Written By: Olivia Connatser CPDT-KA

If your dog is nervous of nail trims, or you are looking for a way to shorten their nails that’s more enjoyable for them, a scratch board is a great alternative to try! Scratch boards are comparable to a nail file, and they are a great way to keep your dog’s nails short and healthy. If you have a dog that has never used a scratch board before, it might take some time to get them used to it, but with patience and consistency, you can teach your dog to use a scratch board in no time! In this blog post, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to teach your dog to use a scratch board.

Scratch Pad For Dogs

(Not sponsored, I just love this product.)

How to Teach Your Dog to Use the Scratch Board

@oliviaconnatser We love the scratch board! #scratchboard #dogscratchboard #nailfile #nailfilefordogs #dognails #dognailclipping #nailtrim #dognailtrim #cooperativecare #cooperativecareskills #dogcooperativecare #dogtraining #positivereinforcement #positivereinforcementdogtraining #clicker #clickertraining #sylvietherescuedog #dogtok #dogsoftiktok #dog #dogtrainer #dogtrainingtips #dogtrainingtutorial #tutorial ♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim

Check out my Tiktok on scratch board training! (Over 40k views)

Step 1: Introduce the scratch board. Start by introducing your dog to the scratch board. Show them the board and let them sniff it. You can also place a treat on the board to get them interested. Allow them to investigate the board and become familiar with it.

Step 2: Place the board flat on the ground. Anytime your dog interacts with the board, reward them with a treat. If your dog places their feet on the board, reward them. Continue this process until your dog is consistently putting their paws onto the board.

Step 3: Angle the board slightly. As you did in step 2, reward your dog any time they put their paw on the board. Once your dog understands that you are wanting them to touch the board with their paw, you can start to angle to board more and more until it is at a height and angle you will use.

Step 4: Teach the scratching motion. Once your dog is consistently placing their paw on the board, wait for them to slightly move their foot and do the actual scratching motion. Reward every time they scratch their nails on the board, even if it’s just a little bit. Practice this stage until your dog is consistently scratching their nails on the board. At this stage, you can add a cue like “scratch” to this behavior.

Step 5: Repeat and practice. Repeat the process of asking your dog to use the scratch board, and practice with them regularly. Use the scratch board every 1-2 weeks (or as needed) to keep your dog’s nails at a short length.



What if my dog is nervous of the scratch board? That’s ok! Stay on stage 1 and reward heavily for any bravery or interest in the board. You can stay on this stage for as long as you need to until your dog is comfortable with the board.

When I angle the board my dog won’t put his paw on it anymore. If your dog knows the behavior ‘shake,’ you can try placing your hand flat on the board as if you are asking for a shake. Once your dog targets your hand with his paw, move your hand away and reward when his paw hits the board. If this doesn’t work, keep the board at a lower angle until he understands what your’e asking him to do.

My dog only scratches one paw, what should I do? I have found that most dogs will alternate between both paws on their own, but if your dog is only offering one foot, simply do not reward for that paw anymore and wait until they offer the other foot and reward once they do. You can also try having your dog stand at an angle on either side of the board to encourage them to use one foot instead of the other.


In conclusion, teaching your dog to use a scratch board is a great way to keep their nails healthy and trimmed. By following these step-by-step instructions and being patient and consistent, you can teach your dog to use a scratch board in no time. Remember to monitor your dog’s progress and provide positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior and cooperative care.


  • The scratch board does not work for dew claws on most dogs. Make sure you trim these nails regularly as well.
  • You can train your dog to use the scratch board for their back nails as well, but it’s a slightly different process
  • Overtime, the scratching material will wear down and need to be replaced. The product linked above in this blog offers replacement sheets of the scratching material on their site.