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Boston Terrier Dog Breed Information: Facts, Traits, Pictures & More

Thinking of welcoming a Boston Terrier into your home as your next canine companion? Find out if this amazing small dog breed could be the perfect fit for your family!

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: December 16, 2020 | 14 min read

The Boston Terrier is a native American dog breed and is instantly recognizable. Lively, highly intelligent, and compact, he is renowned for being fun and having great manners. Terrific manners, combined with his suit-like coat, has earned him the nickname the ‘American Gentleman’.

Boston Terriers are well-balanced dogs, always ready to cuddle and chill, mixed with a fun side thanks to his terrier genes. It’s tough to find a better family dog if you are looking for a smaller dog breed. That being said, they can be independent at times, making them slightly more difficult to train than other breeds.

His small size and energetic nature make him a great choice for families and their homes of all shapes and sizes. So, if you have been bowled over by the Boston and want to know more about this handsome chap, you’re in the right place. Ready for Boston Terrier 101? Let’s go!

Breed Overview
    • weight iconWeight12-25 pounds
    • height iconHeight15-17 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan11-13 years
    • color iconColorsBlack, Brindle, Seal, White
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

History

Tuxedo Dog Breed
Believe it or not, the breed started out being bred from fighting dogs.

The breed started with a crossbreed bred for pit fighting and ratting competitions in Liverpool, in the United Kingdom. In the 1860s, a Bulldog and the now extinct English Terrier gave birth to a muscular pup named ‘Judge.’ Judge was sold to an American man who brought him back to Boston, who then sold him to another man named Robert Hooper. This is why you might hear some people refer to the Boston breed as ‘Hooper’s Judge.’

Mr. Hooper bred the muscular Judge to a smaller white female similar to the Boston breed. Over two decades, Bostons became smaller, less aggressive in nature, and prettier. The Boston Terrier Club of America was created in 1891, and as they say, the rest is history. The breed was developed in Boston, and he is 1 of 10  dog species with the label, ‘Made In America.’

As a breed, the Boston fluctuates between the top 20 and 30 breeds in America. As you can expect, he is one of the most popular dogs in his hometown of Boston. Famous Bostons include the most decorated war dog, Sergeant Stubby. And celebrities including Robin Williams, Hellen Keller, and Joan Rivers fell under the Boston spell.

Temperament

Adorable Brindle and White Dog
This breed is fantastic with kids and families.

If you are looking for an all-around family dog that doubles up as a playmate, cuddle buddy, and who is great company for young children, look no further. This breed is all of this and more. He is very versatile and is suited to most family homes.

His well-balanced nature makes him a great addition to families with children. Despite being a small dog, his terrier genes make him a sturdy playmate. He’ll play his part in entertaining the kids, giving you some much-earned rest time. He loves to be part of the family gang and sees himself as an equal part of it, not the family pet. Not in a dominant way, but he loves to be the center of attention.

This breed loves to cuddle and always needs full contact with their humans. He is also pleasant with strangers and loves attention. Although his friendly nature makes him a terrible guard dog, he is a great watchdog. You can count on him to announce the arrival of everyone, much better than any alarm bell you’ve ever had.

Although bred from terrier ancestors and pit fighting, the Boston Terrier has very little prey drive compared to other terrier breeds. This makes him ideal for multi-pet households with cats and rodents. As long as he is socialized well, you can count on him to get along well with other dogs.

Overall, he is a happy-go-lucky dog. The only gripe he has is being left alone for too long. So, he needs a family who can be home for most of the day. He doesn’t take kindly to being left alone all day and can suffer from anxiety. His destructive Bulldog genes will come into full effect and chew everything in sight.

Size & Appearance

Black and White Dog Outdoors
This breed can range in both size and appearance.

Firmly in the ‘non-sporting’ class of dogs, the Boston is a small-sized pupper. Tipping the scales at just 25 pounds for a large male, he is no heavyweight fighter like his ancestors. Small females can be as little as 12 pounds, which some would class as a toy dog. Couple that with a height of 15 to 17 inches, and you can that these dogs are light and lean. However, the Boston breed standard does state that they should never look gangly or scrawny. They were bred to look solid and purposeful.

Two of the Boston Terrier’s most distinct features are his naturally docked tail and the tuxedo marking on his chest. Both are important to differentiate him from similar-looking breeds, such as the French Bulldog, who he is often mistaken for. His tail is naturally short and set low on his rear. His neck is thick, carries his head proudly. Overall he is a proportionately-sized pup.

This pup has what is known in the doggy world as Brachycephalic Syndrome. Or more commonly known as being flat-faced. His muzzle is extremely short, and his face is wrinkly. The Boston’s eyes are also very prominent, making him look bug-like. His charming smile is wide and adds to his cheeky appearance.

Coat & Colors

Brown Dog On Beach
This pup can come in a variety of different coat colors.

The Boston Terrier only has three coat color options: black, brindle, and seal. All complete with the white tuxedo markings. According to the Boston breed standard, brindle is the most desired color. The color seal looks like solid black, but it has a warm red tone in certain lights. If breeders are trying to sell you another colored Boston, it is probably a Boston mix of some sort. And you can also be sure that they are not a reputable breeder.

The tuxedo markings must include a white muzzle band, a white forechest, and a white blaze between the eyes, at the very least. Without these, he cannot compete in the conformation show ring. Other desired markings are a white collar and white on the legs. His front legs can be completely white or partly, and his hind legs should be white below the hocks. It is this tuxedo that gives him the nickname the American Gentleman.

He has a double-layered coat that is short, smooth, and fine in texture. He is a moderate shedder throughout the year and sheds only slightly more in the shedding seasons. His fine hair and minimal shedding are a big appeal to many. This isn’t to say that his grooming schedule is simple, but we’ll discuss this later on. His eyes will always be brown in color.

Exercise Requirements

Brindle Dog Running in Grass
This breed needs about 30 to 45 minutes a day of outdoor exercise.

Boston Terriers are lively and energetic for their size, meaning that he is not your typical small dog. Although he loves a snuggle, don’t expect him to lay around all day long. He needs between 30 to 45 minutes of exercise. Some of this can count as playtime at home, but most of it needs to be outside walking and sniffing.

During the summer months, you need to monitor him while he exercises. His flat-face means that he has to work harder to breath and oxygenate his body. The Boston will need time-out during more intense exercise. In the summer, it is advised not to exercise him during the day. Instead, early morning walks and cooler evenings are the best time to exercise him.

His inquisitive and intelligent terrier genes need stimulation throughout the day. As he loves to be the center of attention, playing with him is a great way to entertain him. Think ropes, tug of war toys, and balls to fetch – he is bound to love it. For those times when you cannot play for too long, invest in chew sticks and treat-dispensing puzzle toys for solo playtime.

Living Conditions

Boston Terrier Puppy
This breed is well suited for a variety of different living conditions.

His small size makes him ideal for any type of home. Be that a small apartment, or a large country home, he can live anywhere. His versatility is just one of the many reasons that he is so popular. He doesn’t require a yard, although he would love it if he did. If he is lucky enough to have access to outdoor space, please make sure it is secure! This curious chap is likely to go off wandering alone if he isn’t contained.

Most Boston Terriers are pretty chill, which means that in tight living quarters, they won’t cramp your style. They are fairly lazy around the home and enjoy a good nap on the couch. As mentioned, make sure your Boston is exercised properly. If your pup is properly exercised, you’ll have likely found a very laid back canine companion.

Training

Tuxedo Colored Dog in Training
This breed is easy to train, and generally happy to please.

The Boston Terrier is intelligent and mostly eager to please. However, he does have a stubborn streak, probably inherited from his Bulldog ancestors. He is suitable for first-time dog owners, just don’t expect him to be fully obedient.

But his fun-loving nature means that if you make training fun, he will always be up to the challenge of learning something new. The best way to train them is with the positive reinforcement training technique. Essentially this means to make his training positive and to reward him for good behavior. Toys and yummy treats are always a big hit with the Boston! Leash train your Boston early and use a harness meant for dogs of a smaller stature to accommodate their unique frame.

Like all dogs, early socialization is a must for the Boston. He is only a well-balanced dog if you show him how to be. Socialization will begin with his littermates and parents. You will need to continue the process by continually mixing him with other dogs and exposing him to environments and sounds that he will experience with you. Such as walking on a loud sidewalk, the hoover, and visitors to the home.

As the Boston hates to be left alone for long periods, we advise crate training him. Many owners are put off by crates, but it is recommended by vets and canine professionals the world over. Not only does it give him his own space for time out away from children and other pets, but it also lowers his anxiety when he is left alone. It also means that you can rest easy knowing his ex-Bulldog jaws aren’t going to town on your favorite rug or best shoes.

Health

Healthy Brindle Dog
This breed can have some predisposed health conditions.

You can expect a relatively healthy dog that will enjoy an average lifespan of 11 to 13 years. The best way to increase his years is to keep him fit while feeding him the best quality nutrition you can afford. You should also keep up to date with his health check-ups and work with breeders who screen their dogs. The Boston breed is predisposed to certain health conditions more so than others. Below are the most likely health conditions to affect the breed.

Eye conditions: Bostons are susceptible to a variety of eye concerns. The most prevalent are both junior and adult cataracts. Cherry eye and corneal ulcers are also concerns. And because of his prominent bulging eyes, he is also more susceptible to general eye injuries.

Deafness: Bostons have a high rate of deafness in their gene pool. All reputable breeders will BAER test their puppies for deafness before they are homed. Boston’s whose heads more than one-third white are more likely to rear deaf puppies.

Allergies: The Boston, like many other Terriers, is also at a higher risk of suffering from allergies. This can be food allergies, or contact allergies such as grass or pollen. Although they affect his day-to-day life, they can be remedied with better nutrition and medications.

Brachycephalic syndrome: Bostons are flat-faced dogs, and this squashed anatomy can cause several health concerns. The flat noses and short muzzles mean that their throats and airways are misshapen and elongated. This is why they snuffle constantly. It’s also why you need to take extra care during exercise. It also means they struggle to regulate their body temperature and are more at risk of heatstroke.

Nutrition

Puppy Eating Dry Kibble
Nutrition is important for this breed, so consider your food choice with care.

The Boston Terrier is a small dog who only needs a small amount of food, no matter how much he tries to tell you otherwise. He will need around one cup of food every day. Of course, a 12 pound Boston will need less food than a Boston who weighs 25 pounds. This is why it is really important to read the package instructions.

As a small-sized pup, he has an equally sized mouth. To make sure that he can eat comfortably, you need to feed him a kibble designed for small-sized dogs. Size-specific kibble also has tailored nutrients. His nutritional needs will change as he grows older too, so it’s crucial that you learn about the Boston’s different life stages and which nutrients and dog food best suits each one. Puppyhood is arguably the most important as it sets the foundations for a healthy lifestyle.

The key to nutrition is a well-balanced diet. High-quality meats, carbohydrates, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and high-quality kibbles provide all of this. The Boston is renowned for flatulence. So, if you find that he is a top-trumper, foods with higher fiber content, added probiotics, and yucca extract are his best bet.

These dogs can be a gluttonous, so you need to monitor how many treats you give him. If you find that he is putting on more weight than he should, switch him to kibble with fewer calories, and reduce the number of treats he gets. Avoid fatty human food, and this will also help to lower his flatulence. Healthy treats such as carrots and bell pepper are a great option.

Grooming

Small Dog Being Bathed in Tub
A regular grooming routine is extremely important for skin and coat health.

The Boston Terrier is a relatively clean breed, and he is a gentleman who takes pride in appearance. He only needs bathing once every 8 to 12 weeks, never more because you risk damaging his natural coat oils. Always choose a gentle shampoo for your Boston because of his sensitivities. Shampoos made with natural ingredients such as Oatmeal are a top pick for the Boston.

His double coat is short and fine, which means that he only needs brushing once a week to keep on top of his shedding. Thankfully he sheds minimally throughout the year too. The best brush for the Boston is a soft-bristle brush that will gently brush away dead hair and dirt. But don’t get too excited, because what he lacks in messy hair he makes up for in wrinkles that need extra care and attention. Sorry!

The skin around his flat muzzle tends to be wrinkled. His wrinkles need daily care because they are a breeding ground for bacterial infections. Wipe in between the skin fold with a clean and damp cloth, and be sure to wipe again with a dry cloth to get rid of the moisture. For those that aren’t wrinkly, you probably won’t have to do this every day. But for those that are, it’s important to avoid skin fold dermatitis.

His nails should wear down naturally as he exercises and zooms around. But if you can hear them tapping on the floor as he walks around, you’ll need to trim them. His small mouth and compact teeth will need brushing several times a week with specific doggy toothpaste to avoid periodontal diseases. Regularly check his eyes for redness, excess discharge, or change in appearance too. Thankfully, your Boston is bound to lap up the grooming attention.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Adorable Black and White Puppy
Expect to pay around $1,000 and up for a puppy from a reputable breeder.

The Boston Terrier is a very popular dog breed. This is both great news and not so great news. The good news is that it means there will be many top-quality breeders around. But the bad news is that there are also unscrupulous breeders who have jumped on the bandwagon to make money. This is where your detective skills come into play. You need to sift the good from the bad and choose the right breeder.

Speak to like-minded Boston lovers who might be able to recommend a good breeder to you, but remember to still do your own research. Or, search online for those who have years of experience and professional websites. Only work with those that welcome you to meet them and the puppies before any money is exchanged. A reputable breeder will sell a Boston puppy at around $1,000 and up. The AKC list registered Boston Terrier breeders, so this is a great place to start.

A poor-quality breeder will likely list their pups on ad sites and will not allow you to see them in their home settings. Instead, they will meet you in places such as parking lots and pressure you to hand over the money. They also take little interest in the puppy’s wellbeing and often breed sick dogs, creating sick dogs. Please avoid poor-quality breeders and puppy mills at all costs.

When budgeting for your Boston, you also need to think about all of the other costs involved. From setting up your house, and purchasing things such as beds, bowls, and crates, to his first vaccines. You also need to account for his ongoing costs, such as insurance and food, etc. A puppy isn’t just for Christmas, and the Boston is for 11 to 13 of them.

Rescues & Shelters

Old Dog on Couch Sleeping
Consider adopting a rescue before heading to a breeder.

Rescuing is another option if you want a Boston in your life, but you aren’t ready for the extra responsibilities that come with puppies. The initial cost of rescuing is also less costly than buying a pup. Head out to your local rescue shelters, and speak to the staff there who will be able to walk you through the adoption process.

If you are struggling to find a Boston at your local shelters, do not worry, there are many rescue organizations who dedicate their efforts to the Boston breed. The Boston Terrier Society lists all of the Boston Terrier rescues in every state, along with lots of other useful information too. This is a great place to begin your Boston rescue journey. If you are open to adopting a mixed breed, there are plenty of Boston Terrier crossbreeds you can consider.

As Family Pets

  • Boston Terriers are versatile and happy-go-lucky.
  • This breed is adaptable and can live with most families.
  • He is happy to chill with his family on the sofa but equally happy to play.
  • He needs 30 to 45 minutes of exercise every day to stay healthy and happy.
  • They hate to be left alone for long periods.
  • He is friendly with his visitors and complete strangers and makes a terrible guard dog.
  • He can be a very vocal dog.
  • The Boston can live with all other family pets if he is socialized well as a pup.
  • He is intelligent and trainable, great for first-time dog owners.
  • Bostons are well suited for apartment living or any other type of living situation.
  • He is easy to care for, just take extra care of his wrinkles and flat-faced concerns.

Final Thoughts

The Boston is the best-dressed pup in town. Handsome and smart, with a cheeky smile, he will make everyone smile. Even cat people! From the little ones all the way to grandma, he is suited to all families and homes. Just as long as you can match his needs found in this guide, you are bound to get along like a house on fire.

The only extra box he has compared to some other canines is that he hates to be left alone. So please make sure that your lifestyle can cater to being at home for most of the time. Or at least taking him with you. But we think that once you welcome this breed into your life, you’ll never want to be without one again.

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