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Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
The Boston Terrier wears a tuxedo coat and a stylin’ attitude. He is friendly, portable and enthusiastic in everything he does. He gets along well with kids, other pets and pretty much everyone he meets. All in all, he’s a fantastic little companion dog.
Boston Terriers were bred in Boston, Mass., and all descend from a dog name Judge. They were first known as Round Heads, Bullet Heads or Bull Terriers, but in 1889 they officially took the name Boston Terrier.
Despite his pugnacious appearance, the Boston Terrier is a lover, not a fighter. One of the few dog breeds to originate in the United States, the Boston was bred to be a best friend, happy to do just about anything as long as he's with his human family. And he can go anywhere with them: not only is he a small-but-sturdy size for any situation, he’s one of the few dogs that’s always formally dressed, in markings that resemble a well-tailored tuxedo.
The Boston can be happy as a couch potato or a canine athlete -- whatever you want to do, he’ll be right there beside you. He’s also agile and intelligent enough to do it all, from learning tricks to competing in agility, obedience or other sports. And you don’t usually have to worry about a lot of attitude either; a well-bred, well-socialized Boston gets along well with children, strangers and other pets.
Even better, the Boston (some people call him a Boston Bull Terrier) is neither hard to housetrain nor a nuisance barker. He sheds very little, and doesn't require much in the way of grooming. A very sturdy dog considering that his weight range is only 10 to 25 pounds, the Boston is suited to lap life or apartment-dwelling as well as to an active suburban existence on the go.
If the Boston Terrier seems to be the perfect companion, that's because this all-American dog was bred to be just that. He's just naturally good at the job he was created to do, though, like all dogs, he does require exercise, training and socialization to avoid behavior problems.
He’s a pretty good-looking little dog, too. Although the black-and-white Boston is the best known variety, the breed allows for a number of dark colors – including a distinctive brindle. What Bostons share is a distinctive look: a lovable mug with a square jaw line and upright ears that are sometimes cropped but are best left to stand on their own. (Ear cropping is a cosmetic procedure that offers no health benefits to the dog.)
Nicknamed the American Gentleman, the Boston Terrier comes from a mixed heritage that first began in the urban stewpot that is Boston, Mass. He descends from a dog named Judge, who was probably a cross between a Bulldog and the now-extinct white English Terrier. Judge’s owner bred him with Burnett’s Gyp, and one of their puppies was Wells’ Eph. Eph’s offspring are the ancestors of today’s Boston Terriers.
The little dogs with the round heads and screw tails were first known as Round Heads, Bullet Heads or Bull Terriers, but in 1889 they officially took the name Boston Terrier. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1893.
Today, the Boston ranks 20th among the breeds registered by the American Kennel Club, down just a bit from 18th in 2000. His all-around charm ensures that his popularity holds steady.
The Boston Terrier combines enthusiasm from his terrier ancestors with the gentle sweetness and good sense of his Bulldog ancestors. He also has a sly sense of humor and loves to clown around. The Boston is smart, enjoys plenty of attention and loves to be with people, especially if that means sitting on a lap or sharing a bed or sofa. He’s definitely a cuddler and a snuggler. Expect the Boston to be excited when he greets visitors, but he’ll soon settle down once he has given them an appropriately enthusiastic welcome. The Boston can entertain himself, especially if he has a favorite toy or two, but he’d much rather be doing something with his family.
Some Bostons have a reputation for being excessively active, but that’s not typical for the breed. A well-bred, well-socialized Boston is outgoing and playful but never obnoxiously demanding of time and attention. He will adapt himself to your schedule, but that doesn’t mean you can leave him alone all the time. He is a major love bug and needs a family who will enjoy and desire his company.
Bostons love kids, and kids love them right back. That doesn’t mean they enjoy being mauled, though. Teach kids how to treat the dog, and supervise play, especially when very young children are involved. The Boston makes friends with other pets, too. It’s not unusual to find a Boston napping with the family cat. If you work all day, it can be nice to have a second Boston so they can keep each other company.
The Boston wants to please and generally learns quickly, but each dog is an individual. Some are more amenable to training than others. If your Boston seems unwilling to get with the program, try to figure out what motivates him. Usually food works, but praise or a favorite toy may also be the key to successful training.
A word of advice: any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Boston, the “teen” years can start at six months and continue until the dog is about two years old.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
The perfect Boston Terrier doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Whatever you want from a Boston, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
The Boston Terrier is prone to certain health problems. Here’s a brief rundown on what you should know.
Bostons are among the flat-faced, or brachycephalic, dog breeds. While endearing, flat faces bring with them many health problems, some minor such as snoring and snuffling, and some major, including life-threatening breathing difficulties that may require surgery to correct, if they can be corrected at all.
The corkscrew tail is associated with a condition known as hemivertebrae, a failure in the development of the bones of the spine. While some dogs may be asymptomatic, others may show signs in puppyhood, including impaired movement and a lack of coordination in the hind legs. The puppy can end up paralyzed, and surgery is often the only treatment.
The flat face of the Boston Terrier also puts his eyes at risk of a number of injuries and diseases. There are numerous eye disorders that are known to occur in the Boston, and eye problems are one of the most reported health problem in the breed. They include cataracts, corneal ulcers and glaucoma. In the case of juvenile cataracts, a genetic test has allowed breeders to identify dogs that carry the gene and reduce the incidence of the problem in the breed.
A small but significant number of Bostons are deaf in one ear, and some are completely deaf. It's important to discover this when the dog is as young as possible, because it will affect his training and socialization at a critical age.
Boston Terriers do share one problem with the many other small breeds: a condition known as luxating patellas, or kneecaps that can easily slip out of place. Some cases are mild, but severe cases require surgical repair. Bostons are also prone to allergic conditions that usually affect the skin.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
Before individual Boston Terriers can be included in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) database, the Boston Terrier Club of America requires them to have a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation, a patella (knee) evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, and a hearing evaluation based on the BAER test from either OFA or the Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals at UC-Davis (GDC). You can search the OFA and CHIC websites yourself to see if a pup’s parents are listed.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Boston at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Boston Terrier has a short, smooth coat that is easy to groom and doesn’t shed heavily. Brush him weekly with a rubber hound mitt to remove dead hair and keep the skin healthy.
The debonair Boston doesn’t have a doggie odor and he shouldn’t need a bath more often than every few months. The rest is basic care. Trim the toenails every few weeks. Long nails can get caught on things and tear off. That’s really painful, and it will bleed a lot. Brush the teeth frequently for good dental health.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.
Start your search at the website of the Boston Terrier Club of America, where you'll find tips on locating a good breeder as well as a breeder referral service. Look for a breeder who has agreed to abide by the code of ethics of the national club, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to or through pet stores, and recommends that all puppies be placed with a written contract guaranteeing the breeder will take them back if their owners become unable to keep them in the future. You want a breeder who is willing to help you with any questions or problems you may have as you train and care for your Boston.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Many reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Boston puppy varies depending on his place of origin, whether he is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Boston might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Boston may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Boston in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Bostons available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Boston. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Boston rescues in your area. Most people who love Bostons love all Bostons. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Boston Terrier Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Boston rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Boston Terrier home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Boston, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Boston to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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