- Average Height: Varies
- Average Weight: 10 to 25 pounds
- Coloring: White With Black, Brindle, or Dark Brown
- Coat Type: Short
- Dog Breed Group: Non-Sporting
- Average Lifespan: 13 to 15 years
Key Personality Traits:
AffectionateEnergeticGood with Cats/DogsGood with KidsActiveGoofy
The Boston Terrier wears a tuxedo coat and a stylin’ attitude. He is friendly, portable and enthusiastic in everything he does. He gets along well with kids, other pets and pretty much everyone he meets. All in all, he’s a fantastic little companion dog. Despite his pugnacious appearance, the Boston Terrier is a lover, not a fighter. One of the few dog breeds to originate in the United States, the Boston was bred to be a best friend, happy to do just about anything as long as he’s with his human family. And he can go anywhere with them: not only is he a small-but-sturdy size for any situation, he’s one of the few dogs that’s always formally dressed, in markings that resemble a well-tailored tuxedo.
The Boston can be happy as a couch potato or a canine athlete – whatever you want to do, he’ll be right there beside you. He’s also agile and intelligent enough to do it all, from learning tricks to competing in agility, obedience or other sports. And you don’t usually have to worry about a lot of attitude either; a well-bred, well-socialized Boston gets along well with children, strangers and other pets
Even better, the Boston (some people call him a Boston Bull Terrier) is neither hard to housetrain nor a nuisance barker. He sheds very little, and doesn’t require much in the way of grooming. A very sturdy dog considering that his weight range is only 10 to 25 pounds, the Boston is suited to lap life or apartment-dwelling as well as to an active suburban existence on the go.
If the Boston Terrier seems to be the perfect companion, that’s because this all-American dog was bred to be just that. He’s just naturally good at the job he was created to do, though, like all dogs, he does require exercise, training and socialization to avoid behavior problems.
He’s a pretty good-looking little dog, too. Although the black-and-white Boston is the best known variety, the breed allows for a number of dark colors – including a distinctive brindle. What Bostons share is a distinctive look: a lovable mug with a square jaw line and upright ears that are sometimes cropped but are best left to stand on their own. (Ear cropping is a cosmetic procedure that offers no health benefits to the dog.)
Other Quick Facts
- The Boston Terrier is at home in any situation and never meets a stranger; everyone is a potential new friend.
- The Boston Terrier is dapper in his black and white tuxedo, but he can also come in brindle or seal with white markings. His short coat is simple to groom and sheds little.
- Boston Terriers get along well with children as well as other pets.
- The Boston Terrier takes his name from Boston, Mass, where he was developed.
- The Boston’s weight ranges from 10 to 25 pounds, with most weighing between 13 and 16 pounds, making them easily portable.
- Bostons excel in dog sports, including agility, flyball, obedience and rally. They also make great therapy dogs.
The History of Boston Terriers
Nicknamed the American Gentleman, the Boston Terrier comes from a mixed heritage that first began in the urban stewpot that is Boston, Mass. He descends from a dog named Judge, who was probably a cross between a Bulldog and the now-extinct white English Terrier. Judge’s owner bred him with Burnett’s Gyp, and one of their puppies was Wells’ Eph. Eph’s offspring are the ancestors of today’s Boston Terriers.
The little dogs with the round heads and screw tails were first known as Round Heads, Bullet Heads or Bull Terriers, but in 1889 they officially took the name Boston Terrier. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1893.
Today, the Boston ranks 20th among the breeds registered by the American Kennel Club, down just a bit from 18th in 2000. His all-around charm ensures that his popularity holds steady.
Boston Terrier Temperament and Personality
The Boston Terrier combines enthusiasm from his terrier ancestors with the gentle sweetness and good sense of his Bulldog ancestors. He also has a sly sense of humor and loves to clown around. The Boston is smart, enjoys plenty of attention and loves to be with people, especially if that means sitting on a lap or sharing a bed or sofa. He’s definitely a cuddler and a snuggler. Expect the Boston to be excited when he greets visitors, but he’ll soon settle down once he has given them an appropriately enthusiastic welcome. The Boston can entertain himself, especially if he has a favorite toy or two, but he’d much rather be doing something with his family.
Some Bostons have a reputation for being excessively active, but that’s not typical for the breed. A well-bred, well-socialized Boston is outgoing and playful but never obnoxiously demanding of time and attention. He will adapt himself to your schedule, but that doesn’t mean he’s impervious to separation anxiety. He is a major love bug and needs a family who will enjoy and desire his company.
Bostons love kids, and kids love them right back. That doesn’t mean they enjoy being mauled, though. Teach kids how to treat the dog, and supervise play, especially when very young children are involved. The Boston makes friends with other pets, too. It’s not unusual to find a Boston napping with the family cat. If you work all day, it can be nice to have a second Boston so they can keep each other company.
The Boston wants to please and generally learns quickly, but each dog is an individual. Some are more amenable to training than others. If your Boston seems unwilling to get with the program, try to figure out what motivates him. Usually food works, but praise or a favorite toy may also be the key to successful training.
A word of advice: any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Boston, the “teen” years can start at six months and continue until the dog is about two years old.
Puppy training should start the first week you bring him home. If you wait until he is 6 months old to start teaching him basic commands, expect a harder-to-train, more headstrong dog to deal with. Get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. Before enrolling him, just know that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date. On top of that, many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed, which usually happens around 4 months old.
The perfect Boston Terrier doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Whatever you want from a Boston, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
What You Need to Know About Boston Terrier Health
Just like in humans, there’s no such thing as a dog that is immune to potential genetic health problems. Your breeder should offer a health guarantee on her puppies and be transparent about any known health issues. If she doesn’t offer that guarantee, find a new breeder. Ensuring you raise a healthy puppy starts with the breeder you choose, so don’t skimp out on doing your due diligence.
As a breed, the Boston Terrier is more prone to certain health problems than others. Here’s a brief rundown on what you should know.
Flat-face conditions. Bostons are among the flat-faced, or brachycephalic, dog breeds. While endearing, flat faces bring with them many health problems, some minor such as snoring and snuffling, and some major, including life-threatening breathing difficulties that may require surgery to correct, if they can be corrected at all.
Hemivertebrae. The corkscrew tail is associated with a condition known as hemivertebrae, a failure in the development of the bones of the spine. While some dogs may be asymptomatic, others may show signs in puppyhood, including impaired movement and a lack of coordination in the hind legs. The puppy can end up paralyzed, and surgery is often the only treatment.
Eye disorders. The flat face of the Boston Terrier also puts his eyes at risk of a number of injuries and diseases. There are numerous eye disorders that are known to occur in the Boston, and eye problems are one of the most reported health problem in the breed. They include cataracts, corneal ulcers and glaucoma. In the case of juvenile cataracts, a genetic test has allowed breeders to identify dogs that carry the gene and reduce the incidence of the problem in the breed.
Hearing loss. A small but significant number of Bostons are deaf in one ear, and some are completely deaf. It’s important to discover this when the dog is as young as possible, because it will affect his training and socialization at a critical age.
Luxating patellas. Boston Terriers do share one problem with the many other small breeds: a condition known as luxating patellas, or kneecaps that can easily slip out of place. Some cases are mild, but severe cases require surgical repair.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you need to find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
Before individual Boston Terriers can be included in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) database, the Boston Terrier Club of America requires them to have a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation, a patella (knee) evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, and a hearing evaluation based on the BAER test from either OFA or the Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals at UC-Davis (GDC). You can search the OFA and CHIC websites yourself to see if a pup’s parents are listed.
Beyond vetting your breeder for proper testing, you as the owner are also responsible for protecting your Boston Terrier from one of the most common health problems in dogs: obesity. Making sure your Boston gets adequate exercise and a balanced diet is one of the easiest ways to give him the longest, healthiest life possible.
The Basics of Boston Terrier Grooming
The Boston Terrier has a short, smooth coat that is easy to groom and doesn’t shed heavily. Brush him weekly with a rubber hound mitt to remove dead hair and keep the skin healthy.
The debonair Boston doesn’t have a doggie odor and he shouldn’t need a bath more often than every few months. The rest is basic care. Trim the toenails every few weeks. Long nails can get caught on things and tear off. That’s really painful, and it will bleed a lot. Brush the teeth frequently for good dental health.
Choosing a Breeder for Your Boston Terrier
Time put towards finding the right breeder is time put to good use. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, one that has all necessary health certifications and that matches the temperament and personality you’re looking for. At the end of the day, a reputable breeder cares more about getting her dogs in the right homes than bringing home a big paycheck.
Ask questions to the breeder about temperament, personality, and health clearances, and a good breeder will come back with questions of her own: What are you looking for in a Boston? What kind of life can you provide for him? Boston Terrier breeders worth their salt know about the history of the breed, understand what makes them a quality pet over one that is not, and comprehend the types of health problems the breed is prone to and how to avoid potential complications.
Start your search at the website of the Boston Terrier Club of America, where you’ll find tips on locating a good breeder as well as a breeder referral service. Look for a breeder who has agreed to abide by the code of ethics of the national club, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to or through pet stores, and recommends that all puppies be placed with a written contract guaranteeing the breeder will take them back if their owners become unable to keep them in the future. You want a breeder who is willing to help you with any questions or problems you may have as you train and care for your Boston.
Here are some red flags to watch out for as you are researching a breeder for your Boston:
- Breeders who seem primarily concerned with getting puppies out fast
- Puppies purchased through a website that are shipped to you immediately
- Breeders who have puppies that are always available
- Breeders with multiple litters on the premises
- Having the option to pay online with a credit card
- Having your choice of any puppy in the litter
“Let the buyer beware” applies when you are thinking about buying a Boston from a breeder. Puppy mills can sometime be hard to spot next to more legitimate operations. While you can’t guarantee you’ll bring home a 100% healthy puppy, researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of getting yourself in a bad situation. Don’t be afraid to use your veterinarian for advice on finding a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The price you pay for a Boston puppy will depend on the region you buy him, his sex, his lineage, and whether he is slated for the show ring or as a home pet. Regardless of those factors, choose a puppy that was raised in a clean home environment with parents who have their health clearances documented. Additionally, puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Puppies are a lot of fun, but raising one is not for everyone. You may consider purchasing an adult Boston Terrier instead if you lead a busier lifestyle. Adult dogs are more likely to have some training and are often less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. You will also know more what you’re getting in terms of personality and health with an adult dog if you find one through breeders or shelters. Ask breeders about retired show dogs available for adoption or if they know anyone in their network looking to re-home a Boston.
Adopting a Boston Terrier From a Rescue or Shelter
People looking to adopt a Boston Terrier have many options to find their perfect dog. Here are a few tips to get started.
Do an Online Search. The most popular sites for finding adoptable dogs are Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com. They let you cast as wide a net as you want, allowing you to search for specific requests (housetraining status, for example) or for very general queries (all the Bostons available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org is your go-to source for finding animal rescue groups in your area. You might also consider reading the “pets looking for homes” sections in your local newspaper.
Also, don’t count out social media as an effective way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
Reach Out to Your Local Pet Network. Start talking with all of the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Boston. Vets, dog walkers, and groomers are often the first to know when someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, and may be able to connect you with the Boston you’re looking for.
Check out a Breed Rescue. Networking can help you find the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Boston rescues in your area. Most people who love Bostons love all Bostons. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Boston Terrier Club of America’s rescue network is an excellent resource to find Boston rescues in your area.
When you finally find the Boston Terrier for you, make sure to have a solid contract that spells out responsibilities between you and the seller, shelter or rescue group. Check out Petfinder’s Adopters Bill of Rights to help you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, schedule a visit for your Boston at your vet soon after you bring him home. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
Boston Terrier FAQs
How Much are Boston Terrier Puppies?
The price for a Boston Terrier puppy can vary widely. Depending on where you live and the caliber of the litter’s genetic lineage, a puppy will cost you anywhere between $350 and $3,500. The average price for a Boston Terrier in the United States is around $1,100.
Cost, however, should not be the sole determining factor for choosing a Boston Terrier puppy. As with any major purchase you make, do your research. If you find a “bargain” puppy online that looks too good to be true, it usually is. Many breeders who charge a premium for their pups do so because they are rigorously vetted for health, temperament, and overall quality. When you factor in potentially expensive health issues over the life of your dog, sometimes making a larger upfront investment is actually the more cost effective choice.
How Long Does a Boston Terrier Live?
Boston Terriers, like many small breeds, have a longer than average lifespan for a dog. Most Boston Terriers live to be between 13 and 15 years old. How long a Boston Terrier lives will depend significantly on diet, exercise, lifestyle, and genetics. Always keep your dog up to date on all vaccines and make sure he maintains a healthy weight to allow him to live a longer life.
How Big Does a Boston Terrier Get?
Overall, Boston Terriers are a compact breed that do not pack a punch in either the height or weight category. The smallest Boston Terriers will weigh about 10 pounds while larger ones can weigh as much as 25 pounds. As for height, the average male stands about 17 inches tall while females tend to be shorter, averaging at just 16 inches in height.
Do Boston Terriers Shed?
Yes, Boston Terriers shed, but not a significant amount. Unlike breeds like Labrador Retrievers or Belgian Malinois who have thick, double coats that shed heavily, Boston Terriers’ short coat will shed only a light amount year-round. Periodically brushing your Boston Terrier and giving him regular baths will help manage any shedding and keep him looking his best.