Why is my dog scratching at the door?

dog scratching door

Thousands of years of living with dogs have taught us that our furry ones express their emotions and needs in a very different way from ours and that their behaviors, although sometimes strange or even annoying, have a meaning. This is why we should never punish or try to solve a behavioral problem without knowing its origin since we could end up making the situation worse. 

We tell you some of the most frequent causes why your dog scratches the door and how to avoid them. Keep reading! 

The importance of context 

Before starting any intervention or treatment on scratching behavior, it is essential to thoroughly investigate the cause or causes that could be causing it. 

To do this, we must observe our dog very well and determine which situations the behavior appears inappropriate. Does the dog scratch a single door, or does it all of them? Does the behavior occur only in the absence of the guardians? How often does it scratch the door? How long has it been since it started? 

Asking ourselves these and other questions will undoubtedly help us get a more approximate idea about what may be going on inside the head of our dog companion and what is the best way to help him. 

Why is my dog ​​scratching at the door? 

As with the vast majority of canine behaviors, there is no single reason that can explain why our dog scratches or scratches the door, but in this article, we present the most frequent ones: 

Organic problems 

When working with a behavior disorder, the first step is to rule out that the dog suffers any pain or organic pathology, especially when the problem behavior appears suddenly or without noticeable changes in the animal’s environment. 

Many health problems can cause strange behaviors in dogs due to the discomfort they cause, so it never hurts to go to the vet’s office if we see that our four-legged friend is more upset than usual. 

Separation anxiety 

If you have noticed that your dog scratches the door when you leave, that is, exclusively when he is alone at home or when he is not in the same room as his human family, he likely suffers from separation anxiety. 

Separation anxiety (APS) is a behavioral disorder that appears only when the dog is physically separated from one or more of its guardians. In this context, the dog can reach very high levels of stress and discomfort.

It will try to alleviate through behaviors such as scratching the house’s front door (where it knows its guardians have left), barking or howling continuously, relieving themselves in inappropriate places, panting excessively, or wandering from one place to another. 

All these behaviors are involuntary, so we should not punish the dog if, upon returning home, we find that it has made a mess. 

Learned behavior 

Dogs learn primarily by association, which means that if a behavior has been successful in the past, they tend to repeat it more times. 

Have you ever opened the door for your furry dog ​​after he hit or scratched it with his paws? If so, the dog may have learned to claim your attention or request access to the street, the garden, or a room by scratching the door

Stress or lack of stimulation 

Every dog ​​needs to cover a series of needs daily, and we do not just refer to eating, sleeping, and going outside to urinate. Depending on their age, breed, physical condition, and temperament, each dog will require daily physical, mental, and social stimulation to release energy and improve well-being. 

Suppose our dog does not have any of its needs properly covered or is not frequently offered the possibility of carrying out behaviors typical of its species.

In that case, it may feel frustrated and experience peaks of stress that lead to compulsive or stereotyped behaviors, such as scratching or scratching the door persistently.

Discover What is a stereotypy in animals in this other article to see if this is the cause that explains why your dog scratches the doors. 

How to prevent my dog ​​from scratching the door? 

Once any organic pathology has been ruled out, we can work on the problem through behavior modification.

Although, as is evident, the treatment will be different depending on the cause or causes we have identified. Hence, the idea is to have the help of an ethologist or canine educator to help us during the process. 

If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety, it is highly recommended to videotape the moments when he is left alone at home. These recordings provide a wealth of information, both for tutors and professionals.

On the one hand, it allows us to know if our furry has a wrong time when it is separated from us, and, on the other, it helps us establish a work plan adapted to our specific case. 

Likewise, problematic behavior that arises as a consequence of a learning process is usually easier to eradicate. In this case, we must stop reinforcing the behavior so that it ends up being extinguished.

If the dog asks us to go outside by scratching the door, we have to ignore this behavior and not open the door at that time. We will wait to do so when the dog performs a more appropriate action, either voluntarily or at our request (for example, wait seated). 

Finally, it is essential to offer our dog enough daily activity to avoid stress and release accumulated energy inappropriately.

We are going out with him to exercise, allowing him to explore new environments calmly during the walk, training skills, encouraging him to socialize with other dogs and people.

Using products such as refillable toys, puzzles, or sniffing mats are ideas that will help our dogs be more relaxed at home and show more balanced behaviors that will undoubtedly improve their quality of life. 

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