Boston Terrier Profile: Everything to Know About the Breed

Updated October 5, 2021
Boston Terrier lounging around in the grass

Since their inception a little more than a century ago, the Boston Terrier has been a popular dog breed. Originally bred as fighting dogs, they've evolved into kind, devoted companions with tuxedo-like markings that have given them the moniker the "American Gentleman."

Origins and History

Most experts agree the Boston Terrier came to be in the late 1800s in Boston, Massachusetts. However, there are several theories regarding how the breed originated.

The first story involves coachmen of wealthy families developing the breed using a cross between the Bulldog and English White Terrier for the purpose of becoming a fighting breed. The other theory involves a man named Robert C. Hooper. One theory is Hooper imported a Bulldog/English Terrier mix named Judge from England. Another is that Hooper purchased Judge from another Boston, Massachusetts resident named William O'Brian around 1870.

Initially, they were not known as Boston Terriers. Bullet heads, round-headed bull-and-terriers, pit mixes, American terriers, and Boston bulldogs were some of the names given to them.

Eventually, breeding programs concentrated on Boston-to-Boston mating, resulting in the breed known today. The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the breed in 1893. The Boston Terrier was one of the earliest non-sporting dogs bred in the United States, and it was the first of the AKC's 10 made-in-America breeds.

Characteristics of the Breed

Boston Terrier Characteristics

Boston Terriers are well-known for their energetic demeanor, happy personality, and one-of-a-kind appearance.

Appearance

The Boston Terrier is a muscular, energetic little companion dog, easily recognized by its distinctive markings. Although the breed comes in brindle and white, seal and white, and black and white, it is the black and white combination of short, smooth, tuxedo coat that gives the breed its "gentlemanly" appearance.

The white area of the coat extends from the center of the forehead and proceeds down the muzzle, chest, and front legs. It continues around the neck and to varying degrees across the shoulders and belly, finally running down a portion of the rear legs. The remainder of the dog is either brindle or one of the solid colors mentioned.

Temperament

The Boston Terrier, also known as the American Gentleman, is a lively, intelligent, and lovable dog with a mild, even temperament. Boston Terriers can be a bit on the stubborn side, likely due to their terrier ancestry, but these dogs do make wonderful, loving, and loyal companions when properly trained and socialized. They are very affectionate and devoted to their owners, and enjoy a lively game of tug as well as a good cuddle.

When they're young, Boston Terriers need early socialization, like all dogs. This involves exposure to a variety of people, sights, sounds, and experiences. Socialization is important to ensure your Boston puppy develops into a well-rounded adult dog.

Exercise Requirements

Boston terrier dog running over meadow

Boston Terriers are ideal inside dogs due to their size and demeanor. They don't require much space, but they do require daily movement. The amount of exercise required varies each dog and might range from a quick walk around the block to an hour or more at the dog park. The majority of Boston Terriers will require 30-60 minutes of daily exercise.

Training

Bostons are very intelligent and are capable of easily learning whatever you care to teach them, if you are consistent. These little dogs do tend to have minds of their own. So, if you are lax in providing guidance, they will definitely choose their own route in life.

Because Bostons are sensitive to tone of voice and punishment might cause them to shut down. Positive reinforcement is not only encouraged, but necessary. Rewards like treats and praise go a long way with every breed, but this breed is particularly persistent when they know they are pleasing you.

That said, a well trained Boston is a joy to know.

Health Concerns

Like many other brachycephalic breeds with round heads and pushed in faces, Bostons are prone to snoring and snorting spells. This can be caused by an elongated palate, narrow nostrils, or a combination of the two that results in rather small airways, which also make this breed more prone to heat stress.

Other breed-related health problems include:

  • Cherry Eye: Cherry eye involves a prolapse of the third eyelid that is thought to be caused by a genetic mutation. It is most common in puppies under the age of a year.
  • Cataracts: When a dog has cataracts, it may appear as if there is a cloudy film over their eye. Both juvenile and adult cataracts are common in Boston Terriers.
  • C-section deliveries: Due to the size of the puppies in comparison to the mother, most Boston Terriers must be delivered via C-section.
  • Reverse sneezing: This condition can occur at any time in your Boston's life. Generally, it is known to occur if a Boston is over-excited, eats too quickly, or is affected by some type of allergen. When a Boston reverse sneezes, nasal secretions drop onto the soft palate resulting in closure of the windpipe. The dog will likely make a wheezing sound and may become alarmed. Speaking in a soft tone and maintaining calm should assist in shortening the episode.
  • Patellar luxation: This condition is common in small dogs. It occurs when the patella is not properly lined up, resulting in lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait.
  • Megaesophagus: This condition involves a defect in the structure of the esophagus. It causes a dog to regurgitate their undigested food. Regurgitation differs from vomiting in that there is generally no advanced warning. The food is also undigested as opposed to partially or fully digested.

Life Expectancy

Boston Terrier Standing By Lake

The average Boston Terrier lives between 11 and 13 years. This is in line with dogs their size. For example, the Cocker Spaniel's average lifespan is 11 years, while the Welsh Corgi's average lifespan is 13 years.

Although this is the average lifespan, genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle all play a role.

Famous Members of the Breed

One of the most famous dogs in history was a Boston Terrier named Stubby. In fact, there's even a cartoon movie about this Boston. You may notice Sgt. Stubby referred to as a bull terrier mutt because it wasn't until later they discovered this dog was actually a Boston breed.

Sergeant Stubby was a recognized World War I hero. The medal was not a formal United States military recognition, but it symbolically certified Stubby as the greatest war dog in the country's history. Stubby had earned one wound stripe and three service stripes while at war. This Boston was the first dog to be given rank in the United States Army, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Stubby had been reported to comfort wounded warriors on the battlefields, sniff out poison gas, bark warnings to soldiers in the trenches, and capture a German soldier. Stubby met three sitting presidents, traveled the nation to commemorations, and performed in shows. Stubby earned $62.50 for three days of theatrical appearances, which was more than twice the weekly salary for the average American at that time. Up until Stubby's death in 1926, Sgt. Stubby was known to be the most famous animal in the nation.

Buying or Adopting a Boston

tiny boston terrier puppy chewing on toys

As with any breed, take caution prior to making the decision to buy or adopt. Fully understanding the needs and requirements of Boston Terrier ownership is critical. Dogs are not temporary. They are a long-term commitment. If you don't have the time or energy to take on a breed with high energy, this may not be the one for you. If you are ready for an energetic, affectionate furry family member, there are breeders and shelters where they can be found.

Breeders

The price of a Boston Terrier depends on a number of factors, including the breeder's location, reputation, litter size, puppy lineage, breed popularity (supply and demand), training, and veterinary costs. On average, you can expect to pay between $600 and $800. You can find a list of breeders on the AKC Marketplace.

Rescue Organizations

Adopting a Boston Terrier is substantially less expensive than purchasing one from a breeder. Adopting a Boston Terrier costs roughly $300 to cover the costs of care for the dog prior to adoption. AdoptaBoston provides information on Boston Terriers available for adoption in several states. You can also search the listings on Petfinder and Save-a-Rescue to find Boston and Boston mixes in all-breed rescues and shelters.

Are You Ready for a Boston?

Boston Terriers can be great companions and family pets. Their small size is perfect for cuddling, but their sturdy build is more durable than the average Toy breed. If you're looking for a pet that is intelligent, affectionate, and ready for fun, perhaps it's time you considered a Boston?

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Boston Terrier Profile: Everything to Know About the Breed