So You Want A Boston Terrier…

The Boston Terrier originated in Boston, Massachusetts around 1865. It is thought that Bostons were bred from the English Bulldog and the White Terrier, with possibly some Boxer, French Bulldog and Bull Terrier thrown in. Apparently they were trying to create a new fighting dog. Back then, Bostons were more like a Bull Terrier. The fighting dog aspect never caught on and instead they became popular as a companion dog.

Bostons were originally called "Round Head Terrier" and then "Boston Bull Terrier", but after an objection from Bull Terrier fanciers, the name was changed to "Boston Terrier." The breed was officially recognized by AKC in 1893. Bostons became very popular in the early 1900. There is a record of 160 Bostons entered in a single all breed show in 1918.

They are "brachycephalic" (flat nosed) breed with a sweet, easygoing personality like the Bulldog but with the slim body and tenacity of a Terrier. Bostons are often referred to as the "American Gentleman" because of their gentle disposition and also because the black & white markings often resemble a tuxedo. They are affectionate, smart and alert. In fact, the breed standard specifies a Boston to be "lively and highly intelligent".

They are a "BIG" dog in a small body. Bostons are divided into three-weight classes for AKC conformation shows: under 15 lbs., 15 to 20 lbs., and 20 to 25 lbs. Breed standards do not recognize Bostons who are over 25 lbs., although larger Bostons make wonderful pets. There are no weight restrictions for entering AKC performance events such as Obedience, Agility and Tracking.

Bostons come in three recognized colors: black and white, seal and white, or brindle and white, with specific breed-standard markings. Browns, fawns, whites and blues, that unscrupulous breeders might advertise as a "rare" Boston, are the result of genetic mutations and should never be bred. An excessively white or mismarked Bostons are susceptible to deafness due to the lack of pigment on the nerve endings in the ears. These Bostons may still make wonderful pets but are more prone to various genetic diseases so complete and regular medical screenings for these Bostons are essential.

Do Bostons make great pets? It all depends on you and your lifestyle. Bostons, due to their short coat and short snout, should not be kept outdoors. They are an indoor dog, even in areas of mild climates. Because of their large, prominent eyes, you need to be very careful when playing or even when you go for a walk. Corneal ulcers are a very common problem with this breed, which untreated can lead to a loss of vision. Bostons are extremely intelligent--sometimes too smart for their own good. They are lively, loveable and affectionate but at the same time they can be stubborn, tenacious, and hyperactive. They also tend to "snort" and drool more that the average dog. Due to their flat nose, Bostons can snore loudly, which can be a problem if you are a light sleeper. Bostons also have a tendency to be slightly more flatulent than other breeds although that depends somewhat on their diet.

If you are thinking about adding a Boston Terrier to your family, please consider the following:

Do your homework! Get your Boston Terrier from a responsible, reputable breeder. Health problems in this breed include but are not limited to:

  • brachycephalic syndrome including cleft palate, stenotic nares, elongated soft palate and harelip
  • hypothyroidism
  • eye diseases including corneal ulcers, cataract and corneal dystrophy
  • deafness
  • joint problems such as patellar luxation and hip dysplasia
  • epilepsy and dermatitis which can include mange.

No breeder can "guarantee" a perfectly healthy puppy, but why chance it? Ask the breeder about CERF (eye), BAER (ear), and OFA (joint) testing. The Sire and the Dam of the puppy should have passed these tests prior to being bred.

Good things come to those who wait! Boston puppies are hard to come by especially well bred ones. You may have to prepare yourself to wait a while. Boston Terriers often require a caesarian section birth to whelp a litter due to the size of the puppy’s head. Because of this, the frequency of breeding for females can be limited. The number in a litter also tends to be small and a litter of one is not uncommon. Don’t be discouraged if you cannot find a puppy right away.

Back to school! Basic obedience training is a must not only for Boston Terriers but for all dogs. Every dog should know the following basic commands; "sit", "stay" and "come". Hopefully, by the time you’ve got your puppy, you have already searched around for a suitable puppy class and have started crate training. All dogs need a space they can recognize as their own and proper crate training will provide this for your dog. Crates should not be thought of as "cages" or "jails"--they are more like a dog’s private room and quiet space. It is important that you know how to use a crate properly and effectively.

Fundamentals! These are so basic you’ll probably wonder why they are listed here, but you would be surprised how many potential puppy owners don’t even think about them:

  • Nutrition- Provide your puppy with a high quality dog food--not the generic ones you find at your local grocery store. Read the ingredient list on the bag, box or can. If there is something listed in the ingredients that you wouldn’t eat, then your puppy shouldn’t eat it either. The first ingredient listed should be a protein folllowed by a grain. Ideally, protein should come from a specified source such as beef, chicken, lamb. "Meal" such as "chicken-meal" is not as good as "chicken" but better than "poultry-meal". By all means, AVOID any "by-products" such as "poutry-by-products" and "meat-by-products" because those can mean everything from feathers to beaks and hoofs and hairs. Corn is a common source of food allergy for many dogs, it is generally better to go with other source of grain such as rice.
  • Toys- Provide plenty of toys because a bored puppy is a destructive puppy! Stock up on various dog toys such as Nylabones™ and Gumabones™, Kong-brand rubber toys, rope bones, various chews (rawhides and cow hooves) and squeaky toys. You should be careful when using rope bones, squeaky toys, rawhides, or cow hooves, as these toys can break apart quickly with rough play and can cause choking problems and internal blockages. Personally, we don’t use rawhides, animal bones or cow hooves, but if you choose to use them, supervise your dog carefully.
  • Medical Care- Provide regular check ups and routine vaccinations. You would be surprised how long some dogs go without seeing a vet or receiving proper vaccinations. Though rabies is uncommom these days in the urban areas, puppies (and adult dogs) do get parvo, heartworms and kennel coughs. They are treatable in a lot of cases, but with a substantial vet bill. The cost of preventative veternary care is cheaper in the long run compared to treatments.
  • Socialization- Introduce your puppy to various people, to other dogs and to other animals under a controlled environment and take your puppy to as many different places as you can. Remember, safety first and take your time when introducing your puppy to new friends and experiences! Take your puppy out for a drive, as long as he or she is in a crate that is secured inside your car. Most dogs love car rides! (*As a precaution, avoid contacts with unfamiliar dogs until fully vaccinated.)
  • Time Commitment- Your puppy is dependent on you for its entire life. You are responsible for this puppy for the next 12 to 15 years, maybe more. This is a commitment you shouldn’t take lightly. Ask yourself the following questions: Am I prepared to change my lifestyle to accomodate this dog? Will I be there when this dog needs me? A dog is a "pack" animal. Unlike a cat that enjoys solitude, a dog needs to be a part of a family. One of the saddest things to see is a dog tied to a chain and left alone in a back yard. Can you make this dog a part of your family? Answering these questions will help you determine if you can make this important commitment.
  • Money Commitment- Owning a dog costs money--food, toys, medical care, training, supplies all involve spending money. Can you afford it? Are you willing to use that vacation money you’ve been saving up to pay for surgery that your puppy may need?

A Boston Terrier makes an excellent pet, but they aren’t for everyone. Again, do your homework! Here are some references to help you decide.

This book is mostly for Boston breeders but it has a lot of information that is of interest to any Boston Terrier owner, and the profits from this book are donated to the Boston Terrier Club of America’s Health Committee. This is also a great little book to flip through while you are searching for a puppy. Author of this book is Trudy Sample, who is the Chairperson of the BTCA Health Committee. The price is a bargain at only $10.00 + $3 shipping & handling. To order one, send a check made payable to "Trudy Sample" and marked "Puppy Book" to Trudy Sample, 1363 Ruth Drive, Kirkwood, MO 63122.


  • The Complete Dog Book- AKC
  • The Art of Raising a Puppy- The Monks of New Skete


  • Boston Terriers- Howell Publishing
  • Boston Terriers- T.F.H.
  • Boston Terriers- Barrons


  • The American Kennel Club at ""
  • The Boston Terrier Club of America at ""
  • 4M Enterprise at ""
  • Hoflin Publishing at

On Yahoo’s discussion group web site at ""
On the Hoflin Publishing site at

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