The Boston Terrier was originally bred out of curiosity and as a pit fighter (the sport was popular in Boston in the mid 19th century). The Boston Terrier is an American creation in the city of Boston. The first Boston Terriers were products of a Bulldog and the now extinct White English Terrier (similar to the Bull Terrier), crossed in Massachussetts in the mid 19th century. The first Bostons were much heavier than today's Boston (much like the Staffordshire Bull Terrier) and were further crossed to the French Bulldog for more refinement.
This resulted in a compact, well-muscled dog with distinctive markings, now characteristic of the breed. The original Boston breeders would not likely appreciate Bostons seen today, as they would probably consider the breed to be much too refined. "Hooper's Judge" is the ancestor of almost all true modern day Boston Terriers. The Boston Terrier was the most popular breed in the United States between the years 1929-1935.
Due to the Bostons' conformation (large head, small pelvis), it is difficult and expensive to reproduce, as caesarian section is necessary more than 95% of the time. Thus, usually only the best breed representatives are used in breeding programs today and the over-all quality of Bostons has been well-maintained (despite a period of immense popularity).
Although Boston Terriers descend from fighting dogs, the Boston Terrier is often called the "American Gentleman" not only due to their "well dressed" appearance, but also because of their characteristically gentle disposition and suitability as companion and house pet. Bostons are not considered to be "scrappers" however they can take care of themselves when threatened and are a very confident breed by nature. While not working terriers, Bostons act like other short-haired terriers, although not quite as intense. Most Bostons in general, tend to have a dominant streak, are highly intelligent and should be trained and raised with the same expectations one would a large breed - with lots of positive reinforcement.
Again, Bostons excel as companions and house dogs due to their gentle dispositions and are very affectionate with children and their families. They are very adaptable to their environments. The Boston has a unique sense of humor and loves to play and make lively, entertaining companions. Since the decline of being bred for pit fighters, Bostons have been bred exclusively for companionship. Thus, they require regular, daily, compassionate care and stimulating environments to thrive and live a full happy and healthy life. They are not outdoor or kennel dogs and need to be with people and reside in the home. Plain and simple, it's not humane, otherwise.
They are extremely dependent on human companionship and can get quite annoyed/offended or depressed if they don't get it. Bostons prefer human companionship to that of other dogs, cats and other animals, however they are known to get along well with them if properly socialized from an early age. Because Bostons bond so closely with their families, some are prone to separation anxiety and engage in destructive behaviours. Crating your Boston when you are away usually prevents and eliminates this problem. Provided that the crate is NEVER used as punishment or isolation. Because Bostons bond so closely with their owners, they are not good candidates for nervous individuals or individuals with anxiety disorders, as this often manifests into behavioural and health issues for the dog.
Most Bostons usually have a bad habit of jumping up on you and guests to get attention. Training should start early in puppy hood to prevent/curb this behaviour, although it would be unrealistic to expect a Boston to be "perfect" in this regard.
As mentioned previously, Bostons usually are confident by nature and some have a dominant streak. Their families do need to set clear boundaries for acceptable behaviour right from when they are puppies. Just because they are small, does not mean that their "easier" to train. Bostons are VERY intelligent and need an equally intelligent owner to keep up with all of their antics. Nobody wants an obnoxious adult Boston around! However, once owners/families establish that they are the dominant/alpha member of the "pack", some Bostons can be very "soft" tempered and most do not like their owners/families being upset with them. Bostons do not require a "firm hand" (no dog does in my opinion) and training should be consistent, fun and positive at all times.
Some dominant Bostons eat the feces of other dogs (Coprophagia). Some theorists suggest that it is due to an imbalance or lack of nutrients in their diet, while other theorists alternatively suggest that it's due to their dominant nature (i.e. they try to remove the scent of other dogs in their territory), as it's also observed in Bostons who eat the highest quality diet. Coprophagia is a normal canine behaviour and can be seen in most other breeds, however some suggest in may be more common in more dominant dogs/breeds. Indeed, we support the latter theory. Also, this behaviour can also be instinctive and biological in nature, given that mothers and sometimes other dogs in a pack (wolves, coyotes, wild dogs, etc.) can be observed eating the feces of puppies, younger dogs, etc. to remove their sent from the environment and prevent other predators from eating their young.
Bostons are true house dogs and can adapt to almost any family or living arrangement, as long as they are kept indoors with their families, as again, they are not outdoor dogs. They are generally not "yappy" and prone to incessant barking, however they can get loud and boisterous playing with other dogs/animals. Bostons cannot tolerate extreme temperatures (hot and cold) and tend to have trouble breathing in periods of heat and cold, as they are brachycephalic (short-nosed).
Again, Bostons are highly intelligent and make excellent show-dogs. Bostons also do very well in the Obedience ring and are gaining popularity as agility dogs. Some Bostons can be stubborn (especially if positive reinforcement is not used) and slow to house-train (and leash break), however, they often train very easily with consistent, positive reinforcement. Again, once the limits are set (and families use positive reinforcement techniques), Bostons adapt well and adhere to the rules.
In Canada, Bostons are divided into three weight classes; Lightweight (15lbs and under), Middleweight (15-20lbs) and Heavyweight (20-25lbs), with the majority of Bostons today weighing between 15-20lbs. A Boston is supposed to be very "square" in appearance, with their height equaling their length.
The coat is short, smooth, bright and fine in texture in colours of brindle and white, seal and white, black brindle and white or black with white markings. Solid black (no white), black and tan and liver or mouse (brown/chocolate/red) colours are disqualifications and not within breed standard. Eyes should be dark brown in colour. Blue eyes are NOT "rare" and are not within breed standard. They are defects in the breed, although unless there has been an injury of some kind, these dogs usually have full sight.
Bostons are considered by most, to be the healthiest of the brachycephallic breeds. As mentioned previously, due to their short muzzles, Bostons tend to have trouble breathing in hot and cold temperatures and when stressed by exertion. Bostons also have a tendency to snore. Due to their prominent eyes, Bostons are prone to eye injuries.
Heart and skin tumors, luxating patellas (dislocating knees), cataracts (poor vision due to opacity of the lens), deafness, Cushing's Syndrome (adrenal dysfunction resulting in obesity and muscle weakness) and difficulty whelping (due to their narrow hips and large heads) are all common problems in the breed. Luxating patellas are the most common health problem in Bostons and are the most difficult (and frustrating) problem for breeders to eradicate (despite our best efforts), given that it is a polygenetic problem.
That is, it is not purely a genetic problem and luxating patellas can be caused by environmental influences, the actual bone/cartilage formation of the patellas, loose/stretched ligaments (that hold the bones in place), or developmental issues. Some also speculate that a high Calcium-Phosphorus diet can cause luxating patellas as well, however to my knowledge, there haven't been any statistically significant studies that have supported this theory.
It is important to note that luxating patellas to Bostons are like hip dysplasia to Pugs or Bulldogs in that just because they have luxating patellas (or hip dysplasia for Pugs and Bulldogs), doesn't mean that they will require surgery. Most other breeds/dogs who have lower grades of luxating patellas will show signs/symptoms of it and their quality of life will be affected, whereas with a Boston, they often don't show any signs at all and can live full, quality life without requiring surgery. Thus, this is why it's important that breeders test their breeding dogs prior to breeding. While luxating patellas seem to be impossible to control, most breeders are trying to reduce the chances of this problem and to get that ever elusive "perfect knee" and a line CLEAR of luxating patellas.
Despite these common health problems/issues, the health of the Boston Terrier as a breed, has generally been well-maintained and Bostons are known to live 11-15 years (or more).
Bulanda, S. (1994). Boston Terriers A Complete Owner's Manual. Barron's Educational Series, New York.
Canadian Kennel Club (1982). Book of Dogs, Toronto, Ontario.
Walker, J.H. (2005). Boston Terriers. Popular Dog Series. U.S.