Fox Terrier

Fox Terrier
John Walton
Written by John Walton

A spunky, fun loving little dog, the Fox Terrier is known for his charismatic personality and energetic disposition. This breed makes for an excellent show dog as they are incredibly easy to train. Their energy, endurance, wit, and expressive behavior make the perfect concoction for show performance.

Similar to many terrier breeds, the Fox Terrier was bred in the British territories to flush foxes out of their dens. It originated in the 19th century and its descendants come from other British terrier breeds and are closely related to current white terrier breeds. The innate sense to dig hasn’t left this little dog’s bloodline as they are still known for it today.

While the Fox Terrier is still commonly used for the same role in hunting throughout the United States and the United Kingdom today, it is mainly attributed as a loving, entertaining companion to families.

Breed Characteristics

Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Terriers (British Terrier ancestry)
Height:14 -15.5. inches at the shoulders
Weight: between 15 and 19 pounds
Life Span:Fox Terriers live between 10 and 15 years

Within the Fox Terrier breed, there are two different breeds: the Wire Fox Terrier and the Smooth Fox Terrier, the main difference being between their coats.

The Wire Fox Terrier is known for their intelligence and enthusiasm. With an abundance of energy, these small dogs are communicative, playful and require a lot of exercise. They are known for their ability to be easily trained, but do require a lot of attention as they do not like being left alone for an extended amount of time. It is also notable to mention that as they were bred for hunting foxes, they are still known to be a threat to other household pets such as cats and other dogs. They are commonly known to go after non-living things such as cars and bicycles so it is important to train your Wire Fox Terrier properly and to ensure he or she receives proper attention.

The Smooth Fox Terrier, a small dog breed that originated in the 18th century in England, was bred to accompany hunters and hounds in fox hunting. As with almost all terrier breeds, they were bred to dig and they are still known as diggers today. The small, quirky breed is known famous from a 1790 painting by Colonel Thornton of his beloved dog. They are known for their whimsical, humorous personality as well as their energetic disposition. The Smooth Fox Terrier is known to be a descendant of the Smooth Black and Tan Terrier with traces of Beagle and Bull Terrier in its bloodline. Similar to the Wire Fox Terrier, the Smooth Fox Terrier is known for his or her energetic personality and high impulse to chance vermin.  The distinction between a Wire Fox Terrier and a Smoother Fox Terrier is the head. A Smooth Fox Terrier has a distinct V-shaped head. Also, their coat is a bit different than that of the Wire Fox Terrier in that it is dense and flat, but never coarse.

The Smooth Fox Terrier also has a toy breed developed from it. The toy breed is smaller in height and weight, but temperament remains similar. The appearance is rather different in that the ears of the toy are upright and appear comically larger than the toy breed’s body. The skull is more rounded and has a longer nose than that of the regular size breed. Overall, the toy is the same breed as the Fox Terrier but in a pint-size version.

Fox Terriers, both the Wire and the Smooth, are known for their instinctive nature to chase things, they are tremendously playful and good at playing fetch. They have an instinctual friskiness for ball chasing and is an exceptional source of exercise for this breed. Since they are so instinctual on chasing and running, Fox Terriers must always be on a leash or fenced in. However, they were bred to dig so don’t be surprised if your Fox Terrier can dig under a fence! They can be quite the escape artist due to their longtime traits of digging and sense of adventure.

The alert personality of the Fox Terrier also makes for an excellent watch dog. They are communicative and will let you know of nearby predators (or the mailman). Their innate sense of alertness combined with keen eyesight and acute hearing make them strongly aware of all their surrounds. While an owner that is home all day can control such alert behavior (aka barking), a pet owner that plans to be gone for extended period of times would not be a good match for a Fox Terrier as they are too fast to be alarmed by every new sound and sight they encounter. For this reason and that they are known diggers, a Fox Terrier should never be left alone unsupervised in a yard as they can get rather mischievous.

All dogs have a variety of characteristics, but the Fox Terrier is an overall lovable breed and is the perfect breed for apartment dwellers as they do very well in small spaces, as well as pet owners with healthy, active exercise lifestyles. They do not need a yard as long as they are exercised indoors or outdoors regularly. They need to be exercised regularly and enjoy long walks, playing fetch and even jogging with their owner. Due to their easy-to-train disposition, obedience classes are necessary and typically quick to go through for this breed. They are an adaptable little breed and are known to be very good with children and compliant with strangers. As long as they are properly trained and exercised (both physically and mentally), they are altogether an adaptable family pet, tolerating different climate, living spaces and people.

Main Highlights
  • A friendly, amusing and independent breed, the Fox Terrier is perfect for anyone looking for a small breed that is excessively easy to train.
  • They do well in small spaces and are extremely adaptable.
  • They do well with children and learn to make do with strangers once made familiar.
  • Fox Terriers, as many British terriers, were originally bred to dig and get foxes out of their dens. Don’t be surprised if this trait still runs in your Fox Terrier’s bloodline as this is quite common! A deep fence is recommended to keep your Fox Terrier in your yard so he can’t dig under it.
Breed History

The Fox Terrier originated in the British Isles. They are said to have dated all the way back to 55 BC when the Romans invaded Britain. Fox Terriers are known to become increasingly popular, however, around the seventeenth or eighteenth century when fox hunting became increasingly popular.

This breed was created to be small enough to go deep into a fox hole and still have the endurance and running stamina to follow his hunting hound companions.  Even the royal family has been known to be famous owners of Fox Terriers. The most famous being King Edward VII whose Fox Terrier was named Caesar. King Edward probably had Caesar as a fox hunting dog.

Health and Potential Problems

The Fox Terrier has a few common health problems that can include allergies, orthopedic diseases and heart conditions that can be common in all dog breeds.

  • Allergies and dry skin are very common in all small dog breeds. Proper grooming and a lavender oatmeal scrub made for dogs can help alleviate issues of scratching and red skin.
  • Orthopedic concerns are the top issue for Fox Terriers. They can include Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, Wobbler’s syndrome, luxating shoulder, hip dysplasia and luxating patella. In a study done by the Orthopedic Foundation of America, 9% of Smooth Fox Terriers were dysplastic, meaning they had malformed joints or joint problems.
  • Lens luxation and glaucoma typically are a concern for all small dog breeds, including the Fox Terrier. These eye diseases can show up in the breed before three years of age so it is important to have regular checkups with his or her veterinarian to check for signs or symptoms that may be easier to correct if caught early.

With any dog breed, it is critical to discuss genetic issues with the breeder before choosing a puppy. A lot of these health issues are genetic and can be inherited from parents. Going over concerns with the breeder will open an honest discussion and possible treatments if genetic disorders are a concern.

Care Features

Fox Terriers are suited for indoor living, whether a big house or a small apartment. They prefer access to a yard as they have a lot of energy to burn through exercise and playtime. They require an abundant amount of attention, including daily walks or trips to the local dog park. If you have a larger, fenced-in yard, the Fox Terrier can burn up a lot of its energy on its own.

Fox Terrier puppies should be fed a higher fat content dogfood than adults as they need the nutrients to ensure proper growth. They should be fed according to the guidelines on the puppy food bag, but in general they should be eating two to four times as much as an adult Fox Terrier or three to four times per day at twelve weeks old.

Adult Fox Terriers should be fed two times a day and be eating a dog food high in nutrients to support good health as well as a nice coat. Also a proper balance of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids are important so your terrier doesn’t lack proper nutritional needs. Properly feeding your Fox Terrier can reduce the chances of skin allergies, yeast infections of the ear, thyroid and liver problems. It is recommended to choose a high quality dog food for your Fox Terrier, one without preservatives, for a longer healthier life.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Fox Terriers coat, color and grooming vary depending on whether it is a Wire Fox Terrier or a Smooth Fox Terrier.

A Wire Fox Terrier has a rough, wiry coat that needs professional grooming as a groomer will know exactly how this type of hair should be cut. Groomers typically will hand strip a Wire Fox Terrier and this is the act of pulling out dead hair instead of cutting it with clippers. This is not painful to the dog at all, but should be done by a professional as the fur is not attached like human hair or breeds with different hair or fur coats. Even though it is not painful to him or her, most groomers still clip soft spots such as the belly. Hand stripping is necessary to maintain a well-groomed, proper coat as using clippers can ruin the texture of the fur leaving it soft rather than coarse and can even result in a changed color. When a Wire fox Terrier is hand stripped a few times a year, they only require occasional brushing.

The Wire Fox Terrier has five different coat colors including white; white and black; white and tan; white, black and tan; and white, tan and black. They are not known to have any peculiar or standard markings.

Smooth Fox Terriers have an easier coat to maintain than that of Wire Fox Terriers. They need to be brushed often; however, as dead fur buildup can result in a grand amount of shedding. Smooth Fox Terriers are actually known for their shedding, but consistent brushing will minimize this. It is also notable to mention that puppies in this breed category may require ear shaping to maintain the look of the adults within the breed.

Smooth Fox Terriers have identical color variety as the Wire Fox Terrier in the white, black and tan pairings. They also do not have markings.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Fox Terriers’ personality is overall loving, happy and energetic. They typically interact with small children very well if they are properly exercised and have an outlet for their ball of energy. With proper training, a Fox Terrier is a good companion for any family as long as they are not left alone for extended periods of time and don’t develop a “terrier complex” that can result in territorial issues with toys, owners and food.

They can also suffer from separation anxiety if not properly trained and exercised accordingly. Fox Terriers that have some complex issues will become annoyed and unsteady around loud, rambunctious children. They may even become stressed and on edge with toddlers that jab or nab and it may result in a quick snip or bite. It is important to keep children away from their ears and tails as they have zero tolerance for these being pulled on or poked at.

Depending on the Fox Terrier’s disposition, they may see little children as a threat or challenge, as they would a cat or small moving object. With any breed, adopted Fox Terriers will have a completely different disposition with children as their background and history are often unknown. It is important to keep this in mind if you adopt one from a shelter.

Fox Terriers are usually a good breed to solely own. It is in their bloodline to chase objects, including other household pets such as cats or ferrets.  They are high in energy and will also go after bicycles, cars (really any moving object) and are relentless when they want to play.

They have been known to be hostile with cats so it is not recommended to have this breed enter your home if you also have feline friends. If you do have small pets, including hamsters, it is recommended to crate your Fox Terrier when you are out. However, you must remember that crating a Fox Terrier for too long of a time can result in bad behavior and separation anxiety issues.

Fox Terriers do best in an active but calm household where they can be mentally and physically exercised and where rules are applied consistently by all owners of the household.

Fox Terriers are a curious, daredevil, energetic little breed of dog. They are a perfect fit for an active owner that loves the outdoors and is consistent in training, setting guidelines and has the stamina to keep up with a mentally and physically active dog. They are an easy to care for breed in terms of overall health and grooming (Wire Hair terriers don’t shed much at all and Smooth Hair don’t need to be taken to a professional groomer) and their adaptability is perfect for those who live in the city or the country. Their overall playful and peppery personality is loveable enough for any terrier lover, is perfect for those looking for a small dog that isn’t typical and delicate, and they make the perfect watchdog!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.