|"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours,
faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it
to him to be worthy of such devotion." -- Unknown
Is a Boston right for You?
Here are my opinions and recommendations about the Boston breed, acquired from many years of Boston ownership and veterinary practice. You may either read this entire essay, or choose specific topics with the drop down menu above. Thanks to our wonderful puppy owners for sending us the photos on this page. If there is a topic I haven't covered, please email me and I will add it here ASAP. Remember, acquiring a puppy is a long term commitment that you should consider carefully. - Lauren La Rue D.V.M.
Bostons are superb companions. They are one of the few breeds that were initially bred strictly for this function and not for herding, rat catching, etc. They excel at this job. They are excellent choices for senior citizens that want a friend, albeit an often energetic one. Bostons are generally excellent around children and are sturdy enough to play for hours without sustaining a fracture or delivering a nip. Many young couples who want children but eventually, not now, find Bostons to be great stand-ins to absorb the maternal/paternal energies. Remember, though, that Boston friendship is a two-way street. A Boston terrier needs to be a member of the family, involved in everyday activities like watching TV, rides in the car and snuggling in bed. They are not dogs that can be ignored, left in a remote kennel or a garage for indefinite periods or time. If you do not want a bosom buddy, don't get a Boston.
"To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant
popularity of dogs." -- Aldous Huxley
BOY OR GIRL?:
Which sex Boston is right for You? I sometimes get more requests for female puppies than male puppies in this breed, consequently obtaining a girl is more expensive and more difficult. If you do not intend to breed and have litters of puppies from your pet (and most people don't) , there is no reason to insist on having a girl. Males, neutered or otherwise, make awesome pets. Both male and female Bostons are equally personable, sweet and smart. Personally I find the males easier to housetrain and sometimes more even tempered, less, well, "bitchy". My unneutered boys certainly do not lift their legs in my household; it was made clear to them early on that any thought of this behavior was unacceptable. Males neutered early in life will never even develop the leg lifting behavior. Over-sexed Bostons, male or female, occassionally perform embarassing acts on stuffed animals or the lower legs of unsuspecting visitors. Neutering or spaying also usually minimizes this tendency.
AKC puppies come with documents from the American Kennel Club certifying their parentage. This offers you some confidence of your pup's genetic purity. "Papers" in theory guarantee that you are buying a dog from the bloodlines noted on them, which could be an important factor for you if you get into breeding. If you are familiar with the dogs in the registered pedigree you may be better able to predict how your papered puppy will mature, how big it will get and what kind of pups it might have. It should be noted, however, that the AKC does not require any proof of the parentage reported on the papers. Registration requires only the signature of the bitch and stud dog owners (who are often the same person). Hence the accuracy of AKC papers depends on how ethical the breeder is. Most breeders, fortunately, are honest and well-intentioned. AKC papers are required for dogs showing in AKC recognized comformation shows. If you want to show, have AKC puppies or offer AKC stud service, you need to buy an AKC puppy. AKC puppies are more expensive than non-papered pups, in part due to the quality and show-worthiness of registered pups and in part due to snob appeal. AKC papers in no way guarantee that a puppy will be good quality. Many puppy mills produce AKC dogs.
Unlike many Boston breeders we occassionally offer non-registered pet pups as well as AKC registered pups. Basically, we feel a nice dog is a nice dog regardless of it's "official" status: We have seen some great non-papered dogs and some poor papered ones. Some of our non-papered bitches actually had AKC papers that were lost before we got them, and the paper trail is untracable. We breed dogs that we like, papered or not, and are happy to offer the non-papered pups at a reasonable price for folks seeking an awesome companion.
Bostons are blessed with a slick, short coat that is easy maintenance. No long, repeated trips to the groomers required; just pop them in the utility sink! Bostons still shed but the short hairs are not exceptionally noticeable. This coat does not pick-up burrs or foxtails readily. The coat's chief drawback is that Bostons will get cold when outside in bad weather. They are reluctant to go outdoors in such conditions and house training is definitely more difficult in winter. This emphasizes again that this is a breed intended to be primarily a house dog.
"I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird
-- Rita Rudner
Bostons need good fences. Cheerful and outgoing, they have a wanderlust that is best curbed by good chain-link or the like. Bostons are small, agile and ingenious enough to slip out of marginal fences. We have a couple of Boston girls that are real challenges. Ellie Mae will climb an uncovered 6' tall, wire kennel wall like a ladder and leap from the top. Wild Lady Lizzie is aiming for an agility title, I am sure. She can jump 4 1/2 feet up, hook her elbows over a gate and then shimmie over it. Most of our Boston family is not so "talented". Just remember that a fenced yard is vital to your Boston's welfare as the breed also has a penchant for chasing cars and loosing the contest.
Bostons have somewhat delicate digestions and are very prone to flatulence (we are talking paint peelers here). Without a doubt, they do best (and are more socially acceptable) on a premium diet. This is more expensive, but WELL worth it. We have had the most success with pure poultry and rice or barley-based diets lacking corn. Be careful when purchasing a diet. Many dog foods, even high priced versions, will promote their "natural" or "hypo allergenic" ingredients but a careful scrutiny of the bags' contents will reveal other cheaper and coarser ingredients. Read the label!
It is also feasable, indeed desirable, to try home made diets on Bostons. In addition to the commercial products we feed, I will cook the kids up some chicken "stew" every week, and often add cottage cheese, yogurt and the like to their diet. I think fresh foods provide some marvelous intangible benefits that coarse chemical analysis cannot document. I have also seen some very healthy dogs fed the B.A.R.F. diet (bones and raw food diet). Some Bostons have diet allergies that respond beautifully to judicious home cooking. If you are embarking on an entirely homemade or holistic approach to feeding your dog, you are responsible for doing the research and work required to provide your dog with complete and balanced nutrition; just throwing table scraps in a bowl and calling it good is not sufficient. You need to follow recipes, purchase supplements, etc. It can be very labor intensive, but a labor of love for many people. Remember Bostons, perhaps more than most other breeds, can respond to diet changes, especially sudden diet changes, with vomit or diarrhea on the persian carpet. Unusually rich ingredients, lots of fat etc, can even precipitate significant abdomenal trouble requiring veterinary intervention. Take it slow when you are experimenting with your Boston's diet and do your homework!
Bostons also are prone to obesity, usually because they are spoiled rotten and offered every imaginable tidbit. I once encountered a sad Boston who weighed 40 pounds because his owner expressed "love" by overfeeding. The dog died from complications of obesity. Our Bostons are fed a premium dry food free choice, with some homemade diet and the occasional bit of vegetable, cheese, potato, chicken or anything that hits the kitchen floor while we are cooking. They are lean and healthy.
"No animal should ever jump up on the dining room furniture
unless absolutely certain that he can hold his own in the
conversation." -- Fran Lebowitz
Many show ring Bostons have had their ears cropped. This means that as puppies they were anesthetized (hopefully) and had about 1/3 of their ears cut off to make them point and stand perfectly. This procedure is purely cosmetic. I have worked in clinics where cropping was a common practice and I do NOT recommend it. It had been outlawed in the European show ring and I hope such enlightenment comes to the states soon.
"I've seen a look in dogs' eyes, a quickly vanishing look of
amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs
think humans are nuts." -- John Steinbeck
"Dogs are Masters of what IS. They do not clutter their lives with should of's, could of's, would of's or what if's. They take Today in their teeth and run with it. There is a tremendous lesson in that. " -- L. La Rue
BREATHING AND SNORING:
Bostons, like bulldogs and pugs, are a brachycephalic breed. This means they have wide, round heads with very short muzzles, the "ran into a brick wall" look. Indeed Bostons were called "Round Heads" early in the breed's developement. This "round" anatomy can cause tiny nostrils, long palates and a narrow trachea. The most innocent manifestation of this is noise: Bostons SNORE. Some people are annoyed by this noise, while true-blue Boston lovers find it endearing. Bostons are also prone to something called a reverse-sneeze, which sounds like an asthma attack but is merely the dog sucking air back through it's nose to clear the passages. More seriously, Bostons with extremely short muzzles may have breathing difficulty and wheezing. They may be at greater risk during anesthetic procedures and be intolerant to heat (they can't pant well enough to cool themselves). To avoid problems, choose a dog with moderate muzzle length, be careful in hot weather, and use a veterinarian versed in the treatment of brachycephalic breeds.
The word terrier comes from the latin word "Terre" meaning earth. Terriers love to dig, and bostons are no exception. They like to dig under fences. They like to dig in your lawn. They like to dig in your prize Iris bed. It's in their blood. You can't stop it but you can redirect it. Don't expect your Boston to respect your perfectly manicured yard if it is to spend long, aimless hours there. Give him his own yard kept au naturale. You can also train your Boston to dig primarily in designated areas. Find an obscure corner of your yard and dig up/soften the dirt there with a shovel. Next, intermittently plant wonderful chew bones and treats only in this corner and show your dog. Your Boston will eventually learn to dig for treasure only where it keeps finding this "good stuff".
"Did you ever walk into a room and forget why you walked in?
I think that's how dogs spend their lives." -- Sue Murphy
Bostons have busy minds. Like children, it is better to distract them with appropriate toys so that they don't choose their own e.g. shoes, drip pipe, socks. Mine regularly rummage through the laundry and drag a pair of my underwear into the living room for display to amused guests. These mischievous tendencies are definitely magnified when you have multiple Bostons. I guarantee that anything made of foam, including dog beds, will disintegrate under a Boston tug-of-war. Rolls of toilet paper can be turned into a festive, house-covering confetti in mere minutes. My gang's most memorable escapade involved a climb up to my desk via the chair to empty a jar of bubble gum stored there. They had a delightful afternoon of chewing and spreading the litter around the office! To help distract my dogs, I keep an endless supply of rawhides, balls, tug ropes etc at their disposal. They love to play and they can be hard on their toys. Stuffed animals will soon be lacking facial features or have their stuffing strewn like snow across the carpet. Choose robust toys, like heavy rubber Kongs etc and stuff them with dog cookies or a little peanut butter to keep your Boston fascinated. Strategic use of crate confinement can be a blessing when you aren't around to monitor your dogs.
Bostons are typically non-aggressive. Their loving, outgoing manner is one of their strongest selling points. However, I have on rare occasion seen an antisocial Boston that didn't like strangers and would back it up with a bite. Some ridiculously spoiled individuals develop an imperious attitude and behave dominantly to everyone including their owners. You cannot even displace them from their favorite chair without incurring their wrath.
Though there are genetic "bad seeds" in every breed, a lot of these nasty Bostons have been raised incorrectly. Pups should be socialized early on and taught manners. It is never OK for a Boston to growl or snap at you when you are trying to take away it's food bowl or a toy. Many owners that encounter this think it's "cute" at first, then as the behavior escalates they are at a loss as to what to do, and finally they end up a little scared of the dog. I discipline these little napoleons just like an adult wolf would curb an insolent wolf pup. Inappropriate aggression is answered by a loud "NO", taking the pup by the scruff and firmly but gently holding the dog still until it stops throwing the inevitable tantrum and admits you are in charge. No physical abuse is necessary. If a puppy is getting too assertive and rough during a play period, cancelling the interaction and crating the pup for a few minutes often kindly imparts the message that aggression is answered with a cessation of play. Many will curb their naughtiness with just this feedback. The earlier you snuff out bad behavior in any puppy, the easier and safer it is to do.
Though very non aggressive, the typical Boston is an excellent guard dog. They are superb at alerting you to anyone coming to the door. Bostons are not a very vocal breed, but the appearance of a visitor, delivery truck, etc, always elicits barking and excitement. You will definitely be forewarned. Of course with their diminutive size they best they might do to an intruder is trip him. And with their happy temperament, they just might show him where you keep the best silver!
"Things that upset a terrier may pass virtually unnoticed by
a Great Dane." -- Smiley Blanton
BOSTONS AND OTHER PETS:
Bostons are very social and adore the company of other animals. I've found they especially like other Bostons, though they get along well with all breeds of dogs. Sometimes, though, their forward, "in your face" approach to social conduct annoys older or grumpy dogs. Bostons have the typical "small man syndrome" and find it difficult to back down when challenged or warned off. This can lead to confrontation, with the Boston getting the worst of it if the other dog is much larger. But, I have seen many households where the Boston just ended up running the pack, including the home of a Rottweiller breeder.
Bostons are also fascinated by cats. Many of our Boston owners have cats that are the Boston's buddies.The cats and dogs share the kitty condos and beds. However, if a cat is not open to the friendship and runs, Bostons may give chase. Some Bostons have a strong "prey drive" which makes them prone to this. In a group of Bostons a cat chase can lead to a mob scene, a sort of "Lord of the Flies" mentality, and the cat could get seriously hurt. It is quite reasonable to plan on having a Boston or two living peacefully with your cats if you approach the situation correctly. I would plan on getting your Boston as a puppy, not an adult, and having it socialize with the cats a great deal during it's early impressionable weeks. Remember too that Bostons that chase cats are also at risk; they can receive eye injuries from scratch wounds that are potentially very serious.
Bostons blend into our ranch life and get along fine with our horses. We do however, usually keep them fenced away from the large animals because they are not wise about avoiding hooves, horns and the like. They are oblivious to the temperment and strength of the livestock and will walk right underneath them. If a horse kicks or rears in response to this strange creature under it's belly, the Boston may escape injury, but the horse handler may not!
"The average dog is a nicer person than the average person."
-- Andrew A. Rooney
Obedience training will help to make your Boston a better companion and a good citizen. Bostons are exceptionally bright but can be a challenge to train. They have their own active agendas - places to go, people to see - that can override their immediate need to please you. Many are so adorable that their owners prefer to coddle them and rarely enforce any rules at all. Firm, gentle, consistent commands and lavish praise for good behavior are the key to a well behaved Boston. Group obedience classes with an experienced trainer can be simultaneously inexpensive and invaluable. I can't stress how much such training will not only help you avoid dog mischief and misunderstandings, but also reinforce the bond you have with your dog.
"If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain
dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few
persons." -- James Thurber
House training is a special concern with Bostons. With their short coats, Bostons dislike going out in chilly or inclement weather and may sneak a pee in a quiet corner instead!
House training is easier if you use some insights into dog biology. First, puppies will reliably need to eliminate at these predictable times: When they first wake up, after eating a meal, when they are excited (e.g. when you first come home), when you see them start to squat, or anytime you see them sniffing around like they are on a mission. At these times do not hesitate! Whisk your pup outdoors to a designated elimination spot, give a command such as "go potty" or my favorite "hurry up" and wait until the deed is done. Yes this may require you huddle outdoors for a while until the pup either gets the idea or eliminates out of necessity. Then praise it lavishly and perhaps give it a special treat.
These techniques require that you be able to consistently observe and control your puppies behavior. Since our lives can't revolve around watching our dogs, house training is assisted by the use of another tool, the crate.
The principle of crate training again goes back to dog biology. The puppies of the Boston's distant wolf ancestors have a strong instinct not to soil in their den. This instinct has been preserved even in our modern, selectively bred dogs and maturing Boston pups are reluctant to soil in their immediate surroundings. Hence, when confined to a small area like an airline crate, they will do their best hold their waste until they are let out. When they are liberated you take them immediately outdoors for potty training. Confining pups to crates for reasonable periods of time when you are absent or occupied allows you to prevent unseen accidents and establish good habits. You can expect a puppy to be able to hold it's urine and stool for approximately 1 hour for each month of age; confining a pup to a crate for any longer than that is cruel and counter-productive. If crate training is not working for you, you probably are leaving the puppy in it too long or your crate is too big! It should be just large enough for the puppy to be able to turn around in. If your crate is bigger than this, stuff the back of it with pillows until just the right amount of room is left. You can remove the pillows as the puppy grows to give it more space. Some trainers claim you can have a puppy about 85% housetrained over a long weekend using these methods.
Crate confinement also prevents chewing and other destructive behaviors while you're gone, and prepares the pup for other confining situations, like travel or boarding. We find crates handy for confining our dogs when we are visited by friends that don't appreciate dog kisses or a Boston in their lap (we don't have too many friends like these for long!) The crate is not a jail cell. We make in comfortable and full of special toys and treats. When we are present we leave the crate doors open and our adult dogs use them as bedrooms, running into their crates for a nap or to hide treasures in. Many of our puppies are born and suckled in crates and naturally seek the comforts of their artificial "den" from then on.
"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he
will not bite you; that is the principal difference between
a dog and a man." -- Mark Twain
"Man is a dog's idea of what God should be."
-- Holbrook Jackson
Overall, the Boston is a relatively healthy breed, but, like all breeds, Bostons are predisposed to certain health problems. Some of these are known to be heritable; many more are consequences of the Boston's anatomy and behavior. We want you choose your pup carefully and be prepared for what may happen down the road.
One of the Boston's endearing features are it's big, prominent eyes. These lovely features however are very prone to injury. Bostons can get corneal abrasions and ulcers that may be slow to heal or require surgery. An especially dangerous eye injury is the cat scratch, usually incurred when a Boston is trying to force a friendship with a wary feline. A cat scratch can puncture the cornea and introduce bacteria directly into the eye. The puncture itself may be nearly invisible, even to a vet, but the eye will be very painful and eventually cloudy. If not treated aggressively the entire globe may abscess and vision or the eye lost! If your dog has an eye injury with a high probability of cat scratch, insist that the dog be treated with both oral and topical antibiotics and antiinflammatories.
Bostons can also get cataracts. The best known is a well described juvenile cataract detectable by veterinary exam in puppies as young as 8 weeks old. It can cause total blindness by two years of age. This is inherited as an autosomal recessive, meaning both normal appearing parents must have carried the gene and should not be used for breeding. Other kinds of cataracts can appear later in a Boston's life, either due to injury, diabetes or poorly known hereditary factors. CERF exams by veterinary ophthalmologists can screen pups and breeding animals for the presence of these abnormalities. Dogs blinded by full-blown cataracts can be helped substantially by cataract surgery.
Another problem that pops up in Bostons is "Cherry Eye", or a prolapse of the tear gland of the 3rd eyelid. When this happens, the tear gland in the middle corner of the eye slips out of it's normal place, swells and turns red. The dog will look like there is a wad of red inflamed tissue ( the "cherry") sticking up from the inside corner of it's eye. This abnormality is largely cosmetic, but can irritate the eye over time. It will often occur to both eyes eventually. There is no clear hereditary basis to the problem, although certain breeds like the Boston and the Cocker Spaniel seem predisposed. "Cherry Eye" can be repaired by a surgery to replace and sew the tear gland back where it belongs (the preferred method as it preserves the gland's function) or by surgical amputation of the gland tissue (less expensive).
"Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence
that you are wonderful." -- Ann Landers
Bostons are predisposed to a few skin problems that you should be aware of. The most common is Demodectic mange, caused by a tiny mite named Demodex. This microscopic mite lives in the hair follicles and can cause patchy to widespread hair loss and secondary bacterial skin infections particularly in adolescent puppies or immunocompromised adults. Demodex often shows up as small patches of thin hair or baldness on the face and legs. In some individuals it can spread and encompass most of the body. It is common in Bostons and must always be considered when a Boston has a thinning coat. Demodex can be diagnosed by a veterinarian doing multiple deep skin scrapes of the affected areas and examining them under the microscope. It can sometimes by difficult to find. Mild cases in puppies will heal spontaneously and need no treatment. If the mange is spreading, medicated baths, dips and antibiotics for several weeks or months will usually resolve the problem. Drugs like ivermectin or interceptor are often effective. Demodex can be a big problem in either older dogs that acquire it ( often secondary to cancer or other debilitating disease) or in any dog medicated with cortisone. Some vets will give cortisone to a Boston with a thin coat thinking it's due to allergies so beware!
Demodex is not routinely contagious between adult dogs. It may be passed from a carrier bitch to her puppies early in their lives or spread from pup to pup by juveniles who have a mild case of the mite. There may be an ill defined genetic predisposition in dogs that get severe cases.
Another skin disease seen often in Bostons is Mast Cell tumors or Mastocytomas. These are often raised, button like skin growths with raw pink surfaces, They can also be irregular in shape and outline. Bostons seem to have inherited their weakness to this disease from their ancestors, the English Terrier and the Bulldog. Mast cell tumors can become quite raw and inflamed. More importantly, they can be malignant and spread internally. Any questionable skin masses should be removed and biopsied.
One final skin disease often seen in Bostons that has many other widespread affects is Cushings Disease. Cushings is caused by too much cortisone-type hormone in the dog's system. This can be from an over-active tumor of the adrenal gland (which makes these hormones), or a tumor of the pituitary gland (which tells the adrenal to make too much hormone). Too much cortisone-type drug administered in the form of prednisone pills and shots, or occasionally cortisone-containing eye drops or ear ointments, can also cause the disease. The signs of Cushings include a thin, poor hair coat, pot-belly, and noticeably increased water intake and urination. Cushings dogs are often quite happy, but, left untreated, Cushings can cause diabetes mellitus or life threatening blood clots. Cushings disease is very treatable and the changes can be reversed.
"A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn
around three times before lying down." -- Robert Benchley
Bostons can be born with deformities of their mouths. Cleft Lip or Hair Lip is a cosmetic defect where the lips have not properly fused in utero leaving an obvious gap. This can be ignored or repaired with a simple surgery. More serious is the cleft palate. With cleft palate there is a hole or fissure in the roof of the mouth connecting the mouth and nasal cavities. Affected individuals have trouble nursing as food and milk routinely enters their nose, causing sneezing and nasal discharge. These pups have to struggle to eat and are often undersized and unthrifty. Cleft palate can be surgically repaired but with difficulty. There may be a hereditary component to both of these conditions, although many of these deformities in humans are due to mere congenital accidents, not genes. Excess vitamen A in the bitch's diet may predispose to these conditions. Many authorities feel that folic acid (a B vitamen) defieciency during pregnancy can cause cleft palates in dogs like it causes spina bifida in human infants.
Bostons tend to have a delicate digestion especially when fed inexpensive dog foods. Consequently I find they are really prone to gas and intermittent gagging and vomiting, especially if they get into strange food, the trash etc. Expect the occasional mess when you own a Boston, and don't freak out at a little bit of spit-up. Sometimes the Boston digestive tract will respond to an unusual ingestion with some bloody diarrhea. Do not panic if you see this! Go to the vet. A mild, brief case is often merely some irritant colitis, easily treated. If it persists, then you need to do tests to seek out more nepharious causes.
"You enter into a certain amount of madness when you marry a
person with pets." -- Nora Ephron
The single most common musculoskeletal problem Bostons have is medially luxating patellas. This means their knee caps don't stay in the proper groove designated for them, but tend to float towards the middle of the leg. In mild cases, affected dogs just show a mild intermittent lameness in one or both rear legs, just a little "hitch in their get-a-long". They might hold up a rear leg every now and then, but don't seem overtly painful or disturbed. These dogs can go through their entire lives with the problem and be quite happy. In severe cases, the knee caps are permanently displaced to the inside of the knee and never function properly. These dogs often have deformed hind legs and walk with a crotchety, bowlegged stance in the rear. Reconstructive surgery can fix dogs with bad symptoms. There is probably a hereditary component to these bad knees. Though rare, I have also seen cases of hip dysplasia in Boston Terriers so you should buy your pup from a breeder that guarantees against both of these orthopedic conditions.
"Whoever said you can't buy happiness forgot about puppies."
-- Gene Hill
Bostons are usually a fertile, indeed horny breed. They are not in the least bit inhibited from displaying their sexual prowess or tendencies in the middle of a party or family gathering. But, If you are thinking of breeding your Boston, the first thing you should know is that they often require Caesarian sections to be born. Bostons tend to have small litters of puppies with big blocky heads. This coupled with small bitch size often precludes normal deliveries. It can be hard to tell when your Boston is having delivery problems or just experiencing the discomfort of a normal delivery. Some breeders just routinely schedule C-sections near the end of a bitch's pregnancy rather than risk loosing any puppies from a prolonged, arduous delivery. We try to breed for individuals that "free-whelp" or have their puppies naturally. This requires breeding bitches with reasonable size and pelvis dimensions to dogs that throw small pups with more refined heads. I wouldn't recommend you get into the breeding aspect of Bostons until you have experience whelping out other breeds of dogs.
"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs
should relax and get used to the idea."
-- Robert A. Heinlein
-- Lauren La Rue
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