Why Do Dogs Nest?

Have you ever watched your dog turn a circle or two (or three) before plopping down for a nap?

Maybe your furry friend scratches and digs at their bed, turning your soft blankets into just the right spot.

This funny yet strange behavior is called “nesting,” and it’s a clue to how dogs lived in the wild.

But you might ask, “Why do dogs nest?” especially when they’re safe and comfy in our modern homes.

In this article, we’ll dive into this question, offering a fun and easy-to-understand explanation.

Get ready for an exciting journey into the world of dogs and their interesting habits!

Decoding Canine Nesting Behavior

What Is Nesting In Dogs?

Nesting refers to a dog’s instinctive behavior of preparing a safe and comfortable place to rest, sleep, or give birth.

This usually involves scratching, digging, circling, or even rearranging blankets and cushions.

Though it’s most commonly observed in pregnant dogs, it’s not exclusive to them.

Instinctual Origins Of Nesting

The nesting instinct can be traced back to dogs’ wild ancestors.

In the wilderness, digging at the ground created a safer, more comfortable place to sleep away from predators and harsh weather conditions.

Even though our domesticated dogs now have comfy beds, this ancient instinct persists.

The Reasons Behind Nesting

Preparation For Whelping

In pregnant dogs, nesting usually happens in the later stages of pregnancy, indicating the puppies’ imminent arrival.

The mother dog will seek out a quiet, safe place to give birth and take care of her pups, often moving blankets and other materials around to make the spot more comfortable.

Seeking Comfort And Security

Dogs might nest to make their sleeping area more comfortable or feel more secure.

It’s their way of personalizing their space.

Just as we fluff our pillows before sleep, dogs may ‘fluff’ their beds through nesting.

Response To Weather Changes

Nesting can also be a response to weather changes.

In colder weather, dogs might nest to create a warmer, more insulated space to sleep.

Should You Be Concerned About Your Dog’s Nesting Behavior?

Normal Nesting Vs. Obsessive Behavior

While nesting is typically a healthy dog behavior, it can sometimes indicate a problem.

If your dog’s nesting becomes obsessive or disruptive – for example, they’re unable to rest or they’re destroying furniture – this could be a sign of anxiety or other issues.

When To Consult A Vet

As a rule of thumb, if your dog’s behavior changes suddenly or drastically, it’s a good idea to consult your vet.

Obsessive nesting, excessive scratching at surfaces that could hurt their paws, or nesting accompanied by other unusual behaviors could signal an underlying problem that needs professional attention.

What To Do About Dog’s Nesting Behavior?

Provide A Suitable Area

When a dog begins to nest in inappropriate areas, the first step is to provide them with an alternative, suitable place to express this behavior.

Consider providing a soft, comfortable dog bed or even a crate if your dog is crate-trained.

Some dogs appreciate a crate with a blanket draped over it for extra security and privacy.

The key is to make this area inviting.

You might add some of their favorite toys or perhaps an item of your clothing that carries your scent.

This new, designated area should be in a quiet, low-traffic part of your home to make the dog feel safe.

Over time, this can help discourage nesting behavior in undesired areas as your dog will naturally gravitate toward the space you’ve created for them.

Create A Routine

Establishing a routine can also discourage nesting in inappropriate areas.

Dogs thrive on predictability; a stable schedule for feeding, exercise, playtime, and sleep can provide a sense of order and security.

With a consistent routine, your dog knows what to expect and when to expect it, reducing anxiety and restlessness that may contribute to inappropriate nesting.

Regular walks and exercise help burn off excess energy, making your dog less likely to resort to destructive behaviors.

The key here is consistency – the more regular the schedule, the more secure your dog will feel.

Discourage Destructive Behavior

If your dog’s nesting involves destructive actions such as scratching the carpet or tearing up furniture, it’s important to discourage this without scolding or punishment.

Positive reinforcement is usually more effective.

Redirect their energy to appropriate toys or activities.

Provide chew toys, puzzle feeders, or interactive toys that can keep them occupied.

Another option is a pet-safe deterrent spray for the furniture or areas where the destructive behavior occurs.

These sprays have a smell that is unpleasant to dogs but not harmful, discouraging them from lingering in these areas.


Training is an important tool for managing nesting behavior, particularly when it becomes problematic.

Teach your dog basic commands such as “leave it” or “go to your bed.”

Start by training these commands in a calm environment, free from distractions.

Use rewards, like treats or praise, to reinforce positive behavior.

Over time, these commands can help direct your dog to an appropriate place for nesting and discourage them from nesting in inappropriate areas.

Remember, training should always be done in a positive and patient manner to build trust and understanding between you and your dog.

Consult A Professional

If your dog’s nesting behavior becomes a serious issue or is accompanied by other concerning behaviors such as increased aggression or drastic changes in eating or sleeping habits, it may be time to consult a professional.

A certified dog trainer or behaviorist can help identify any potential issues underlying the behavior and suggest strategies for managing it.

Alternatively, a visit to the vet could rule out any medical conditions that could be contributing to the nesting behavior.

Consulting a professional is always a good step to ensure your dog’s health and wellbeing are not being compromised.

Before You Go…

Now you know why dogs nest.

If you want to learn more, read the following articles too!

Or watch this video:

Dimitra Kokologianni, DVM
Dimitra holds a Masters’s degree in public health and a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. She is a versatile professional with over 7 years of experience. Her passion for animal welfare and preventive medicine makes her an excellent resource for our readers.