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What dog is known for its friendly, genteel nature, is notorious for tailing its humans as if it’s on a reconnaissance mission, and was born in a tuxedo? Well, its name is Terrier—the Boston Terrier. In this episode of Animal Facts we’re taking a closer look at the Boston, the breed also known as the “American Gentleman.”
The Boston Terrier is thought to have originated in the 1870s when it was popular to cross Terriers and Bull-type dogs to create types that could be entered in ratting and pit-fighting competitions. A Bostonian named Robert Hooper bred his 32 pound, Bull-English Terrier mix, Judge, with a 20 pound, stocky, white, square-headed Bull-type female named Gyp. The resulting offspring were the original Boston Terriers which weighed up to 44 pounds. Eventually, they were bred down to the size and temperament they are known for today.
The Boston made its show debut in 1870 (in Boston, of course) after which, the breed became so trendy in the city, that enthusiasts formed American Bull Terrier Club which later became the Boston Terrier Club. Then, in 1893 it was the first U.S. breed admitted to the American Kennel Club.
Size and Appearance
The Boston Terrier is compact and sturdy. Its average height is 9 to 15 inches, and it typically weighs anywhere from 6 to 25 pounds. Its Bulldog ancestry is evident in its square-jawed, brachycephalic head, which it is known to tilt when curious about something or confused.
The Boston’s large, round eyes are set wide and deep into the skull, and are so expressive that they seem to function as a window that gives you a glimpse of what they’re thinking or feeling.
The Boston’s “tuxedo coat” can be black, seal, or brindle in proportion to the white markings on its face, chest, paws, legs. Thus giving it the clean, symmetrical appearance befitting a sharply- dressed individual.
Temperament and Family Life
The Boston’s nickname, the “American Gentleman,” is not only a reference to its tuxedo-like coloring and markings, but its easygoing, friendly disposition as well. Boston Terriers love to be loved.
When socialized as puppies, they are typically very friendly with strangers, but they are known for being monogamous. They usually do well in a family setting, but tend to form strong bonds with one person.
When it comes to being a great guard-dog, size matters. Although the Boston’s diminutive size keeps it off the list of guard-dog greats, they make great watchdogs because they don’t bark often, but they do bark when they think they have good reason to.
As with any breed, not all Bostons are born with a laid-back personality and they can be very stubborn. Exposing your Boston to different people, pets, and experiences as a puppy, is crucial to his or her social development.
What physical attribute or character trait is your dog most known for?
Trainability and Intelligence
When it comes to intelligence, the Boston Terrier is as smart, as it is smartly dressed.
A very attentive breed, they will learn your schedule, likes and dislikes and seem to interpret your moods. Sometimes, when trying to figure out what you’re thinking or saying they might tilt their head sideways. Sound adorable? Well, you’re absolutely right—it is.
Since Bostons are generally eager to please their humans, they have a knack for quickly learning commands, but can also be quite stubborn. Positive reinforcement is essential to successful training. Non-edible rewards and an occasional tasty treat will serve as motivation for your little student to learn more. You must also be firm, consistent, and pleasant in your delivery…or your pup just might end up training you.
Does your dog seem to know what you’re thinking or feeling? How can you tell?
Unlike a certain secret agent, the Boston Terrier does not survive on adrenaline and adventure. As a card-carrying member of the non-sporting group, the typical Boston would be as content curling up on the couch with you as they would be playing fetch or taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood, but since they have a tendency to put on weight it’s imperative that they get the proper amount of exercise.
Although most people would not be comfortable going into “beast mode” (pardon the pun) in a tuxedo, Bostons have absolutely no problem with it. Your best-dressed best friend needs at least one hour of physical activity each day. This can include two 30-minute walks, or one walk and a game of fetch, swimming, or free play. Tug of war and agility courses are also great ways to keep your buddy in shape. You can also keep his or her mind sharp by teaching new tricks and offering puzzle toys.
Health and Lifespan
The average lifespan of a Boston Terrier is 11 to 15 years, and most experience very few serious health problems along the way…but every breed has its own set of medical issues to deal with.
Corneal ulcers, cataracts, and cherry eye are all ocular conditions that Bostons are particularly susceptible to, that can be attributed to their eye structure and genetics. Patellar luxation (a knee problem commonly seen in small dogs), digestive problems, deafness, and reverse sneezing (caused by brachycephaly—a short, broad skull), are chronic problems that can be managed with treatment and TLC. Heart murmurs and brain tumors are two of the more serious conditions that this breed can face. In addition, many female Bostons undergo caesarian sections to safely give birth, so if your pup is pregnant, it’s important to have a vet care for her before and during childbirth.
So there you have the American Gentleman, or I suppose Gentle Lady. While often confused with the French Bulldog, the Boston Terrier is definitely a breed of its own. But you can check out a comparison of the two breeds here.