ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Boston terrier is a small dog breed that has its origins in America. The dog is found to be one of the most cheerful breeds of dog that exists. Their playfulness has endeared them to many families as a suitable companion dog for children and also the elderly. The Boston terrier, however, is not your usual outdoor dog, as it does not tolerate heat and cold very well. He is therefore a suitable apartment dweller preferring to cozy at your feet and ready to please.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityHigh
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Companion Dogs
Height:1 foot to 1 foot 3 inches tall at the shoulders
Weight:Generally 10 — 25 pounds
Life Span:13 to 15 years

The Boston terrier is of a small dog breed and is listed as a companion dog. The dog is a compact, well-muscled and rather handsome little dog with a gentlemanly posture. They come with a square head that is flat on top, and a short, square muzzle that helps to make them distinctly the Boston terrier.

They belong to a class of dogs with short heads, having a short upper jaw that produces a “pushed-in” face. This terrier is also a standout because of its large and round appealing eyes that are set widely apart, which he uses to charm and melt hearts. The dog is known also for its ears that stand erect, and even those born with floppy ones are cropped to look that way. They have naturally short tails that are set low on the rear sometimes in a corkscrew.

Looking at the pleasing disposition of the Boston terrier, one would never believe the change that has been accomplished since the first attempt at the breed. The Boston terrier has come out of a history that makes it America’s truly owned and bred dog, and has been often considered as the national dog. Its roots are set in Boston and a cross between a Bulldog and the white English terrier.

Originally, the dog was bred to be a fierce pit-fighter, but has been bred down to a favorable dog disposition that persons can live with today. The natural terrier nature of its ancestors is sometimes seen in its growl when there are strangers in its surroundings. However, its display of fierceness is soon replaced by its sweet personality.

This terrier is quite an intelligent dog, and this makes them highly trainable. They, however, can have moments of stubbornness, but this is soon forgiven when they look at you with those huge wide eyes. Aside from this, they have an affectionate and lovable disposition that endears them to families, especially those with small kids.

Main Highlights
  • The digestive system of the Boston terrier is of such that he does not handle changes in foods very well. It is important therefore to maintain the same diet. Changes tend to cause them to have upset stomach and diarrhea.
  • Because Boston terriers do not have long noses like other dogs, they are not able to manage their breathing properly, and are therefore prone to health issues such as reverse sneezing and are liable to heat stroke.
  • Boston terriers’ short coat causes them to chill easily in cold temperatures and therefore they are more indoor dwellers.
  • Boston terriers are known for their tendency to pass gas that is rather smelly and embarrassing. This is one of their imperfections that you will have to endure if you decide to have him as pet.
  • Their short noses cause the dog to snort, drool and snore (sometimes rather loudly). This can be annoying.
  • Boston litters are not large and you have instances of only one puppy being born.
  • Although they are easily handled, Boston terriers can be stubborn and therefore you should be persistent and consistent in your expectations of him.
Breed History

The origins of the Boston terrier breed goes back to about 1870. According to accounts of the period, Robert C. Hooper of Boston bought the dog Judge from William O’Brian. From thence the dog was known as Hooper’s Judge. Judge was of Bulldog lineage and was described as a “well-built high-stationed dog” of dark brindle color with a white blaze on his face and a square, blocky head (Boston Terrier, 2015). Judge, the Bulldog was bred with an English White terrier called Burnett’s Gyp belonging to one Edward Burnett of Southboro, Massachusetts.

The union between Judge and Gyp produced one male dog named Well’s Eph. It wasn’t a handsome dog, but since it possessed other likable characteristics, the dog was widely bred by Hooper and other dog fanciers.  Cross breeding continued until eventually the dog lovers settled for a breed that appeared close to the Boston terrier of today. Because of their short blocky heads, they were called by various names, including bullet heads, round-headed bull-and-terriers, American terriers, and Boston bulldogs.

Owing to the increasing popularity of the Boston bull terriers, their owners formed the American Bull Terrier club in 1889. Owners of the Bulldog and Bull Terriers breeds, however, were protective of their breed and used their might in numbers to stop the use of the name.  The Boston Bull Terriers’ owners since changed the name to the Boston Bull Terrier Club. This dog breed continued to expand in numbers and to be adapted for their likeable nature. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1893 as the first American non-sporting dog.

Size

The Boston terrier can be found in three weight categories; under 15 pounds, 15 and under 20 pounds, and twenty to 25 pounds. The AKC has set a standard weight of not more than twenty five pounds for the breed. The dog goes from 15 – 17 inches in height at the shoulders.

Personality and Character

If there is a dog with a cheerful disposition, it is found in the Boston terrier. The dog is very playful and friendly and eager to please. For this reason it does very well with children who will find him as a playmate especially if he grows up with them. He is also a very good companion dog for the elderly. This dog does not bark a lot, only when necessary and together with its small size, makes a very good apartment dweller.

The Boston terrier however, can be stubborn individuals and therefore like any other breed needs early socialization and training to be a rounded dog. They may know to “sit” and “stay”, but they may not want to obey the commands.  You, therefore, must be consistent and persistent in the behaviors you require of the dog.

Health and Potential Problems

Boston terriers are generally healthy dogs. However, like all other dogs, the breed is associated with some health problems. Some problems are due to the construction of the dog.

  • Reverse Sneezing — Having a flat face and short snout makes them liable to breathing related problems. Their small nostrils, long palates and narrow trachea or wind-pipe causes what is referred to as reverse sneezing. In normal sneezing, air is pushed out forcefully through the nostrils. With reverse sneezing air is pulled in rapidly into the nose causing the dog to gag and snort as he tries to clear its air waves. The dog may get agitated but you can calm him by talking soothingly to him while you stroke his throat. Pinching the nose closed or placing a hand over the nostrils is said to help to stop the action.
  • Eye Diseases – Bostons are susceptible to diseases of the eye like many other breeds. Cherry eye for example, one of the most common of these disorders is a bulging of one of the tear glands in the corner of the eye. Cherry eye is seen as early as in the first year of the dog. Cataract of the eye is another disorder in the Boston terrier. A cloudy film covers the lens of the eye, making it difficult to see clearly. The problem also occurs very early in the dog’s life as juvenile cataract. Boston dog breeders have been able to identify dogs that carry the gene of juvenile cataract and have effectively reduced incidences among young dogs.
  • Deafness – A significant number of Bostons are predisposed to being deaf. They either are deaf in one or in both ears. This is definitely a genetic condition and it has been found that dogs with more than two-thirds white on the head or the body have a greater likelihood of producing deaf offsprings. If you are interested in buying or adopting a Boston terrier puppy, it is important that you get it tested for deafness as this will affect your ability to train and socialize the dog properly.
  • Luxating Patella – The luxation of the patella is a condition in which the kneecap moves out of place. Also called floating patella, trick knee, or floating kneecap, this is a common problem among small dog breeds including Boston terriers. This causes lameness in the dog. Constant rubbing in the joint leads to arthritis and severe cases of luxation will need to be surgically repaired. Luxation of the patella usually starts at birth but is not obvious until later in life.
  • Allergies – This dog breed also is prone to a range of allergies that could start by contact or from food eaten or by dust or pollen in the environment. A tell-tale sign that the dog may have an allergy is frequent licking of the paws or him rubbing the face.

Boston terriers are prone to certain diseases just as any other dog breeds, some of them are passed on by genetics. If you have the intention of acquiring a Boston puppy, be sure to get health clearances for the parents and grandparents especially for those disorders that are likely to affect the breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) will provide clearance for hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease. You can also check the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for normal eyes in the breed.

Care Features

Exercise and Temperature Needs — Understanding the uniqueness of the temperament of the Boston terrier will help to guide you in how to care for the dog. It is quite a very loving and playful pet but has limits in the amount of exercise that it should get. While he will definitely love a walk in the park and playing in the yard with you or the children, try not to over-exert him in long or too vigorous play.

His short snout will not allow him to breathe in and out fast enough and this can cause the dog to get into gasping and choking fits. Added to this, the Boston can get overheated when playing in hot temperatures. On the other hand, they get chilled easily and therefore should not be exposed to cold temperatures. Of such the dog does well indoors and keeping him inside during these periods will make him safe and happy.

Emotional needs – Yes! Bostons may not be humans, but they have emotional needs. They are rather sensitive to displays of affection and once there is an indication that you are angry at him, he will become unresponsive especially during training. Your trainer should be sensitive to the personality of this dog breed and use positive techniques to motivate him.

Eye care – Boston terriers have bulging eye balls, a signature feature of the breed. This makes them vulnerable to eye injuries and eye sores that are difficult to heal. You can help to prevent injuries to the dog’s eyes by keeping his whole body inside the car while driving. It is a common cause of eye injuries in Bostons.

Give Love and Attention – Bostons are playful and at the same time they need love and attention. It is best to have someone to play with the dog at least once each day. You will find that if he does not get this he will get depressed and irritable. These dogs love to play games of fetch, tug of war, chase and play-wrestling. Only do not over-exert him in these activities.

Feeding Schedule

Recommended daily amount: 0.5 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.

Develop a feeding schedule for your dog and stick to it. Boston terriers are rather fussy eaters. They do not tolerate changes in their diets well and can get diarrhea and upset stomach when this happens. Their digestive system is quite sensitive and care should be taken when feeding them. Bostons are pretty greedy dogs also and if they are not monitored, and their food portions controlled, they can become overweight. Be mindful that Bostons are required to maintain a modest shape and should not be too fat or too thin.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Boston terrier sports a short, slick coat that is easy to maintain. You can find Bostons in three colors — black, brindle and seal (a black color with a reddish cast when looked at in sunlight). In all three colors, the dog has white markings on the face and chest and does not appear in solid colors any at all. A solid color dog being passed off as a Boston, means the breeder has not adhered to the breed standard.

Bostons are low maintenance dogs that do not require much grooming. Perhaps due to its short coat, these dogs do not shed very much, or carry a high odor making them suitable for apartment living. You can use a dry shampoo to clean the dog on a more frequent basis and give him an occasional bath. A weekly brushing with a firm bristled brush will be good for him. The dog’s bulging eyes are easy target for dust and other debris. Give his face a daily wash were you can take the opportunity to check for soreness and irritation.

Take care of your dog’s teeth by brushing at least three times each week to prevent the buildup of tartar from dry dog food. You can brush on a daily basis to prevent gum disease and bad breath. Give your dog a weekly ear check to identify any odor which will suggest the presence of an infection. Use a veterinary approved swab to clean the ears. The dog’s toenails are important to his posture. Check them at least every month and trim where necessary.

Get your dog accustomed to being groomed from he is a puppy. Open his mouth to examine teeth, check his ears, handle his paws (gently) and check his coat, doing this all with praise and rewards. This will also make the dog more comfortable when he is examined by his vet.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Boston terriers are children friendly and are the ideal playmates for them. The dog is not too large to knock small children over and both will find common ground in how they play. This dog gets along very well also with other pets especially if they grow and socialize with them.

Raised to be a companion dog, the Boston terrier makes very good company for the family and children will find a friend in them for their playfulness and antics. They are easy to maintain and they will grow to love grooming time with you. Certain physical deficiencies however make him prone to health issues, and will require your vigilance in keeping him safe and healthy.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

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