I have a one-year-old terrier mix who is very calm and sweet all day until bedtime. She comes to bed with us and immediately begins to scratch and paw at the bed covers. This behavior continues until I pick her up and calm her down. Finally, she will lie down and then sleep through the night. How can we make bedtime more relaxing for us all?
— Nancy, Dix Hills, New York
This behavior is completely normal. Dogs often make a spot for themselves by pawing the ground and/or pulling and pushing nearby blankets and covers. And, it’s not unusual for them to do it for quite a while until they have their special space just right. Have you thought of adding a small blanket to your bed, so she has something to paw at rather than your covers?
If you think she is unnecessarily anxious, give her a little melatonin about an hour before bedtime. Your veterinarian can recommend a brand and dosage, but generally, one milligram is what’s recommended by Dr. Linda Aronson of Petshrink.com in Berlin, Massachusetts, who conducted research on dogs and melatonin.
While I wouldn’t worry too much about this behavior, you should be able to tell your dog to “stop” or “leave it,” depending on what you have taught her, and she should stop whatever she is doing and listen to you. Clap your hands or use a Pet Corrector (compressed air) to interrupt the behavior and then call her to you. Reinforce this training, so you can halt the behavior without having to pick her up. But remember, it’s normal for dogs to do paw at their beds.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal