How to Trim Your Boston Terrier’s Nails

Just this morning as your Boston terrier came around the kitchen corner you noticed the loud clicking of his nails on the flooring. Looks like you’ll need to make an appointment with the veterinarian to get those talons taken care of, or do you?

Trimming your pup’s nails at home may feel like you’re stacked up against a hurricane, but with this how-to guide, we can take some of the fury and apprehension of out the equation.

How to Trim Your Boston Terrier’s Nails. Boston Terrier Society.
Bella taking an evening stroll.

When to trim your Boston Terriers nails?

Before you psych yourself up for what may be viewed as the battle of the decade, make sure that your Boston Terrier needs a nail trim.

White nails

If the nails are white, you will see a pink portion and then a white piece to the nail. The pink part is the blood supply or quick (the blood vessel), and the white portion is the overgrown nail. Anything more than a about 1/8″ can be safely trimmed off.

Black nails

Black nails are a bit harder and require some sound judgment. You’ll know if a nail is too long when you look at your dog’s foot as it’s resting on the ground. If any nails come in contact with the ground, it needs to be trimmed. You’ll also want to cut any nails that are starting to curl back towards the foot. Pesky little dewclaws are the poster child for this.  

Why you need to trim your Boston’s nails

You may think that the anxiety and apprehension that you and your Boston Terrier feel about toenail trimming might not be worth it. Why put yourself through something like that in the name of a pedicure?

Because long nails can cause your pup a lot of pain! The obvious culprits are the nails that curl back and actually start growing into the pads on your dog’s feet, but nails that are too long without curling can be trouble as well.

Toenails aren’t supposed to touch the ground in normal circumstances, except when running up a hill. When nails reach the ground with every step, the nail gets jammed back into the nail bed, putting pressure on all the joints through to the foot. This continued pressure and sometimes twisting of the toe causes sore feet and eventually leads to worse things.

Items you’ll need to trim your Boston’s nails.

Strolling down the aisle of any pet store will prove that there are many types of nail trimmers out there, anything from electric grinders, to files, to scissors.  Here are some of the main types:

Scissor nail trimmers:

I have heard these are by far the best for Boston Terriers, I personally use the next example.  With scissor nail trimmers use a small size as Boston’s nails are small. With this type of trimmer, you can easily see what you’re doing and maneuver for a precise cut.


This is the type of nail trimmer my wife and I use (mainly my wife because I’m afraid of clipping Bella’s nails). This type of trimmer can crush the nails if it’s not sharp enough. It’s best to avoid these unless you’re practiced.

Electric grinder:  

This is one I’ve never used, and you may want to avoid if you’re not a practiced nail trimmer. However, these work well to file the nail after trimming to prevent sharp and jagged edges.

Laying the Groundwork

So you’ve settled on the fact that your Boston terrier needs a nail trim. Before the nail trimmers come out, you’ll need to set everything up. Some dogs don’t care for nail trims simply because they don’t like to have their feet touched.

Others don’t like the pressure or noise of the trimmers on the nail, while some have been trimmed too short a time or two and felt the pain and soreness that comes with it. This anxiety from your dog can be fixed with a little pre-game plan.

Get your Boston used to having her feet handled. Incorporate touching her feet into everyday play.  Work on holding the foot without her pulling back, control the toes and even gently squeeze the nails.  Make a fun game out of it and give lots of rewards for good behavior. Once your pup lets you handle her feet, it’s time to introduce the nail trimmers. You don’t have to use them right away, let your dog look them over and decide that there’s nothing scary to it.

Another trick

My wife and I have made a routine for Bella when it comes to her nail trimming. We only do her nail trimming after a bath. And once she receives the trimming, she immediately gets a treat.

While she does not get a trim after every bath, she at least has come to accept our nail trim ritual.

How to trim your Boston’s nails in 3 steps

Finally, we’re onto the actual event. I set down on the floor and sit Bella in my lap facing away from me. I have Bella wrapped in a blanket (because she just came out of a bath). Then I pull out each paw individually.

The next option is to have another person hold you Boston while you focus on clipping the nails.

Step 1: Hold the feet

Hold your Boston Terrier’s paw firmly in your off hand with the trimmers in your dominant hand. If the nails are white, look to see where the pink inside ends and the excess toenail begins.  

For black nails, use the shape of the nail to help you determine where to cut. The nail will form a kind of neck where the triangular shape becomes skinnier and starts to indent in on the underside of the nail. This is excess growth and can be trimmed.

Step 2: Hold trimmers at 45-degree angle

Holding the trimmers at a 45º angle, start trimming off the nail. Depending on your comfort level, you can begin outward from where you think the quick (the blood vessel) ends and work your way in with smooth cuts.

You’re only going to want to cut until you can see you’re close to the pink part on white nails or until you see white inside the nail on black nails.  

Step 3: File

Use a file, emery board, or electric grinding trimmer to smooth the nails.

All done!  Celebrate and reward your Boston with a treat for a job well done. Check in every 3-4 weeks as the more frequent, less nail you have to trim, the better.

How to stop the bleeding of my dog’s nails when trimming.

I personally use corn starch. When trimming Bella’s nails, Emily and I use cornstarch to stop the bleeding. Have the cornstarch ready and the second you see blood put the cornstarch on the nail, compress, and elevate.

Final thoughts…

Trimming your Boston Terrier’s toenails doesn’t have to be one of these chores that you both dread. With the right prep, the right tools, and the proper procedure it can be something that you and your Boston can bond over.

Try to make every nail trimming experience a good one, exercise patience, and eventually, that grueling battle that you feared will be no blood, sweat, or tears.

What tips or tricks do you have when trimming your dog’s nails? Please share by leaving a comment below.

Donnie Gardner

Donnie Gardner is the owner of the Boston Terrier Society. He has been raising Bella the Boston since 2010. He resides in Kansas with his wife, daughter, and Bella. His favorite activities are hanging out with family, traveling, running (but has bad knees), and reading non-fiction books.

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