Scared to Clip Your Dogs Nails? Teach Your Dog to File Their Nails

For our second New Year’s Resolution Post we discussed clipping your dogs nails regularly. Some dogs get overly stressed from seeing the clipper, sometimes a dog requires a helper to keep them still while you trim but there in no helper around, and sometimes you are just nervous to trim their nails in case you were to cut the quick because you don’t want to hurt them. Whatever the reason you don’t want to use a traditional clipper and don’t like others on the market there is an option. You can teach your dog to trim their own nails! Not only that but this method is like a game so your dog will be stimulated and you will no longer have the stress of having to cut their nails.

When Indiana was a puppy our trainer told the class that for those who were scared to use a nail clipper or their dogs had black nails and they worried about cutting them she told us about a method where the dog does the work. She said dogs can be trained to use a scratching post just like a cat. A dog needs a stronger scratching post then a cat but the basic idea is the same.


What you will need:


clicker (optional)



heavy duty clear packing tape or wood glue

Tape the sandpaper to the plywood you now have the scratching post. Make sure that the area is wide enough and long enough for your dog to use easily. Place it on the floor or resting at an angle you can figure out which feels more comfortable for your dog to use.


Start out by teaching them to place their paws on the sand paper give a treat. Do this a few times rewarding the behavior. Next you will want to up the ante by only giving them a treat if they scrape their nail against the sand paper. You will notice that once they start scraping their nails they will only allow the nails to touch the paper so you don’t have to worry about their paw pads. Continue to up the ante making them use both paws and then multiple scrapes before  they are given a treat your dog has now started trimming their own nails (at least the front ones).
Getting your dog to trim their back nails is a little bit more difficult though I have read that if your dog likes to throw dirt or leaves over their potty that they will be able to easily master this as well. A dog that doesn’t already display this behavior will need a few sessions before they really begin to trim their back nails.

Now you no longer have to be scared to clip your dogs nails!

Here is a video so you can see it in action. There are quite a few on youtube that you can check out:

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  1. I would love for Fred to master this one. But I think he would need a heavy duty grinding stone for his tough basset nails! What a great idea!

    • They make a lot of levels of sandpaper. I am sure the people at Home Depot or Lowes can help you out there. But even really big dogs should be able to use this system. They would just need a bigger board and tougher sandpaper.

  2. Great idea!! I am definitely going to try this out. I’ll let you know how it works out. =) Maybe it will also satisfy my puppy’s need to dig?!

    • It might satisfy a bit of the need to dig but Davinia and Indiana are 6 and 7 years old now and still like to dig into the dirt. Nothing horrible but people think it is hilarious when they see us walking and we stop to chat and the next thing they know one or the other one has a face full of dirt. Absolutely let us know how this works. Not sure the age of your children but if they are old enough to help teach the dog how to do it could be a fun activity for the family to do from start to finish.

  3. Crystal @ Surviving a Teacher's Salary says

    What a neat idea!

  4. Wow..I have never heard of this..I would love to teach our Cav to do this. Thanks so much for the info!

    • Just be careful with their feathering on their feet. Might need to trim them up a bit before they try filing their own nails.

  5. Hmmm, we never clipped our dogs nails. Were we neglectful or do outside dogs not need it?

    • Dogs that walk on pavement and cement wear their nails down on their own most of the time. The only issue would be if they had dew claws. Dew claws (like our thumbs) are higher up and don’t touch the ground naturally when dogs walk.

  6. We have an Australian Shepard, and we would be very happy if he would use one of these boards. I’ve never seen one before, thanks for the idea!

  7. Felicia,
    This is incredible!!! I have to show it to my hubby. He cuts the quick of the Basset Hound every single time he trims. Thanks

    • Oh no! Poor Basset Hound. Maybe this would be a good solution for you. Or at least something to consider trying. Thanks for stumbling and stopping by.

  8. Courtney Fisk says

    This is awesome! I used to work at a animal hospital- it is amazing how many dogs hate having their nails trimmed!

    • The vet is the only time Davinia and Indiana get their dew claws clipped. I can’t do it by myself because they squirm and it scared me especially Indiana she hates having her dew claw touched. At the vet they do it in like 2 seconds.

  9. I don’t have a dog any longer, but this would have been GREAT!

  10. What a cool idea. I cringe when the time comes to clip our dogs nails. Sometimes I just bring them to the groomers instead, but this sounds like an idea that just might work for our little “Wiggles”. Thanks for sharing.

    • I think a lot of people cringe. I don’t think I could cut a baby or child’s nails either. I hope that this posts help a lot of pet owners save money and have a new activity to do with their pet that they don’t mind (unlike a trip in the car that winds up at the groomers).

  11. Nice! I hate the thought of clipping my dog’s nails, so we shell out the $10 every so often to have Petsmart do it. Maybe we should try this.

    • I hope it works for you and helps save money that can then be used for more fun things like a new toy once in a while or a special treat.

  12. This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

  13. DH is in charge of dog nail clipping and does a pretty good job of it, but I’m betting that he’d enjoy building something for them too. Awesome idea! Thanks for sharing.

    • He would probably have fun building this and then training them to use it. Dogs think that it is a fun game.

  14. I wish my dog growing up could have done this.

  15. What a great idea!!!!

  16. no wonder this dog is obese..hes just showered with treats , way over whats needed..the idea is sound tho..althmaybe walking more on hard surfaces outdoors would be better

  17. Brooks4320 says

    Oh my god! I love it! We are just now starting to train our rotweiler with the clicker so this is the perfect timing to try the nail trimming!

  18. The thing I would be worried about is my dog is a paw licker, like obsessively and how about her body ingesting the sand grit particles? I noticed yours was a white sandpaper?
    She is now have problems with her wrists and was a digger way back,

    I’m wondering if she can do this and if it would calm her anxiety

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    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again right here regularly.
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  20. What a great Idea, I’m going to make one for our Rat terrier, I sure hope it works for him, Saving the money we spend at the vets would be great since we live on a set income. I have tried to cut them myself but he jerks his paws away.
    Thank You

  21. This never would have occurred to me, it’s an awesome idea! I’ll have to mention it to the vets I know. It may hopefully encourage other pet owners to be a bit more proactive on this. Thankfully I don’t have an issue clipping nails, and our vets do it as routine every time we go in, but I know that isn’t the norm.
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  22. This is amazing! I wanna try this. Question, what do you do with the nails on the back paws? I guess you still have to trim those, yes?

  23. I am definitely going to give this a try as my dog hates getting her nails cut. I have a 30lb dog and would like to know what kind of sandpaper to use? Thanks

  24. Will it work for cats?

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