The Boston Terrier — What to Expect of This Dog Breed

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Although the Boston Terrier is a cute, compact little dog, and you have decided you would like to be owned by one, it is important to understand the special nature of this little dog and why the breed exists. The Boston Terrier requires a certain amount of mental and physical activity.
One of the few native American breeds, and often called the American Gentleman, the Boston Terrier is a recent addition, comparatively speaking, to the realm of purebred dogs.

The handsome little dogs we see today have come a long way since their beginnings in the fighting pits of Boston. The Boston Terrier was bred from a cross between Bull Terriers and Bulldogs. The first crosses occurred in England, and some members of this hybrid stock were sent to America.

In 1889, about thirty fanciers in Boston and surrounding cities organized the American Bull Terrier Club. Dogs were bred and exhibited by these fanciers as “Round Heads” or “Bull Terriers”. Bull Terrier breeders objected that these crosses were not Terriers. Bulldog fanciers objected because they were not Bulldogs. In 1891 the name was changed to the Boston Terrier Club of America, (BTCA) and a standard was written. They applied for entrance to the AKC stud book, but were denied. In 1893, however, the breed was accepted and the first Boston Terrier was admitted. He was Hector #28814, by Bixby’s Tony ex Dimple.

By 1915 the breed was stabilized and had become the most popular in the country. They were number one in registrations of the top twenty breeds, when all breeds numbered 22,127. They were on top again in 1920. The Bostons were back in first place in 1930. The Boston Terrier remained in the Top Ten until 1960, but have slipped steadily since that time.

The Boston Terrier, refined and standardized, has maintained its place in American history as a spunky little dog of intelligence and spirit…a fitting representative from Boston commons from whence it came.

The Boston Terrier Club Of America

The BTCA is designed to protect the breed from proliferation of genetic faults, and to ensure the standard of the Boston Terrier. Membership includes a quarterly newsletter magazine with breed information, interesting articles, and activities throughout the country. A major function of the BTCA is education, and many informational publications are distributed to assist BTCA members and prospective Boston Terrier owners. There are BTCA representatives in most states throughout the U.S. to assist in providing information.

Boston Terrier Rescue is a division of the BTCA, and along with the BTCA, is dedicated entirely to the protection and preservation of the Boston Terrier.

Care, Exercise, and Grooming

Boston Terriers are extremely easy dogs to live with wanting only to please. Bostons are extremely easy to train. Bostons are strictly house dogs, they are not able to cope with extreme cold, nor can they deal with extreme heat. Bostons can overheat very quickly due to the short muzzle and a slightly elongated palate.

Bostons are active dogs needing daily exercise. They love toys, playing fetch, chase, and children. Please remember children need to be taught how to handle and care for a pet. The Boston Terrier is a short haired dog that sheds minimally. The brushes that work the best are: rubber palm brush and grooming mit. The palm brush used in a circular motion lifts out dead hair and brings the oil to the surface, grooming mit traps loose hair. A grooming session at least once a week should be sufficient.

Ear cleaning is a must as is nail clipping.


Snoring & Snorting

The Boston Terrier possesses a short muzzle or pushed in face. Some Boston Terriers may show some degree of airway obstruction. This is because the dog has an elongated soft palate. After you have a Boston for awhile, you don’t even realize that they snore.


A carefully planned diet, along with regular exercise, will put your Boston on the road to a long and healthy life. Proper nutrition must begin as a puppy in order to develop strong bone, well-conditioned muscles and a natural immunity to diseases and infections. An incorrect diet of table foods can lead to gastrointestinal problems in the Boston Terrier creating excessive gas. This problem can usually be controlled through diet.

Juvenile Cataracts

A very serious genetic disorder in the Boston Terrier and several other breeds. Juvenile Cataracts occur between 8 weeks to 12 months of age. Some cataracts are clearly visible to the eye, while others are diagnosed by a veterinary ophthalomologist by a CERF test. This is a serious problem in the Boston Terrier and carrier dogs should not be bred.


This can cause many problems and you should ask about this in parents and grand parents. This problem can usually be controlled with medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do they bark a lot?

No. However, Bostons make excellent watch dogs. They take pride in defending their masters. They are fearless, often attacking a dog much larger than themselves.

Do they dig? Can I leave them outside in the backyard?

Yes, most dogs do. They love to bury their bones, toys, etc. They can be left outside for short periods. Due to the short muzzles, they can not survive outside during the summer/winter months.

Do they shed?

Yes, however, regular brushing and bathing will take care of this problem.

Are they good with children?

Yes. If they are raised with a child, they will usually become that child’s protector and babysitter. Just remember, children have to be taught how to handle a young puppy.

Would a puppy or an adult dog be better?

This depends on a lot of different things. For young children, I would have to recommand an older puppy or grown dog. One that can get away from the children, if the dog will be left alone with the children for any length of time. Many times, an elderly person would rather have an older dog — one that does not require as much physical activity, etc. Remember, think about this before you add a dog to your household. How much time you have to spend with this dog or puppy? Are you willing to take the time to housetrain? Are your children ready to help handle the responsibility for a pet? Can you handle the extra expense of a dog?

What kind of activities do they like? Walking? Hiking? Obedience? Agility? How trainable are they?

If people are involved, Bostons usually love to participate. They love long walks, hiking, etc. Bostons do have a stubborn streak, but are very trainable and love obedience.

How long do they live?

Bostons have an average life span of 10-13 years.

How well do they get along with other dogs or pets?

Bostons get along very well with other pets. I personally have had Bostons with cats, horses, ducks, goats, and other dogs. I have also known Bostons who hated cats. This is something you hve to check on a dog-to-dog basis. Bostons usually like being the “Top Dog.”

What would be some reasons I should NOT get a Boston Terrier?

They must be kept inside. They are active. They need attention and want to be played with.

Boston Terrier Rescue

The BTCA and Boston Terrier Rescue are here to help… We are dedicated to the Boston Terrier.

What is Boston Terrier Rescue?

It is a network of BTCA affiliate clubs/members dedicated to placing unwanted or abandoned Boston Terriers. The Network arranges for emergency rescues throughout the country, and gathers information designed to match appropriate dogs in appropriate permanent and temporary homes.

What is wrong with the dogs needing rescue?

The majority of the dogs are simply unwanted by no fault of their own. Owners often find that they were unprepared for the care required. Owners are often gone all day, and therefore unable to provide the time, attention, and level of activity necessary to this lovely little dog. Sometimes jobs or life situations change, making it impossible for someone to keep their beloved pet.

Can a dog with behavioral or health problems be put up for adoption?

Boston Terrier Rescue can not place a dog that is aggressive to humans, dogs in poor health (i.e. incurable) are also not suitable for adoption. The BTCA Rescue does not function as a clearing point for dogs with serious behavior or health problems, but does make every effort to assist or counsel when an owner seeks advise that might enable them to keep a dog in its current home.

Can I use a rescue dog for breeding?

No. All animals must be spayed or neutered as part of the placement process, and they are placed strictly as pets. Many of the dogs rescued are not good examples of the breed standard, and often there is no pedigree or record of ancestry.

Is there a charge to surrender a dog?

If possible, owners are asked to take full responsibility for having the dog’s medical requirements up-to-date, including spaying/neutering, and a current health certificate as their concerned participation in the process. Donations are also helpful to assist in the expenses involving the dog’s temporary care and preparation for placement in a new home.

Is there a charge for adopting a dog?

Yes, Boston Terrier Rescue is not a clearing house for free dogs to be given to just anybody. Owning a dog requires financial and care giving responsibility of the new owner. Relocation costs and travel crate is the responsibility of the new owner.

Who can adopt a dog from the Rescue?

BTCA Rescue screens prospective owners to be sure they can provide suitable homes. Approval is based on, the owners lifestyle (i.e., available time for the dog), and their ability to house the dog properly. A fenced yard is required; the dog cannot be allowed to run free without supervision. Once a prospective owner is approved, the Rescue network then tries to match them up with the appropriate dog.

May I adopt a female?

Interestingly, most of the Bostons needing homes are males in age from one to five. Many people incorrectly think females to be more affectionate than males. The Boston Terrier male is a sweet and responsive companion. Since all rescue animals are required to be neutered as part of the placement process, the gender should not matter. Males who are rejected are often nearing sexual maturity, and instead of neutering the dog, the owner puts them up for adoption. Even when an owner had not desired to breed, they will often reject the pet as a result of problems that could have been resolved by neutering.

What if a rescue dog has a problem?

The Rescue has volunteers who work to adjust behavior problems that are not serious in nature. Sometimes telephone advice to present owners has given insight into behavioral modifications that has saved more than one dog from being displaced from its present home.

Are shelters and humane societies helpful with Boston Terrier Rescue efforts?

Some are great; others are not at all interested in our involvement, and are perhaps over-protective of their wards. Often shelters do not know the animal in their keep is a Boston. We send letters of introduction and policy, and are listed in Project Breed Rescue so that shelters will better know of our intent to help the Boston Terrier in a reputable way.

What can I do to help?

Never sell a Boston Terrier to anyone if you think the home inappropriate, if only by instinct, do not sell to that person. Do the people have children? Do the children mind the adults? If they cannot control their children, they will for sure have problems with the dog and with the combination of the dog and children.

Be honest about the breed. Plan litters and have good homes reserved for them, or do not breed. If you do not have a serious breeding program, do not breed. If you think it will make your pet complete, you are very wrong. There are too many unwanted pets, and certainly too few suitable homes for this special dog. Be responsible and committed to the breed. If what you are breeding is not a contribution to the future of the breed, please leave it in the hands of experienced breeders. Inform and educate others as to the special nature and physical and mental requirements of the Boston Terrier. Make it understood that although small and cute, the Boston Terrier is clearly not for everyone or every lifestyle.

If you can provide a good home for a Boston Terrier, get in touch with us immediately. The dogs in need are far ahead of homes available. It is a sad and growing problem. Please consider adopting and adult dog over having a cute little puppy in your life. Puppies grow up fast…an older dog is usually very loyal, extremely affectionate towards their new owners, appreciate their new homes, never looking back. Most adopted dogs adjust quickly, with few adjustments problems. Most importantly, their life depends on someone like yourself being willing to give them a chance.

Foster care is an important necessity. If you can provide a temporary home for a Boston Terrier in need, drop us a line so that we can enter you into our computer files. Check shelters and look for Boston Terriers who may need a home if time at that shelter is limited.

Further Reading: Boston Terrier mixes

  • Frenchton (Boston Terrier & French Bulldog mix)

1 thought on “The Boston Terrier — What to Expect of This Dog Breed”

  1. We have adopted a female 8 year old Boston Terrier. After a few days in the home we find the dog to be rather unfamiliar to home life and feel that she has spent most of her life in a kennel and therefore adapting to a home will take some time. Are we on the right track and what should we expect in the future? Thank you.


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