According to trainer M. Shirley Chong, the easiest way to trim a dog’s nails is to have dogs trim their own nails. Chong says, “It’s easy! Find a board about 8-12 inches wide (the wider the dog, the wider the nail file needs to be) and about 24-36 inches long. At a hardware store, get some of the stick-on tape that is used on wooden steps to make them slip-proof. It’s rough, like extremely coarse sandpaper, and the adhesive lasts through anything. Cover the board with the slip-proof tape. You could also use sandpaper. The most important thing is to make sure the edges of the sandpaper are firmly glued down because otherwise the dog will peel it up. The adhesive used on the slip-proof tape won’t budge for anything. You now have a giant nail file for dogs!
“Teach the dog to paw the board with his front feet. If you can get a paw touch and then deliberately delay the click, you’re almost certain to get a raking motion. Once the dog starts pawing, he usually gets enthusiastic about it! Some dogs alternate feet as if they were digging, but it’s not difficult to get a dog who uses only one foot to alternate.
“Some dogs prefer the board propped at an angle, other dogs prefer it flat on the floor. You can put a foot on one end of the board to keep it from slipping around.
“So far, it’s been a cinch for everyone who has tried it to get a dog to paw the board with his front feet. Capturing the hind leg kick that many dogs perform after pooping and then transferring it to the board is reportedly not difficult either. The only caution I have is to put the board away where the dog can’t reach it when not in use; some dogs who are left alone with the board quick their own nails and then get blood everywhere. And oddly enough, dogs do not seem to mind quicking their own nails on the board! My theory is that the sensation builds up slowly and so is not surprising the way it is when we do it. Keep a sharp eye out and stop proceedings when the dog is getting close to quicking his nails.
“If the dog started out with really long nails, the first few times he uses the board he is likely to file the nails unevenly and at funny angles. When the nails are shorter they will even out.
“I’ve been teaching people how to do this for more than 10 years and so far it’s been very easy to train, even with handlers who had terrible timing. Plus, dogs seem to enjoy it a whole lot more than they enjoy nail trimming.” – M. Shirley Chong