Boston Terrier

boston terrier

The Boston Terrier, often referred to as the “American Gentleman,” is a breed that embodies a perfect blend of affectionate personality and distinguished appearance. Compact, lively, and highly adaptable, these dogs have captured the hearts of families and individuals alike with their tuxedo-like coat and charming demeanor.

General Info About the Breed

Boston Terriers are a small, compact, yet muscular breed known for their distinctive “tuxedo” coat, which makes them look as if they’re perennially dressed for a formal event. They belong to the non-sporting group and are as versatile in their capabilities as they are in their social interactions, excelling as companions, show dogs, and even in canine sports.

History and Origins of the Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier, affectionately known as the “American Gentleman,” has a unique history that is deeply rooted in the United States, particularly in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. This breed is a true American creation, evolving from a tough fighting dog to a beloved companion.

Early Development

  • 19th Century Origins: The Boston Terrier originated in the late 19th century in Boston, Massachusetts. The breed was developed by crossing various dogs, primarily the English Bulldog with the now-extinct White English Terrier.
  • Original Purpose: Initially bred for pit-fighting and ratting contests, these early Boston Terriers were larger and more ferocious than the gentle breed we know today.

Breed Refinement

  • Transition to Companion Dogs: As dog fighting lost popularity, the breed was refined to be smaller and more friendly. Breeders focused on creating a well-mannered companion dog rather than a fierce fighter.
  • French Bulldog Influence: The inclusion of the French Bulldog in the breeding process contributed to the Boston Terrier’s smaller size and distinctive appearance.

Official Recognition

  • Name and Club Formation: The name “Boston Terrier” was adopted in honor of the city where the breed was developed. The Boston Terrier Club of America was formed in 1891.
  • AKC Recognition: The Boston Terrier was one of the first non-sporting breeds developed in the United States to be recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). This recognition came in 1893, making it one of the first breeds native to the United States to be recognized by the AKC.

Evolution of Standards

  • Breed Standardization: Over time, the breed standard was refined to emphasize its friendly disposition, compact build, and unique tuxedo-like coat pattern.
  • Popularity Growth: Throughout the 20th century, the Boston Terrier grew in popularity as a companion dog, known for its intelligence and affectionate nature.

Cultural Significance

  • Iconic Status: The Boston Terrier has become an iconic breed in American culture, representing a blend of tenacity and gentleness. It embodies the spirit of its city of origin – resilience, charm, and a distinct personality.


The Boston Terrier’s history is a story of transformation from a pit-fighting dog to a beloved family pet. This transition reflects changes in society and dog breeding priorities over time. Today, the Boston Terrier stands as a symbol of American ingenuity and a testament to how selective breeding can shape a breed’s temperament and physical characteristics for the better. They are not just a part of American dog breeding history but also a breed that has captured the hearts of dog lovers with its unique charm and personality.


boston terrier


Size Characteristics

Boston Terriers are classified as small dogs, typically weighing between 12 to 25 pounds. They are generally divided into three weight classes:

  • Under 15 pounds
  • 15 to 20 pounds
  • 20 to 25 pounds

Despite their small size, they have a sturdy, muscular build, with a height ranging from 15 to 17 inches at the shoulder.


The Boston Terrier’s most striking feature is its smooth, tuxedo-like black and white coat, which also comes in brindle or seal with white markings. They have a square-looking head with erect ears and large, round eyes that give them an expressive face, often described as friendly and intelligent. Their short tails can be either straight or screw-shaped.

Temperament of the Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier is renowned for its affable and charming temperament, making it a beloved pet for many. This breed combines the best of both worlds – the spirited vivacity of a terrier and the affectionate nature of a companion dog.

Friendly and Sociable

  • People-Oriented: Boston Terriers are known for their love of people. They thrive on human interaction and are generally very sociable, both with family members and strangers.
  • Good Natured: Their amiable disposition makes them suitable for a variety of households, from singles to large families.

Good with Children and Other Animals

  • Child-Friendly: These dogs are typically good with children, often patient and playful, making them an excellent choice for family pets.
  • Pet Compatibility: With proper socialization, Boston Terriers can coexist peacefully with other pets, including dogs and cats. They are generally not aggressive, though they may display typical terrier spunk when interacting with other dogs.

Intelligent and Eager to Please

  • Trainability: Boston Terriers are quite intelligent and generally eager to please, which makes them relatively easy to train. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques such as praise and treats.
  • Learning Capability: They are capable of learning a variety of commands and tricks and can excel in dog sports like agility and obedience competitions.

Moderate Energy Level

  • Activity Needs: Boston Terriers have a moderate energy level. They enjoy being active and require regular exercise, but they are also content with snuggle time at home.
  • Playfulness: They often have a playful side and enjoy interactive games, which makes them fun companions.


  • Versatility: This breed is highly adaptable and can thrive in various living environments, from apartments to homes with yards.
  • Sensitivity: Boston Terriers are sensitive to the tone of voice and mood, making them responsive to their owner’s emotions and needs.

Affectionate and Loyal

  • Bonding: Boston Terriers tend to form strong bonds with their owners. They are affectionate and often enjoy cuddling and being close to their human family members.
  • Loyal Companions: Their loyalty and loving nature make them not just pets, but integral and cherished members of the family.


boston terrier
Image courtesy of Joice Rivas


Trainability of the Boston Terrier

Boston Terriers are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, which makes them generally easy and enjoyable to train. Their trainability is one of the aspects that make them such popular pets.

Positive Reinforcement Works Best

  • Responsive to Positive Methods: Boston Terriers respond excellently to positive reinforcement techniques. They are motivated by treats, praise, and play, which can make training sessions both effective and enjoyable.
  • Avoid Harsh Methods: Due to their sensitive nature, harsh training methods or negative reinforcement can be counterproductive and may lead to a lack of trust or fearfulness.

Early Socialization and Training

  • Importance of Early Training: Like all breeds, early socialization and obedience training are crucial for Boston Terriers. Exposing them to a variety of people, animals, and situations when they are young helps them develop into well-rounded, confident adults.
  • Puppy Classes: Enrolling them in puppy classes can be beneficial. These classes not only teach basic commands but also provide essential socialization opportunities.

Intelligence and Learning Capability

  • Quick Learners: Boston Terriers are intelligent and can learn commands and tricks quickly. Their cleverness, however, sometimes means they can be a little too smart for their own good, potentially leading to manipulative behaviors if not properly guided.
  • Mental Stimulation: They enjoy, and benefit from, mental challenges. Training sessions that stimulate their mind will keep them engaged and can help prevent boredom.

Consistency is Key

  • Routine and Consistency: Consistency in commands, rules, and expectations is important when training a Boston Terrier. A consistent routine helps them understand what is expected of them and provides a sense of security.
  • Short and Engaging Sessions: Due to their relatively short attention span, training sessions should be short, fun, and engaging to keep their interest high.

House Training

  • Toilet Training: Boston Terriers can be successfully house trained with consistent and patient efforts. Crate training can be an effective method for this.
  • Consistent Schedule: Maintaining a regular schedule for feeding and bathroom breaks helps in faster house training.

Potential Training Challenges

  • Stubborn Streak: Sometimes, they may exhibit a stubborn streak. Patience and positive motivation are key to overcoming this challenge.
  • Barking: Some Boston Terriers can be quite vocal. Training them to understand commands like “quiet” can be helpful.


boston terrier
Image courtesy of Kindred Hues


Exercise Requirements and Energy Level of the Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier is a lively and spirited breed, but its exercise needs are moderate compared to more high-energy breeds. Understanding their exercise requirements and energy levels is key to keeping them healthy and happy.

Moderate Exercise Needs

  • Daily Activity: Boston Terriers require regular daily exercise but are usually satisfied with moderate activity. A couple of walks per day, coupled with some playtime, is typically enough to meet their exercise needs.
  • Type of Exercise: Activities can include brisk walks, short jogs, interactive play sessions, and indoor games. They enjoy activities that engage both their body and mind.

Energy Level

  • Balanced Energy: Boston Terriers have a balanced energy level. They are playful and energetic at times but also enjoy relaxing with their owners.
  • Adaptability: Their energy levels can often match the activity level of their household, making them suitable for a variety of living situations.

Importance of Regular Exercise

  • Physical Health: Regular exercise helps prevent obesity, a common issue in the breed, and keeps them physically fit.
  • Mental Stimulation: Exercise also provides mental stimulation, which is important for this intelligent breed to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors.

Indoor and Outdoor Activities

  • Indoor Play: Boston Terriers can adapt well to indoor play and activities, which is beneficial for apartment dwellers.
  • Outdoor Exploration: They also enjoy outdoor adventures, but due to their brachycephalic nature, care should be taken in extreme weather, especially heat.

Exercise as Part of Routine

  • Routine: Establishing a regular exercise routine helps in managing their energy levels and contributes to overall good behavior.
  • Socialization: Exercise time is also an opportunity for socialization, which is important for their development and well-being.

Exercise Precautions

  • Brachycephalic Considerations: Due to their short noses, Boston Terriers can be prone to breathing difficulties, especially in hot or humid weather. It’s important to avoid overexertion and provide plenty of water and rest.
  • Temperature Sensitivity: They are sensitive to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, so exercise routines may need to be adjusted accordingly.

Grooming Requirements

Boston Terriers have a short, smooth coat that sheds moderately. Regular brushing will help to minimize shedding and keep their coat shiny. They require only occasional baths, and their grooming routine should also include regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental care.


boston terrier
Image courtesy of Mao Li


Health Issues of the Boston Terrier

Boston Terriers, like all breeds, have certain health predispositions that prospective and current owners should be aware of. Understanding these potential health concerns can aid in early detection and effective management.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

  • Description: Due to their short snouts and flat faces (brachycephalic), Boston Terriers can experience respiratory issues, including difficulty breathing, snoring, and wheezing, especially in hot or humid weather.
  • Management: Avoiding strenuous exercise in extreme weather and monitoring breathing are key to managing this condition.

Eye Problems

  • Description: Their prominent eyes make Boston Terriers susceptible to various eye issues like corneal ulcers, cataracts, and cherry eye.
  • Prevention and Care: Regular eye check-ups and prompt treatment of any signs of irritation or abnormality are important.

Patellar Luxation

  • Description: This condition involves the dislocation of the kneecap, leading to lameness or discomfort.
  • Treatment: It can range from physical therapy and weight management to surgical intervention, depending on severity.


  • Description: Boston Terriers can suffer from allergies, which may manifest in skin conditions or digestive issues.
  • Management: Identifying and avoiding allergens, along with appropriate medical treatment, can help alleviate symptoms.

Heart Conditions

  • Description: Some Boston Terriers may develop heart conditions like aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aorta, which can affect blood flow.
  • Monitoring: Regular veterinary check-ups and echocardiograms can help in early detection and management.


  • Description: They are prone to obesity, which can exacerbate respiratory and joint problems.
  • Prevention: A balanced diet and regular exercise are essential for maintaining a healthy weight.


  • Description: Congenital deafness can occur in the breed, sometimes linked to coat color (particularly in white or blue Bostons).
  • Detection: BAER testing (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) can determine if a puppy has normal hearing.

Regular Health Screenings

  • Importance: Routine veterinary care, including regular check-ups and screenings, can detect many of these conditions early.
  • Proactive Health Care: A proactive approach, including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and monitoring for early signs of health issues, is key to maintaining a Boston Terrier’s health.

Breeding Practices

  • Ethical Breeding: Prospective owners should seek out reputable breeders who perform health screenings and genetic testing to reduce the likelihood of hereditary diseases.
  • Awareness: Understanding these potential health issues is crucial for the well-being and longevity of Boston Terriers.


In summary, while Boston Terriers are generally a hardy and lively breed, being aware of and prepared to manage potential health issues is crucial for ensuring they lead a healthy, happy life. With proper care, regular veterinary check-ups, and a healthy lifestyle, Boston Terriers can be joyous and loving companions for many years.

Notable Dogs From the Breed

One of the most famous Boston Terriers was Sergeant Stubby, a war hero dog from World War I known for his bravery and loyalty.

Comparable Breeds

Comparable breeds include the French Bulldog and the Pug, which share similar brachycephalic traits and friendly dispositions.

General Summary of the Breed

The Boston Terrier is a versatile, affectionate, and lively breed well-suited to a variety of living environments and family arrangements. They are as much at home in an apartment as they are in a house with a yard, provided they get enough exercise and companionship. With their tuxedo-like markings, friendly nature, and intelligent eyes, Boston Terriers are not just pets but beloved members of the family. Their adaptability, combined with their manageable size and affectionate nature, makes them one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

Boston Terriers are a small, compact, yet muscular breed known for their distinctive “tuxedo” coat, which makes them look as if they’re perennially dressed for a formal event. They belong to the non-sporting group and are as versatile in their capabilities as they are in their social interactions, excelling as companions, show dogs, and even in canine sports.

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