Nail Filing for Dogs Part 1: Training "Lie on Side"

fearful dogs Dec 06, 2021
Nail Files

Are you looking to get more active in your fearful dog's nail care? This week, I discuss what to do if you'd rather file your dog's nails than use a nail board. In this week's video, I continue our nail care series with the first step of nail filing training: teaching your dog to roll over and lie on their side. Here are some of the highlights: 


Choosing A Nail Care Position:

Filing your dog's nails require that they stay still in a position where their nails are easy to reach. Some good positions include: 

  • Lying on the side:  If your dog lies on their side, all four paws are easy to reach.
  • Hanging paws over the edge of a raised surface: Some dogs might prefer lying down on a sofa or other raised surface, with their paws draped over the edge. If you sit on the floor below your dog, you can file or clip their nails from this position.  
  • Lying on their back: You could also train your dog to roll completely over onto their back. This may be less comfortable over time, but it does make all four paws accessible. 

In this week's video I focus on how to train a dog to lie on their side.


Teach "Roll Onto Your Side" Using a Food Lure

You can begin this training by asking your dog to lie down.  Then, use a treat in your hand to lure your dog onto their side. It can be difficult to lure the entire "roll onto your side" behavior in a single step, so in the video I break it down into several smaller steps:

  • Turn head back: Start by luring so that your dog turns their head back towards their shoulder;
  • Head over shoulder: Lure the dog's head back  and up over their shoulder; 
  • Tuck the hip:  Continue moving the lure back and up over your dog's shoulder until they tuck their hip under;
  •  Roll onto the shoulder:  After your dog is tucking their hip under, moving the lure a little further over their head will usually cause them to roll onto their shoulder;
  • Relax the head: Reward your dog for completing the rolling over motion as you lure their head down so they rest their check on the floor. 

Note: You may find that rolling to one side is easier for your dog rolling to the other side. Test this out early in training to find your dog's preferred side.


How Do I Get My Dog To Stay On Their Side?

After getting your dog to roll onto their side, you now need them to stay there for nail filing. In this week's video I covered how to train your dog to stay on their side for several seconds at a time, even with distractions: 

  • Start with rapid treat delivery:  Begin to build duration in the "lying on side" position by placing treats right by the dog's nose, one after another. Start off with the treats delivered every 1-2 seconds.
  • Use treats as distractions: Once you have built a little duration, you can use treats as a distraction. Hold a treat out about a foot in front of your dog's nose, and reward your dog if they stay on their side. Check out the examples in the video. 
  • Stay put while you move your hands: Next, you'll have to teach your dog to stay on their side when you move your hands around. Start by placing your hand on the mat near their nose, and reward them for staying in position. After this, you can place your hands further back and out of sight. Work slowly up to putting your hands near their feet.


I hope this week's video is helpful as you work your way towards nail filing. Next week, we'll continue with paw handling as we continue our series on nail care.

If you're looking for more one-on-one guidance with your fearful dog, check out our online training membership, the Reactive Dog Academy. For a more personalized plan, sign up for private training



If you are getting started with nail board training, we want to hear about your successes or struggles. Join our Facebook group and post your questions or comments there, or email us at [email protected]