The Boston Terrier is a small breed, commonly kept as a companion or lap dog.
Originating in the United States, the Boston weighs up to 25 lbs and usually lives for about 11 years.
Boston Terriers have a low maintenance short coat, but a fairly high chance of having health problems.
This dapper little pup in his black and white tuxedo has been a favorite companion animal for years.
Is the Boston Terrier the perfect dog breed for you?
We’ll explore the world of the Boston Terrier and tell you all you need to know to decide if this little dog with a big personality is the ideal pet for you.
What are the origins of the Boston Terrier breed? Let’s find out now!
History of the Boston Terrier Dog
According to the official U.S. Boston Terrier breed club, the Boston is a true American breed, born and bred in the U.S.A.
In the 1800s, a breeder in Boston, Massachusetts named Robert Hooper acquired an English Bulldog and white English Terrier mix named Judge.
Judge is the founding dog of the Boston Terrier breed.
Bostons were originally called “Round Heads” before taking on the Boston Terrier name.
The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1893. Today, the Boston Terrier (nicknamed “The American Gentleman”) ranks 21st in the AKC’s list of most popular dog breeds.
Boston Terrier Description
How large will your Boston puppy get when fully grown?
An adult Boston Terrier is a small to medium sized dog. It belongs to the non-sporting dog breed group, and not the toy group.
In the official breed standard, the Boston Terrier weight is divided into three classes: under 15 pounds, 15 to 20 pounds, and 20 to 25 pounds.
Adult Bostons should not weigh more than 25 pounds when full grown, and the smallest adult size is usually around 12 pounds.
The breed stands between 15 and 17 inches tall at the shoulder.
There is little difference in overall size and body proportions between males and females.
As we mentioned, the Boston Terrier is not a toy breed, but many people are interested in finding out if there is such a thing as a miniature Boston Terrier.
Teacup Boston Terriers
There is no official miniature or teacup Boston Terrier breed.
Breeding for unusually small sizes is a trendy but controversial practice that can lead to serious health problems in dogs.
View any advertisements that you see for mini Bostons with extreme caution.
So-called teacup breeders often use unhealthy runts to create very small dogs.
Bostons on the smaller end of the normal weight range are around 12 pounds.
Healthy adults should not be below 10 pounds in weight and 15 inches in height.
Boston Terrier Coat and Grooming
Judge and his first descendants were dark brindle and white in color.
Today’s Boston is well-known for its distinctive black and white coat, although the breed standard allows for brindle and white or seal and white as well.
The amount of white in the coat varies from dog to dog.
At a minimum, they should have white on the head and chest.
“Desired” markings for Bostons include a few more white areas, such as on the legs. The overall impression should be that of a tuxedo suit.
Shedding and Grooming
What about Boston Terrier shedding, and what are the grooming requirements?
The coat is short, smooth, and glossy.
The breed’s sleek coat will shed somewhat, although not nearly as much as many thicker-coated breeds.
Experts recommend a once weekly brushing with a soft bristle brush.
Grooming mitts also work well on the Boston’s coat.
Regular baths are generally not needed.
The Boston is a fairly low maintenance breed but be sure to trim your dog’s nails and get into the habit of regular tooth brushings.
While grooming requirements are minimal for the Boston Terrier, what about the time you will need to spend training and socializing your dog?
Let’s look at the Boston Terrier personality first.
Boston Terrier Temperament
Boston Terriers were bred to be companion animals and they thrive on plenty of human contact and attention.
Bostons have lots of appealing personality traits.
They are bright and active, always ready to play and make friends.
While energetic, they don’t need too much outdoor space to keep them happy.
In fact, many Bostons are sophisticated city dogs, happy to live in an apartment and accompany their owners on walks around town!
The lively Boston can be a good choice for families with children. They also enjoy participating in organized activities like flyball and agility training.
Many Bostons also work as therapy animals, bringing their good cheer to patients in hospitals and nursing homes.
Boston Terrier Training
As a smart, outgoing, and eager to please breed, the Boston Terrier is very trainable.
Start training and socializing your dog from an early age and always use only positive reinforcement training techniques.
Reward good behavior with praise and treats and never punish your dog.
What are some “bad” behaviors the Boston Terrier might exhibit? Some owners complain that their dogs pull towards other people or animals when out on walks.
Consider enrolling your dog in a puppy kindergarten class with a professional trainer if you are a novice dog owner.
Healthy and Happy?
Now that we’ve talked about appearance and personality, what about health?
Like most purebred dogs, Boston Terriers can suffer from some inherited health problems.
Here’s what potential owners need to know.
Boston Terrier Health
The Boston Terrier’s Bulldog ancestry has contributed to the breed’s appealing looks, but it has also led to some serious health problems.
Boston Terriers can be prone to certain inherited health issues related to the physical structure of the breed’s head, face, and body.
We’ll break down the most common health issues potential owners should be aware of.
Boston Terrier Eye Problems
The Boston has prominent eyes that many people find endearing, but these protruding eyes can be vulnerable to injury and disease.
According to the official breed club, Bostons suffer from more than 20 eye conditions, including corneal ulcers, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Boston Terriers suffer from two types of cataracts: early-onset hereditary cataracts and late-onset hereditary cataracts.
The early-onset form will affect both eyes of dogs as young as a few months old and can result in total blindness. The late-onset form is generally less severe.
The Boston Terrier is also one of a handful of dog breeds that is especially prone to glaucoma, which is increased eye pressure.
Glaucoma can be either primary (which is genetic) or secondary (caused by other eye problems such as cataracts). Both types can occur in the Boston.
The Boston’s protruding eyes can leave the breed vulnerable to corneal ulcers.
These are most commonly caused by trauma to the eye, such as scratches, and chronic dry eye.
Care should be taken to protect your dog’s eyes from irritation and injury.
Many owners indeed protect their dog’s eyes from too much exposure to sun, wind, dust, and sharp objects.
You also may want to keep eyedrops handy to wash irritants from the eyes and keep them moisturized.
The Boston Terrier’s flattened muzzle causes the eyes to protrude, but there are also other health problems associated with short muzzles.
Brachycephalic syndrome is the term used to describe the multiple effects of airway obstruction and reduced airflow to the lungs in short muzzled dogs.
Bostons with brachycephaly can suffer from several chronic breathing and health problems.
Including collapsed larynx, gastrointestinal problems, heart failure, heat stroke, and respiratory distress.
While brachycephaly can be less severe in Bostons than some other flat faced breeds like English Bulldogs, it is always a good idea to choose a puppy that has a longer muzzle.
Spine and Joint Problems
Bostons can suffer from hereditary diseases of the spine and joints.
The most common joint problem in the breed is luxating patella, a hereditary condition often seen in smaller sized dog breeds.
Patellar luxation occurs when the area of bone where the kneecap sits (called the femoral groove) is malformed, leading to painful dislocation of the kneecap.
The Boston Terrier breed standard calls for a short body length and either a straight or screw tail.
Short bodies and screw tails can result in a painful and debilitating spinal deformation called hemivertebrae.
In this disease, the bones of the spine are malformed, causing damage to the spinal cord.
Dogs with hemivertebrae can suffer from incontinence, limb weakness, and even paralysis.
While more commonly seen in some other small breeds derived from the English Bulldog (particularly the French Bulldog), many Bostons can also suffer from hemivertebrae.
How can you ensure that the Boston Terrier puppy you choose is healthy and will not suffer from inherited health conditions?
Boston Terrier Breeders
Since the Boston can be prone to some serious genetic health problems, it is especially important to choose your baby Boston Terrier from a reputable breeder who tests their dogs for inherited health conditions.
What kinds of tests should you look for when choosing a puppy?
The Boston Terrier Club of America maintains a health certification program for member breeders.
Participating breeders will test their dogs for a variety of health conditions and provide certified results to clients.
Tests can be either physical exams or genetic DNA tests.
Health Testing Is Vital
Dogs are examined for eye problems and luxating patella by veterinary specialists who work with established canine health registries.
Bostons can also be genetically tested for early-onset hereditary cataracts.
As we’ve seen, this is one of the more serious eye problems of the breed that can lead to blindness at a very young age.
Besides health testing, you should also look for an established small-scale breeder who welcomes visitors into their home and introduces you to your puppy’s family members.
Finding Good Breeders
Responsible breeders will be as careful about choosing you as you are about choosing them, so be prepared to fill out an application and answer questions.
Remember that there is no such thing as a teacup Boston, and unusually small dogs can have serious health problems.
You should also avoid buying from large-scale, for-profit breeding operations known as puppy mills.
Puppy mill dogs are often found in pet stores or through online ads.
Once you’ve found a good breeder, how do you pick the perfect puppy?
Boston Terrier Puppies
Choose a puppy that has been well socialized in the breeder’s home, rather than in cages or kennels.
The best puppies will have had plenty of exposure to other people and animals.
Look for a puppy that is friendly and playful.
Poorly socialized puppies will show signs of fear, shyness, or aggression.
Your puppy and all his littermates should appear healthy. Look for bright, clear eyes free from discharge. The nose should also be free from discharge.
Check for messy bottoms and signs of diarrhea.
The puppies should be curious and playful. Lethargy can be a sign of underlying health problems.
Boston Terrier Rescue
Is it possible to adopt a purebred Boston Terrier from a shelter or rescue group? Rescue is a great option, especially if you are open to getting an adult dog.
Check with the Boston Terrier breed club’s rescue committee to see if they know of any available rescue dogs.
You may also want to search for other breed rescue organization in your area.
You can also do a breed-specific search for purebred Bostons and Boston mixes housed at nearby shelters on pet adoption websites such as Petfinder.
Is a Boston Terrier the right dog for you?
Choose your dog from a reputable breeder who health tests their dogs and start the training and socialization process at an early age.
Remember that your dog with its big, expressive eyes will likely need extra TLC.
Keep your dog’s eyes clean and moist and see your vet if your dog shows signs of eye problems.
Already have a Boston? We’d love to hear from you! Tell us about your “American Gentleman” in the comments below.
References and Further Reading
- The Boston Terrier Club of America.
- Boston Terrier. American Kennel Club.
- Mellersh, C.S., Graves, K.T., McLaughlin, B., et al., 2007, Mutation in HSF4 Associated with Early but Not Late-Onset Hereditary Cataract in the Boston Terrier, Journal of Heredity.
- Gelatt, K.N., MacKay, E.O.,2004, Prevalence of the Breed-Related Glaucomas in Pure-Bred Dogs in North America, Veterinary Ophthalmology.
- Boston Terrier Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS), 2011, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
- Patellar Luxations, American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
- Schlensker, E., Distl, O., 2013, Prevalence, Grading and Genetics of Hemivertebrae in Dogs, European Journal of Companion Animal Practice.
Shelley Austin says
We have two bosties; Bentley, a seal BT who is almost 9 years old and Baxter, a 7 year-old fawn BT. They are the most lovely dogs, with sweet personalities and are so smart and have fit in so well with our lifestyle. BT’s are adaptable, intelligent and loving companion animals. I couldn’t imagine life without these little ‘American Gentlemen’. The best breed of dog!
I am very keen to get a boston terrier. I work from home 2 of 5 days, would he/she cope being alone during the day? I have 3 children 10 and under so when we are home there will be plenty of interaction.
Barb Baker says
I’m looking for Boston Terrier puppy
Carole Marie Williamson says
Thank you soooo much Pippa for your informative vital and in-depth editorial on these breeds. You have given me even more confidence that I have been chosen by my pet Xcohcoa who looks so much like a French Bull Terrior. Having had an operation on my left breast and the removal of fibrematted tissues – phyllodes tumour,. My sons brought her home to me after being discharged and settling down the Saturday evening ther she came all independent and full of life eleven weeks old so loving and needy and all mine and I was all hers. Perfect match. She’s been to the vet and had her jabs etcetera and been given the all clear. I shall continually pray for her health and happiness. So grateful for my little Xcohcoa, worthy to be spoilt with sooooo much love. Thank you again Pippa xxxx
We lost our Rosabelle Pearl after 16+ marvelous years! “Rosy“ was always upbeat & happy; a real joy to have around. She was energetic & always was trying to anticipate your next move! It’s amazing how athletic, rugged & strong these animals are, yet they thrive as being little snuggle buddies. After being without her for almost two years now, we have made a deposit with a certified breeder for a new Boston puppy. I also had a deaf male Boston when I was a child. He, too, was amazing & was the reason we got Rosabelle. Like all dogs, it is so important to socialize & obedience train your pup at a very young age. Don’t forget how important exercise is to your dog! We had pet health insurance on Rosy, which may not always be cost effective in many people’s eyes, but it automatically scheduled routine checkups and shots, etc, that were part of the plan. It helped us to schedule good routine health visits to the vet. She lived 16 & half years before we had to put her down, so we feel the great health coverage was a big part of her longevity. BTW, she was a pet store puppy that was run by a veterinarian, & she came with all the health guarantees that a good breeder will offer. Shop around & ask questions, because breeder waiting lists can be quite long.
Emma Dewdney says
Looking for a small dog and this breed keeps coming up – it would be out first dog any tips? Plus we have 3 cats already – wondering if this would work if we introduced a puppy?
Our Boston Terrier turns 1 tomorrow. We have had her for 3 weeks. She is very sweet and well behaved. We do not have cats, but have small children. She has been fantastic! Our last dog was a Doberman. It has been a night and day difference. Our Boston Terrier is really easy.
Chad Davis says
We had Morrison for 14 years. When he passed away it hurt. He could not be replaced. After about 5 months we decided a house wasn’t a home without a Boston. Cooper has his on personality and is just as loving. Wouldn’t have another breed.
Rory left 2 weeks ago our 2nd Boston–first left at13. Our Rory had a seizure problem for about 2 years before she left. Miss her soooo much
Did you get a puppy or adult? I know early but want to prep for when the time is right. Bostons are the best, most loving, and cuddly babies you can find. Life too empty.
Well-written, thorough, and well-referenced article – thank you!
jerry piasecki says
We lost our Boston Terrier Tima six weeks ago. Devastated only begins to describe what we feel. He was our baby, child, friend, companion, compatriot and partner. He was, and is, Love.
I have a 8 year old Boston Terrier at home. His name is Rocky. He loves to play and he has a lot of excitement. He is affectionate. There is also times where he is calm and he loves to sleep. I think it’s the right dog breed for my family.
We have 3 Bostons in our house all with different personalities. We’ve had them all since they were 6 weeks old. Our Male is 5 years old both females are 1.5 years old. There all very family loyal and loving dogs. We wouldn’t have any other breed of dog there family.
Rob Fisher says
I have had my Boston Terrier for 12& half years . Sugar Babe has been the best dog ever ! At the present time she has a large long lump along her spine . ( A fatty mass ) & heart failure . Sugar is under the care of our vet & fear what the future holds !! There is no way to ever replace Sugar Babe from day one she was smart as a whip & trained me well !!
Our Boston developed dilated cardiomyopathy last spring, the hospital veterinarians said they see this more in dogs on a grain-free diet. We changed her food and the improvement was amazing! The heart murmur was barely detectable (also with the help of heart medications). I beg everyone I meet to not feed their dogs grain-free food, even though it’s heavily advertised.
I just lost my 13 year old Boston terrier on Christmas and I am so sad. They are the best!! Cosmo brought so much joy to my life and maybe someday I will add another Boston to my family
Suz Evans says
My Boston is very lively got her almost 2 yrs ago as a puppy she is full of personality and loves children but is too active for most and even for the outside cat but the cat loves her they play till birdie gets to aggressive . I live in a country setting and she has been itchy a lot this year she is on a regular flea tick routine so it’s not that possible it’s dry skin and not sure what to do . She get more then her share of baths cause she loves to roll in the dirt . If anyone has skin care information I would welcome advice. Birdie was my grandmothers name from the 1800 s
We have inherited our 10 month old Boston Terrier Steven from our daughter. He is the most loving little guy ever. He is a reactive guy while out for walks on leash as he wasn’t socialized as a young pup. We have started him in Obedience classes and Sunday dog walks which seems to be the answer. We are in our 60’s and have had Boston’s for years! We love this breed. Steven is also a “snorer” so will get him to the Vet’s for a check up. Thanks for bringing it up on your site.
JANE UMSTEAD says
After we lost our lab, 4 years ago, we “downsized” to a Boston. A family member had had one and we just loved her. We adopted our Jack from a good breeder in our area. We call him our “House Elf” among other endearments! He’s not crazy about other dogs, but loves our Maine Coon cat. He is the best retriever we’ve ever had and THE most loving companion.
We have been blessed to have had 5 Boston’s in the last 25 years. Every single one of our girls has had their own PERFECT personality. Our last 2 were “rescues”( although especially with our latest, Noelle, we believe that THEY did the rescuing. When we lost our Lulu, in August of last year, we were left without a 4 legged family member family member for the first time in our marriage of 30 plus years. I had never been without a “pet”, in my life. We were not actively looking ,but somehow Noelle just fell into our laps! These precious pups have given us the happiest AND the saddest days of our lives. I cannot imagine ever being without a Boston in our home.
We have had three Boston terriers. They are so lovable and loved kids. They are a joy to have. The one I have now doesn’t like other dogs. Any idea what I can do to get him around other dogs? Other than that he is a joy to have.
My Boston Terrier Dave is super awesome. He is very chill but likes to wrestle from time to time. I have never seen him mad or disgruntled once over the years. He sleeps on his back with his legs up in the air and snores very loud. It’s fricken hilarious!!
Hi Randy, Snoring in brachycephalic dogs can be a sign that their breathing isn’t great. I would pop him down to the vet, snoring might be normal for the breed but it does not indicate good health.
My Boston Terrier is 10 yrs old his name is zack and he is a sweet heart
He loves to play and just stay close to us. He also can be stubborn at times we all love him.
Angela C Coulter says
We are looking for a Boston puppy to b part of our family
He or she will b our friend to our chihuahua and belong us our grandchildren! My husband’s family raised Bostons for years and are no longer able to do so due their age. Could u help us gain our big hearted fur baby
cathy Elliott says
We recused our Boston ,aka Betty, we think she came from a puppy mill! It’s been a year and sometime challenging. It has definitely been worth it.
Love my Boston terrier, the only thing I can say that she does, is she nipe bites, and wines my vet says that’s common in the Boston Terriers. Other than that she loves people, and other dogs. And does really well in socializing in dog parks.