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Boston terrier

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Non-sporting group
  • Height – 15 to 17 inches
  • Weight – 12 to 25 pounds
  • Coat length & texture – Short and smooth
  • Coat color – Seal, brindle, white, or black and white; seal and white; brindle and white
  • Exercise needs -Moderate
  • Intelligence – High intelligence
  • Barking – Barks if left alone
  • Life span – 11 to 13 years
  • Temperament – Very social; can be snuggly or playful
  • Hypoallergenic – No
  • Origin – United States

Boston terrier fun facts 

  • Nicknamed “The American Gentleman”
  • Recent ancestors came from Victorian England where breeders crossed the English bulldog with the white terrier, a breed now extinct
  • The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the breed in 1893.
Boston terrier looking out window

Boston terrier temperament and characteristics 

A pup’s personality mostly depends on the individual dog, but you’ll find that most Boston terriers are social butterflies at their core. Some attach to one person; others display a friendly demeanor to everyone they see. The Boston terrier typically extends friendship to others in their household, including children and other pets. You might find you have a new door greeter; they can be welcoming to strangers as long as they feel comfortable and don’t have a history of abuse.

This is a breed best for homebodies. Boston terriers are not well-suited for people who are gone for most of the day because human interaction is one of their basic needs. If this need isn’t met, they can become destructive or bark excessively. Steady companionship will allow this dog to flourish with a happy and well-behaved temperament.

Coat characteristics

The classic Boston terrier has a signature white-and-black tuxedo pattern on its coat, but there are other color combinations. They have short, smooth coats, and although they’re not considered hypoallergenic, they don’t shed as much as other breeds.

Common Boston terrier health problems 

Boston terriers are a relatively healthy breed with an average lifespan of 11-13 years. However, they are at risk for numerous hereditary conditions. Not every Boston terrier will develop these conditions, but you should be aware of them before you buy or adopt one.

Vets consider Boston terriers a brachycephalic breed. They have facial bones that are shorter than necessary for healthy breathing. Of course, breeders didn’t choose to propagate these genes because it was unhealthy, but unfortunately, they prioritized the cosmetic appearance of a short-nosed dog over the breed’s medical needs. Keep an eye on a brachycephalic dog’s respiratory function. You help them in a few ways:

  • Use a harness on walks.
  • Keep Boston terriers out of extreme temperatures.
  • Never use a choke collar.

You can also choose surgery for their nostrils if they’re super stenotic.

In addition to respiratory issues, Boston terriers are also prone to these illnesses:

Boston terrier in park

Cost of caring for Boston terriers

Because the Boston terrier has so many hereditary health issues, it’s a good idea to invest in a low-cost pet health insurance plan to reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses. You’ll reap the most benefits if you enroll your pet while they’re still young. Some health insurance providers have age restrictions for certain coverage, so the sooner you sign up your pet, the better. Alternatively, you could set up a pet savings account to gradually set aside money for medical emergencies.

Other than medical bills, your Boston terrier should have average or lower-than-average costs. Because of their short, shedding coat, you’ll never have to pay for a haircut. Also, they won’t eat as much food as a larger breed.

History of the Boston terrier

During the late Victorian era in Liverpool, England, an English bulldog was bred with a white terrier. The dogs that descended from this mix were the direct ancestors of the Boston terrier, a distinctly American breed created a few years later in the breed’s namesake city. Terriers were bred for dog-fighting in England. Once in the U.S., the terrier’s reputation as a fighting dog was wiped clean, and they were enjoyed as pets.

The Boston terrier originated when U.S. Congressman Edward Burnett bred his pet bulldog with an English-imported terrier named Judge. The pair had only one unremarkable puppy. However, that puppy’s offspring were adorable, and soon the Boston terrier became popular in Boston and beyond.

Caring for your Boston terrier

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. Here are some other basics specific to Boston terriers.

Exercise

Your Boston terrier will require a lot of attention and moderate exercise. Social engagement is key to getting this breed to move around. If you let them outside to play without you, they’ll likely sit at the door, stubbornly refusing to play and awaiting your return. This loyal breed will go anywhere with you, so they would love to be your walking companion. Your Boston terrier is extremely intelligent and will enjoy playing fetch. They’re even good at agility courses.

Words of caution

Remember they’re a brachycephalic breed, so make sure they don’t over-exert themselves because they can have serious trouble breathing if they get too excited. They’re also more susceptible to heatstroke, so make sure they stay cool in hot weather and limit their exposure to extreme temperatures.

Boston terrier with a ball

Grooming

Your Boston terrier has a smooth, short-haired coat that’s easy to care for. They’ll need brushing several times a week and bathing no more than once a week. Avoid bathing your Boston terrier excessively because it can dry out their skin and occasionally occasionally trim their nails and clean their ears. And of course, daily toothbrushing is an essential part of any dog’s hygienic routine.

Diet and nutrition

While Boston terriers don’t have any breed-specific dietary and nutritional requirements, you should always feed your dog food formulated for their age. For example, growing puppies need more calories than elderly dogs that may struggle with excessive weight gain.

The Boston terrier is prone to be a picky eater and often develops gas. Because of these traits, look for high-quality food that’s palatable and easy to digest. Talk to your vet about how much and what type of food your pet should eat. Your pup’s diet may need to be altered due to their individual needs. In general, expect your Boston terrier to eat about 1-1 ¾ cups of dry kibble each day.

Training your Boston terrier

Boston terriers are incredibly intelligent and respond well to training. They’re people-pleasers and want to make you happy. They also tend to be emotionally sensitive, so never harshly correct your Boston terrier or it might damage their feelings or make them fearful of you. Start training them when they’re young for the best results, but it’s still possible to teach an old dog new tricks if you adopt them later in their life.

Boston terrier training

Breeds similar to the Boston terrier

Not quite sure that a Boston terrier is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. French bulldog. A small but sturdy breed, French bulldogs are also friendly dogs that need only moderate exercise and thrive on human companionship.
  2. Pug. Another short-haired dog, pugs are people pleasers but share some of the health concerns of other brachycephalic breeds.
  3. English bulldog. A larger breed, English bulldogs have sweet dispositions and need only moderate exercise.

Frequently asked questions

Are Boston terriers good house dogs?

Boston terriers are great house dogs … as long as you’re home. Left on their own for most of their waking hours, they may be destructive and become anxious barkers. These dogs adapt easily to any environment, whether they spend their days in an urban apartment or the open country. They also get along well with energetic young children or older folks. Where you lead, they’ll follow.

Do Boston terriers bark a lot?

Typically, no — unless they develop abandonment anxiety. Plan to spend most of your time at home if you adopt a Boston terrier. Create a positive association with their crate at a young age so they enjoy their time when they must be left alone.

Are Boston terriers cuddly?

Yes, your Boston terrier wants to be right where you are, including snuggling on the sofa. While any dog needs moderate exercise, Boston terriers adapt to any lifestyle as long as you’re their reliable companion.

What dictates the price of a Boston terrier?

A Boston terrier puppy typically costs $600-$4,000, with a $1,250 median price, which reflects the relative rarity of this breed. It’s also not easy to plan a litter of Boston terriers because they usually require birthing interventions, inflating breeding costs. Unless you particularly want an AKC certification, check out Boston Terrier Rescues or visit your local shelter to see if you might give a dog a second chance for a considerably lower price.

How healthy is the Boston terrier?

Like many dog breeds, the Boston terrier is prone to a variety of genetic health problems. Their brachycephalic classification is responsible for many of these since the short facial bone structures can cause respiratory distress.