Nicknamed the American Gentleman, the Boston Terrier dog breed is a small wonder of the canine world weighing 15–25 lb and measuring 9–15 in. If you are wondering how to breed Boston terriers, this article will explain to you the specificities of the breed and how to breed healthier Boston Terriers.
All dog breeds, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, are all part of the very same species (believe it or not!) so yes, they all go through the same whelping timeline, and females from all breeds follow the same rules for their heat cycles. However, each breed has a different background, purpose, and best practices change with each specific breed.
Breeding Boston Terriers require knowledge about the health issues plaguing the American Gentleman, including birth difficulties, c-sections, and the scary brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome.
A huge thanks to Kaitlyn Dutton for writing this article; she is documenting her own journey to being a Boston terrier breeder on her blog.
History of Boston Terrier Breeding
Around the year 1865 or 1871, the first version of what would become a Boston terrier was imported by Robert C. Hooper to Boston, MA. It is estimated that the dog was a mixture of English Bulldog as well as English White Terrier. Hooper named the dog Judge. He weighed 32 pounds and was dark brindle with a white blaze.
English White Terrier
In 19th-century England, dog fighting and blood sports were at an all-time high in popularity and frequency. New breeds were being created to design the ultimate fighting and ratting dog. Bulldog, Pitbull, and Terrier types were the origin breeds for the Boston Terrier. As Pit-fighting was deemed illegal in England, the frequency of Bulldog-Terrier crosses increased.
The English White Terrier is now extinct, but the Boston terrier is carrying on the unique line.
Judge, the First Boston Terrier
A Bulldog and a white Terrier breed produced the first known Boston Terrier called Judge. Judge was bred to a similar individual and through generations, the breed became smaller, less muscular and closer to the Boston Terrier we know today.
Judge was bred to several females. If his offspring started showing too many Bulldog traits or Terrier traits they were crossed with the opposite breed. Eventually, the French bulldog’s line was added to the mix. At this point, the emerging breed earned the name Boston Round Heads.
In 1893 the Boston terrier was approved for membership to AKC, which made them the first American Non-Sporting breed admitted. In the 1900s, pit fighting was losing popularity and was technically illegal so Boston terriers started being bred as companion dogs. This was an easy feat because the Boston Terrier already had many companion traits. In the 1950s the look of the dogs we know today started to become the norm.
Health Concerns When Breeding Boston Terriers
Boston Terriers have a reputation of suffering from more genetic disorders than the average breed. This is caused by their flat face, large eyes, and the fact they are born with somewhat large heads.
The frame of the Boston Terrier is compact as they still possess muscles from their origin breeds of bulldogs and terriers. Their head shape and ears are the most recognizable feature for the breed, as their head is cube-shaped with pointed ears and large eyes.
Some Boston Terriers are able to have natural births, especially when adequate calcium is being obtained. Typically if a bitch has to have a c-section they could potentially be spayed. Dystocia in dogs is defined as a difficult birth, a common problem in the Boston Terrier breed. It is suspected the difficulties arise because of the narrow birth canal of the mother and the large chest and broad shoulders of the puppies produced. Therefore, C-sections are quite common. After a C-section, it is not uncommon for a bitch to be spayed as dystocia caused by fetal-pelvic disproportion can often lead to the death of the mother and pups, so it is in their best interests.
Boston terriers can easily be prone to flatulence, make sure you feed your dog high-quality dog food from an early age.
Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS)
Brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BAOS) can cause dogs to have trouble breathing. Boston terrier’s noses are shorter than other breeds, but the tissues and components in the nose are still shaped the same. In other words, the same amounts of tissues are shoved into a smaller space. Most short-nosed breeds have trouble breathing to some point, but BAOS can cause problems to the point where dogs will collapse.
Boston terriers with noses that sit almost directly underneath their eyes and right next to their heads are considered the higher quality and more up to standard, but they are at a higher risk for BAOS symptoms.
With selective breeding techniques, there can be negative breeding conditions that come alongside the desirable traits. In breeding for the smaller frame of a Boston Terrier, the smaller snout and nose have become recognizable traits alongside this. The short compact nose of the Boston Terrier can cause breeding difficulties. The troubles that this breed commonly has from breathing, in turn, can cause chronic discomfort and lead to difficulties with exercise. Brachycephaly is when the skull shape is shorter than normal for the typical species, this is what Boston Terriers possess. All breeds with Brachycephaly have Brachycephaly Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS). BAOS is when the soft tissue of the nose is compressed into a much smaller area, leading to breathing resistance and discomfort. All Boston Terriers are affected to some degree by this.
Some breeders take their puppies to the vet to have nostrils widened before they are sold. This is a quick procedure and it will significantly improve the quality of life for the dogs. Because of this genetic issues Boston terriers commonly snore and reverse sneeze. Mild cases do not cause significant trouble. In a way, this condition is just a part of Boston terrier’s existence and living this way does not always bother them. But breeders must keep in mind the risks of breeding a dog with significant BAOS symptoms.
Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts (JHC)
One of the most common ailments in purebred dogs is cataracts. Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts are typically seen by the age of 3 or 4, but most of the time microscopic flecks can be seen in the eye from 8 to 12 weeks of age. They are also known as early-onset hereditary cataracts. A Boston terrier that has two copies of the HSF4 gene will show physical signs of JHC, but a dog with only one copy of the gene will be considered a carrier. A dog that is a carrier will not ever show signs of JHC, although dogs that are clear (no HSF4 gene) or carriers (one HSF4 gene) still have the risk of cataracts later on in life.
It is estimated that 11 percent of Boston Terriers suffer from JHC ailment. Breeders need to keep this condition in mind because two dogs that do not appear to have JHC can still have puppies that are affected. If two dogs are bred together and if each one of them is a carrier then 50% of the puppies will carry two HSF4 genes. The result will be physical symptoms of the disease. Therefore, if you ever have Boston terrier puppies that have cataracts then it is obvious both of the parents have one gene.
To prevent JHC, breeders can administer a simple cheek swab test. Another option is a CERF exam which will last for one year, and then another test will need to be taken. In this exam, a certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist will dilate the Boston’s eyes, and then a light will be used for the exam. After this point, a microscope is used. During the microscopic portion, the vet will determine if cataracts are present. Breeders who have testing ran will have a better reputation and fewer issues down the line.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
Degenerative myelopathy affects the spinal cords of dogs and eventually will lead to paralysis. The parts that are needed for dogs to move their hind legs are located in the spinal cord. This disease causes these parts to essentially leave until they no longer exist. They don’t disappear dramatically. They progressively degenerate. After degeneration is done, total paralysis will be seen. The only way to confirm that a dog has the disease is to have a veterinary neurologist look at the spinal cord with a microscope. Typically, it takes six months to one year before paralysis occurs.
If you notice that your dog is stumbling more than usual, or if the hind nails are wearing down faster, then these could be signs of DM. Don’t panic just yet, these could also be signs of injury. Most of the time DM will not be noticed until the dog has trouble with movement in the hind legs along with trouble standing up. Also, the dog’s tail might stop wagging. The condition is not an issue for young dogs and typically does not start until a dog is 8 to 14 years of age. Although, there have been cases of 5-year-old-dogs with DM.
The good news is the dog is not in pain, he just cannot move correctly. There are no treatments for DM, but breeders can prevent the disease by testing both the male and female breeding dogs. Luckily for breeders, there is a gene that causes this disease. A simple cheek swab test can be run to check if your dog is a carrier or if there will be symptoms later on in life.
Patellar Luxation occurs when knee caps fall out of place when the thigh bone isn’t shaped correctly this condition can occur. Some possible symptoms are limping, skipping when running, discomfort, the leg not being able to support the dog’s weight, and the obvious symptom of the knee pointing outward. Luckily, dogs don’t feel pain when the kneecap is out of place.
Patellar Luxation is typically caused by genetics but injuries can also be a factor. Most of the time, the condition is viewable at 4 months of age but a vet can tell earlier. The best prevention is breeding dogs that do not have any symptoms. It is beneficial for breeders and buyers to have Boston terrier puppies vet checked before they are sold. In most cases, the buyer has 48 hours to have their vet examine the purchased dog. During this examination, a vet will feel your dog’s knees to see if they have patellar luxation.
Hip dysplasia is an issue of the skeleton that causes the hip joints to have issues forming properly. In other words, the ball of the bone and the corresponding socket do not fit together correctly. Instead of working properly the bones grind together which can lead to arthritis. To help the dog with pain, arthritis can be treated. Overweight dogs have a higher risk of developing arthritis and they typically display arthritis symptoms earlier.
The condition typically occurs in growing puppies. It is typically inherited from the dog’s parents. Environmental issues can also affect if puppies will show symptoms. If the puppies are at risk of being infected action should be taken. From birth to 3 months of age is an important time to prevent rapid growth or obesity. Breeds that grow the slowest have a higher risk of hip dysplasia because they are more likely to become overweight.
Signs that a Boston terrier might have hip dysplasia are: decreased movement, trouble standing up, decrease in muscle, the dog appears to be in pain, the dog doesn’t want to go upstairs, and issues with gait. A qualified vet can check for hip dysplasia and x-rays can also be run. Dogs with hip dysplasia are at an increased risk of developing other health issues. Boston terriers are at a higher risk than the average dog for being overweight. Keep in mind that obesity can make BAOS worse. Therefore, precautions should be taken to prevent obesity. In some cases, surgery can fix this condition.
Health Testing Boston Terriers
Health testing of Boston Terriers is very important to do before breeding them to minimize the possible health issues of the puppies.
The National Breed Club recommends three health tests for Boston Terriers including:
- a patella evaluation,
- an ophthalmologist evaluation (including CAER/CERF), and
- BAER testing.
Boston Terriers are known to suffer from Patellar Luxation which means the knee will slip out of the femoral groove when the knee is extended, hence the need for a Patella evaluation.
Another prominent issue in the Boston Terrier’s health is their eyes, of which they are prone to cherry eyes and both juvenile and adult cataracts. As cataracts are not always visible and cherry eyes always require some surgical input, ophthalmologist evaluations can identify an eye problem before the problem increases. Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER) or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) provides breeders with knowledge on their dog’s eye health and is a specific eye test conducted by Ophthalmologist.
Finally, but no less important, the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test! Boston Terriers are known for having deafness in one or both ears. Boston Terriers that have more than one-third of their body coloring being white usually produce more deaf puppies. All these tests can minimize health risks in future litters by choosing appropriate parents.
How To Breed Boston Terriers
Breeding Boston Terriers is considered relatively tricky when compared to other, much simpler dog breeds. The mating (copulatory tie) generally goes smoothly and so does the pregnancy and labor. Because of its size, the Boston Terrier breed is subject to cesarean sections sometimes.
There are numerous problems and health risks with breeding Boston Terriers that you need to be aware of. The birth of a litter of Boston Terriers has a high risk of resulting in a C-section and even death. This is due to dystocia from the puppies’ large heads and narrow shoulders. C-sections can result in death which is often why the females are spayed after a C-section. Furthermore, the breed has a variety of general health risks which can complicate things in delivery.
For example, many Boston Terriers come with heart problems that can become prominent during times of high stress, such as birth. Therefore, it is crucial to take your pregnant female to the vets regularly to keep an eye on her health.
What Is the Boston Terriers litter size?
It is common for Boston terriers to have 3 to 5 puppies, and the maximum litter size is typically 7. Rarely the Boston terrier can have more than 7 puppies. Keep in mind that healthier dogs will have more puppies. Another way to increase the number of puppies is to have the bitch bred more than once in the same heat, but if a male is bred to many times his sperm count will decrease.
Do Boston Terriers need C-sections during delivery?
Because of the size of Boston terriers heads, they are at an increased risk for c-sections. With that being said, there are many Boston’s who have normal vaginal births. When dogs are deficient in calcium it makes labors longer and more painful which increases the risk of c-section. The breed is topping the rankings of dog breeds the most at risk of undergoing a surgical delivery.
Calcium supplements can be useful for bitches after birth but never during pregnancy. If you provide calcium for a pregnant dog, they become unable to biologically estimate and provide the true amount of calcium needed during the puppies’ growth and for milk production. The soft tissue of the fetuses can become calcified when excess calcium is provided during pregnancy. Trust in your dog to be able to provide the correct amounts of calcium and adjustments during pregnancy.
When your dog is pregnant give her a high-quality puppy food or a product for all life stages. Both of these products have more nutrients than an adult dog food. When your dog is pregnant, feed cottage cheese or for extra fast absorption give Calsorb gel which is available in a syringe. Since Boston Terriers have an increased risk for c-sections make sure that you have your veterinarian’s emergency phone number saved.
Future of Boston Terrier Breeding
The recognizable large eyes of the Boston Terrier have been prominent since the first Boston terrier Judge was born, and we expect eyes to remain large.
The Boston terrier breed color standard is black/white, brindle/white, or seal/white. In 1900, all other colors were ruled out which caused breeders to started pursuing colors that were up to standard. The AKC will accept any color of Boston terrier, but the colors that aren’t up to standard cannot be in the show ring. Also, splash Boston terriers aren’t considered up to standard. A dog is considered splash if it is primarily white with some black markings.
In the past 15-20 years, there has been a movement of people wanting red, fawn, and blue Boston terriers. These colors are sometimes advertised as rare, but they are becoming more common. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to find the original black and white color. When the Boston terrier was originally accepted into the AKC all colors were accepted as standard. Interestingly, one of the first champion Boston terriers was a splash! It is unknown whether Boston terriers will become even more colorful in the future or if the black/white color will make a comeback.