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A Match Made in Boston

In This Chapter

It’s easy — and common — to follow your emotions when selecting a new dog. You fall in love with that adorable puppy in the window, so you bring her home on a whim, only to find that you’re not prepared or you don’t have time to share your life with a puppy.

You can approach the adoption process with greater success if you decide in advance what breed, gender, and age suit you and your family’s lifestyle. You’ve already chosen your breed — a Boston Terrier — so now it’s time to decide whether you want a male or a female dog, and whether you want a puppy or an adult.
This chapter explores the personalities of both the male and the female Boston, as well as compares the qualities of a puppy and an adult. By educating yourself, you can make an informed decision about what Boston Terrier is right for you.
After you’ve decided the age and the gender of your Boston, you must go about finding one. This chapter also leads you through the different sources for finding a dog, including breeders, rescues, pet stores, and even newspaper advertisements.

Battle of the Sexes

Like humans, male and female Bostons embody distinct characteristics that make them unique. You can see these behavioral differences readily when the dog is not spayed or neutered. Males are loyal and devoted companions, but they will mark their territory. Females, on the other hand, don’t lift their leg, but they come into heat twice a year, requiring you to guard them from male suitors.
If you decide to neuter or spay your Boston, many of his or her gender traits will diminish, but his or her personality won’t change. (See Chapter Your Visit to the Veterinarian for details on spaying and neutering your Boston.)
Physiologically, Boston males are slightly larger than females. Other than that, the two genders look identical. Ultimately, your personal preference dictates which gender to choose.

Mighty males

Males make loving and devoted companions. True gentlemen, males are playful and entertaining. They tend to maintain a constant mood, though they can be rowdy and raucous depending on the individual’s personality.
As such, males will search for females in heat, so they are prone to running off and sowing their canine oats. Adolescent males may also challenge and disobey your commands, especially if a female is in the vicinity, so you’ll need to add an extra dose of patience during training sessions.


Unaltered males (those who can reproduce because they haven’t been neutered) tend lift their legs to mark their territory, letting other dogs know that your home and yard are his turf. Male dogs do this regardless of whether they are housetrained, so you’ll need to have some odor-busting cleaning products on hand. (See Chapter Housetraining for Bostons for more on housetraining.)

In altered males, however, these problems are virtually eliminated. They will be less likely to roam, mark their territory, be aggressive, and rebel against your authority. Unless you’re planning to breed or show your Boston, you should definitely plan to have your male Boston neutered.

Attentive females

Female Bostons make sweet and loyal companions, too. With her mother-like instincts, she dotes on her human family just as she would her canine family.


Unlike their male counterparts, however, unspayed female Bostons (those who can have baby Bostons) can be moody and temperamental, especially when they come into heat (their fertile period) twice a year. When this happens, you’ll need to isolate her from ready and willing male suitors. You’ll also need to clean up her bloody discharge during that time or outfit her in a pair of absorbent pet pants.

After your female Boston is spayed, however, her bossy tendencies will cease (for the most part!), and she’ll settle into a more emotionally constant temperament.

Puppy or Adult?

There’s nothing quite like a puppy. They’re cute and cuddly, and the gaze from a Boston puppy’s big, round eyes can melt any heart. She’ll rely on you completely to care for her every need. You’ll teach her how to act, where to sleep, and what to play with. As she grows up, you’ll help mold her personality and behavior.
An adult dog, however, can be a delight, too. She has graduated from that awkward puppy stage into adulthood, rendering her more manageable and independent. Depending on her history and training skills, you won’t have to send her to basic obedience classes or housetrain her. She’s simply ready to be your constant companion.


Choosing between a puppy and adult can be a challenging task for any dog lover. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. Before making a decision, ask yourself these questions:

Do you have the time to dedicate to raising and training a puppy? If you work at home or have some flexibility with your schedule, a puppy is for you! If not, consider an adult dog who has been housetrained and is relatively independent.

Is your lifestyle conducive to raising a dog? Pet owners who prefer to stay at home rather than go out are a step ahead when it comes to raising a puppy. If you enjoy going out, an adult who is already trained would suit you better.

Do you want to breed your dog? If so, you need to find a breeder who is willing to adopt out a breeding young-adult female dog who has already begun to display her adult conformation and temperament.

Is it important that you raise the dog yourself? If so, definitely choose a puppy who you can watch grow up. An adult dog has already established her personality, and she may have some behavior issues left over from the previous owner.

Do you have children? Older children can help with the chores associated with raising a puppy; younger children may not be ready for such responsibility. An adult Boston who has been raised around kids will be tolerant of playful children, though she should be supervised at all times.

Is cost an issue? The purchase price of a purebred puppy is often more than that of adults or rescues. If price is an issue, consider adopting an adult.

Is it important for you to help a retired show dog or rescue? If so, then open your home to an adult Boston. Many Boston breeders will place a retired show dog or a female after she is past the breeding age of 5 years old.

These questions are only a few that you should ask yourself and your family before deciding on an adult or a puppy. Also consider your experience in raising a puppy, the current — and future — makeup of your family, and the activity level of your household. Keep in mind that although puppies are adorable, many adult Bostons are looking for homes, too.

If You Choose a Puppy . . .

Get ready for some fun! Raising a puppy to adulthood is one of the most rewarding experiences you can imagine. Not only will you watch your pup grow and develop into a healthy adult, but she’ll also be adaptable and easy to train. You can look forward to a lifetime of companionship and adoration from your Boston baby.
You can also expect long hours training and socializing your puppy. You’ll need to feed her at regular times throughout the day, take her to the bathroom, and spend lots of time bonding with her. The patterns and behaviors that you develop in her now will be with her for her entire life, so you will need to be aware of your actions and how they will affect her later.
But before all that, you’ll need to find your puppy first!

Locating a reputable source

You can find purebred puppies from breeders, online, at your local pet store, and through sources listed in consumer magazines. You can even find purebred puppies listed in the newspaper.
But how do you know if the breeder or dealer is reputable? How can you be sure that the dog you’re getting is healthy, is bred from quality parents, and has begun to be socialized? How do you know that your Boston will be of sound temperament?

You need to look for upstanding breeders and dealers who are experts at selecting, breeding, and preparing dogs for loving homes. These breeders sell the animals through a variety of outlets, from individual placements by the breeders themselves to offering them through responsible pet stores.


A reputable dog breeder is someone who seeks to preserve and improve the breed that they love. Often, a breeder sticks to rearing one type of dog. She is actively involved in the dog fancy and shows her dogs at kennel club competitions. Her goal is to perfect the traits that make the breed unique.


What makes a breeder reputable?

– She chooses her breeding stock very carefully, with the goal of improving and preserving the breed. She uses the breed standard as a guide to produce the best puppies she can.

– She tests her puppies for congenital defects and illnesses, and she tries to eliminate unhealthy dogs from her breeding program.

– She supplies Boston buyers with a proof of health screening, a sales contract, and plenty of references.

– Though she may list her name among other breeders in national magazines, she typically doesn’t sell her puppies through local or regional newspapers advertisements. She doesn’t need to because she often has a waiting list for her healthy, well-mannered puppies.

– She will ask you about your home, your lifestyle, your experience with dogs, and your goals with the puppy. She may even ask you to complete an application.

– She willingly opens her home so you can inspect her facilities. She introduces you to the dam and her litter, and she’ll show you photos, pedigrees, and health certificates from the litter’s sire.

– She will take back a dog from her breeding program if you can no longer care for the puppy.

You can find breeders listed in one of the many dog breed magazines or from an online search, but your best bet is to locate your regional kennel club or breed club and ask for a list of recommendations. The Boston Terrier Club of America (, for example, maintains a breeder referral list of members who have signed a code of ethics and conduct.


Dog shows offer another opportunity to locate Boston breeders. After watching the dogs compete, talk to some of the people showing their dogs. Ask them about their breeding program or where they got their dogs.

When you find a breeder with whom you feel comfortable, ask her some questions. She’ll be expecting you to do so! (Note: If she seems put out or taken aback by your questions, that should be a red flag.)

How long have you been breeding? The more experience, the better.

How long have you been breeding Boston Terriers? Do you breed other dogs? People who breed one particular type of dog are truly dedicated to bettering the breed. People who breed based on the latest fad or those who breed several different types of dogs should raise a red flag.

What dog organizations do you belong to? Reputable breeders should belong to some membership-based club or organization, like the Boston Terrier Club of America, with the goal of continuing their education in the breed.

What are the parents’ strengths? What shortcomings do they have? Though most breeders will boast about the quality of the dam and sire, question her to learn about any behavioral or temperament problems, like possible aggression or poor socialization skills.

Can I visit your facility and meet the dam? The answer to this question should always be, “Of course.” Even if the breeder has no puppies at the time, she should welcome you into her facility so you can see the dogs in her breeding program.

Where do you raise your puppies? How have you socialized them? Ideally, the breeder has raised the puppies in her home around the sounds of normal daily activities. You want to find out whether the pups are getting used to being around people.

What health problems do you screen for? What congenital defects are common in Boston Terriers, and what are you doing to decrease those defects? If the breeder says, “None,” or “My dogs are perfect,” run the other way! All breeds have the potential for some sort of genetic defect, so your breeder should be upfront about health problems that may present themselves. If possible, know the correct answer to this question in advance. (Chapter Breed-Specific Ailments covers common Boston ailments.)

What kind of health guarantee do you offer with your dogs? At the very least, the breeder should guarantee against any debilitating health problems and congenital defects.

How many litters do you raise a year? Breeders who produce more than three litters per year may not be paying enough attention to the dogs’ health. Avoid breeders who always have puppies because that can be a sign of irresponsible breeding practices.

When can I take the puppy home? A reputable breeder will let her puppies go home when they’re 9 to 12 weeks old.

Backyard breeders and puppy mills

These terms are packed with negative connotations, and for good reason. Some backyard breeders and puppy mills breed and raise purebred puppies as a commodity, with little or no interest in the dogs’ well-being.
A backyard breeder is often a person who breeds her dogs to make some extra money. She knows little or nothing about selecting for specific genetic traits or preventing congenital malformations.
A puppy mill is just as it sounds: a facility that churns out puppies purely to make money. Disreputable puppy mills are often on a farm or in a residence, and they keep their animals in filthy, inhumane conditions. The dogs being used to produce the puppies aren’t taken care of properly and are usually bred each season with no chance to recuperate.
There are, however, reputable hobby breeders who are learning from an experienced mentor. Similarly, puppy distributors raise puppies en masse, but the dogs are cared for by a veterinarian, raised in pristine facilities, and socialized on-site by staff members who adore the dogs.
Before pooh-poohing a novice breeder or puppy distributor, do your homework and get the facts. It may not be as bad as you think.

Pet stores

When it comes to selling purebred puppies, pet stores often have a bad reputation. Criticized as smelly shops that display their puppies in cramped, dirty kennels, some pet stores have earned this reputation, to be sure.
Some pet store owners, however, do an excellent job at visiting puppy breeders, scrutinizing puppy distribution centers, and finding loving homes for puppies who they sell through their retail shop. They keep the dogs in sanitized play areas and socialize them with other puppies and people. They question potential buyers, screening them and requiring them to fill out applications. They act as a liaison between the breeder and the buyer.

The owners of one pet store in Southern California, for example, regularly visit each breeder with whom they work. They take in only as many puppies as their retail facility can handle, and they keep them in an open play area during the day so the puppies can interact with each other. Three designated employees are specially trained to care for the puppies and check potential buyers. The store owners recognize the need in the community for purebred puppies from a reputable source, and they have filled that need with healthy, well-cared-for puppies.

Unfortunately, that shop is not the norm, but you can find responsible pet stores that sell purebred puppies. You just need to know what questions to ask.
First, arrange to meet with the pet store owner. If he isn’t available or doesn’t have time to talk to you, run away! How could he have time to care for the puppies if he doesn’t have time to talk to you!


Next, prepare to ask the shopkeeper these questions:

Do you have a source for Boston Terrier puppies? Depending on where you live, a Boston may be hard to find in a pet store. Ask the shop owner whether he can get one, and if his answer is yes, ask how involved you can be in selecting the puppy.

What kind of background do you have on the puppies? While many pet store owners won’t have the detailed information and pedigrees that are available from a breeder, he should have the dogs’ medical history, including shots and wormings that have been done; whether the dogs can be registered, and with what registry; the age of the puppies; and a list of medical problems, if any.

Where did the puppies come from? Have you inspected the facility yourself? The shop owner should know exactly where the puppies came from, and ideally, he should have inspected the facility at least once. He should be keeping tabs on the breeder or distributor, knowing as much as possible about the facility, the breeding practices, and the care the animals receive.

Do you work with a veterinarian? Puppies sold through pet stores should be under the care of a veterinarian who oversees their health and well-being.

How do you socialize the puppies? To grow up to be healthy adults, puppies need to interact with other dogs, be handled by humans, and introduced to a variety of sounds and smells. Pet store owners should be able to describe how their puppies are being socialized.

Can I inspect the puppies? Look at the puppies to make sure their eyes are clear and bright, that there are no signs of external parasites, that their skin and coats look healthy, and that they show no signs of hot spots (surface skin infections that look like festering sores) on their backs or legs. The puppies should be energetic and full of life.

Can I inspect the facility? Look at the play area and kennels where the puppies are housed. Is the area clean and sanitized? Is the air cleaned through air purifiers? You should smell no odor at all, and you should see no feces or urine in the kennels. The facility should be as pristine as possible.

What kind of guarantee do you offer? The pet shop should offer a health guarantee in case the puppy becomes ill after you take her home. A health guarantee ensures that you can return the puppy within a specific time period (typically several days, depending on the contract) if your veterinarian sees any signs of health problems or congenital defects.

What information do you need from me? To determine whether your home is fit for a puppy, a reputable pet store owner should ask you about your experience in keeping a dog. He should ask if you live in a home or an apartment, and whether you have a yard or outdoor area to exercise your pet. If the shopkeeper doesn’t question your ability to care for the animal, he’s not acting responsibly.


That puppy in the pet store window may tug at your heartstrings, but don’t rush in and buy it just to rescue it from the retailer. Though some pet stores offer healthy pups, many don’t, and that expensive impulse purchase may lead to unanticipated veterinary bills. Besides, by buying a pup from a disreputable pet store, you’re supporting the production of puppy mill dogs.

Magazine advertisements

Perusing the classified section in dog magazines is another way to find a purebred puppy. Many of these sources, however, don’t screen the breeders, so if you choose to find your Boston this way, do so with caution.
Call the breeders in the advertisements and ask them the same questions that you would ask a breeder who was referred to you by another Boston owner or kennel club. Just keep in mind that cold calling breeders is the riskiest way to find a pet.

 Recognizing a healthy puppy

Regardless of where you get your pup, she should be as healthy as possible when you bring her home. You want your Boston to begin her life with you as a sound, well-adjusted pet without obvious physical or behavioral flaws.

Physical characteristics

You can begin this puppy health-check while the dog is at the breeder’s facility or in the pet store. If the puppy is still with her littermates, look at the entire group. They should all be active and playful. There should be no sick or weak puppies in the bunch; if one is sick, the others will likely come down with the same illness.


The pups should all have clear, bright eyes with no redness or discharge; cold, damp noses; and clean ears with no signs of ear mites. None should be shaking her head or scratching at her ears, because this behavior can indicate an infection. Similarly, there should be no odor around the dogs’ ears. Their gums should also be pink and healthy.

Their coats should be shiny and clean, and their skin should appear pink and healthy with no hot spots or sores. Their bodies should appear full, firm, and muscular. Their bellies should not be bloated, which could be a sign of worms.
If you see signs of any physical malady, point it out to the breeder or shopkeeper right away. But if the Boston puppy you have your eye on checks out, take a closer look at her behavior among her littermates. Get to know their personalities.

Behavioral characteristics


You want an alert Boston who leaps up to see you, wagging her little tail in sheer ecstasy. You don’t, however, want a pup who appears overly aggressive or domineering, charging over her littermates to get close to you. That little pup is a discipline problem waiting to happen!

At the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want a shy, submissive pup who hides in the corner or appears listless. Stick with a dog who falls in the middle: excited but not giddy, laid back but not listless.
If the breeder okays it, take the puppy into an area where she hasn’t been before. Put her down and watch her reaction. If she follows you, she’s eager to please. If she chooses to explore her surroundings, she’s a curious pup who may still have a short attention span. All the different reactions point to the pup’s personality.

If You Choose an Adult . . .

An adult Boston makes an excellent choice for a family that wants a dog but doesn’t want to endure trying puppy behaviors, like housetraining, obedience training, and chewing. Hundreds of healthy adult Bostons who are looking for a family to love are available across the country.

You can find adult Bostons through kennel clubs and breeders. Often, after the dogs are past their reproductive stages, breeders place Bostons in loving homes so they can enjoy the rest of their lives being spoiled by loving owners. You can also find adult Bostons through breed-rescue organizations that specialize in finding homes for dogs whose owners can’t care for them anymore

Rescuing a Boston

If you choose to adopt an adult Boston Terrier, one of these national rescue organizations can help. They have hundreds of healthy Bostons who are looking for loving “forever” homes. They even have special-needs dogs who require a little extra care and nurturing.


When you adopt an adult dog, remember that you’re saving a Boston’s life. Most people gravitate toward puppies, but the adults need homes, too, and you can feel good about giving the dog a second chance.

Working with a breeder

Boston breeders can be an excellent source for finding an adoptable adult dog. Many times, they have adult males or females who they no longer use for breeding or who have developed flaws that no longer allow them to compete in conformation shows. They may also have an adult dog who was returned to them because the owner was no longer able to care for her. These dogs make fine companions, and you can be sure that they have been well cared for.


You can find a reputable breeder by attending a dog show, contacting your regional kennel club, searching through periodicals, or asking your veterinarian or pet store owner for a referral. Assess the breeder just as you would if you were buying a puppy: Ask questions, visit the facility, and check references whenever possible. (See the “Breeders” section earlier in this chapter for more info.)

Connecting with rescues

Purebred dog rescue has become quite popular over the past ten years as the number of purebred dogs being euthanized in shelters has increased. Sponsored by breed clubs and independent organizations, these rescue groups have formed to save these animals and find new homes for them.
You can find a Boston rescue group in your area by contacting a national group, or you can check with your regional humane society, animal control facility, veterinarian, or even pet store for breed rescue information. Many of them track rescues and can provide whatever contact information you need.
Most rescues require that you complete an application and conduct an interview with the organization’s representative. He will ask you questions similar to those a breeder would ask. When you’re approved for an adoption, you’ll be placed on a waiting list or told if there are dogs available.
You won’t likely be able to get as much information about the dog as you would if she were a puppy from a breeder, but you can find out if the dog is healthy and housetrained.
After the dog moves in with you, the organization will likely follow up to be sure the dog is settling in okay. The group doesn’t want the dog back in rescue again, so it takes every care to make sure that the adoption will work out.

Recognizing a healthy adult dog

A healthy adult dog has the same characteristics as a healthy puppy. It should be lively and energetic, happy to see you, and willing to approach you without fear.
In addition, look for the following features:
by Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

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