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Honest FAQ for Boston Terriers (2022)

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Boston Terrier

This breed has been exploited by unknowledgeable and irresponsible breeders. Boston Terriers from such lines are often hyperactive and neurotic.

What kind of temperament and personality does the Boston Terrier have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding Boston Terrier temperament and behavior are:

sturdy and stable, pleasant, polite with everyone, can be spirited/playful or calm/placid, a bit stubborn, snorts/snuffles/gassy due to structural deformities

I give you my honest opinions about Boston Terrier temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, Boston Terrier Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

Where did the name Boston Terrier come from?

This dapper little breed began as a tough 30-pound fighting dog in Liverpool, England – a blend of English Bulldog and the (now extinct) Old English White Terrier. Putting down roots in Boston MA, the breed was quickly adopted by Bostonians and today is the State Dog of Massachusetts.

The breed was originally known as the American Bull Terrier, and informally as the Boston Bull Terrier.

What were Boston Terriers used for?

At first, dog-fighting and ratting. Today the breed is a companion.

What traits would help Boston Terriers make good companions? That's right... loyalty, sweetness, playfulness, stability, responsiveness, and clownish antics.

How big are Boston Terriers? Height and weight?

Most Boston Terriers stand 12-16 inches at the shoulder and weigh 12-18 pounds, which puts them in the SMALL category. Less commonly, Boston Terriers can weigh up to 25 pounds.

What colors do Boston Terriers come in?

Black, seal (very dark brown, with a reddish cast in bright light), and brindle (brown with black stripes). All else being equal, the preferred color is brindle.

All colors must have a white blaze and chest, and preferably a white collar and white feet.

Unfortunately, white markings are often viewed as desirably "flashy" and therefore some breeders who show their dogs in the conformation ring have become overly focused on trying to maximize those white markings along with their exact placement on the head and body.

The problem is, the piebald gene that controls white markings can become over-expressed, which results in "mis-marked" Boston Terriers who are mostly white with only a few colored patches on their head, back, or base of the tail. Or the dog will be fully pigmented on one side of his head, with the other side being white.

If this was simply a color issue, that would be fine, but too much of the piebald gene is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer and deafness. Partial deafness (one ear) doesn't bother a dog, as the other ear can compensate. But complete deafness (both ears) can be very challenging to raise and train.

You should always confirm the hearing status of "mis-marked" Boston Terriers. The breeder should have done a BAER hearing test before offering such pups for sale.

Do Boston Terriers come in different "types"?

Well, with a weight range from 12-25 pounds, the smaller Bostons often have a slimmer build, while the largest Bostons look more like stocky Bulldogs. But no matter what their size, all Boston Terriers are the same breed.

How much exercise do Boston Terriers need?

Just a few walks in nice weather, plus games of tug and fetch in the yard. Many Boston Terriers absolutely adore retrieving small balls and toys. Also teach them tricks and set up a miniature obstacle course and run around it with your Boston Terrier, coaxing, encouraging, and rewarding.

Do Boston Terriers need a fenced yard?

Yes, but it doesn't need to be very high. These dogs don't tend to be climbers or jumpers. Why a fenced yard? and best and worst fences.

Are Boston Terriers easy to train?

Moderately easy. Boston Terriers have a mild stubborn/resistant streak, but generally they do want to please, so if you establish the right leader-follower relationship, they're fine.

Here's how to handle behavior problems. You need to be persistent, not giving in when they try to "charm" you with their comical antics. Corrections should always be gentle with this soft-tempered breed.

Are Boston Terriers easy to housebreak?

Some are fine, some are a little slow to pick up the concept, and some are more difficult than that. Unfortunately, indulgent owners often create non-housebroken dogs by letting them loose in the house far too early. The dog starts "going" behind the sofa, and the bad habit is established. Use a crate or pen and don't give in to the temptation to let the dog loose in the house for MANY MONTHS.

Are Boston Terriers friendly with people?

Most Boston Terriers are outgoing and friendly with everyone. Others are more standoffish with strangers, but still polite. A few Boston Terriers are one-person dogs, with a special affinity for elderly people.

Are Boston Terriers good with children?

Usually, but this breed can be sensitive, and some are possessive of their food or toys. I prefer to see a Boston Terrier in a home with respectful kids about 8 years or older.

Are Boston Terriers good with other dogs?

Boston Terriers are good with other dogs in their own family. Many Bostons are also sociable with dogs they don't know. However, some might pitch a fit if they see a strange dog while out on a walk; you must stop this behavior right away.

Are Boston Terriers good with cats?

Usually, yes.

How much do Boston Terriers shed?

Boston Terriers are average shedders. They shed moderately in the spring and fall, and a bit of hair the rest of the year.

Are Boston Terriers hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

If you're allergic to dog dander, no. If you're allergic to canine saliva, no. Boston Terriers are not hypoallergenic dogs.

How much grooming do Boston Terriers need?

Just an occasional quick brush to sweep the dirt, dander, and loose hair off your dog's skin.

What's a good training schedule for training Boston Terrier puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Boston Terriers: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do Boston Terriers tend to have?

Remarkably, I've only had a handful of Boston Terriers in my public obedience classes, and only a handful in my private lessons. This also matches my observation and interaction with them at dog shows... namely, that this breed has a stable temperament and doesn't do a lot of things wrong. Nice!

The few I've worked with had some housebreaking issues, some excitability issues indoors, some possessiveness of food and toys, and some pugnaciousness toward strange dogs while out on a walk. All of these issues were pretty easy to correct.

What health problems might Boston Terriers have?

Health problems are the weakest link in Boston Terriers. Breeders have chosen to deliberately breed this poor dog with a deformed head (oversized domed skull, shortened muzzle, protruding eyes) that causes respiratory and eye diseases and a shortened lifespan.

Boston Terriers are forced to snort and snuffle their way through life, swallowing air, which makes them gassy. They choke and spit up food and need air conditioning in hot climates. They suffer from severe eye diseases. Also heart disease, epilepsy, tumors, joint diseases, and itchy skin conditions.

What breeds are similar to the Boston Terrier?

It's disheartening to me that some people find the breed's snorting/snuffling/gasping/choking sounds "endearing".... even when they learn that those sounds mean the dog is struggling to breathe normally.

Even worse, breeders could easily fix these deformities. But they're content with the status quo, and after all, they themselves aren't struggling to breathe.

Anyway, you might also consider Pugs and French Bulldogs. If you prefer a longer coat, look at Pekingese and English Toy Spaniels.

Where can I buy a Boston Terrier puppy?

Show breeder or pet breeder? Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older Boston Terrier?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new Boston Terrier. Which pages should I read first?

  • Boston Terrier Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Boston Terrier puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training Boston Terriers, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Boston Terrier puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Boston Terriers have pros and cons, and female Boston Terriers have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable Boston Terrier puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible Boston Terrier breeder would ever place one of their Boston Terrier puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best Boston Terrier puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for Boston Terriers?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my Boston Terrier to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your Boston Terrier until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Boston Terrier, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about Boston Terriers that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my books:

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.