Cantrip Standards

The Boston Terrier Standard was revised on February 28, 1990 to clarify and adapt the language so that everyone – novices, exhibitors, breeders, judges, and potential judges – would understand it. There are many definitions for the words “standard”, but when referring to the Boston Terrier Standard, this one is preferred: “A degree or level of requirement, excellence or attainment.” When you read the breed Standard, the words paint a picture of excellence. In any breed Standard, there is very little leeway for interpretation. There is only one version. Not ours, not yours, but the right one. The Boston Terrier Standard is divided into 12 sections. Each is an important part of the breed. Without excellence in all these parts, no Boston Terrier can be an outstanding specimen of the breed, no matter how many ribbons it wins.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: describes a number of points. It gives us an outline of the dog, shows us the character of the breed and artistically requires that the dog not only be in balance, but must be well proportioned. It gives a synopsis of the breed and tells us without actually using these words, that the perfect Boston is a bright, sound, elegant, beautifully moving, type dog, with prescribed color and markings. General appearance is especially affected by all parts of the dog. For example, if the dog is faulted in hindquarters, it can not move with determination and an easy and graceful carriage. Neither can a dog with too much white showing in his eyes look intelligent.

SIZE, PROPORTION, SUBSTANCE: The most important point about the weight classification is that each size be in proportion in bone and muscle. That does not mean that because a dog is 20 lbs., it should be coarse and bully. Conversely, an under 15 pound dog must also be in proportion to its size. As owners or breeders, we can have a size preference in the dogs we own or breed; judges cannot. However, this section does state that the length of leg must balance with the length in body to give the dog its striking square appearance. You will see that when other parts of the dog’s conformation are correct, it will also help to make the dog appear square.

The influence of sex is really self-explanatory. It should not be interpreted to mean that a slight refinement in the bitch’s conformation allows the muzzle to be snippy or the body long.

HEAD: It is difficult to imagine a square head on a dog, but when the skull is square, it will be determined by the set of the ears and eyes. The ears should be as close to the corners of the skull as possible, with the outside corners of the eyes in line with the cheeks. The eye placement and the muzzle should both form the lower square of the head. One would believe that the correct Boston Terrier expression comes from the eyes. This is only partially true. It also comes from his upright ears and that exceptional bearing that the Boston has that says “I’m something special!” The eyes should be round and large with a very minimum of white showing. The eyes should be as dark as the coat color, otherwise they will appear even lighter by contrast. Not only should the ears be set properly at the corners of the skull, they must be in proportion to the size of the skull and the muscles that hold the ear erect must be strong so that the ears are held as tightly as possible. Ears like this make the dog appear alert and of course help square the head. Ears that are set badly, are too large or too small, or without good muscles are still apparent to the experienced eye, even if they are cropped. While the muzzle should be short, square, wide and deep, it cannot be correct unless the jaw is broad with an even or slightly undershot bite.

THE NECK, TOP LINE AND BODY should blend smoothly together, with the length of the neck in balance with the body so that the head is carried gracefully. The chest should be deep, and as a rule, in line with the elbows. Aside from aesthetics, the main reason for requiring a level back is that the power generated in the hindquarters is delivered forward by thrust, through the spinal column to the forequarters. A straight column of bones delivers thrust to a better advantage than one that is curved. When the ribs are carried well back, the loins will be short. If you think of the loins as a bridge between the front and rear of the dog, you can understand that a short bridge will be stronger than a long one. It will also help to square the body. The rump curves slightly to a low tail set. A to flat rump usually gives a dog a higher tail set and consequently, straighter stifles.

THE FOREQUARTERS of front assembly, help to give the Boston Terrier its stylish movement. The shoulders are sloping and well laid back. This kind of shoulder requires an angle of 90 degrees, which gives the dog the proper reach in front. When the shoulders are well laid back, the neck will be the proper length. A dog with straight shoulders will also have a neck that is too short, with a shorter reach of the front legs. When the front legs are suspended, they will drop perfectly straight without toeing in or out. While we do not call the feet “cat’s feet”, they are cat-like; small round, and compact.

THE HINDQUARTERS provide the power that is needed to give a dog the drive or push to propel the front. The stifle must be well angulated, with a long upper and lower thigh and the hocks should be well let down, or short in comparison, to give the dog endurance. When the hindquarters have the correct length of bone and angulation, they will be well muscled.

THE GAIT of the Boston Terrier is that “of a sure footed, straight gaited dog, forelegs and hind legs moving straight ahead in line with perfect rhythm, each step indicating grace and power.” The key words in this description are “grace and power”. From this, one can see that the Boston Terrier was not meant to move with dysplastic hindquarters or like a wind-up toy. If he does not move correctly, he cannot convey an “impression of determination, strength, and activity, with style of a high order, carriage easy and graceful.

COAT texture is often determined by the color of the coat. Brindle coats are usually finer than darker colors. Fortunately, even though some coats are not as fine as others, the quality of the coat is usually determined by the condition of the dog.

COLOR AND MARKINGS are very important. They make a Boston look like a Boston. Desired markings are icing on the cake. It gives that extra bit of flashiness that sometimes is needed, However, it will not compensate for other things that they may be lacking.

THE TEMPERAMENT of the Boston Terrier is a most important requirement of the breed and one we must take care not to lose. Without their friendly disposition and intelligence, they wouldn’t be Boston Terriers.

THE SUMMARY is an abridged version of the Standard…”The Boston Terrier in a Nutshell”.

THE SCALE OF POINTS is a guide that can be used to determine the relative importance of parts of the whole dog. If it is used to critique a dog, remember that if the value of one area is lowered, it often affects another. There is also one area that has not been assigned a point value, without which a Boston would be without value and that is excellent temperament. Let us not forget it.

Boston Terrier breeder Joseph Balmer said it beautifully for us, many years ago…..


The standard helps us to safeguard and improve the breed; it is our responsibility to protect the Standard.

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