Boston Terriers have been popular since their creation a little more than a century ago. They were originally bred to be fighting dogs, but today, they’re gentle, affectionate companions with tuxedo-like markings that earned them the nickname “American Gentleman.”
The Boston Terrier may have been bred to be a ferocious pit-fighter, but you’d never know it today. The little American Gentleman, as he was called in the 19th century, is definitely a lover, not a fighter, although males have been known to show their terrier ancestry with a bit of posturing when they feel their territory is being invaded by another dog.
Boston Terriers are known for being very intelligent–sometimes too much so. Their lively, affectionate nature makes them extremely loveable, though their sometimes stubborn nature or spurts of hyperactivity can land them in hot water with their owners. Any angst about their behavior, however, soon melts when they look up at you with those huge, round eyes that seem to say “I love you.”
Although Boston Terriers are small, they’re sturdy and muscular. They have a sleek, shiny, straight coat with crisp white markings in a pattern that resembles a tuxedo–part of the reason they gained the name American Gentleman. Boston Terriers’ distinctive ears naturally stand erect and are quite large. And then there’s those big, beautiful eyes that are set quite apart to add to their outstanding good looks.
Boston Terriers have a broad, flat-nosed face without wrinkles. They belong to a class of dogs called brachycephalic (brachy meaning short, and cephalic meaning head). Like other brachycephalic dogs, the lower jaw is in proportion to the body, but they have a short upper jaw to give them a “pushed in” face.
Boston Terriers’ carriage give them a presence that goes beyond their size. They have a slightly arched, proud neckline, a broad chest, and a sturdy, boxy appearance. Their tail is naturally short (docking is forbidden) and set low on the rump.
The Boston Terrier‘s small size and lively, affectionate nature make him a great family pet and companion. They love children and amuse people of all ages with their antics and unique, appealing expression. They are especially good companions for older people and apartment dwellers. Although gentle and even-tempered, they can have the spunky attitude of their terrier ancestors.
Short-nosed dogs like Boston Terriers can’t cool the air going into their lungs as efficiently as longer-nosed breeds, and they’re much more susceptible to heat stress. Because of their short coat, they can’t stand extremely cold weather either. Even in temperate climates, the Boston Terrier should be kept indoors.
Because Boston Terriers can have respiratory problems, avoid pulling on your dog’s collar to get him to go what you want.
Your Boston Terrier is prone to corneal ulcers because his eyes are so large and prominent. Be careful about his eyes when you’re playing or taking him for a walk.
Depending in part upon their diets, Boston Terriers can be prone to flatulence. If you can’t tolerate a gassy dog, a Boston Terrier may not be for you.
Because of their short noses, Boston Terriers often snort, drool, and snore (sometimes loudly).
With their large heads and small pelvises, whelping isn’t easy for Boston Terrier mothers. If you have thoughts about breeding, be sure you realize that in addition to the potential whelping problems that often require a caesarean section, Boston Terrier litters typically are not large (a litter consisting of only one puppy is not uncommon). You may have to wait for several months to get a good quality Boston Terrier puppy from a qualified breeder.
While Boston Terriers typically are quiet, gentle dogs, not prone to yappiness or aggression, males can be scrappy around other dogs that they feel are invading their territory.
Boston Terriers can be gluttonous about their food, so monitor their condition and make sure they don’t become overweight.
They can be stubborn, so persistence and consistency are definite pluses in training methods. They are sensitive to your tone of voice, and punishment can make them shut down, so training should be low-key and motivational. Crate-training is recommended while housetraining your Boston Terrier.
To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
Although everyone agrees that the Boston Terrier came into existence in the late 1800s in Boston, Massachusetts, there are varying stories about how the breed came to be.
One story has it that coachmen of wealthy families developed the breed by crossing Bulldogs and the now extinct English White Terrier to create a new dog-fighting breed. Another account is that a Bostonian named Robert C. Hooper imported an Bulldog/English Terrier cross named Judge from England in 1865 because he reminded Hooper of a dog he’d had in his childhood. Yet another story is that Hooper purchased Judge from another Bostonian, William O’Brian, around 1870.
While we may never know which story is true, the fact is that there was, indeed, a dog named Judge, and that from him, came the breed we know today as the Boston Terrier.
According to The Complete Dog Book, Judge was “a well-built, high-stationed dog” weighing about 32 pounds. He was a dark brindle color with a white blaze on his face and a square, blocky head.
Amazingly, Judge was bred only once. From a union with a 20-pound white dog named Burnett’s Gyp (or Kate) who belonged to Edward Burnett, of Southboro, Massachusetts, came one puppy, a male named Well’s Eph.
By all accounts, Judge and Kate’s offspring wasn’t an attractive dog, but he had other characteristics that Hooper and his friends admired, so he was widely bred.
One of his matings was to a female named Tobin’s Kate, who weighed only 20 pounds and had a fairly short head. She was a golden brindle color and had a straight three-quarter tail. It’s thought that their offspring was bred with one or more French Bulldogs to form the foundation for the Boston Terrier we know today.
But they weren’t called Boston Terriers in the beginning. The multitude of Eph’s offspring were called by various names, including bullet heads, round-headed bull-and-terriers, American terriers, and Boston bulldogs.
In 1889, about 30 owners of Boston Bull Terriers formed the American Bull Terrier Club, and they called them Round Heads or Bull Terriers. Bull Terrier and Bulldog fanciers objected to the name. Since the Bulldog contingency had a lot of power with the American Kennel Club (AKC) at that time, the Boston Bull Terrier fanciers decided that discretion was the better part of valor and changed the name of their club to the Boston Terrier Club, in tribute to the birthplace of the breed. People started referring to the breed as Boston Bulls.
The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1893. The Boston Terrier was one of the first Non-Sporting dogs bred in the U.S. and was the first of the 10 made-in-America breeds currently recognized by the AKC.
In the early days, the breed’s color and markings weren’t considered to be very important. Additionally, although the dogs being bred met the standard outlined by the club, there was a lot of inconsistency within the breed. After years of careful inbreeding to set the type, the Boston Terrier as we know it today was developed. In the 1900s, the breed’s distinctive markings and color were painstakingly written into the standard, making them an essential feature of the breed.
Boston Terriers quickly became popular in the U.S. In 1915, Boston Terriers were the most popular breed in the U.S., remaining in the top ten most popular breeds until the 1960s and topping the list again in 1920 and 1930. In 1918, there were an amazing 60 Bostons entered in a single all-breed show.
Hollywood actors and actresses adored their Boston Terriers. Silent film star Pola Negri, Rudolph Valentino’s lover, reportedly took her Boston Terrier, Patsy, with her everywhere, including restaurants and nightclubs. When one of the restaurants refused to let her enter with her beloved dog, she stormed out, shouting “No Patsy, no Pola. Goodbye forever!” Another famous person who had a Boston Terrier named Patsy was gossip columnist Louella Parsons.
In 1976, the Boston Terrier was chosen as the bicentennial dog of the U.S. Three years later, he was named the official state dog of Massachusetts. Rhett the Boston Terrier is the mascot of Boston University. Wofford College in South Carolina and Redlands High School in California claim the Boston Terrier as their mascots as well.
The Boston Terrier comes in three weight classes: under 15 pounds, 15 to 19 pounds, and 20 to 25 pounds. They typically stand 12 to 17 inches tall at the shoulder. No matter what they weigh, they should look sturdy, never skinny or spindly.
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