Boston Terrier 101 [8 Things to Know About Boston Terriers]

TerrierOwner.com is reader-supported. If you buy a product through a link on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

You may have seen one of these small black and white dogs walking jauntily at the end of a leash. Sometimes mistaken for a Pug, a French Bulldog, or (once, in my case), a miniature Boxer, these little dogs are called Boston Terriers.

They look cheerful enough, but is the Boston Terrier the right dog for you? Let’s take a look into the breed to find out.

Breed NamesBoston Terrier, Bosty, American Gentleman, Boston Bull Terrier, Boxwood, Roundhead
Height (inches)15″ to 17″
Weight (pounds)12 to 35 pounds
ColorWhite and black, brindle, or seal
Lifespan11 to 13 years
Cost$1,000 to $3,500

History

What we now know as the Boston Terrier was originally called a "Roundhead," owing to the curved skull and full, open eyes of this small dog.

The Boston Terrier does, in fact, hail from Boston and is widely recognized as the first truly American breed. It is believed that the first Boston Terrier resulted from breeding an English Bulldog and a white English Terrier, both of which were breeds used for fighting.

Although this was also the Boston Terrier’s initial purpose, they soon came into favor with the ladies of Boston society and were then bred to a smaller size with the objective of providing companionship for their owners.

What we now know as the Boston Terrier was originally called a “Roundhead,” owing to the curved skull and full, open eyes of this small dog. Because this wasn’t a very respectable name for an official breed, the name was soon changed and, in 1891, the Boston Terrier Club of America was established.

The breed was formally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1893 and in 1979, the government of Massachusetts named the Boston Terrier as its official state dog.

Size and Appearance

Boston Terriers have short muzzles, ears that stand several weeks after birth, and short tails that often appear docked but are short from birth.

The American Kennel Club puts the Boston Terrier into three weight groups – under 15 pounds, 15 to under 20 pounds and 20 to 25 pounds. The breed standard is not to exceed 25 pounds, but I’ve seen plenty of healthy Boston Terriers up to 35 pounds.

Their coat is short and standard colors are black, brindle, or seal (appears black but shows a red tint in sunlight) with white markings.

They have short muzzles, ears that stand several weeks after birth, and short tails that often appear docked but are short from birth.

Personality and Temperament

Boston Terriers are friendly, lively, playful, and love to be around their people.

Boston Terriers were bred for companionship and they make for great little buddies. They are friendly, lively, playful, smart, and love to be around their people.

They are often comical and extremely bright. They can be protective of their home but are not aggressively territorial.

Unlike other terrier breeds, they are not inclined to be excessive barkers.

However, like most terriers, Bostons can also be stubborn.

To learn more, read the pros and cons the Boston Terrier personality.

Popularity

The popularity of the Boston Terrier has remained moderately consistent over the last hundred years or so, consistently ranking as one of the 25 most popular breeds in the U.S.

Boston University made the Boston Terrier its mascot in 1922.
Image Credit: “Rhett the Terrier” by WBUR is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

It was also the breed of choice for two presidents, Warren G. Harding and Gerald Ford. (See more famous Boston Terrier owners.)

Sergeant Stubby, a Boston Terrier, was the only dog nominated for rank through combat for his service during World War I.

Boston University made the breed its mascot in 1922 and there are groups in Massachusetts promoting its welfare.

A Boston Terrier is featured in the Disney short film “Feast” which won an Academy Award for best Animated Short Film.

Health Concerns

The Boston Terrier is a brachycephalic breed, as characterized by their shorter snouts.

The Boston Terrier is a brachycephalic breed, as characterized by their shorter snouts, and this trait does come with some problems. The chief concerns with brachycephaly are a soft palate and narrowed airway.

The mildest symptoms are snoring, loud breathing, or snorting and the most serious would be collapse from overexertion. It’s important to watch your Boston Terrier for signs of overheating during play time or long walks.

The Boston’s pronounced eyes are large and expressive but are more easily scratched. Care should be taken during play time with littermates or other household pets. Other eye problems can be inherited, such as cataracts or glaucoma.

A more serious inherited condition in Boston Terriers is epilepsy, which is when a dog experiences frequent seizures. This condition usually shows up before the age of three and is commonly treated with anti-seizure medicine that can greatly extend the life of the afflicted Boston Terrier.  

Shedding and Grooming

Even though Boston Terriers are low-shedding, they are not hypoallergenic.

While Boston Terriers shed year-round, it is minimal because of their smooth, single coat. Shedding can be controlled with a good diet, which will also keep a shiny coat.

Even though Boston Terriers are low-shedding, they are not hypoallergenic.

They require nominal grooming as their coat doesn’t attract much dirt. In fact, baths should only be given with a mild shampoo when really needed as over-washing or harsh detergents can irritate the sensitive skin of a Boston Terrier.

The most important aspect in grooming is nail trimming. Take care, however, as their nails can be small and delicate. A Dremel tool is often a better choice than the standard guillotine-type cutter.

Exercise Needs

As a general rule, Boston Terriers require 30-60 minutes of exercise per day.

Because of their size and temperament, Boston Terriers are great as indoor pets. While they are not complete couch potatoes, they also are not built for running marathons.

As a general rule, they require 30-60 minutes of exercise per day. Walks and short runs or swims are great outlets for their energy, but so is a game of fetch, tug-of-war, or even hide-and-seek.

Remember to keep an eye our for signs of overheating or labored breathing.

Mental games, such as treat puzzles, help keep a Boston Terrier stimulated beyond their physical needs.

How Much Do Boston Terriers Eat?

One nice thing about small dogs is that they are less expensive to feed than larger breeds. While the exact amount a Boston Terrier will eat each day will depend on the size of the individual, Boston Terriers generally eat 1 to 1.5 cups of food each day.

Family Environment

Boston Terriers are great family dogs. When well-socialized, they get along with both people and other pets.

Boston Terriers are great family dogs. When well-socialized, they get along with both people and other pets. They can be especially wonderful with children because of their size and personality.

One thing to note is that Boston Terriers don’t jump, they bounce. Fortunately, they love to learn and train so their exuberance at greeting people can be channeled into an appropriate low bounce.

Is the Boston Terrier Right for You?

This is the big question. Is a Boston Terrier the right breed for you? If you are looking for an independent dog who goes all day in all types of weather, then no. If you’re opposed to snoring or gassiness or stubbornness, then no.

If you like cuddling, affection, companionship, and laughing then this is the breed for you. Likewise, if you want a dog who sheds little and requires minimal grooming, then this is your breed.

Boston Terriers aren’t for everyone, but those that fall in love with the breed are in it for life.

Also Read: The Bo-Jack Dog: Boston Terrier & Jack Russell Terrier Mix + Teacup Boston Terriers 101

Katherine Alexander

Katherine is an experienced terrier owner, having owned 3 Boston Terriers over the last 18 years. She currently lives at home in Tennessee with her best friend, a 3 year old Bosty named Oona.

Recent Posts