or foraging box, as outlined in our training games library will allow them to dig for England and save your floors.

Teach them to leave it

The leave-it cue can be used in the moment to stop your dog from scratching your floors. ‘Leave it’ means ‘leave that I’ve got something better for you’, so give them a reward that takes their mind off of the scratching.

Redirect them to something else

Similar to “leave it”, redirecting your dog onto a toy, and giving them a chew or stuffed Kong when they go to scratch the floor, will distract them from doing it.
Check out our puppy training tips article to learn more.

puppy paws
Photo by Ruby Schmank on Unsplash

Should I be worried that my dog is scratching the floor?

Maybe. While floor scratching can be something dogs just do for amusement, it can also be a sign of stress, anxiety or frustration. Also, if they are scratching your floors to the extent of hurting their paws or causing extreme damage to your home, this isn’t good! 

If you’re worried about floor scratching in dogs, it’s worth seeking the help of a professional dog behaviourist who uses up-to-date positive methods like those in the UK Dog Charter.
If the behaviour has just come on suddenly, then any behaviour change is worth checking with your Vet.

Has that scratched your itch and answered your question of why do dogs scratch the floor? Hope so! Scratching the floor serves several functions, it gives dogs a digging outlet, relieves stress, boredom or anxiety, acts as a way of marking territory or simply to wipe their feet or trim their nails. 
While scratching can be normal behaviour, it can also damage floors and cause problems in the home. Not exactly a decorative finish, is it?

You can stop your dog from scratching the floor by giving them digging outlets, reducing stress by ensuring their physical and mental needs are met, redirecting them onto something else like a toy or chew, and teaching them a reliable leave-it cue

Want to learn more about funny behaviour quirks your dog might have? How about why does my puppy lick my face, or why does my puppy stop on walks? 

Download the Zigzag app today, and you’ll get access to more awesome content like this, and a personalised training programme for your pup. On hand to answer those puppy questions 7 days a week is our team of professional puppy trainers. They’d love to hear from you and help you with any of your puppy-related concerns.