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Fox terrier

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Terrier or toy group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 15.5 inches (smooth and wire), 8.5-11.5 inches (toy)
  • Weight — 15-18 pounds (smooth and wire), 4-9 pounds (toy)
  • Coat length & texture — Short, hard, and dense for smooth fox terriers. Curly, hard double coat for wire fox terriers. Short, thin, and smooth for toy fox terriers.
  • Coat color — White, sometimes with black, tan, or both mixed in
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Very vocal
  • Life span — 12-15 years (smooth and wire), 13-15 years (toy)
  • Temperament — Intelligent, friendly, and confident
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — England

Fox terrier fun facts 

  • There are three types of fox terriers. Overseas kennel clubs like the United Kennel Club have long recognized the wire and smooth fox terriers as separate breeds, but the AKC didn’t recognize the wire and smooth fox terriers as distinct breeds until 1985 with the toy fox terrier gaining recognition in 2003.
  • What are the main differences? The only real difference between the wire and fox terrier is the coat — the wire’s is dense and curly, while the smooth’s is dense and short. The toy fox terrier breed is distinct for its small size.
  • Championship pedigree. The fox terrier has more national championship wins at the Westminster Dog Show than any other breed.
Fox terrier playing with a ball

Fox terrier temperament and characteristics 

All three types of fox terriers are playful, affectionate, and loyal pets. Though the breed’s origins involved working and “going to ground” to chase small game out of holes, today’s fox terriers often assume the role of family pet. The most significant difference between the three types of fox terriers is coat (and size for toy fox terriers). Of the three types, the wire fox terrier tends to do best with young children.

All three types are usually highly affectionate towards older children and adults in the family. They also generally accept strangers. Fox terriers will usually tolerate other dogs. Reputable breeders and shelters will give you the best insights on how the specific fox terrier you’re interested in gets along with other dogs.

Fox terriers do not typically jibe with a cat in the home. Some pet parents may have better luck if the dog “grows up” with the kitty from puppyhood.

Common fox terrier health problems 

It’s never fun to think about your pet developing chronic issues, and heading down the rabbit hole worrying about your pet is real. You may wonder if they’re prone to specific problems. Here is some general health information about the most common issues seen in fox terriers. If you are concerned about your pet, the most important thing to do is call your vet so your pet can receive prompt care.

  • Primary lens luxation. Fox terriers are susceptible to primary lens luxation , an inherited health concern. It occurs when an eye lens detaches or moves from its standard location.
  • Patellar luxation. This knee condition occurs when a kneecap “pops out” and moves. It can cause discomfort, and high grades can cause arthritis.
  • Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurs in dogs with underactive thyroids. They may appear lethargic, gain weight, and experience increased thirst and urination.
  • Obesity. Toy fox terriers are particularly prone to obesity. You can reduce your pet’s obesity risk by feeding them a well-balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise.

A reputable breeder, such as those in the AKC Marketplace, will perform tests like routine blood work. This important step will help rule out some of the most important genetic predispositions before dogs mate and produce a litter of offspring.

Cost of caring for a fox terrier

You want to take good care of your pet. If your fox terrier develops a health problem, some extra costs will be involved. Prices vary depending on your area and the veterinary help your pet needs.

Condition Treatment Cost
Primary lens luxation Surgery $500 to $3,000 per eye
Patellar luxation Surgery and long-term pain medication $1,500 to $3,000 per knee for surgery; $20 to $50 per month for pain medication
Hypothyroidism Medication $20 to $50 per month

Lifestyle tweaks like diet and exercise can help your dog reach a normal weight.

Health insurance may be a way to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. The pet owners who sign their dogs up early will benefit the most. Alternatives include making a budget and setting up a pet savings account.

Fox terrier sleeping

History of the fox terrier

Fox terriers originated in England. Here’s a look at how the three distinct breeds came to be.

Smooth fox terriers

The first of the three, these terriers developed in England in the late 18th century as a direct result of the popularity of fox hunts. Hunters wanted canine partners that could go into a fox den (or “go to ground”) and chase the foxes out.

Records are scarce, but the smooth terrier was likely developed from bull terriers, greyhounds, and beagles. A 1790 painting of Pitch, a black, white, and tan terrier who belonged to Colonel Thomas Thorton, gives an idea of what was the early fox terriers’ appearance. They look similar today.

Smooth terriers likely came to America around 1879, according to records.

Wire fox terriers

Smooths and wires used to be considered one breed with two varieties — sort of how Labrador retrievers can be black or yellow. The main differences are coat and a slight variation in head shape.

However, the ancestry is also different. Wires are probably descendants of black and tan terriers. The early wires were likely a blend of black and tan terriers from Wales, Derbyshire, and Durham.

Eventually, early breeders intentionally bred wire and smooth fox terriers to increase the amount of white on a wire. The cross-breeding is also responsible for the wire’s head shape, which now has a cleaner cut than the earliest members of the breed.

Wires came to America a few years after smooths.

Toy fox terriers

Toy fox terriers are the newest fox terriers. Their lineage goes back to the 19th and 20th centuries and includes a mix of smooth fox terriers and Chihuahuas, miniature pinschers, Manchester terriers, and Italian greyhounds. Though the United Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1936, the AKC didn’t start until 2003.

Caring for your fox terrier

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming and involves more than pouring through an extensive library of dog names. If you didn’t research veterinary practitioners before bringing your new pet home, now is a good time to do so. This very important step will help you take the best care of your pal through their lifetime.

Once you’ve chosen someone, you’ll need to make your first trip to the vet. During this time, you’ll be able to ask simple questions and more complicated ones — nothing is off-limits. You’ll also schedule your dog’s vaccinations.

We can help you take good care of your pet, such as providing tips for puppy-proofing your home and getting ready for teething. No one likes to think about losing their new dog, but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other basics specific to a fox terrier.


Fox terriers have high exercise needs. These pups were once working dogs that still require frequent stimulation as family pets. The good news? Fox terriers typically love all sorts of exercise. Fox terriers have a national championship pedigree. But even ones not vying for Best in Show often enjoy dog sports.

Games of fetch, Frisbee, or even a homemade obstacle course can help your fox terrier burn some energy. Daily walks are also great ways to get physical activity. Fox terriers can get physical activity in any season. Be sure to provide them with plenty of clean and fresh water after every walk — just like you often carry a water bottle while working out.

👉 No pet should be kept outside for long periods if the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit

Fox terrier at the beach


Some grooming instructions will vary by which breed of fox terrier you have. However, others are standard. Dental disease is one of the more commonly overlooked health conditions in dogs. Daily teeth brushing is the best way to fight it. Nail trimming and ear cleaning will also help your fox terrier look and feel their best. Be sure to clean their ears after every dip in the water, including baths.

You’ll want to keep your fox terrier’s breed in mind when brushing.

  • Smooth fox terriers. These dogs have a smooth coat that is dense and short. Brush it weekly with a slick, bristle, or FURminator brush.
  • Wire fox terriers. The curly, hard double coat also needs weekly brushing with a slick, bristle, or FURminator brush.
  • Toy fox terriers. The miniature fox terrier has a finer coat. Brush it once weekly with a rubber brush, bristle brush, or chamois cloth.

Diet and nutrition

There are plenty of fad diets out there. The (overwhelming) consensus is that a healthy fox terrier of normal weight will do best on standard dog food with the AAFCO seal. This seal signifies it meets the nutritional needs of a dog. Choose a food that aligns with your fox terrier’s weight and age. This food should make up 90% of your dog’s diet. The other 10% can come from low-calorie treats.

Generally, older puppies and adult fox terriers will eat twice per day. Your veterinarian can give you the best advice on portioning. Usually, you can also find standard guidelines on the back of the food bag. Check closely — the portioning may be per day. In these cases, divide by two.

Your dog’s caloric needs will vary based on their height, weight, and health conditions. Breed name also matters (smooths and wires will require more calories than a toy). For example, a 15-pound neutered wire or smooth fox terrier will need about 494 daily calories . A 5-pound toy fox terrier that’s neutered requires about 206 calories each day. Again, double-check with your vet to ensure the standard advice is best for your pet.

👉 For fox terriers with health concerns, work with your vet to develop the best nutritional plan for your pet. 

Training your fox terrier 

Training from a young age can help any pup become the best version of themselves, but even older pets can benefit. All three breeds of fox terriers are eager to please by nature and typically do well with dog training. Here are some tips to help you and your fox terrier.

Stay positive — The consensus, including from The Humane Society of the United States, is that positive reinforcement works best. Think about it: You probably respond better to praise from your boss than a lecture.

Short, concise commands work best with fox terriers (and any dog) — “Sit,” “stay,” and “come” are easier to understand.

Consistency is critical — Be sure the whole family is on board with commands and house rules, such as waiting before going outside and heeling during walks. Otherwise, your pup will get confused, and training could stall.

Talk to your vet — Your veterinarian can provide additional resources on dog training experts in your area.

Fox terrier close up

Breeds similar to the fox terrier 

Not quite sure that a fox terrier is right for you? Even if you are, it’s a good idea to take the time to research and consider other similar breeds to make sure you find the right dog for your family. Your vet, a shelter, or reputable breeders can provide you with additional resources, but here is some inspiration to get you started:

  • Jack Russell terrier. JRTs, also known as Parson Russell terriers, are loving and high-energy, much like the fox terrier.
  • American Staffordshire terrier. Love larger breeds? The American Staffordshire can weigh up to 60 pounds but is as cheerful and eager to please as a fox terrier.
  • Yorkshire terrier. Also known as “Yorkies,” these dogs have boundless energy despite their small frames.

👉 Remember, your pet’s breed is only part of its identity. One of the best things you can do is choose a dog with a personality that meshes with yours.

Frequently asked questions

Is a fox terrier a good family dog?

It depends on the family. Wire fox terriers tend to do well in homes with young children. Smooth and toy fox terriers generally prefer homes with older children. All three breeds of fox terrier often at least tolerate other dogs but usually don’t get along with cats. Fox terriers do best in active homes with people who can help them get all the physical and mental stimulation they need.

Do fox terriers bark a lot?

Fox terriers can be very vocal animals. They’ll be sure to let you know if someone is at your door. Once a stranger is inside, fox terriers are generally friendly toward them but might be a little standoffish.

Is a fox terrier the same as a Jack Russell terrier?

No. The two breeds are native to England but are separate breeds. Jack (or Parson) Russells are a bit smaller than a smooth or wire fox terrier — they’re about 12-14 inches, whereas a smooth or wire is typically about 15.5 inches. Toy fox terriers range from 8.5 to 11.5 inches.

Can fox terriers be left alone?

Yes, for a few hours at a time. But fox terriers have tons of energy and are very loving toward their families. They do best in homes with families that can spend time with them and are ready to give them the physical and mental stimulation they crave.

Are fox terriers good first-time dogs?

It depends on your home and lifestyle. If you are active, a fox terrier may be an ideal first dog for your family. You’ll also want to consider whether you have small children or cats. Fox terriers generally don’t get along with cats and may be wary of small children. A reputable breeder or shelter can give you more information on what it’s like to consider a fox terrier a family member.