The Boston Terrier is a compact, small dog with a square face and a personality bigger than their 10-25 pound size. Although the most common color is black and white, they may be brindle or seal, and have distinct markings required in the standard. They are not a true terrier, belonging to the AKC non-sporting group. As such, they are usually not as driven or high energy as the “typical terrier”.
With the nickname “American Gentleman” the Boston terrier is generally a friendly, loving dog that can vary within the breed from very willing to very stubborn. It gives owners a chance to choose a dog that fits their personality. Some are cuddly, some are more independent but due to a heritage of being companion dogs they generally get along well with people, dogs and other pets. Following the Civil War they were bred in stables around Boston Massachusetts.
Many would be surprised to hear that these dogs were actually bred down from bulldogs, bull terriers and later French Bulldogs to reduce the size. Early in the development they were fighting dogs, largely from English bulldog and English terrier stock. Due to the origins from that stock around Boston in the 1870s the club was originally called the American Bull Terrier Club but that didn’t set well with Bull Terrier breeders so the name was changed to a more local representation and the Boston Terrier was born, first admitted into the AKC in 1893 as the first US breed recognized and the first non-sporting dog bred in the US.
Much like the Morgan horse traces to one horse, the Boston terrier traces to “Judge” owned by Robert Hooper. Bred to Edward Burnett’s “Gyp” the foundation was started particularly through Well’s Eph. This is a fairly young breed as history goes.
By the 1900s the breed’s distinctive markings became part of the standard, making it a requirement instead of an option. Today they are terrier in name only. This is a typically easy going breed that gets by on moderate exercise, the short coat requires little grooming and they are usually easy to train. He is no longer a fighter but many will rise to defending themselves if challenged. He makes a wonderful companion dog.
From a standards point for conformation the dog should be balanced, with good expression and proper markings. The head and neck, topline, body and tail share equal importance, followed by general appearance, expression, forequarters, hindquarters and gait. Lastly, eyes, ears, feet and color/markings have points awarded, although solid colored dogs without markings is cause for disqualification. Additionally gray or liver base colors are cause for disqualification.
The shortened muzzle of the Boston terrier does bring some challenges you should be aware of. Excessive heat or cold can harm your dog so caution is needed to protect him from extremes while exercising.
Brachycephalic syndrome is one of the issues that affects not only the French Bulldog but the Boston terrier as well. The normal dog expels air and fresh air inflates the lungs, with the pressure of the chest equal to that of outside air. With these breeds, low pressure within the airway means the dog must work harder to breathe – to pull that air into the lungs. This can result in these breeds being susceptible to overheating at much higher rates than other dogs. Care must be taken – much like closing your nose off part way it’s harder for air to get into the lungs.
According to the standard, the eyes are set square in the skull and the outside corners should be in line with cheeks when viewed from the front. This calls for eye protection due to large eyes that somewhat protrude. Doggie visors can help keep the sun out of their eyes. Do not let your Boston terrier stick his head outside the vehicle – while protecting the eyes of any dog with this rule is important, because of the very structure of the head it’s more true with Bostons. Keep your Boston terrier away from thorny plants to prevent getting their eyes scratched, and avoid dusty areas if possible.
This is stressed because there are 20 different problems that can be created with Boston terriers. Juvenile Cataracts should be tested for annually as this can cause blindness. Watch for change to the eye including a blue, gray or white color. If he begins bumping into things, is afraid of stairs or getting up on something, is timid in unfamiliar places it’s all signs to have him checked. If a normally outgoing dog becomes “clingy” it may also be a sign he’s not able to see as well and looking to you for help.
Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done to reverse or shrink cataracts. It is important to be mindful of protecting the eyes of your Boston terrier and as much as possible reduce the chances of injury. There is sometimes surgical options, but this isn’t foolproof. Dogs that are blind can live a healthy, normal life if handled with this in mind. Keep the environment familiar and keep him in a fenced yard or on leash at all times when outside.
Juvenile cataracts is a recessive hereditary disease – both parents may be normal but if the offspring have the wrong genetics match up they could have the disease not present in the parents. Genetic testing before breeding is highly advised to determine if the individual is a carrier of juvenile cataracts.
Some heart issues are also known to affect Boston terriers as well as things that affect all dogs no matter what breed.
Some breeders speak of necessary C-sections so in addition to health testing there is a vet specializing in bully breeds (remember that breathing issue) and thus a cost of thousands of dollars to produce one puppy. Due to the blocky head it is not uncommon for a C-section to be needed to produce puppies, something that warrants serious consideration before breeding. With the high fees it would seem demand for these wonderful little dogs is high enough one need never be in rescue, but that is not the case.
There are certainly serious considerations to breeding any dog and more so with breeds like the Boston terrier. Equally certain even among champion to champion breeding not all will be show dogs but these are still incredible pets and companions. If the Boston terrier sounds like a dog that would be a fit for your home, contact a Boston terrier breeder to see about an unshowable dog, or look into rescues that pull dogs given up by their owners or found on the streets. There are incredible dogs looking for homes and if you are serious about finding your ideal Boston terrier it can happen.