Written by Vet

Boston Terrier: The Ultimate Dog Breed Guide

Ivana Crnec
Written by: Dr. Ivana Crnec
Boston Terriers are compact and short-tailed dogs with big personalities. As a true American pride, this breed is one of the most popular across the States, and globally. Read on to discover what makes this breed so popular.
Dog Breed Group:
Companion Dogs
12 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder
10 to 25 pounds
Life Span:
13 to 15 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

Ranked as 21stout of 197 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Boston terrier has a short yet exciting history.

This ultimate dog breed guide will review the breed’s history, personality, lifestyle requirements, health problems, needs, and more.

Explore the article to learn how this former dog fights competitor earned the nickname “American Gentleman” and became one of the most popular companion dogs.

Breed Overview

Native to America, the Boston terrier is a bright, amusing, and friendly dog from the non-sporting group (according to AKC Classification) or the companion group (according to UKC Classification).

The breed’s hallmarks are the “tuxedo” coat, brachycephalic face, naturally upright ears, and impeccable manners.

Perfected during the 20th century, the Boston terrier is a relatively new breed.

Although originally bred for fighting and ratting, the modern Boston terrier is a cherished and highly-valued companion dog.

Quick Facts

Real name: Boston Terrier
Other names: Boston Bull, Boston Bull Terrier, Boxwood, American Gentlemen
Origin: United States
Breed type: Non-sporting Dogs
Weight: 12-25 pounds
Height: 15-17 inches
Lifespan: 11-13 years
Litter Size: Average of four puppies
Color: Brindle with white, seal with white, black with white
Coat: Short, smooth and slick

Boston Terrier History

The Boston terrier’s short and well-recorded history starts with a Bostonian, named Robert C. Hooper.

His dog, a mix between the now-extinct White English Terrier and an English bulldog – is the forefather of the breed. Popularly known as Hooper’s Judge, this dog had an offspring that was later on bred with French Bulldogs. The mixes eventually gave rise to an entirely new breed – the Boston terrier, we now love and cherish.

Initially, the breed was known by the name – Bull terrier, but later on, it was renamed Boston terrier.

Sadly, during its early years, the Boston terrier ancestor was used in blood sports such as bull-baiting and pit dog fighting.

A bit later on, when the gruesome dogfighting “sport” was banned, this dog was used as a rattler – to chase off small critters from homes and farms.

Boston terrier Physical Appearance

The Boston terrier is a small and squarely-built dog with a compact, sturdy frame and muscular body.

The brachycephalic head has a distinctively pronounced stop and a gentle yet intelligent facial expression. The big and dark eyes are protruding, and the naturally erect ears are small and pointy. The low-set tail is long and tapered.


Boston terrier males are 17 inches tall (43 centimeters) and weigh around 15-25 pounds (6.8-11.3 kilograms).

Females Boston terriers are slightly smaller – they are around 16 inches tall (40 centimeters) and weigh around 10-20 pounds (4.5-9 kilograms).

Coat & Color

The Boston terrier has a short, soft, smooth and shiny, close-laying, one-layered coat. The coat usually comes in black, seal, brindle, or a combination of them and has well-defined and specifically distributed white markings.

Cream, red, liver, and brown coats are also reported, but they are quite rare.

The unusual tuxedo-like color pattern is the hallmark of the breed. It is also responsible for its popular nickname – “the American Gentleman”.

Boston Terrier Grooming & Maintenance

The short and beautiful coat is, in fact, one of the few downfalls of the breed.

Namely, Boston terriers are real shedding machines – they shed a lot and do it all year round. This is terrible news for people allergic to dog hair and dander.

Frequent coat brushings (no less than three to four times per week) help control the shedding. A high-quality Furminator is a must-have tool in the Boston terrier’s grooming kit.

It is also advisable to practice monthly baths and grooming products formulated specifically for Boston terriers. Healthy diets rich in healthy omega oils also help manage the shedding situation.

Grooming also includes daily teeth brushing (check with your vet how to care about Boston’s teeth if there is an underbite) and eye cleaning, weekly ear cleaning, and monthly nail trimming and anal glands expressing.

Boston Terrier Temperament & Personality

Some Boston Terriers are sassy, loud, and with a happy-go-lucky attitude, while others are calmer, more mellow, and even-tempered. However, all Boston terriers are affectionate, intelligent, loving, and gentle.

The Boston terrier is very friendly, outgoing, and true to his gentlemen’s nature – polite with strangers even when not in the mingling mood.

This dog gets along well with other pets and kids of all ages.

The Boston terrier is described as a one-person dog, since he bonds firmly with only one member of his human family.

He is also compassionate and empathetic – it is believed that this dog is capable of adjusting its behavior in accordance with its favorite human’s mood.

Finally, despite his size, the Boston terrier has an enormous spirit. He is extremely protective of his human family and quite brave when defending his possessions.

Fast fact: If you love Boston Terrier, you will love knowing that this breed was used to create a new breed, Miniature Boxer.

Boston Terrier Training

Boston terriers are both intelligent and eager to please. This combination makes the training process relatively easy. However, they can sometimes be stubborn and strong-willed, but this is due to their intelligence and independent spirit.

Anyway, as long as you treat your Boston terrier with respect, it will also respond respectfully, and the training process will be relatively easy.

To successfully train a Boston terrier first, you must establish yourself as the boss. If it senses weakness, it will definitely trample all over you.

Boston terriers should be trained with persistence, consistency, and positive reinforcement techniques.

Boston terriers are incredibly food-motivated dogs. Therefore, you can use treats but carefully and in moderation. Otherwise, you will have an overweight Boston terrier that obeys only when there is a treat in your hand.

Keep in mind that Boston terriers, especially males, are a bit hard to potty train. This is mainly because their small bladders are slow-developing, which makes holding it reasonably tricky.

Exercise Requirements & Energy Levels Of The Boston Terrier

The Boston terrier’s exercise needs vary among individuals. Chilled Boston terriers find two short walks per day to be just enough, while more playful Boston terriers need to vigorously run and play in the park to let off steam.

Boston terriers like to participate in interactive games.

Leaving them in the yard and counting that as exercise does not count – they will probably spend the entire time sitting in front of the door and waiting for you.

If your Boston terrier has extra energy, it is recommended to channel that energy in some canine sport, like rally, fly ball, obedience, or agility.

Common Boston Terrier Health Issues

With an average lifespan of between 13 to 14 years, the Boston terrier is a relatively long-lived dog breed. However, members of this breed have their fair share of health issues.

The most frequently reported health problems include:

  • Dermatological conditions – generalised demodicosis, atopic dermatitis, skin allergies, canine pinnal alopecia, pattern baldness, color-dilution alopecia, calcinosis circumscripta
  • Respiratory conditions – brachycephalic syndrome
  • Endocrine conditions – hyperadrenocorticism
  • Gastrointestinal conditions – pyloric stenosis
  • Musculoskeletal conditions – cranio-mandibular osteopathy, elbow luxation, perineal hernia
  • Neoplastic conditions – mast cell tumors, melanoma, fibroma, primary brain tumor
  • Neurological conditions – congenital deafness, hydrocephalus, cerebellar malformation
  • Ocular conditions – corneal dystrophy, cataract

It is worth mentioning that Boston terriers are prone to teeth issues due to tartar accumulation and eye infections due to gunk build up.

Finally, more often than not, Boston terriers fail to give birth naturally. This is because they inherited the English bulldog’s large head which is disproportional to the rest of the body.

That disproportion is cute and funny but makes the delivery process complicated. Therefore, all Boston terriers births occur via C-sections.

Diet & Nutrition Needs For Your Boston Terrier

As already mentioned, food allergies and sensitivities are common among Boston Terriers.

To prevent those issues, it is advisable to avoid certain ingredients. It is preferable to use grain-free diets or homemade diets rich in high-quality proteins, oils, and vegetables.

Additionally, Boston Terriers are gluttonous about their food and tend to gulp and overeat if not supervised.

Gulping causes short-term and overeating causes long-term consequences. Namely, when Boston Terriers gulp they swallow more than just food – they swallow air too.

Once the air gets inside the digestive tract it must get out, and it usually does that through the other end. In simple words, Boston terriers are prone to gassiness.

Overeating leads to unnecessary gain weight and finally, obesity. Obesity increases the already high risk of joint issues and certain types of cancer.

All in all, feeding a Boston terrier can be a challenging task, and sometimes it is advisable to consult with a licensed dog nutritionist.

Tips For Raising A Healthy Boston Terrier

Being a responsible Boston terrier parent is a full-time job. Raising a happy and healthy Boston terrier requires time, patience, and devotion. However, its love, affection, and gentleness are definitely worthy.

When parenting a Boston terrier, consider the following factors:

  • Their eyes need to be cleaned on a daily basis since they tend to accumulate gunk
  • Their teeth are prone to tartar buildup and require frequent brushing and bi-yearly scaling at the vets
  • Boston terriers are jealous eaters and benefit from slow-feeding bowls and strict nutritional plans
  • Since they are brachycephalic and cannot breathe properly, Boston terriers should not be walked or exercised when it is too hot or humid
  • While walking, to avoid putting extra pressure on the windpipe, it is advisable to use a harness instead of a regular collar

The Cost Of Parenting A Boston Terrier

Purebred Boston terriers usually cost between $600 and $1200. A Boston terrier puppy with exceptional parental lineage may cost between $1500 and $4500.

Adopting through rescue organizations or from a shelter is much more budget-friendly – it costs between $25 and $300.

This is just the initial purchase cost. Once the pup is home, there will be additional expenses for food, treats, bowls, toys, harness and leash, beds, and last but not least – vet bills.

In general, the annual cost of parenting a Boston terrier is between $1900 and $4200. That would be around $160 to $350 per month.

Ten Fun And Fast Facts About Boston Terriers

1. The Boston Terrier Is The Pride And Joy Of America

As one of the first official dog breeds created in America, the Boston terrier is considered to be among this country’s great achievements in the canine category. Initially, they even referred to it as “the all-American Dog”.

2. Originally Bred To Be A Fighter, This Well-mannered Dog Is Now A Lover

The breed was created by mixing powerful fighting dogs but once dog fights were declared illegal, the newly created dog shrunk in size and definitely changes in personality.

3. The Boston Terrier Is The State Dog Of Massachusetts

Originally developed in Massachusetts, the Boston terrier is the proud emblem if this state since 1979.

4. The Boston Terrier’s Official Name Is Misleading

So, the Boston part is correct, but the Terrier part is not – this breed has nothing to do with the Terrier group. Even the breed’s original name – Bull terrier contained the term Terrier in it.

5. Boston Terriers Are University Mascots

Both the Boston University and the Boston University Academy have the same mascot – a Boston terrier named Rhett. The name Rhett is in honor of Clark Gable – the popular character from Gone with the Wind.

6. Boston Terrier Is Popular Among Famous People And Public Figures

Hellen Keller had a Boston terrier named Sir Thomas and two American presidents also had Boston terriers. President Gerald Ford had two Boston terriers, named Fleck and Spot and President Warren G. Harding had one – named Hub.

7. Boston Terriers Are Exceptional At Tricks

Do not be fooled by their elegant tuxedos and decent manners, Boston terriers love performing tricks and acting clownishly if that makes their human families laugh.

8. Boston Terriers Often Suffer From Mistaken Identity

Telling a Boston terrier apart from a black-and-white French Bulldog is a challenging task. It takes an experienced eye to distinguish these two dog breeds.

9. Boston Terriers Are Slobbery, Snoring, And Gassy Dogs

Boston terriers are likely to drool all over, produce disturbing sounds while sleeping, and frequently release gas or two. But do not worry, is all part of the Boston terrier parenting experience and chances are you will learn to love these habits.

10. The Boston Terrier Is A “one-person” Dog

Boston Terriers get extremely attached to one person from the family. It is not certain why, but they are usually most affectionate and attracted to elderly people. Yes, the classic American Gentleman prefers the companionship of older, experienced people.

Boston terrier FAQs

1. Are Boston Terriers Good Pets?

Yes, they are small and easily adaptable to both apartment and house living. They do not have specific exercise requirements, are relatively easy to train, and most importantly – get along really well with children of all ages.

2. Can Boston Terriers Be Left Alone?

As long as they are in a safe, dog-proofed environment, Boston Terriers can be left alone for around four to eight hours. However, they should not be left alone for so long if they are not house trained.

3. Do Boston Terriers Bark A Lot?

Boston Terriers are particularly vocal dogs, but barking is not their strong suit. They are capable of producing a plethora of sounds like snorting, grunting, wheezing, and snuffling. This is their way of talking to their human families.

4. What Is Bad About Boston Terriers?

Both male and female Boston Terriers make exceptional companions.

When deciding which sex is better for you keep in mind that males are usually more playful and easy-going while females are more even-tempered and easier to potty train. However, these personality traits are not always sex-related.

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