We can help our dogs file their own nails by learning to scratch on a scratch board!

Get or Make a Board

  • Choose a piece of wood that’s big enough for your dog to get a good scratch down (for a flat board) OR a large PVC pipe cut in half lengthwise (for a curved board).
  • Adhere sandpaper to the board/pipe. You can use self-adhesive sandpaper or glue it on. Sandpaper should be 80-120 grit. (Sometimes we need to experiment to find out what works best for our dogs, but this is the range to start at.)
  • You can also buy a pre-made scratch board.

Train Front Foot Scratching

  • First, teach your dog to scratch the board by holding a treat either:
    • under a small lid
    • under a small cloth
    • under your hand
    • behind the board
  • As soon as your dog does any pawing motion, say “yes” and give them the treat. You can also give 1 or 2 more bonus treats 🙂
  • Add in your cue word before your dog scratches. “Scratch!” (Or whatever word you like.)
  • Once they’re doing well with your hand on the board, start fading out your fingers until you’re just pointing on the board with your index finger at the top! Do a few repetitions with 4 fingers, then 3, then 2, then just your index finger. You can fade out the treat, too, and feed your dog from your other hand.
  • Some dogs do best with the board flat on the floor to start. (You may need to put a yoga mat underneath to prevent slipping.) Some do better with a slight incline. You can balance the board on your legs or a low, sturdy surface for this. As your dog is successful, you can raise the angle of the board.
  • If your dog isn’t using both paws, let us know so we can help you make sure they get both feet!
  • See the video from your session for a reminder of how to do this, too!

Back Feet

  • For this, you’ll use a low piece of furniture like a chair or ottoman and a sturdy, rectangular scratch board.
  • With your scratch board in position (leaning against the low furniture), lure your dog onto the furniture and reward them for putting their front feet up on it.
  • Next, hold your treat hand juuuuust out of your dog’s reach, so that they have to stretch to get it. Your goal is to have them lift their back feet just a little bit and start to scratch the board on the way down. As soon as they do, say “yes” and give the treat!
  • Look for your dog to start making increasing amounts of contact with the board over several sessions. (It’s normal for the first ones not to actually file your dog’s nails! They’re just learning the motions for these sessions.)
  • Between repetitions, it can be helpful to toss a treat away from you so that when your dog approaches you again, they’re all lined up to come back on to the furniture in the right direction 🙂