Boston Terriers

Despite his pugnacious appearance, the Boston Terrier is a lover, not a fighter. One of the few dog breeds that originated 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.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Boston can be happy as a couch potato or a canine athlete -- if you want to do it, 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 house-train nor a nuisance barker. He sheds very little, and doesn't require much in the way of grooming. A very sturdy dog considering a weight range of only 10 to 25 pounds, the Boston is suited to lap life or apartment-dwelling as well as 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.

Variations of the Boston Terrier

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.)

Health Issues Common to Boston Terriers

Bostons are also 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 flat face is associated with a condition known as hemivertebrae, a malformation of the bones of the spine. Symptoms start in puppyhood and include limping, staggering and a lack of coordination. 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 20 eye disorders that are known to occur in the Boston, and they're the number one reported health problem in the breed. Also, 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.

Finally, Boston Terriers do share one problem with the many other small breeds: kneecaps that can easily slip out of place, a condition known as luxating patellas, which requires surgery to repair.

To protect yourself from the expensive vet bills associated with these conditions, you'll want to purchase pet insurance for your Boston Terrier before they show symptoms or are diagnosed.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Craniomandibular Osteopathy High $500-$2,000
Mitral Valve Disease Medium $500-$2,000
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease Medium $1,000-$3,000
Cataracts High $1,500-$5,000
Cushing's Disease High $3,000-$10,000

8 Tips to Bringing Home a Healthy Boston Terrier Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers all breeds and popular mixes, shipped with no questions asked or you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Protect yourself by finding a breeder who is both knowledgeable about and dedicated to the breed. 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.

Find 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.

Ask your breeder to see Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) clearances for your puppy's parents' knees, and Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) clearance on their eyes. Additionally, your breeder must have OFA or Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals at UC-Davis (GDC) certification that the puppy's hearing is normal.

Don't fall for a bad breeder's lies. Simply saying her dogs or puppies are "vet-checked" is not enough, and genetic health cannot be determined by a regular veterinary exam in a puppy. If a breeder assures you these tests aren't necessary because her lines are "healthy" or she's "never had any problems," she's either lying or ignorant, and it's time to walk away.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Alternately, you can look for an adult Boston from a rescue or shelter. Many genetic and temperament problems that can't be predicted in puppies can be spotted in mature adult dogs, and you may additionally luck out with a well-mannered, house-trained dog.

Puppy or adult, take your Boston Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. In particular, ask for information on preventing skin and ear infections and how to monitor your Boston Terrier for signs of orthopedic or eye diseases.

Pet Insurance for Boston Terriers

Pet insurance for Boston Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Boston Terrier are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Boston Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Boston Terrier is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.