Boston Terrier

Breed At A Glance


Gentle and alert, sometimes spunky

Life Expectancy
15+ years

Average Height
15-17 inches

Average Weight
10-25 lbs

Coat Color
Brindle and white, or black and white

Coat Length/Texture
Short, brilliant, and finely textured

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round

Also known as Boston Bull, Boston Bull & Terrier, Boxwood, American Bull Terrier

General Temperament

Although they were first bred for various dog fighting sports, the Boston Terrier has since been bred down to be smaller and more docile, making it a more compatible companion pet. They are famous for being gentle and well-mannered. Boston Terriers are generally good with considerate children, but are particularly fond of the elderly.

The Boston Terrier has a playful disposition and a good sense of humor. They enjoy being an integral member of the family and do not do well if left alone for long periods. Most Boston Terriers rarely bark, although some will bark at a knock at the door. They get along well with other household pets and are very friendly with strangers. Male Boston Terriers can sometimes be aggressive with other dogs.

Boston Terriers are intelligent and enjoy learning, and are therefore very easy to obedience train, although they can be difficult to housebreak (the crate training method is recommended). With their intelligence comes significant sensitivity; harsh or heavy-handed training methods should never be used or the dog may become timid, neurotic or unwilling to learn. When properly trained, Boston Terrier’s can excel in agility and flyball.

Their portability and personability make Boston Terriers great traveling companions, although they are sensitive to extreme temperatures. They make good apartment dogs as they do not require extensive exercise. But like all dogs, they require walks and playtime to maintain good health.

Breed History

The Boston Terrier is one of the few breeds to have originated in the United States. The breed was the result of crossing an English Bulldog and a white English Terrier, although they maintain little of their Bulldog roots as fighters. A dog named “Hooper’s Judge,” who was purchased by Robert C. Hooper in 1870, is commonly accepted to be the initial sire for the breed. Judge was quite a bit larger than the modern Boston Terrier, weighing in at over 30 lbs. Over time, the breed was bred down in size to make them a better companion pet, mixing with French Bulldogs along the way. The dog was initially termed the “American Bull Terrier,” but fanciers of the original Bull Terrier and Bulldog objected to this name, claiming that the breeds differed too much to share the name. The name Boston Terrier was adopted in 1891, when the Boston Terrier Club of America was formed.

The Boston Terrier was the first all-American breed to be accepted into the American Kennel Club stud book in 1893.

Body Structure and Composition

The most distinguishing characteristic of the Boston Terrier is it’s square head with a short and boxy muzzle, wide-set eyes, and tall ears that stand erect at the top of the head. The body is proportionate to the legs, meaning that the dog is as long at it is tall. The topline is level and the short tail is set and carried low. The Boston Terrier has a graceful, straight-lined and gait.

Boston Terrier puppies have large heads, therefore many litters are delivered via Caesarian section.

Medical Information

Boston Terriers are prone to a significant amount of hereditary diseases. The most noticeable problem facing this breed is Brachycephalic Syndrome, a disease that plagues many short-muzzled breeds. Symptoms include noisy breathing, overheating easily (even in moderate weather), labored breathing, frequent gagging or vomiting for no apparent reason, Cyanosis (blue gums due to lack of oxygen), and Syncope (sudden fainting).

The breed’s protuberant eyes are prone to a myriad of infections and diseases, including corneal ulcers, cataracts, and “Cherry Eye.” Cherry Eye is the term used when the gland of the third eyelid (known as the nictitating membrane) prolapses and becomes visible. Corneal Dystrophy is also common in this breed, and occurs when fluid build-up makes the cornea appear white, beginning at the edge and progressing to the center. It can cause a painful corneal ulcer that is difficult to treat. Glaucoma, Keratitis Sicca (dry eyes), Entropion (inward-turning eyelids), and Distichiasis (abnormally placed hairs on the inside of the eyelid) are also seen in this breed.

This breed also suffers from bone-related problems. Hemivertebrae (also known as butterfly vertebrae) is a condition in which the vertebrae of the spine are shaped more like triangles than blocks, resulting from the failure of the left and right halves of a vertebrae to fuse completely during fetal development. This condition creates a coveted corkscrew style tail, but can cause the dog significant pain. Boston Terriers also encounter Patellar Luxation (also known as “slipped stifle”) when the kneecap slips out of place, requiring surgery.

Boston Terrier’s have a high incidence of deafness, which can be diagnosed around 6 weeks of age using a BAER test. Puppies that are unilaterally deaf, meaning they are deaf in one ear, will likely not show significant symptoms and can make wonderful companion pets, although they should not be bred.

The Boston Terrier is also prone to skin allergies and heart murmur.

Grooming a Boston Terrier is relatively simple given their short and fine coat. Be sure to check the eyes and ears frequently to remove any foreign objects and prevent infection.

Anecdotal Information

The mascot of Boston University is a Boston Terrier named Rhett.

The Boston Terrier is the state dog of Massachusetts.

Helen Keller was given a Boston Terrier by her classmates at Radcliffe College.

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