Complete Guide To The Boston Terrier: Care, Feeding, Exercise and More

Boston Terriers are sophisticated dogs with a thoughtful gaze and a proud stance. Yet there’s nothing aloof about these courteous and cheerful companions. Energetic but easygoing, they have the warmth and temperament of an old soul.

I’ve worked with Boston Terriers for over 30 years. The first 10 were spent in large kennels with the next 20 years being spent as a veterinarian. They’re quite common in my practice and I’ve gathered a great deal of information about them from my experience.

How Big Do Boston Terriers Get?

Boston Terriers are broad-chested yet lean. Petite, they average just 12 – 25 pounds but have a dramatic presence. Confident and expressive, they always seem to know what you’re thinking.

What Does A Boston Terrier Look Like?

Nicknamed the American Gentleman, they sport a short, tuxedo-like coat with a white chest and colors including:

• Black
• Brindle
• Black Brindle
• Seal
• Seal Brindle

Dark eyes are large, round and wide-set — blue eyes disqualify dogs for show. Ears are semi-erect or cropped with a broad base that accentuates their face. The muzzle is short but wide, giving the Boston Terrier its trademark grin.

Developed as a crossbreed of the Bulldog and the now-vanished English Terrier, the Boston Terrier is easily mistaken for shorter, stouter French Bulldog.

What Kind Of Personality Do Boston Terriers Have?

Boston Terriers are playful but well-behaved. Agile, they’re top canine athletes in obedience and rally events but are just as content with a daily walk and an evening movie. Good with older children and other pets, they’re engaging companions for seniors and gracious apartment dogs.

What’s most important to Boston Terriers is the time they spend with their humans — they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Intelligent but sensitive, they’re responsive to training and thrive on praise. Early socialization breeds good manners and helps prevent the separation anxiety issues common among these devoted dogs — they can be miserable without you.

How Long Do Boston Terriers Live?

11-13 years based on information from the American Kennel Club

What Health Concerns Do Boston Terriers Have?

Based on known Breed dispositions and my 20+ years of working with Boston Terriers in my veterinary practice, the most common ailments seen in Boston Terriers include:

  • Brachycephalic syndrome (Stenotic Nares being the most common)
  • Luxating Patella
  • Corneal Ulcers
  • Dental Disease

What Kind Of Dog Food Is Best For Boston Terriers?

Most small kibble dry dog foods will be suitable for a Boston Terrier. These little dogs have a pretty small mouth so large kibble will be a lot more difficult to chew.

Grain-free diets are a myth. Please do not feed your Boston Terrier a grain-free diet unless there are specific food allergies that would benefit from a grain-free diet. Always consult your veterinarian before you decide to make any major diet changes.

Some good brands that I recommend include:

I usually tend to go with the bigger dog food companies because of the amount of time and money they have to research and test their products. They also have a stronger history of safe foods (very rarely will they have recalls) over the newer, more boutique-style dog foods.

This dog is usually a chow hound and is easily prone to obesity. It is important always to give your dog high-quality dog food. Monitor the number of treats and “people food” you give your dog to keep him healthy and fit. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is the best and easiest way to extend the life of your Boston Terrier. 

What Kind Of Grooming Do Boston Terriers Need?

Boston Terriers are low-maintenance dogs. They have short, fine coats that shed infrequently. Weekly brushing with a soft-bristled brush or grooming mitt removes loose hair and distributes skin oils for a healthy, vibrant shine.

An occasional bath with a gentle shampoo is all they need to stay clean unless they get messy — overbathing with harsh chemicals causes dryness. But like Shih Tzus and Bichon Frises, Boston Terriers are prone to tear stains below their eyes that can make a white muzzle look dirty — it doesn’t affect their health. The simplest way to manage it is regular cleaning.

Since most Boston Terriers are unlikely to exercise enough to keep their nails naturally short, a trim every three to four weeks may be necessary. Handling a puppy’s feet early and often gets them accustomed to it, so they’re less fearful. Filing is a gentle alternative.

Where Can I Find A Boston Terrier?

Boston Terrier Club Breeder Referral

Boston Terrier Affiliate Clubs

Boston Terrier Rescue

IBoston Terrier Rescue List

Where Can I Learn More About Boston Terriers?

AKC Page On The Breed

Boston Terrier Club Of America

Interesting Facts About Boston Terriers

Boston Terriers have a unique story. Here are a few fun facts about this delightful breed.

• Boston Terriers Are All-American

Most of America’s popular breeds have European parentage, but the Boston Terrier is a newer dog with roots in the USA. Developed in Boston, selective breeding techniques transformed their bulky ancestors into the smaller companion we know and love today.

They’re an Enduring Breed

The Boston Terrier was one of America’s favorite dogs between 1905 and 1935, ranking first or second on the AKC’s list of most popular choices. Today, they rank a cool 21rst, maintaining a top spot among 195 breeds.

The Boston Terrier Isn’t — a Terrier

The Boston Terrier was officially recognized by the AKC in 1893. But because many of their terrier-like characteristics disappeared with breeding, they’re part of the Non-sporting Group — a category of dogs with diverse traits.

• It’s Finally Official!

Boston Terriers have a distinguished history in Massachusetts. The official BU mascot since 1922, Helen Keller received her pup, Phiz, from classmates at Radcliffe, another Boston college. Finally, the legislature made the Boston Terrier the state’s official dog in 1979 — a move fans complained was long overdue.

• They’re World-Class Entertainers

Boston Terriers are known for their surprising antics — they make us laugh just being themselves. But with training, they can be amazing tricksters. Domi and his owner, Miki, have their own YouTube channel devoted to stunts, while Dexter, is a skateboard master.

• Funny Dogs for Hilarious People

Boston Terriers are celebrity favorites, but nowhere are they more at home than with comedians. They fit right in with fanciers Robin Williams and Joan Rivers.

Other famous owners past and present include, X-Men actress Famke Jansen, former US President Gerald Ford and reality show host Allison Sweeney.

• Just Call Him Sarge

The US Army’s first Boston Terrier-enlistee, Stubby, served nearly two years with the 26th Infantry during World War I. Responsible for finding wounded soldiers and warning of gas attacks, he’s thought to have captured a German spy for which he earned the rank of Sergeant and was celebrated as a hero.

• Inbreeding Isn’t Always a Dirty Word

Inbreeding has an unpleasant and even dangerous connotation, but it’s how individual breeds with distinct characteristics are perfected. The consequences of excessive inbreeding can be significant over time, but the Boston Terrier wouldn’t exist without it, having been extensively inbred to create the breed in near record time.