An awful lot of dogs really aren’t keen on having their nails clipped.  Some are not too bad if you try a Dremel hand-held grinder for the job.  Others can be persuaded to have them done with clippers but some really do just struggle with the whole thing and it can be very frustrating for the owner and upsetting for the dog.  In these situations, I have seen several people suggest teaching the dog to do their nails themselves!  Yes, you heard right.  Teach the dog a DIY pedicure.  So, HOW exactly can we do this?

Dice, our newest addition to the Rhodes 2 Safety family is now nearly 10 months old and while he will let me do his nails with the Dremel, it’s clear that he’s not really a fan.  I remembered seeing a video of somebody trying to teach their dog to do their own nails and thought we might have a go at it.  Now, I am in NO WAY passing myself off as a dog-trainer.  I am simply, just like you, trying to do the best that I can to make my dogs (and my) life easier and less stressful so this blog is about our journey along the DIY nail path.

First off, get yourself a piece of board, say MDF or similar cheap wood.  If you have a chopping board you no longer need then something like that will do fine.

Next, get yourself off to the hardware store and buy a piece of coarse sand-paper and some glue with which to adhere it to the board.

Leave this to stick firmly so that when your dog scrapes it with his nails he doesn’t rip it off the board.

Next, you will need a clicker.  A clicker is a small box that you press.  When you press it, it “clicks”.  This is the sound that you are going to use to tell your dog that what he did WAS RIGHT.  It is important to click the clicker at exactly the moment you see him do the thing you are after.  It’s a little like underlining a word in a document that you want to stand out to catch the eye of the reader.

Get yourself a bag of really high value treats.  Something your dog thinks is like winning the lottery is needed here because we want them to really WANT to work for the prizes you have on offer.

So, how do we teach the dog to do his nails?

  1. put the board on the floor and wait for your dog to show any interest in it AT ALL.  The moment he does, click and give a foody reward.
  2. once he starts stepping on the board, click as soon as his paw touches the surface, click and throw the treat to one side so he takes his paw off it.
  3. once he gets really good at stepping on the board and knows that’s what you want, alter the position of the board to a bit of an angle.
  4. lie the board against your knees and wait for him to touch it with his paw … click and treat.
  5. because the board is on a slope, he will start scraping down it inadvertently.  This is what you want.  CLICK AND TREAT

Keep the sessions short – don’t let your dog get board
Keep the sessions to a certain number of scrapes – you don’t want the nails TOO short
Keep the sessions fun – dog’s learn best when they are enjoying it
Keep the sessions even – use each paw as often as each other so the nails are evenly trimmed
Keep an eye on the pads so that they don’t scrape the surface and make them sore by mistake.

Here’s a little video of our very first go at this behaviour.  It was fun, Dice loved it and he really enjoyed the Chicken treats!  I hope it is helpful to those of you who are looking for another way to trim the nails without so much protestation from your furry!!!  Enjoy … and please don’t be too harsh on me – I’m not a professional trainer and really was doing my best! lol   click  here: DIY DOGGY PEDICURE


So, over the last week we have been getting to grips with using the scratchboard so that the dogs can do their own pedicures rather than having to use clippers or a Dremel. (See earlier vid). That is all going really well and so now we need to look at teaching a rear paw scratch behaviour. As I have said many times before, I am NOT a dog trainer, so I have looked into different ways this behaviour can be taught and spoken to a few trainers to get their take on it. I do make mistakes and this is definitely a work in progress but they all seem to enjoy the enrichment of learning even if I’m a bit rubbish at times.

Now, I could have just picked out all the best bits, but it’s good to see the mistakes and good to have an idea of the timeframe that this took, so this clip is the full session (7 minutes only start to finish)

Obviously, every dog is different and the rate at which they progress is unique to them too. This will be the foundation to the scratching behaviour to come.

I would love to see how you guys get on teaching this behaviour if you want to share your videos too. Because Ridgebacks are so tall and weigh so much, the hardest thing is finding a stable environment on which to practice the behaviour. The stairs seem like an obvious choice rather than stepping on boxes or stools which may wobble and frighten the dog. Those kind of platforms would probably work just fine for smaller breed dogs though if that’s what you have. Anyway here it is – session one

Session 1 – Rear Paw Targetting