Bostonís terrier is a jaunty gentleman

As American as apple pie and the Fourth of July


As American as apple pie and the Fourth of July, the Boston Terrier was born and bred in Beantown in the 1870s. The breed began with a bull-and-terrier dog called Hooperís Judge, a medium-sized cross between an English Bulldog and a white English Terrier Ė the same type of cross that produced breeds such as the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, and Bull Terrier.

A muscular, dark brindle male with a white blaze and a square, blocky head, Judge weighed about 32 pounds and resembled the Bulldog side of his pedigree. He was bred to a short, white female, and their descendants became the first of the new breed.

About 30 Boston owners of these dogs organized the American Bull Terrier Club in 1889, and they exhibited their dogs as Round Heads or Bull Terriers until they ran into opposition from Bull Terrier and Bulldog fanciers who objected to the similar name for a dog that was so different from both of their breeds. The club decided to switch rather than fight and changed its name to the Boston Terrier Club. The breed became the Boston Terrier, and in 1893 the American Kennel Club recognized the breed and accepted the club into membership.

Boston fanciers had a tough road ahead. Their new breed had the required standard of conformation but lacked the consistency that could be achieved only by careful breeding, including prudent inbreeding of the dogs in the limited gene pool. It took years to accomplish, but the breed stabilized as the clean-cut, debonair companion of today.

AKC registered 17,738 individual Bostons and 10,019 litters in 1999.

The look

The Boston Terrier is a compact dog easily recognized in his dark coat with crisp white markings. He has a short head and tail, the muscular body typical of bull-and-terrier breeds, a short coat, and a lively character.

The Boston skull is square, his eyes round and wide apart, and his ears (cropped or not) pointed and carried erect at the corners of his skull. His nose is wide and black; his muzzle is short; and his jaw is broad and square with an even or slightly undershot bite.

His neck, is slightly arched; his back just long enough to square the body his topline is level. He has a deep chest with well-sprung ribs, and a naturally short tail set low on his rump.

His sloping shoulders allow the typical Boston movement that is stylish without being hackneyed or extreme.

The Boston comes only in black, seal (appears black but with a reddish cast), or brindle coat with white markings. White muzzle band, face blaze, and white fore chest are required; a white collar and white markings on the legs are also desireable.

The Boston comes in one size range and three weight ranges. The ideal Boston is 12-14 inches tall, but can be lightweight (under 15 pounds); middleweight (15-20 pounds); or heavyweight (rare at 20-25 pounds). The dogs should not be skinny or spindly but should have the correct body proportions.

The demeanor

The Boston Terrierís lively, friendly character makes him a favorite companion dog, especially for elderly owners and apartment dwellers. However, since he loves games and children, he is a fine family pet as well.

Although males can be scrappy with other dogs, the Boston is not quarrelsome, bold, or domineering like many other terriers.

His intelligence makes him an ideal obedience or agility competitor for an owner who is patient with his occasional stubborn streak.

Health and care

Bostons can live 15 years or more but are susceptible to some ailments or injuries common to dogs with short muzzles and prominent eyes and have a genetic predisposition to several diseases and structural abnormalities. They wheeze and gulp air, so can develop intestinal gas and respiratory problems, especially in hot weather. Their eyes are easily infected or injured.

Since Bostons have respiratory problems caused by their shortened muzzles, trainers should avoid methods that rely on collar tugs to force the dog into position and instead use praise, toys, and treats to guide the dog into position. Prong collars that place even pressure around the neck are less punishing on the trachea than a pop or tug with a chain collar.

Genetic diseases or conditions that can affect Bostons include megaesophagus (an abnormality that causes regurgitation of undigested food) and other digestive problems; tumors; Cushings disease; thyroid disease; unilateral or bilateral deafness; heart problems; dermatitis caused by allergens; skin diseases; neurologic diseases; cataracts; skeletal diseases; and urinary tract abnormalities. The Boston Terrier Club of America health committee is collecting data on breed health problems to help eliminate these problems as much as possible, but the potential for their occurrence in the breed makes it essential that potential buyers shop carefully for a breeder. Buying a puppy of unknown parentage from a pet shop or a newspaper ad can bring years of heartache. On the other hand, buying from a breeder who screens adult dogs for diseases before breeding and studies pedigrees to weed out dogs with problems is more likely to result in healthy puppies and long-lived adult dogs.

Healthy Bostons donít need lots of exercise but enjoy walks and games of fetch. Puppies have high energy, but adult dogs are mellow and enjoy lap time. Their short coats are easy care Ė they donít shed much and donít need trimming and grooming is minimal.

For more information about Boston Terriers, visit the BTCA website at
Norma Bennett Woolf

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