Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Boston Terrier Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Care Guide, Temperament & Traits

Boston Terrier Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Care Guide, Temperament & Traits

Boston Terrier in grass

Boston Terriers earned the nickname “The American Gentleman” thanks to their tuxedo coat, attentive nature, and general friendliness and good manners.

Breed Overview


15 – 17 inches


12 – 25 pounds


11 – 13 years


Tuxedo, brindle with white markings, seal with white markings

Suitable for

Urban living, homes with daily activity, homes with children


Friendly, alert, people-oriented, curious, comedic

These compact dogs are always up for adventure and are a never-ending source of laughs for everyone around them. They make great urban companions, but they’re always up for a little adventure, whether that’s a trip to the local coffee shop or a short hike. These dapper dogs are bright and attentive, which makes them trainable, but they can also be a little mischievous. Keep reading for more information on these fabulous little dogs.

Boston Terrier Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

divider-dog paw

Boston Terrier Puppies

boston terrier puppies_Artbobo_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Artbobo, Shutterstock

The Boston Terrier is a popular dog around the world. They are known for their adorable and unique faces, but they also are prone to more health conditions than other dog breeds. Make sure you’re getting your Boston Terrier from a breeder who has tested the parents for heart and eye problems and who only breeds healthy dogs with healthy hearts and eyes. Even the best breeders can’t always breed out health conditions, though, so be prepared for the possibility of high medical expenses with a Boston Terrier.

When you welcome a Boston Terrier into your home, be prepared to have a friendly, funny, and loving dog around. They’re very smart, making them easy to train.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier
Image Credit: Aneta Jungerova, Shutterstock

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Boston Terriers make excellent family dogs because of their gentle, fun personalities and high trainability. They are usually friendly and sociable with all people, but they form special bonds with their people. They may choose a favorite person in the family, but they are usually loyal to the whole family and always looking for a game to play or a lap to sit in.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

These dogs are usually great with other animals, but you’re more likely for them to all get along if they’re raised together from a young age, especially when you’re dealing with cats. When this isn’t possible, slow, safe introductions are necessary to help build trust between the animals. Be aware that since they are terriers, it wouldn’t be totally out of place for your dog to have a prey drive toward small animals like rodents and reptiles. Never leave your Boston Terrier with small animals without direct supervision by an adult.

boston terrier_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

divider-dog paw

Things to Know When Owning a Boston Terrier:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Boston Terriers are prone to obesity, so it’s extremely important to provide your dog with a healthy diet in proper portions with limited treats. Low calorie training treats are a great option for treating your Boston Terrier, especially in training sessions when they’re getting lots of treats. Many people are used to seeing overweight dogs, so it’s often hard to determine what a healthy-weight dog actually looks like. Talk to your vet for recommendations on your Boston Terrier’s weight and body composition.

Exercise 🐕

Keeping your Boston Terrier active is one of the most important ways to prevent obesity and to keep their joints and muscles strong. These dogs love games and activities, so how you exercise your Boston Terrier is completely up to what the two of you enjoy. Since Boston Terriers are brachycephalic, or flat-faced, they are predisposed to breathing difficulties. Brachycephalic dogs are especially sensitive to heat, so limit your Boston Terrier’s exercise to indoor activities or brief workouts when the weather is above 70-80°F. Your Boston Terrier will likely enjoy participating in sports like agility, flyball, and even dock diving.

If your Boston Terrier is overweight or obese, talk to your vet about an exercise routine for them. Overweight dogs, especially overweight brachycephalic dogs, can’t go from zero exercise to lots of exercise overnight. You can do more harm than good by overworking your overweight dog.

Training 🎾

Boston Terriers are known for their friendliness and sociability, which makes them excellent companion dogs. They are highly trainable and they’re intelligent but stubborn, so you may have to get creative when training your dog. They grow very attached to their family, so it’s important to provide plenty of positive reinforcement when training them to avoid problems with trust-building.

boston-terrier playing_Thorsten Blank_Pixabay
Image Credit: Thorsten Blank, Pixabay

Grooming ✂️

Since Boston Terriers have short coats, they have limited grooming needs. You should brush your dog weekly to help remove loose hair and dirt. This will also stimulate oil production in the skin, which helps keep the coat healthy and shiny. Your Boston Terrier should be bathed every 2-4 weeks or so, unless they require more frequent baths for health or hygiene reasons.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Minor Conditions

  • Cherry Eye: This disorder involves the third eyelid, or nictitating membrane, and is treatable with surgery. Dogs have an interior eyelid near the lower, interior corner of the eye that helps keep the eye clean from debris. With cherry eye, this membrane bulges, giving the dog a cherry-red lump at the corner of the eye. This can range from very mild to very severe but is rarely painful and rarely interferes with regular activity.
  • Snoring: Due to the flat faces of Boston Terriers, they tend to snore when asleep, and may even snort and make snoring sounds when awake. There’s nothing inherently dangerous or bad about snoring, but it should be monitored for any breathing difficulties.
  • Luxating Patella: Many breeds of small dogs are prone to Luxating Patellas, which consists of the patellas, or knee caps, slipping out of place. You may notice your dog carrying a back leg or stretching it out straight behind them, which usually pops the patella back into place. Luxating patellas are usually not painful, but severe cases may interfere with exercise and activity. Dogs with luxating patellas are at an increased risk of arthritis. This disorder can be treated with surgery.
  • Dry Eye: Since their eyes bulge, Boston Terrier’s eyes are exposed to more airflow than dogs with longer snouts, which can dry the eyes out. They also are prone to producing fewer tears, which can lead to a disorder called Dry Eye. Dry Eye is a lifelong disorder that requires eye drops multiple times per day to prevent corneal abrasions and ulcers from developing.
  • Deafness: Many Boston Terriers are predisposed to deafness in one or both ears. This can create difficulties in training and safety but isn’t a significant medical problem.

Serious Conditions

  • Brachycephalic Syndrome: Due to their flat faces, Boston Terriers are predisposed to this syndrome, which includes multiple serious health problems like an elongated or malformed soft palate, breathing difficulty, and malformed or small nostrils. Some of the problems associated with Brachycephalic Syndrome can be surgically repaired, but many are not treatable.
  • Hemivertibrae: Due to the cute corkscrew tail of the Boston Terrier, they are prone to this disease that involves a malformation of the lower portion of the spine. This often results in paralysis and incontinence. Hemivertibrae is usually not treatable and results in a lifetime of a high care need.
  • Corneal Abrasions/Ulcers: Boston Terrier’s bulging eyes and flat faces make them especially prone to eye injuries. Scratches or dry patches on the eyes can rapidly lead to permanent eye damage. It’s important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you believe they have an eye injury.
  • Heart Murmurs: Heart murmurs are detected by a veterinarian via a stethoscope or cardiac ultrasound. Some heart murmurs are mild and do not require any treatment, but more severe heart murmurs can lead to cardiac dysfunction and a shortened life expectancy. Responsible breeders will not breed dogs with a heart murmur or with a lineage history of heart murmurs.
  • Cataracts: Cataracts are an eye disease that usually results in blindness as it progresses. Cataracts can be surgically treated, although this procedure isn’t always fully effective. Cataracts are usually not painful, but the decreased vision can lead to an increased risk of other injuries.
  • Periodontal Disease: The short snouts and flat faces of Boston Terriers makes them prone to diseases of the teeth and gums. Routine dental cleanings at the vet and tooth brushing at home when possible are the best way to prevent oral infections and tooth pain.
  • Epilepsy: Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that usually requires medication to control the seizures. Even with medical treatment, some seizures can become deadly. Epilepsy is usually acquired via poor breeding stock, so check with your breeder if their dogs have any family history of epilepsy.


Male vs Female

Male Boston Terriers are known to be friendlier, more sociable, and more dedicated than females are. Female Boston Terriers often have aloof personalities and may not form the same close bonds with the family that males form. Females also tend to be more high strung than males, which can require a quiet environment or a higher activity level to help balance. Female Boston Terriers do usually have the bright, sweet nature, which is part of the breed standard, but they tend to be more subdued than males.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Boston Terrier

1. They were bred for fighting.

Boston Terriers were originally bred to be compact pit fighting dogs! Their muscular build and, at the time, poor temperament toward other animals made them ideal fighting dogs. However, the breed has evolved through selective breeding since then and is now known for its sociability and friendliness, even with children and other animals.

2. They all descend from one dog.

All Boston Terriers descend from one dog by the name of Judge. Judge was a mixed breed who was purchased by Robert C. Hooper around 1875. It’s believed that he was a mix of English Bull Terrier and English Bulldog, but some people believe that Judge also had some type of toy or small terrier lineage. As time went on, Judge’s descendants began being bred as dogs that could function as companion dogs to gentlemen, and the Boston Terrier was created.

3. They’ve never won Westminster.

That’s right! The little tuxedo-wearing gentleman has never won Westminster, the oldest kennel club dog show in the United States. However, Boston Terriers have proven themselves winners time and time again in competitions like obedience, agility, flyball, and other competitive sports.

Boston terrier
Image Credit: Eve Photography, Shutterstock



Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a small dog for an active, urban environment, the Boston Terrier may be your perfect match. These dogs make excellent partners and are usually up for whatever, but they do require some additional care due to their flat faces. Boston Terriers have more health condition predispositions than most other small dogs, so that should be a consideration when you’re looking for a dog.

Even still, Boston Terriers are great companions that make good pets for families with children and other pets. They’re usually a laid-back breed that happily coexists and actively plays with children and pets. For a curious, happy-go-lucky dog that will form a strong bond with you, the Boston Terrier is a wonderful pick.

Related read:

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets