Dogs live a very luxurious life. They sleep when they want, they are fed, they are cuddled and most importantly they are loved unconditionally! Dogs sleep for at least half of their day. They require 10-14 hours of sleep, in comparison to people needing 7-8 hours. But have you ever noticed what restless sleepers dogs can be? If you are someone who allows their dog to sleep in your bed then you know exactly what I am talking about! Name a more adorable sight than watching your dog snoozing peacefully, while his legs are twitching and his tail is wagging.
In this article, I am going to discuss why our little furry friends are so active while sleeping, why they scratch at their bed, how to help your dog sleep better, and other sleep-related topics!
Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Bed?
Dogs scratch their beds to mark their territory, due to their natural instincts, due to stress, or simply because they learned to do so from another resident canine.
Each reason is examined in further detail in the paragraphs below.
To Mark Their Territory
The same way that dogs pee every 10 steps of your walk to mark their territory, they scratch their beds to do the same! The behavior is especially common in households with multiple animals. If you have other dogs or cats, they will want to make it very clear which bed is theirs. Dogs have scent glands all over their body, including their paws, around their anus, and their face. These glands release a pheromone that other animals can detect. This is why your dog gets so attached to certain pillows or blankets because he has claimed the item as his own.
Dogs dig. Wherever they go. Before dogs were domesticated, they had to survive in the wild on their own. They would scratch at piles of dirt, leaves, and twigs to make the perfect bed or hiding place. This trait has been passed down over generations. Another time you may witness this behavior is after your dog defecates, he will dig around it and cover it with dirt.
Another natural instinct that may be observed in female dogs is nesting. This is when a pregnant dog is coming close to her due date and begins to prepare her surroundings, just as women do! Your dog’s ancestors would have had to dig holes in the wild to prepare for their puppies, and this trait has been carried on. Your soon-to-be mom will restlessly scratch and dig at her bed, getting ready to welcome her new babies.
If your dog is dealing with anxiety, scratching at their bed can be seen as a coping mechanism, to let out some frustration. Your dog may be suffering from anxiety due to a lack of exercise, bad sleeping patterns, or loud noises such as thunder, sirens, or engines. If this is a persistent problem, it is best to contact your vet for a solution. They will probably recommend you exercise your dog more frequently, provide physical contact when they seem stressed, and reduce loud noises in their surroundings if possible.
Force of Habit
Just like humans, dogs are creatures of habit! Your puppy may have picked up this behavior from their mother, or from other dogs in your household. They might not even know the reason behind doing it, but do it anyway!
How to Prevent Your Dog From Scratching Their Bed
This scratching behavior usually isn’t a problem, unless it is causing damage to your home. If your floors or furniture are getting scratched up, consider clipping your dog’s nails.
You could also purchase a more durable blanket or bed. This isn’t a solution to their scratching, but will help reduce them tearing it up!
And one last suggestion is to provide other things for them to scratch and play with, such as stuffed animals or rope toys.
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Why Do Dogs Kick and Scratch When Asleep?
Ever hear the saying “let a sleeping dog lie?” Well, it’s true. Even if it appears your dog is having a nightmare or in discomfort while he is sleeping, there are a number of explanations for this.
It is important to be able to tell the difference between when your dog is dreaming and when they are having a seizure during their sleep. A seizure is a momentary abnormality in muscular tone or movements (stiffness, twitching, or limpness), behaviors, perceptions, or states of consciousness caused by an involuntary electrical impulse between brain cells (also called neurons or nerve cells). Not all seizures are the same. Usually, if your dog is experiencing a seizure, it can be difficult to wake them up, they may urinate or defecate and when they wake up they will be drooling, breathing heavily, and confused. Reasons your dog may experience a seizure are cancer, epilepsy, or neurological issues. If you are worried your dog is suffering seizures during his sleep, consult your vet right away.
Fortunately, when your dog is active during their sleep, the more common reason is that they are dreaming. Scientific studies have proven that just like humans, dogs dream, and so do most other vertebrates. Dogs will begin to dream during their REM sleep, about 20 minutes into sleep. Their breathing will slow down and their body will begin to shake or twitch as if they are chasing something in their dream! It is believed that dogs dream about their doggy world. They may dream about chasing squirrels in the park, cuddling with their owner, or having a t-bone steak!
Some dogs may even suffer through nightmares, however, it is important to allow them to wake up themselves. You may notice your dog whining or thrashing about, and as tempting as it is to wake him and relieve him from his discomfort, it is best not to. This is because, just like humans, when woken up from a nightmare it can take a few seconds or minutes to realize where you are and what just happened. Dogs might react by biting you, in fact, a study shows that on average 60% of dog bites in children happen because the child woke the dog. Always teach your children to respect a dog’s boundaries.
Sleep Disorders in Dogs
Signs that your dog may be suffering from a sleep disorder include loud snoring, excessive activity during sleep, restlessness, exhaustion, and sleeping only for short periods of time. If your dog shows these symptoms, it may be suffering from one of the following sleep disorders:
Insomnia is not very common in dogs, but it is usually caused by another problem, such as something that causes itching (fleas, skin irritation, etc.) or something that causes pain (arthritis, a broken bone). This is because the pain or itching prevents them from sleeping, but luckily this is an easy fix. Your veterinarian can prescribe the appropriate medication for their conditions.
Narcolepsy is a nervous system condition that usually affects young dogs and cats. A narcoleptic episode is characterized by a sudden loss of consciousness and movement. The pet falls asleep, typically while being physically active, then immediately wakes up and continues as if nothing happened. This condition is more common in Labradors and Doberman Pinschers. Narcolepsy is not life-threatening, but it is also not curable. There is no medication to help manage it, however, it is a good idea to write down every time your dog suffers an episode, so you can pinpoint triggers and help reduce them.
REM Behavior Disorder
This is when your dog is excessively active during their sleep. In extreme cases, your dog may become a danger to themselves or to others, by running into walls or attacking someone while asleep. Your veterinarian can subscribe you to a medication called clonazepam, which will help reduce your dog’s activity while asleep.
Dogs are similar to humans in so many ways. From nesting when getting ready to give birth, to having dreams, nightmares, and sleeping disorders! But at the end of the day, they are man’s best friend for a reason!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Cast Of Thousands/Shutterstock.com
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