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Boston Terrier

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Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier Breed Highlights

Boston Terrier dog with tongue sticking out running through green grass

  • The Boston Terrier is the official state dog of Massachusetts.

  • This breed was the first dog breed developed in the United States. In their early days, they were lovingly referred to as “Round Heads” before the breed’s name was officially changed to Boston Terrier in 1891.

  • Bostons are often confused with French Bulldogs because they look so similar (due to their shared ancestry), especially as puppies. To tell the difference, look for the Boston’s distinctive white markings on their face and chest that gives them the look of wearing a tuxedo. Boston Terriers also have longer legs, a more pointed ear tip, and a rounder head than their French Bulldog cousins.

  • Helen Keller owned a Boston Terrier named Sir Thomas, nicknamed “Phiz,” who was given to her by her college classmates at Radcliffe. While Sir Thomas was known to be a bit selective in who he made friends with, he reportedly took to Keller right away and they shared a special bond.

Unique Physical Features

Boston Terrier - physical illustration

  • Tuxedo-like coat pattern

  • Flat-face (brachycephalic) and large, round eyes

  • Compact and athletic body

Unique Personality

Boston Terrier - personality illustration

There’s a reason Boston Terriers are known as the American Gentleman. Not only do they sport a dapper tuxedoed look, but they are friendly, sociable, and have an East Coast sophisticated charm. Created from crossing bulldog and terrier breeds, Bostons have inherited the more mellow bulldog temperament with the athleticism terriers are known for, making for an energetic companion dog. They love to play and are always willing to be co-pilot on their owner’s adventures.

Preferred Lifestyle

Energy Level

dog energy level - high (tri-athlete)

With Kids

Icon - outline of a little boy and girl

Labs are known to do very well with children.

With Other Pets

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Having other pets in the household is just fine with Labs. Be sure to socialize Lab puppies with other animals to set them up for success.


Icon - outline of a house

They do best in a home with a yard and active family but can adapt to city life if they’re given appropriate outlets for their energy.

Average Lifespan

11 to 13 years

Average Size

Measuring between 12 to 17 inches tall at the shoulder, Boston Terriers have three different weight classes:

  • Under 15 pounds
  • 15 - 20 pounds
  • 20 - 25 pounds

Breed Group


Similar Breeds

History of the Boston Terrier

Two Boston Terrier dogs smiling with their tongues out in the sunshine

As their name suggests, the Boston Terrier breed was developed in Boston, Massachusetts. As pit fighting became less popular in England and the United States, dog fanciers began crossing bulldog and terrier breeds in an effort to create a smaller companion dog. In 1870, a Bostonian named Robert C. Hooper bought a dog named Judge from a friend. Judge was a cross between a Bulldog and a white English Terrier (a now extinct breed) and became known as Hooper’s Judge. Judge was the base for the Boston Terrier breed, and all Boston Terrier puppies can trace their lineage back to him. The breed carries on his white markings on the face and the more even mouth compared to other bulldog breeds

Changes Over Time

Through selective and carefully recorded breeding, the Boston Terrier breed was standardized very quickly compared to other breeds. Fanciers of the dog nicknamed them “roundheads” and formed the American Bull Terrier Club in 1889, but changed the name in 1893 after confusion between breeds with similar names to the Boston Terrier Club. That same year the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club — the first breed created in the United States to be recognized. While their name might include terrier, they aren’t a part of the terrier breed group. In fact, they were the first breed to be included in AKC’s Non-Sporting group.

Boston Terrier Behavior and Training

Boston Terriers are bred as a perfect sidekick. As companion dogs, they have the energy to keep up on most adventures, but also enjoy just lazing around on your lap. Their temperament makes them a frequent choice for therapy dogs as long as they have been properly socialized and positively exposed to different environments as puppies. Some Bostons can become protective of their owners, so early and continued socialization throughout life is important. A Boston has ratter genes, so you might notice some instinctual predisposition for chasing squirrels and other squeaky things — this makes them ideal candidates for playing fetch or tug!

Plays Well with Others?

  • While Boston Terriers are known for their outgoing and social nature, proper proactive exposure to new sights, sounds, people, dogs, and other animals as a young puppy is essential for their socialization skills.


Pair meeting new people or animals with high-value training treats or a favorite toy, and keep introductions short and sweet so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

  • Bostons are a frequent breed choice for families with children. They’re outgoing, rugged, and can tolerate the physical handling of young kids even though they are a smaller breed. Make sure they have been properly introduced and socialized with children as a young puppy to set them up for success. Young children and dogs should always be supervised, and it’s helpful for a dog to have their own “safe space” where they can go when they need some quiet time.

  • When it comes to animal buddies in the home, it’s once again, all about socialization. As long as they have been properly socialized and introduced, Boston Terriers can enjoy and benefit from the companionship of other animals.
Graphic - a bouncing red ball

Exercise Requirements

Boston Terriers are one of the higher energy companion dogs, but while they need consistent exercise, it doesn’t take too much. A twice-daily walk paired with some play are usually enough to keep a Boston happy and healthy.

Never exercise them in warmer temperatures or when it’s humid outside, and provide lots of breaks and water. Bostons, like all flat-faced breeds, should always be monitored for heat stroke symptoms, which often include: heavy panting, drooling, bright red tongue or gums, rapid pulse, and wide, panicked eyes.


If a Boston Terrier has narrowed nostrils, a component of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS), some people will elect to have a surgical procedure done to widen the nostrils (and correct other potential anatomical abnormalities of BAS) to improve their dog’s ability to breathe.

Mental Enrichment Needs

Mental enrichment is important for Boston Terriers, not only to keep them entertained but also to help prevent separation anxiety. Stimulate their brains by teaching new tricks, attending obedience classes, joining a dog sport, and providing dog puzzles and interactive toys. Boston Terriers are super smart, so mixing up their toys and puzzles will keep them on their toes and always learning.

Common Behavioral Issues

Boston Terriers sometimes take to house training slower than other breeds, though most get the hang of it by 6 to 9 months of age. Because Bostons love their humans so much, they are prone to separation anxiety if they aren’t taught at a young age that being away from their human is nothing to worry about. Spending some time on this potential problem early on will save you and your Boston many anxious days.


Any time you leave your Boston Terrier alone, pull out a frozen stuffed Kong or another yummy treat toy. When you return (even if only after thirty seconds), put it away until next time. This will help your Boston learn that when you’re gone, awesome stuff happens, and they’ll make a positive association with your absence.

Fun Activities the Boston Terrier Enjoys

Boston Terrier illustration

Boston Terriers do well in many different dog sports, and especially enjoy activities where they work in tandem with their human:

  • Flyball

  • Agility

  • Therapy Work

  • Rally Obedience

  • Dock Diving

  • Earthdog / Barnhunt

  • Canine Freestyle

Boston Terrier Coat Type

Boston Terriers sport a short, smooth coat and come in three colors: Black, brindle, and seal — all with white on the face and chest which give them their dapper tuxedoed look. The seal color appears black, but when under bright light or sunlight has a reddish tint. A Boston’s coat doesn’t provide much insulation and it’s important to keep them warm in colder temperatures with a jacket or sweater.

Shedding Level

dog shedding level - 4 of 5 piles of fur

2 out of 5 piles of fur

Grooming Requirements

  • Low Maintenance

Boston Terriers need weekly brushing, which helps evenly distribute the natural oils in their coat and remove any dirt and shedding fur. Occasional bathing is recommended only when a Boston gets dirty or seems extra stinky. Take care to not overwash and strip the coat of its natural oils. A Boston’s face wrinkles should be kept clean and dry, to keep the yeast and bacterial populations in check and prevent uncomfortable and recurrent infections. Introduce your puppy to the grooming experience from a young age to create a positive association and encourage a calm and relaxing “spaw” treatment.

Best Brush for Boston Terriers: Bristle brush

Famous Owners of the Boston Terrier

  • Rose McGowan (Actress)

  • LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian (Singer, Actor)

  • Alison Sweeny (Actress/Reality Show Host)

  • Joan Rivers (Comedian)

  • Sonny Rollins (Musician)

  • Famke Janssen (Actress)

  • Robin Williams (Actor/Comedian)

  • Louis Armstrong (Musician)

  • Sandra Dee (Singer)

  • Norman Reedus (Actor)

Famous Boston Terriers

Sergeant Stubby, a heroic and very good boy, may have been the most decorated canine in World War 1, and was the only dog to have been nominated to have a rank, and was then promoted for his acts in the line of duty.

Non-Endorsement Statement: The social media posts displayed here do not imply any endorsement of these people or products, nor does it imply they endorse Trupanion or our product.

Common Health Conditions for the Boston Terrier Breed

Use the chart of Trupanion claims data below to find out what health conditions happen most frequently for Boston Terriers. Every Boston Terrier is unique, but understanding what health conditions are likelier to occur can help you be a more prepared pet owner.

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Groton, CT

Condition: Sarcoma

The Trupanion policy paid: $18,522.39

"My golden Kelly was young when I found a softball-sized lump on Kelly’s left hind leg. Four weeks straight of radiation, six rounds of chemo and checkups every three months, including x-rays and full blood panel were needed. Because of Trupanion, I didn’t have to address the biggest deciding factor that most people face—can I afford this? I can honestly say Kelly is alive today because of the financial support Trupanion provided."

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Ontario, Canada

Condition: Pneumonia, Hip Dysplasia, Lameness

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Ellijay, GA

Condition: Cushing’s disease, tumor, cruciate rupture

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