The Boston Terrier is a lively little companion recognized by his tight tuxedo jacket, sporty but compact body, and the friendly glow in his big, round eyes. His impeccable manners have earned him the nickname “The American Gentleman.”
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 21 of 192
- Height: 15-17 inches
- Weight: 12-25 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 11-13 years
- Group: Non-Sporting Group
About the Boston Terrier
Boston Terriers are compact, short-tailed, well-balanced little dogs weighing no more than 25 pounds. The stylish “tuxedo” coat can be white and either black, brindle, or seal (dark brown). The head is square, the muzzle is short, and the large, round eyes can shine with kindness, curiosity, or mischief. Ever alert to their surroundings, Bostons move with a jaunty, rhythmic step.
It’s a safe bet that a breed named for a city—the Havanese or Brussels Griffon, for instance—will make an excellent urban pet. Bostons are no exception: they are sturdy but portable, people-oriented, and always up for a brisk walk to the park or outdoor cafe. A bright dog with a natural gift for comedy, the dapper Bostonian is a steady source of smiles.
The popularity of blood sports in 19th-century England led to a mania for crossing terriers and bull-type breeds to produce dogs who could excel at pit fighting and ratting contests. In Liverpool, sometime in the late 1860s, a cross between a Bulldog and the now-extinct white English Terrier resulted in a tough, muscular dog named Judge.
Judge’s owner sold him to an American named William O’Brien, who brought his new dog home to Boston. In 1870, O’Brien sold Judge to a fellow Bostonian, Robert C. Hooper. Judge, from then on known in breed histories as “Hooper’s Judge,” became the patriarch of the Boston Terrier breed and the common ancestor of almost all true Bostons.
A breed historian describes Judge as a “strongly built, high stationed dog of about thirty-two pounds weight. In color he was a dark brindle, with a white stripe in the face. His head was square and blocky, and he resembled the present Boston Terrier in that he had a nearly even mouth.”
Hooper bred Judge to a small white female named Burnett’s Gyp, owned by Edward Burnett, of Southboro, Massachusetts. And, in the genealogy so familiar to Boston Terrier fanciers, Judge and Gyp begot Well’s Eph, who begot Tobin’s Kate, and on through the seminal generations of the Boston’s U.S. history. During the breed’s formative decades, selective breeding transformed the bulky fighter of Judge’s time into a smaller, sweeter, and more attractive companion dog, originally called the Round Head by its partisans.
In honor of the city where these happy-go-lucky dogs were so painstakingly developed, the breed name was changed to Boston Terrier. The Boston Terrier Club of America was formed in 1891, and two years later the AKC registered its first dog of the breed.
To this day, Boston Terriers are a point of hometown pride. The Boston Terrier has been the official mascot of Boston University for nearly 100 years, and in 1979 the state legislature named the “American Gentleman” the official dog of Massachusetts.
The Boston Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The Boston’s sleek, fine coat does shed somewhat, though not a lot. Weekly brushing with a soft-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt or tool, or a hound glove will help to remove the loose hair. A good brushing also promotes new hair growth and distributes skin oils throughout the coat to help keep it healthy. Bostons need to be bathed only occasionally, unless they get into something messy. As with all breeds, the Boston’s nails should be trimmed regularly, because overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running.
The Boston’s need for exercise varies from individual to individual. For some, a brisk walk once or twice a day will be enough. Others will need more time to run and play every day and let off steam. Simply letting a Boston out into the backyard doesn’t count as exercise—he’ll probably just sit at the door waiting to be let back in. Left alone for long periods of time, a Boston will tend to become frustrated and develop undesirable behaviors. Throw him a ball or a toy, however, and he’ll be more than happy to play with you. Participation in canine sports such as agility, obedience, flyball, and rally is an enjoyable way to channel the breed’s energy.
As with all breeds, early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended. Socialization—gently exposing the puppy to a wide variety of people, places, and situations—will help him develop into a well-adjusted, well-mannered adult. Treats make a great training incentive. Many Bostons are quite sensitive; for them, gentle corrections should be followed by warmth and praise.
Protecting the Boston Terrier’s beautiful but prominent eyes is of special importance. The eyes should be checked daily for redness or irritation. Some owners carry saline eye drops to flush out dust or debris. Responsible breeders screen their stock for eye problems such as cataracts, corneal ulcers, and glaucoma, as well as deafness and patellar luxation (comparable to a “trick knee” in humans). Like all flat-faced breeds, Bostons can experience difficulty breathing when not given adequate shelter from excessive heat or humidity.