Boston Terriers, the small black and white dogs with the large eyes and perky ears, have been gaining in popularity over the last several years. In fact, they were in the top 25 most popular breeds in the United States in 2022. This is due in large part to their personality characteristics.
Generally, Boston Terriers are playful, affectionate, sweet, loyal, and fairly low maintenance. They love their people and typically get along well with other household pets. On the other hand, they can be stubborn and suffer from separation anxiety.
Having been a proud owner of three Boston Terriers over the span of almost twenty years, I’ve found that the pros of these dogs surpass the cons, at least for me.
To determine if a Boston’s personality might be a match for you, let’s look at some more specific traits.
Pros of Boston Terrier Personality
Friendly and Amiable
My first two Boston Terriers never met a stranger. Ruby, my little girl, was a huge flirt. She really did act differently with men and made sure they noticed her. Remy, my boy, felt it was his duty to greet and welcome people at the front door.
Boston aren’t normally good for people who are antisocial because so many of them want to meet everyone. And, because they are so cute, they tend to draw people towards them.
While Bostons might have a favorite person in the home, they’re willing to share their love with other family members and can be very good with young children and babies.
While I never had a baby in the home by the time I got my first Boston, Remy especially loved babies. If a friend brought one over, he gravitated towards them and would sit nearby to assume the role of babysitter. He was always gentle, and I could always trust him.
On that subject, he was just very gentle-natured with everyone. He was two when I brought Ruby home as a puppy and he gave her space and allowed her to settle in before bringing her one of his toys as a welcoming gift.
He allowed her to dominate him, and they became true brother and sister, never fighting, but exhibiting noticeable jealousy if one felt the other was getting more attention.
Many Bostons do well with cats, especially when they grow up with one, and can be great for those who like to foster because of their adaptability. When Ruby was older, I fostered a much larger dog and she accepted her as a part of the family.
Intelligent and Quick Learners
Boston Terriers are especially bright little dogs. Many compete in agility trials and love the competition because it is an activity they can do with their people. They also enjoy learning new tricks and like to play games like hide-and-seek.
Living with an intelligent dog can have its drawbacks. Because Bostons know what they want, they can be stubborn and often insist on doing what they want to do.
My current Boston, Oona Clare, loves to visit the next-door neighbor and will pace the floor once she knows said neighbor is home. She refuses to settle down until she gets to go next door to say hi and have a quick visit.
Because of their intelligence, they’re able to communicate pretty well. Oona Clare will bring me a toy when she wants to play or her Kong when she wants a little peanut butter snack.
She has even led me upstairs when a door was closed to a room where she knew a particular toy was located.
Adaptable to Various Living Conditions
Boston Terriers love their people so much that it doesn’t really matter where they are as long as their person is with them. Oona Clare loves to go places with me. She doesn’t care if it’s a short trip to get a pup cup or a road trip to visit family.
I even moved across the country a few years ago and once my pups knew that they still had their food bowls and where to sleep with me, they settled right in.
I have stayed in hotels with my dogs and moved from a house with a backyard to a townhouse with just a small patio. They have adapted to every situation with ease.
This breed can really fit into any type of living situation, whether you’re in an apartment in the city or living on a farm. As long as they can get their zoomies out, they’re happy wherever their home is.
Moderate Exercise Needs
Speaking of zoomies, Bostons do enjoy exercise. If you have a large yard to play fetch or a game of chase, that’s wonderful. Otherwise, a couple of short walks during the day will suffice.
When it’s rainy or too cold, Oona Clare and I will play hide and seek. Usually this involves me chasing her up the stairs and then I run back down and hide behind a door or piece of furniture while she tries to find me, and then we repeat the process.
On nice days we take a walk around the neighborhood or visit one of our local trails.
Exercise for Bostons is important, but a short-term lack of it shouldn’t lead to behavior problems that some other breeds have. They are not working dogs so they don’t need an activity and, more often than not, will just take a nap if they get bored.
All dogs are different though, and if yours is chewing things they weren’t before or following you around more than normal, they might need a little more exercise to relieve frustration or boredom.
Cons of Boston Terrier Personality
Stubbornness and Independence
As mentioned, many Boston Terriers have a stubborn streak. This most likely comes from being bred from bully breeds in the very early years.
When Remy was a puppy, he just refused to walk on a leash. Especially when he was tired, he would just sit and wait to be carried.
And, while I like to sleep in on weekends, Oona Clare prefers to have her meals at the same time every day and will only wait so long before insisting that I get up.
While neither of these behaviors are dealbreakers, potty training is one area where I really didn’t appreciate a stubborn attitude. Resistance to potty training is fairly common among Bostons and requires a little more patience.
Because they are eager to please, you might find yourself praising outside pottying in a way that makes your neighbors look twice. You might want to restrict treats for a while so that they only get them when they potty where they are asked.
Don’t give up, because they will get it, but it might be closer to their timeline than yours.
Stubbornness can extend to other forms of training. Whether you want your Boston to sit or lie down or learn a cool trick, it can take patience.
Training should always come to an end when it stops being fun for either of you. You can try shorter periods of time, like five-minute spurts, or reinforce their favorite behavior repeatedly to give them a break and a feeling of accomplishment before adding a new one.
Some Bostons can be real hams and might prefer a small audience to show off what they’ve learned. As you learn your pup’s personality, you will figure out the most effective learning style for them.
Sensitivity to Extreme Weather Conditions
Boston Terriers have short hair with a single coat. Because of this, they aren’t built for cold weather in the way that Huskies or even Labradors are.
Their adorable smushy faces mean that their airways are shorter and so they are prone to overheating in hot weather. They are pretty much the Goldilocks of the dog world where they need their temperature just right.
In extremely chilly weather, you must be careful that they are only outside for short periods of time.
Doggie boots are great if your dog will tolerate them, and we have a small closet full of sweaters and coats for Oona Clare. Almost every piece of furniture in my house has a blanket for her to curl up under.
On sizzling summer days, be very aware of signs of overheating. Excessive panting, a glazed look, and trouble walking are signs that your dog is overheated.
Get them inside and get them some water, and if you notice that they aren’t recovering quickly, call your vet. Never leave them in a hot car.
Tendency to Experience Separation Anxiety
Because Boston Terriers are bred to be companion dogs, they don’t like to be alone. All of mine have been shadows, following me from room to room.
If I’m sitting at a table, as I am right now writing this, Oona will go lie down in her crate that is right next to me rather than going to take a nap on the couch. In other words, Boston Terriers can be clingy.
Separation anxiety can be quite common. To minimize this anxiety, I have always made sure that my dogs feel as much security as I can offer in my absence.
Crates are an excellent solution for me. They offer a cozy, enclosed space that limits noises they might hear in other parts of the house.
It also keeps them from getting into anything that might hurt them, such as chewing on electric cords or getting into a trash can with rotten food.
Many stores and pet retailers offer calming treats that can be effective for dogs with more severe cases of anxiety. A few visits with a dog trainer can also offer some insight into what causes your dog stress and how to minimize those triggers.
Most importantly, dogs thrive on routine. A regular routine and quality bonding can go a long way in easing the tension they experience. Knowing that they are loved, that you always return, and what to expect throughout the day is essential to them.
Importance of Socialization
I feel it is important to mention the role that proper socialization plays in forming a Boston’s personality.
While they do tend to love other people and other dogs, I personally have had dogs with opposite reactions.
When I brought Ruby home, I assumed that having a Boston brother would be enough for her. I thought that since he loved everyone, she would as well. In fact, she did not enjoy the presence of other dogs.
When walking, she would show aggression by growling and barking if another dog got too close to her. She only mellowed out as a senior dog in her own home.
I brought Oona Clare home in January of 2020. As soon as she was done with her vaccination quarantine, we went into lockdown where she only saw one or two other people for months.
As a result, she has little to no trust in strangers other than a handful of people she considers friends.
Taking her out more in the last several months has helped and she has made some remarkable improvements. I think it shows how important proper socialization is.
Just because Boston Terriers in general are friendly or have another particular personality trait, each dog is an individual. For the most part, training and socialization are even more important than what is normally attributed to a dog’s breed.
Conclusion: Is a Boston Terrier Right for You?
This is the question. Is a Boston Terrier right for you? Yes, they are friendly and smart and get along with almost anyone. They are playful and comical and affectionate. They are extremely portable.
They are also sometimes stubborn and improper socialization and a lack of training can lead to undesirable behaviors.
However, with patience and routine, most problems can be overcome or managed. If you start early with a young puppy, and are consistent in your training, you will have fewer issues.
If you are lucky enough to rescue a Boston, they might be a bit more challenging and the need for consistency will be even greater. Fortunately, there are many resources to help with all kinds of issues and behaviors.
Personally, I find the friendships that my Bostons have offered me have far outweighed any of our struggles. Even on particularly frustrating days, Oona Clare will do something that has me laughing and we end our day with cuddles.
It is my love for this breed that moves me to tell you of their faults. All people and all dogs are individuals and I would rather you go into your relationship with full awareness of what you may face.
If you are willing to put in the time and have the patience to overlook or at least learn to manage less desirable behaviors, you will be rewarded with a little dog who thinks the world of you and who will offer you some of the best years of your life.