If your German Shepherd has been scratching the floor, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it
This post will show you a number of reasons why your GSD might be doing it and what you can do to stop it.
So, why does my German Shepherd scratch the floor? Possible causes are that it is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, it’s anxious, it wants attention, it does it naturally, it’s claiming territory or that it does it to make the ground feel more comfortable.
There are a number of nuances that you can consider when trying to figure out why your GSD might be doing it. Once you have a good idea of the cause, it will become easier for you to get it to stop.
Why your German Shepherd won’t stop scratching the floor
Each of the different reasons that your GSD scratches the floor will likely come with some clues.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons why it might be doing it and what would make them more likely.
The reason that your GSD scratches the floor could be that it is due to obsessive-compulsive behavior. This is where it feels an urge to do an action and it can’t help but do it repeatedly. This would be more likely to be the cause if your German Shepherd has been scratching the floor a lot and for no apparent reason.
If it does seem to be doing it compulsively then the best option would be to take it to the vet and to get their advice and guidance.
It might be the case that your GSD scratches the floor due to anxiety. This would be more likely if it does it more in situations where it might become anxious such as when there are sirens or when someone is around that it doesn’t know or it doesn’t like.
If it does seem to be the case that it does it due to being anxious then it would help to take measures to reduce its anxiety. You might do so by reducing its exposure to what is causing it to become anxious or with desensitization training. I have written more about why your GSD might be anxious and what you can do about it here.
You have been rewarding it
It might be the case that it has learned that scratching the floor will get it things that it wants. If you tend to give it things such as attention, toys or treats when it does it then it might be causing it to do it more.
Instead of giving it things that it wants, when it scratches the floor, try to recognize when it is about to do it and to redirect its behavior onto something else.
It wants attention
The reason that it does it might be that it is looking for attention from you. This would be more likely if it tends to do it when you have not given it much attention and if you tend to give it more attention when it does it.
In this case, it would help to give it attention throughout the day and to give it attention before it starts to scratch the floor by noticing when it is about to do it.
An inherited trait
The reason that it does it could be that it is an inherited trait. When conditions were rough for dogs in the past, they would dig holes in the ground which would protect them from the elements and help hide their food. The dogs that did this were more likely to survive so it could be that those genes are still present in modern-day dogs.
It’s claiming territory
Dogs sweat via glands on their paws and when they scratch the floor some scent from these glands is released. This has led some people to think that dogs scratch the floor as a way of claiming territory.
It has excess energy
The reason that it does it might be that it has some excess energy. This would be more likely if it has not been getting much exercise. Generally, it is recommended for them to get an hour of exercise per day. If your GSD is not getting that much then it would help to make sure that it does.
The reason that it does it could be that it is a natural behavior that it does in order to make the ground more comfortable. In the wild, dogs would scratch the floor in order to make the grass smoother and it could be the case that your GSD has this trait too.
Things to consider
When it tends to scratch the floor more
It would help to consider the timing of when your GSD does it since it could be the case that there is something that triggers it to start doing it.
If you notice that it tends to do it a lot more when it has not gotten much exercise then it could be the case that it is releasing excess energy. Whereas, if it does it more when people are around or when they have just left then it could be more due to being anxious and trying to reduce how anxious it feels.
If it tends to do it at random times then it could be the case that it does it compulsively. However, it could also be the case that you have inadvertently rewarded it or that it does it to make the ground more comfortable if it does it shortly before laying down.
When it started doing it
The timing of when it first started doing it would also be something to consider.
If it started doing it more suddenly then it could be that you inadvertently rewarded the behavior or it could be that developed a habit of doing it that you need to stop via redirection.
Whereas, if it has always done it then it would be more likely that it does it naturally especially if it does it when it has food or when it is about to lay down.
What to do about your German Shepherd scratching the floor
The best thing for you to do about your German Shepherd scratching the floor will depend on the cause. However, below are a number of generally useful things that you can do.
Prevent it from doing it before it starts
It would help to learn to recognize when your GSD is about to scratch the floor and then to redirect its attention onto something else. Things that you could redirect its attention to could include a toy, a treat or you could train it to come to you on command.
After a few weeks of redirecting its attention away from scratching the floor, you should find that it will begin to do it less and less.
Avoid negative reinforcement
It would also help to avoid rewarding your GSD when it does it. Instead of giving it things that it wants when it does it, try to prevent it from doing it or to train it to come to you when it starts doing it.
Take it to a vet
If you can’t figure out why your GSD does it, you can’t get it to stop, it has been acting unusually in other ways or it does it compulsively then it would help to take it to a vet. By doing so you will be able to get expert guidance and to rule out the possibility of it being due to any medical causes.
If you would like learn everything that you need to know about how to have a happy, healthy and well-behaved German Shepherd, take a look at the German Shepherd Handbook