Toy Fox Terrier

Toy Fox Terrier
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Toy Fox Terriers were initially smaller versions of the Smooth Fox Terrier. They were initially greatly prized for their ability to chase and hunt small animals like rats and squirrels, but also for their high intelligence. This made them great circus performers, as well as skilled obedience and agility competitors.

Nowadays, they are widely appreciated companions, as they are very funny, affectionate and loyal to their human families. Their young soul and playfulness would amuse their owners until very late in their lives.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Companion Dogs
Height:8.5 inches to 11.5 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:3.5 to 7 pounds
Life Span:13 to 14 years

Toy Fox Terries are often seen as large dogs in a small body. They won’t back down when challenged by other animals, but will be themselves quite challenging for no reason. These dogs are very determined and bold for their size, and can be very impulsive as well. Still, they are usually more amendable than their larger and more stubborn cousin, the Smooth Fox Terrier.

These dogs are very devoted companions and alert watch dogs. They have a fine sense of hearing, so they will  always announce approaching strangers, people or other animals alike. They love to play and chase small toys, balls especially and have very high exercise needs, so make sure you take them out constantly to keep them fit and healthy.

Training Toy Fox Terriers is easy when you keep training sessions short and fun. Always praise and reward good behavior, and never shame them for doing wrong. These are very proud dogs and shaming will only make your job a lot more difficult.

Main Highlights
  • These dogs act like true terriers, meaning they love to chase smaller animals. This is why Toy Fox Terriers won’t do well with other small pets around the house, like birds or rodents;
  • Also, by chasing away other animals, they won’t listen to you anymore, so you need to keep them firmly on a leash in any open area. Keeping them off leash can lead to them getting hurt by a car or lost in the neighborhood;
  • They are not the most social dogs and would often challenge larger dogs, forgetting how small they are. Always supervise any interaction they have with other pets;
  • Children are not very good companions for this breed, as these dogs are pretty sensitive and won’t tolerate rough handling;
  • Toy Fox Terriers can become tyrants if not well educated from a young age. They have a strong personality and are not suitable for meek owners;
  • They love to share your bed, but may get hurt from jumping on and off it, so they must learn to sleep on the floor or their special low bed.
Breed History

The ancestor of the Toy Fox Terrier is believed to be the Smooth Fox Terrier, documented in the United Kingdom as back as the 16th century, together with other Terrier breeds. These dogs have been used to chase small game like rabbits and foxes away from their dens during the hunt.

Smooth Fox Terriers used to vary in size, from 20 lbs to 7 lbs. Smaller ones were always more appreciated for their great agility and willing to run and hunt, so people soon began breeding them more, because they were a lot more helpful while hunting or defending their quarters than larger ones.

Smooth Fox Terriers began to be registered as a breed by the United Kennel Club in 1912, and included all dogs, regardless of size. Those who promoted small Terriers asked that they would be registered as a separate breed, but Toy Fox Terriers were only recognized as a breed in 1936. The AKC, though, only recognized this breed in 2003.

Finally, the Chihuahua and Toy Manchester dog blood was introduced into the Toy Fox Terrier to stabilize the breed’s size. This measure was taken for a more obvious difference between larger and smaller dogs, thus establishing the breed’s standard.


This is a toy breed, with most dogs being between 8.5 to 11.5 inches high at the shoulder, although the standard for the breed is between 9 – 11 inches high. Toy Fox Terriers usually weigh between 3.5 to 7 lbs.

Personality and Character

Toy Fox Terriers are very strong-minded dogs, just like their Fox Terrier ancestors. They won’t mind their small bodies, so they won’t fear any other large dog they meet. On the contrary, these little dogs may try to fight them for no apparent reason. In relationship to their owners, they may get pretty stubborn, so they need strong leadership and intense obedience training from a very young age in order to learn their place in the pack order. It is a must that they learn humans are always above them, otherwise they would take over.

These dogs are very appreciated companions for their joyful and young spirit throughout their entire life. They are very affectionate, sensitive and intelligent, as well as inquisitive and quite alert. This also makes them good watchdogs, but beware that they would also bark at mice and other small creatures roaming around.

Being so intelligent, Toy Fox Terriers can be easy to train by the right person. They need to know their trainer is the leader, and training sessions must be short and fun. Always make your dog think it was him who wanted to do what you asked him.

Small Dog Syndrome: this set of behavioral issues usually appears in small dog breeds, as many owners ignore or mistake domination behavior as «displays of affection»: at first, your little buddy learns that it’s all right to jump on your lap or next to you on the couch, but in his mind, the pack leader always places himself above others. Next, he would guard his toys, chair, blanket or any other things in the house and begin barking and growling at anyone approaching those objects. He now sees them as belonging to his territory, while people may think it’s a cute attitude. These are the main features of the syndrome, and it’s easy to see why it only happens to small dogs: you won’t allow a large dog like a Cane Corso jump on you for obvious reasons!

Health and Potential Problems
  • Patellar Luxation(slipped stifles): this is a common problem affecting small breed dogs. This is usually a congenital disorder meaning that the femur, knee cap and tibia are not properly lined up. This may also occur later in life. You may notice that your dog is lame, or skipping and hopping his leg while walking. Mild cases may be aligned manually, but more severe ones may require surgical intervention;
  • Leg-Calve-PertheeDisease: this condition is usually seen in young puppies of about six months of age, and affects the hip joint. The blood supply to the head of the femur is shortened, leading to the disintegration of the bone. It is a painful condition, which in time leads to limping and atrophy of the leg muscle, but usually it can be corrected through surgery;
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease: this blood disorder affects dogs and humans alike. The reduction of the von Willebrand factor in the blood affects the blood clotting process, and may lead to prolonged bleeding of the tissues. Symptoms are gum bleeding, nose bleeding, prolonged bleeding during heat cycles or after surgery or whelping. Sometimes blood can also be seen in the dog’s stool. This condition is hereditary and cannot be cured, but it can be kept under control with treatments that involve suturing or cauterizing injuries, avoiding certain  medications and transfusions of the von Willebrand factor before surgery. The von Willebrand’s disease is usually diagnosed when the dog is between 3 and 5 years old, and affected specimens should never be bred, to avoid spreading the gene;
  • Demodecic Mange: Toy Fox Terriers are more predisposed to this mite infection than most breeds. Demodectic mites are present on all dogs’ skin in small populations, but in some they may proliferate and make the dogs’ coats appear moth-eaten. You may notice them in a few isolated spots around the body or they may take over it entirely. The most susceptible dogs are juveniles between 3 and 13 months old, and adults over 5 years of age. At first, you may notice the hair around the eyelids, mouth corners and front legs thinning, but always have your dog checked, as this may also be a sign of ringworm infestation. In older dogs, Demodicosis may be associated with cancer or another internal disease;
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism with Goiter: this is a disease affecting newborn puppies, who at first display very  large heads compared to their bodies. They also move a lot less than their healthy siblings, and eyes remain shut even when reaching three weeks old. The ear canal would remain very small as well, and coat would be abnormally fuzzy. Bones would delay in lengthening, thus resulting in dwarfism, and the goiter keeps constricting the airway. These puppies usually die or are put to sleep by the time they reach three weeks old, so they cannot pass on the gene to the next generations.

Always make sure you get your puppy from a responsible breeder, who has a clear health history of his breeding stock. Only healthy dogs should be bred, to avoid bad or weak genes to be passed on to the next generations. Always ask to see the puppies’ parents (usually the mother is available) or siblings to have a general idea of the family’s health. Avoid puppy mills or pet stores, that usually cannot prove the origin and health condition of the animals they sell.

Care Features

This breed is suitable for keeping in a small apartment because if its small size. Toy Fox Terriers will happily run and play indoors, so if you want to keep your home intact, make sure they are really  tired after an intense walk or play session outdoors. Even if play does keep them fit, these dogs have the instinct to walk long distances, so your little companion should be taken out for long walks as well to avoid behavior problems.

Because of their short fur and low-fat levels, these dogs don’t tolerate cold weather very well, so they should always wear a jacket or sweater during outdoor walks in the winter. These dogs cannot live outdoors because of their sensitivity, so they should always be kept indoors and only taken out to exercise.

Feeding Schedule

You can save a lot of money by feeding your dog high-quality food that suits his particular needs. Energetic dogs, especially those from working lines, need a high-calorie diet, to help them keep up  with their activities. Feeding an adequate diet will prevent the from developing food-related health issues like obesity (which is not a serious threat in this breed, though), allergies, hot spots, etc.

If you plan on feeding your Toy Fox Terrier dry kibble, about 1/4 to 1/2 cups should be enough for a healthy adult to eat during a day. When introducing a new kind of food, always check the feeding instructions on the package for the right amount, as different brands may have different nutrient concentrations and your dog may get fat or too skinny if not given the appropriate quantity. Split the daily amount into several smaller servings to make sure your dog won’t get hungry or bloated throughout the day. Puppies should be fed 3 to 4 meals per day, while adults will do fine with two meals each day.

Females that are pregnant in late stages or breastfeeding should be given as much food as they want, to allow for proper development of the puppies and to make sure they have enough milk. Puppy kibble is best for them during this time, as it holds more nutrients than regular adult food.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Toy Fox Terriers have a short, smooth, and fine coat, that is slightly longer at the collar. Mots dogs have white bodies, but they may come in several color combinations:

  • White and Tan: over 50% white body, with or without tan markings, the head is mostly tan;
  • White and Black: body  over 50%  white with black spots, the head is mostly black;
  • White, Chocolate and Tan: the body is more than 50% white with or without chocolate markings, with chocolate head and tan markings on eye dots, cheeks and lips. This variation is accepted by the AKC and CKC, but not by UKC;
  • Tricolor: over 50%  white body with or without black spots, head is mostly black with tan markings on the lips, cheeks and eye dots.

These dogs shed frequently, so they should be brushed every few days to remove dead hair and keep it away from your clothes and furniture. This breed is not suitable for clean freaks, as you may constantly find dog hair around the home. No other special grooming is needed, though, for Toy Fox Terriers, as their coat is very short and usually pretty clean. Only bathe them as necessary and make sure you keep them in a warm place until they are completely dry.

Always take care of their teeth as they are prone to tartar buildup that appears frequently in small breeds. Teeth should be brushed at least two or three times a week to prevent bacteria and tartar from accumulating and to avoid gum disease. Also, dental-bones or similar teeth cleaning treats should be given to keep their mouth clean. Trim their nails as needed, usually once or twice per month if your dog doesn’t wear them down naturally. Usually, you can guess the time to trim them when you hear them clicking on the floor as your dog walks by the house.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Toy Fox Terriers are sensitive and not very patient, so they won’t make good pets for small children. They won’t tolerate rough play and being carried around in every position a kid may hold them, so be very careful while allowing kids and dogs to play, to avoid accidental biting because of kids pulling their tails, paws and ears, especially in very young dogs. Teach them never to touch a dog while sleeping or eating, and especially to not try to take away his food, no matter how good friends they usually are. Food is food and dogs never bargain about it!

Because of their strong hunting instincts, these dogs will always try to chase away smaller pets like cats or rodents, so if you already have other pets in your home, think well before bringing your puppy home. There is a chance that they will get along with family cats if they were raised together.

They would get along quite well with other family dogs, but may be reserved and even territorial towards strange dogs approaching their territory. Socialize your Toy Fox Terrier very well from a young age to avoid this behavior as much as possible.

These fun-loving dogs can turn out a lovely companion for the right family that has time to play with them and take them out to exercise. They love human company and get along well with family dogs as well, so they won’t make a good pet for a single person that is mostly away from home. Also, you must display firm, but gentle leadership and strict rules for them to follow, which is why meek owners may have a hard time trying to educate a Toy Fox Terrier. These are quite healthy dogs, so prepare to enjoy this little fellow’s funny faces for as long as fifteen years.

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.