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Small Dog Behavior: Are Boston Terriers Aggressive?

A Boston Terrier sits on a couch.

There’s a reason the Boston terrier has earned the nickname of “American Gentleman.” These small dogs are the result of English bulldogs and French bulldogs crossbred with various terriers, and they are affable, intelligent, loyal pets that make wonderful companions for many families. Plus, their tuxedo coat patterns, wide-set eyes, and compact bodies add up to absolutely adorable.

But are Boston terriers aggressive? Are they good for families that already have other pets or children?

Generally speaking, the Boston terrier is not an aggressive breed. They’re likely to get along just fine with human and animal family members alike. With that being said, it’s worth noting that any dog can be aggressive depending on the circumstances, and even very well-mannered Boston terriers can exhibit aggressive behavior in certain situations.

Read on to learn more about the Boston terrier’s temperament, what could cause this breed to show aggression, and how to train and socialize your pet properly to keep everyone in your family living together in harmony.

Boston Terrier Temperament

Boston Terrier standing in some grass

Are Boston terriers aggressive dogs? Usually, no. The Boston terrier is not naturally aggressive.

One of the reasons the Boston terrier is so beloved by pet owners—coming in 23rd in popularity in 2021, according to the American Kennel Club’s ranking of 197 breeds—is because of the breed’s even-keeled temperament. They tend to be very friendly, inquisitive little companions.

Just because the Boston terrier is not known as an aggressive dog breed doesn’t mean they’re low-energy. Some Boston terriers—especially Boston terrier puppies—are quite rambunctious, so you should be prepared for frequent zoomies if you plan on adopting one. And no matter your Boston terrier’s energy level, they should get regular exercise in order to stay healthy and mentally stimulated.

The Boston terrier is rarely aggressive. But like any dog, they can show aggression under certain circumstances. Signs of aggression in Boston terriers include:

  • Growling
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Bared teeth
  • Nipping
  • Lunging
  • Snapping
  • Barking
  • Biting

If you see these signs of aggression in your Boston terrier, you’ll want to take action. (More on that in a moment.) But first, why is this aggression happening?

Possible Reasons for Aggression in Boston Terriers

Boston Terrier looking behind them

While it’s rare that Boston terriers are aggressive, it’s possible for this dog breed, like any, to exhibit defensive or combative behavior. There are a few possible reasons why this may happen:

Territorial Aggression

Territorial aggression is one of the most common types of aggression in dogs. One of the reasons the Boston terrier is so loved is because they’re loyal family dogs—and as such, they may guard and defend their homes if they see someone or something as a threat. This could run the gamut from barking at the mailman to lunging and biting at a stranger entering the house.

Another kind of territorial aggression is resource guarding, which involves your Boston terrier getting aggressive around their food or toys. This is most common when a dog has come from a crowded shelter or dog breeder, where they had to keep a close watch over their food to avoid having it eaten by other dogs.

Dominant Aggression

It’s possible for male Boston terriers to display dominant aggression, usually when encountering another male dog. The dog will try to make themselves look bigger and more threatening, perhaps by baring teeth or growling. If the two dogs aren’t separated, it’s possible for this to escalate into lunging, nipping, or fighting.

Defensive Aggression

This type of dog aggression is caused by fear or anxiety. You’ll probably see submissive body language at first—a tail tucked between the legs, ears flattened back against the head—but your dog may snap or bite if they continue to feel threatened.

Want to help control your dog’s anxiety? Try Native Pet’s Calm Chews, made with all-natural melatonin and L-theanine. These tasty chews can help aid in your dog’s general anxiety and even work to improve sleep.

Pain-Based Aggression

Pain or discomfort could cause your dog to lash out aggressively when they normally wouldn’t. Health problems like physical injury, pain from arthritis, or even a hormonal imbalance could cause this. If you can’t determine another cause of your pooch’s aggressive behavior, it’s worth a trip to the vet’s office for a full examination.

Socialization and Training Tips for Boston Terriers

Are Boston terriers aggressive? Boston Terrier puppy outside

How often are Boston terriers aggressive in the ways described above? Not very frequently. It’s rare that your Boston terrier will display blatant aggression, but it is possible.

One of the best ways for dog owners to avoid any kind of aggressive behavior before it happens is through proper dog training and socialization techniques.

Thorough Socialization

The most well-mannered dogs are typically those who have been socialized from an early age. If you have a Boston terrier puppy, try to introduce them to a variety of people—young, old, different genders and appearances—as well as other dogs and common house pets, like cats. That way, they grow up used to all kinds of people and pets. Even if you have an older dog, they can easily be socialized in the same way. It just might take a little longer.

Obedience Training

All dogs benefit from obedience training, which covers the basic commands like sit, stay, come, heel, and lay down. Potty training and crate training are also important. Because Boston terriers are generally very willing to please their owners, they will respond well to positive reinforcement. This involves giving your dog a treat or verbal praise when they exhibit good behavior, like following a command.

Professional Dog Training

Are Boston terriers aggressive if they don’t receive professional dog training? No—plenty of well-behaved Boston terriers never undergo formal training. But if you don’t want to take on the task of training by yourself, reaching out to a professional dog trainer is a good option. They’ll use specialized training methods to ensure your Boston terrier is a well-behaved and obedient companion dog.

Play and Exercise

Making sure your Boston terrier gets plenty of exercise and play is an important step in avoiding aggression or other unwanted personality traits. A dog who doesn’t get enough physical and mental exertion on a daily basis will probably start to act out, perhaps even showing aggression toward owners, other pets, or strangers. Be sure to go on regular walks with your Boston terrier, and encourage playtime with favorite toys and games like tug-of-war or fetch.

Are Boston Terriers Aggressive? Life With the American Gentleman

Are Boston terriers aggressive? Boston Terrier lying on the ground

Boston terriers are not naturally aggressive. Most of the time, they’re loving, friendly, even-tempered dogs who enjoy nothing more than spending quality time with their families.

As is the case with any breed, it’s possible for the Boston terrier to show signs of aggression like growling, nipping, lunging, or biting under certain circumstances. Some dogs may show aggressive behaviors when they’re feeling defensive or territorial, or in response to pain. If you can’t control your dog’s aggression, seek the help of a professional trainer, or talk to your veterinarian if you think your dog is in pain.

Do your part to avoid aggression and other unwanted behavior by keeping your Boston terrier well-exercised and mentally stimulated. Socialize them by exposing them to a variety of people and pets, and make sure they’re properly trained. That way, you’ll have a gentle, friendly, well-mannered dog on your hands who will love almost everyone they meet.

For more insights into your dog’s behavior, health, and wellness, visit the Native Pet blog.

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