Why Do Dogs Burrow in Blankets?

Why do dogs burrow in blankets? Hank & Roxie snuggling in bed.

Every night when I turn out the light to go to sleep, I hear the rustling sound of Lenny, my terrier-mix rescue dog, burrowing in the blankets. He was with me for a few months before he started tunneling under the covers, but now it is a nightly ritual.

He digs and turns and noses under his bed for a couple of minutes before circling around a few times and settling into his curlicue sleeping position. I wonder why he does this — or if it is a positive or a negative behavior. Is he nervous and cannot get comfortable, or is it that he is more at home under the covers, making his own bed? So I wonder, why do dogs burrow in blankets?

Denning Instincts

According to some pet experts, dogs are “denning” animals. It is their instinct to sleep or relax in a small and protected space to feel warm and safe. This explains why many dogs actually prefer their crates when left alone at home or to sleep in at night. Give your dog a comfy sturdy bed with maybe a couple of towels or small blankets to burrow in, and he will do what comes naturally.

Does Every Dog Burrow?

Small-prey hunters, like terriers (my Lenny!) and dachshunds, tend to show their heritage of flushing out small animals from their tunnels by burrowing. Larger burrowers, like huskies, live in extreme temperatures that make the instinct to burrow under the snow imperative for staying warm. Other dogs enjoy burrowing, too, regardless of their breed. I know one pit bull who loves tunneling in his blankets!

Hunting Behavior

Burrowing can also be a sign of  hunting behavior. Lenny’s friend, Mr. Bubbs, goes into a trance and sniffs and digs whenever he finds a mole hole in the park. Dogs also like to bury things for later, like a bone or toy.

Anxiety

If your dog’s burrowing seems obsessive, try to observe if anxiety is triggering excessive digging and burrowing. If that is the case, find ways to ease the anxiety causing the activity. Is your pet left alone for long stretches of time? Hire a dog walker or give your dog more exercise and things to occupy him/her when nothing else is going on.

Take your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup to make sure he’s in top health. You can also find help with certified dog trainers or behaviorists.

Lenny Says, “Good Night!”

Lenny seems to enjoy his nightly ritual, and once he finds the right spot and has his bed the way he likes it, he sleeps happily through the night right next to mine, ready to jump up in the morning and get me up and out to the park!

Additional Resources

Photo: Tamar Love Grande

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