Boston Terrier: Dog Breed Profile

Boston Terrier on a Log

Agata Bednarska / Getty Images

 

The Boston Terrier is often affectionately nicknamed the "American Gentleman" as a result of their markings that are reminiscent of a Tuxedo. They are a breed that is known for being full of energy, fun-loving, often zany, and very affectionate.

The Boston Terrier has a relatively short history, originating, unsurprisingly, in the United States in the late 1800s.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Non-Sporting

HEIGHT: 15 to 17 inches (to the withers)

WEIGHT: 15 to 25 pounds

COAT AND COLOR: Smooth, short coat. All Boston Terriers have a white muzzle and chest. The rest of their body will be either black, seal or brindle.

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Boston Terrier

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Boston Terrier

Given their warm and light-hearted reputation, it may come as a surprise to learn that the Boston Terrier was originally bred as a fighting dog.

While it is not known for certain, it is believed that the Boston Terriers that we know today are descended from a dog called Judge who was imported from the United Kingdom to the United States in the late 1860s. He is thought to have been a cross between an English Bull Dog and, the now obsolete, English White Terrier.

The breed was originally referred to as the Round Head, but their name was changed to honor the city they were developed in, and in 1893 they were recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Since their early days, they have become smaller, less stocky and famed for their jolly, amiable temperaments. The breed quickly became an American favorite and remains so to this day.

President Gerald R. Ford was famously a life-long fan of the breed, and Louis Armstrong's Boston Terrier, General, was thought to have inspired some of his compositions.

Photo of Boston Terrier and Owners circa 1920
A photo of a Boston Terrier, taken in the 1920s. H. Amstrong Roberts / Getty Images

Boston Terrier Care

A Boston Terrier has a low-maintenance grooming regime. Their smooth, short coat requires minimal attention, just a brush around once a week to lift out the dead hair should be sufficient. They do shed, but it is minimal in comparison to many other shedding dogs.

The breed is not known for having excessive exercise requirements, but, if they do not get enough stimulation and enrichment, this can lead to problem behaviors. They should still get at least one or two daily walks, depending on their individual needs. They have also been known to enjoy canine sports like agility.

They can be mischievous and have excitable and skittish bursts when feeling playful.

While it is still important that they receive appropriate socialization from an early age, the breed is known for being a great family dog. They tend to adore attention, can be fun goofballs, and get on well with other dogs and children. It is not unusual to see a Boston Terrier enjoying a role as a therapy dog because of their amiable nature and desire to be around people.

Their sociable personalities do mean they prefer a household where they have company most of the day. A lack of appropriate companionship can lead to destructive behavior and sometimes separation anxiety.

Boston Terriers respond extremely well to positive reinforcement training methods. They are eager to please, quick learners and very food motivated.

Their enthusiasm levels and desire for attention can, however, lead to them becoming over-excited greeters. It is important to make sure that you reward four paws on the floor to minimize issues with jumping up.

The same goes for when they are greeting other dogs. They can play too rough for some, and it is important to encourage good manners when they are meeting new four-legged friends.

Seal Colored Boston Terrier
A less common seal-colored Boston Terrier. Purple Collar Pet Photography / Getty Images
Boston Terrier Puppy
Back in the Pack Dog Portraits / Getty Images
Boston Terrier with Child
Rebecca Nelson / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Boston Terriers are a Brachycephalic, or flat-faced, breed. This can mean they are more prone to respiratory issues and overheating. While these problems are not as pronounced as they are in breeds like Pugs or French Bulldogs, care should still be taken when exercising and during periods of hot weather. It can also mean they can be noisy sleepers, often grunting and snoring loudly.

While the breed is commonly recommended as a suitable dog for first-time owners because of their temperament, their popularity does mean that they are prone to a number of genetic health conditions.

It is always important to seek out a responsible breeder that carries out all the required health checks. The breeder should be able to show the parents have had an Ophthalmologic and Patella Evaluation and the BAER test for hearing. Some of the conditions that they can suffer from include:

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, it is important that a Boston Terrier is fed on a high-quality, appropriately portioned diet. They are known for being rather food obsessed, so care must be taken to ensure they do not get overweight.

They can also be prone to flatulence; making sure they are on a diet that suits their digestive system will help reduce this and any other potential related gastrointestinal issues.

Often it can be trial and error to find the food that works best for them. This can be done in conjunction with advice from your Vet. An elimination diet, where a dog is fed a very specific simple diet before gradually introducing other ingredients over a number of weeks, is sometimes required.

Pros

  • Often seen as a great first-time dog, they are usually very good with children and other dogs.

  • They require minimal grooming.

  • They have a fun-loving and playful personality, but do not require extreme amounts of exercise.

Cons

  • This brachycephalic breed can be prone to a number of health conditions.


  • Their excitable nature can become problematic if appropriate training is not introduced from the beginning.

  • Because of their love of food, they can easily become overweight if overindulged.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Boston Terrier

As with all dogs, it is important that, if you are looking to buy a puppy, you do thorough research to find a reputable and responsible breeder. Because Boston Terriers remain a very popular breed, this demand means they are often a focus for unscrupulous backyard breeders and puppy farms.

It is important to find a breeder that is registered, does all the appropriate health tests and allows you to see mum and her pups in a nurturing home environment.

They are not a breed that is found as commonly in general rescue shelters, but it is worth enquiring with your local shelter. There are also breed specific rescues, and offering a forever home to an adopted dog is such a worthwhile and rewarding option.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Although a Boston Terrier can make a fantastic first-time dog for a novice owner, it is still important that you consider whether the breed will fit in with your lifestyle. Will they get enough company during the day? Are you prepared for the training that may be required if they are extra excitable? Don't forget to do your research on breeders too.

If you want to consider other similar breeds, you may wish to research the following:

There are a huge variety of dog breeds and fantastic mutts out there, with a host of different traits and characteristics—doing your research will help you understand which ones may be best suited to your lifestyle!