Quick Facts about Fox Terriers
Size: 15 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:18 pounds for males and up to 15 to 17 pounds for females
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AKC Breed Group: The Terrier Group
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
Coat length: Smooth fox terriers have short fur. Wire fox terriers have a medium-length double-layered curly coat.
Coloring: Pure white or any combination of white, black, and tan
Grooming needs: The grooming needs of the smooth fox terrier are low, but the grooming needs of the wire fox terrier require medium effort.
Friendliness: Breed alone is not an accurate predictor of an individual dog's personality. However, fox terriers are generally playful, friendly, protective, and vigilant.
Fox Terrier Dog Breed Information & Care
The fox terrier is technically two different dog breeds. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes both the smooth fox terrier and the wire fox terrier as distinct breeds. Both are very similar in size, temperament, and exercise requirements.
Fun fact: the wire fox terrier has won the AKC Westminster Dog Show more than any other dog breed — 15 times in total since the iconic US dog show began in 1877. Also, the American Fox Terrier Club is one of the oldest purebred dog associations being established in 1885.
Fox terrier dog breed history
Fox terrier history is rooted in the pageantry of British foxhunts. During the 18th century in England, when the sport was at its most popular, the job of the fox terrier was to ferret the unfortunate fox from its den so hounds and horse riders could chase it across the countryside.
Fox hunting is also the reason red is not a breed-standard color. It's not a desirable color for fox terriers, because they need to appear different from the fox. You'll be relieved to know that today the traditional fox hunt, which ran a fox to exhaustion, is no longer legal in most of the United Kingdom.
Now popular as pets, both the smooth fox terrier and the wire fox terrier were originally bred for the fox hunt. Interbreeding the smooth and wire fox terriers stopped among breeders in the early 20th century to maintain the two-breed distinction. However, the AKC did not recognize the two fox terriers and separate breeds until 1985.
Fox terrier dog breed characteristics
Because fox terriers are terrier breeds originally intended for fox hunting, they tend to have strong prey drives like the beagle, Scottish terrier, or greyhound. Fox terriers, especially wire fox terriers, are recognizable black and tan terriers thanks to a squared head shape and sloping forehead similar to a pony or bull terrier dog.
Although dog breed is no guarantee of personality, the wire fox terrier is particularly popular with families for two reasons: They are generally great with children (even young kids), and they barely shed. Both breeds are friendly, playful, and receptive to strangers but can be protective and watchdog-like over their people, especially the smooth fox terrier.
What is the difference between a wire fox terrier and a smooth fox terrier?
The primary difference between a wire fox terrier and a smooth fox terrier is the coat. Smooth fox terriers have short easy-to-groom fur while wire terriers have longer, curlier, and dense coats. However, a close look also reveals a slight difference in the head shape: The smooth fox terrier's head is more V-shaped than a wire fox terrier's head, according to the AKC breed standard.
Fox terrier temperament & training
The wire fox terrier is generally a happy-go-lucky dog who is very charming and active. But they are also easily bored, require a lot of mental stimulation, and tend to be independent even stubborn. Therefore, fox terriers require consistent and ongoing training. Positive reinforcement training is essential because this breed might shut down otherwise.
The smooth fox terrier is similar to the wire in energy level and training needs but possesses the added characteristic of making good watchdogs. Therefore, some become protective and jealous as they age. Integrating them with other dogs or cats can be challenging. Early socialization is important for smooth fox terriers.
Is there a toy fox terrier?
Yes, there is a toy fox terrier. Like most toy breeds, this dog is a small version of its larger cousin, maintaining most, if not all, the characteristics of the larger-sized breed. Toy fox terriers have smooth coats, weigh less than 10 pounds, and are less than a foot tall at the shoulder.
Grooming a fox terrier
Depending on which breed, the fox terrier has either a medium-length wiry coat or a short smooth coat requiring minimal grooming. The wire-haired fox terrier specifically has slightly longer but kinky fur, is double-coated, and requires more grooming than the smooth fox terrier. Wire fox terriers should be brushed weekly to avoid matting but bathed much less frequently.
Regular clipping is not required of the smooth-coated terrier because they shed. But pet wire fox terriers will require some trimming. Wire fox terrier show dogs require a complex hand-stripping process, also called hand-plucking, best left to professionals.
Fox terrier exercise & health conditions
Both types of fox terriers are high-energy agile dogs, requiring plenty of interactive playtime and mental stimulation. You'll need a fully-fenced yard because these dogs have a high prey drive and will run off easily if unleashed.
The fox terrier as a purebred is considered a generally healthy dog, particularly if you find one from a responsible breeder willing to complete health tests such as a patella examination and a cardiac exam. However, both types of fox terriers, especially wire fox terriers, can suffer from the following health problems:
- eye conditions such as cataracts, lens luxation, and glaucoma
- luxating patella
- elbow and hip dysplasia
- Wobbler's gait or Wobbler syndrome
Can fox terriers be left alone?
Fox terriers are not dogs that do well being left alone for a long time. If they are left alone longer than two or three hours, they can become anxious and destructive. Crate training is recommended for this breed to help curb separation anxiety. However, this breed is best for active people willing to give the dog a lot of attention and exercise.
Raising a fox terrier puppy
Fox terrier litters usually range in size from three to six puppies. Like all puppies, they should stay with their mother and litter for eight to 12 weeks to get proper socialization.
Early and continued socialization is important with this breed, especially if you're going to introduce them to other pets. However, living with small pets isn't recommended given the breed's strong prey drive.
How big does a fox terrier get?
Both wire fox terriers and smooth fox terriers are the same size. Neither are larger than 15 inches from the shoulder to the floor and usually do not exceed 17 or 18 pounds. Purebred fox terrier males are usually slightly heavier than females. As is true with all pets, feed them high-quality dog food to help avoid obesity.
Is a fox terrier the same as a Jack Russell?
No, the fox terrier is not the same as a Jack Russell terrier, though they have similar characteristics. First, the Jack Russell is not a specific breed. The AKC recognizes the Russell terrier and the Parson Russell terrier as two different dog show breeds. Both types of Russells are small breeds originally bred for chasing and killing vermin in barns; therefore, have high prey drives like the fox terrier.
What are the pros and cons of a fox terrier?
The fox terrier is actually two different AKC-recognized breeds: The wire fox terrier and the smooth fox terrier. Both types are high-energy dogs that require a lot of physical and mental stimulation great for active families, couples, and individuals with the patience to train.
However, the wire terrier does require frequent grooming although does not shed much. Conversely, the smooth fox terrier sheds a little more but does not require clipping. The latter is also very protective so makes a good watchdog, but tends to guard their people, especially around other dogs.