Other names: Smooth Fox Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier
The Fox-Terrier is a fearsome hunting dog, brave and resilient, held in high esteem for his many skills. Despite his small constitution, this dog is very confident, even too much so at times, especially when it comes to fellow canines. An iron fist in a velvet glove is needed to attain a seamless cooperation with this dog. Exceptionally active, this dog needs available and sporty owners who can meet this dog’s many needs for expenditure, especially if he is not employed in hunting missions.
Key facts about the Fox Terrier
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Origins and history
The Fox Terrier breed is very old and descends from various Terrier varieties that have once been widespread in England, generally for fox-hunting purposes. The original breeding of the Terrier for fox-hunting purposes took place in the beginning of the 19th century under Reverend Jack Russell’s initiative. It has been continued by hunting enthusiasts while the Fox became ever more refined in its constitution, thanks to dog show regulars. He is reportedly the result of cross-breeding between the Bull Terrier and Manchester Terrier.
Physical characteristics of the Fox Terrier
Female : Between 13 and 14 in
Male : Between 14 and 15 in
Female : Between 13 and 18 lb
Male : Between 15 and 20 lb
The coat can be either a solid colour, bicoloured or tricoloured. White must always be the dominant colour. It is accompanied by certain black, black-and-tan, or fawn patches.
Type of coat
The hair is short.
In the smooth-haired variety, the coat is straight, flat, coarse, dense and abundant. In the wire-haired variety, the hair is dense and very coarsely-textured, as its name indicate. The undercoat is softer however.
The eyes are dark.
The Fox Terrier, which is categorised into two varieties on the basis of its coat only, is a very active and lively dog, that contains all that force and strong skeletal structure within a compact constitution, without ever seeming stodgy. Upright, it resembles a well-built hunting horse. The skull is flat, quite narrow, narrowing further around the eyes. The stop is moderately pronounced. The jaw and mandible are strong and beefed up. The eyes, small and dark, must be as round as possible and radiate an intelligent expression. The ears are small, V-shaped, folding forwards towards the cheeks; they fold at the top of the skull. The limbs are straight and big-boned; they should present no angulations when looked at from the front. The tail hangs high and is always sported cheerfully; it is never curved towards the back nor tucked in.
Good to know
In England, Fox Terriers are held in particularly high esteem, owing most notably to their many victories at the famous Westminster Best in Show.
This is indeed the most successful breed among all others, with a total of 18 wins, 14 of which were claimed by the wire-hair variety.
The Fox Terrier is very affectionate within the family despite his strong temperament. He is fond of his owners, welcoming of guests that he knows, and knows how to be gentle and docile with children.
This terrier is very energetic, lively, cheerful and bubbly. His very feisty personality makes him particularly fond of playtime, especially with children, if the latter are respectful towards him.
A real live wire, this dog is no display dog, even if he might occasionally enjoy sleeping at his master’s feet after returning from a walk or hunt.
Energetic, lively, very fast, tireless and rarely still, the fox is a fearless dog that can satisfy the most dynamic and athletic of owners.
His hunting skills make him a rather intelligent dog who knows how to adapt to the various missions entrusted to him.
Resilient, brave and clever, the Fox Terrier is a very good work assistant for anyone in need of one. He can hunt for various animals, from little pests to bigger game. He is particularly esteemed for his underground hunting skills (digging), most notably in fox and badger-hunting.
His versatility allows him to carry out overground hunting (by lifting and fetching small game, both feathered and coated); chase-hunting (by forming a ring of running dogs to tease the big game out) and underground hunting (by hunting in burrows).
Fearful / wary of strangers
Invited guests are always welcomed by this hunting dog. However, whenever a stranger approaches, he will most likely start barking, so as to stop anyone he might perceive as an intruder in their tracks.
A proper, precocious introduction is therefore needed for this strong-willed dog to accept someone’s entrance onto his home turf. As soon as that occurs, he becomes very welcoming.
Still, it is strongly advised owners of a Fox Terrier keep a close eye on him if he is sent to welcome guests (whether enthusiastic about it or not) who wish to cross the doorway into their home.
The stubborn and tenacious side of the Fox may make him seem like an independent dog, but he can be clingy too. His attachment to his social group is well concealed at times but, nevertheless, still very present.
As soon as a trusting relationship is established between the dog and his adoptive family, he takes it to heart to please them, and the approval of members of his social group is very important to him.
Behaviour of the Fox Terrier
If he has had sufficient amounts of exercise both prior to and after a period of being alone, the owners’ absences will not be a problem for this dog.
If he hasn’t, he will start barking and being disruptive to express his feelings of frustration and discomfort at the situation.
Some toys may keep him busy and could distract him from feeling the time going by too much. But at any rate, absences should not be lengthy as the Fox won’t tolerate that.
Easy to train / obedience
Despite his tenacious and stubborn temperament, the Fox Terrier is eager to please, which considerably facilitates various types of training. Having said that, a precocious and firm training (cruelty-free) is indispensable in making this dog a pleasant companion animal.
Quite confident and dominant by nature, this dog will not easily be bent to anyone’s will if he does not detect a certain dose of good intention and coherence in the orders he receives.
His strong-headedness should never justify any show of brutality in trying to yield his cooperation- this will only serve to sully the confidence and mutual respect established between master and dog.
In fact, as soon as the Fox Terrier pup is first integrated into the household, some limits must be established and a strict framework imposed, to stop him from picking bad habits up. Patience will be the key word in securing encouraging results.
The help of a professional in training and canine behaviourism will not be an extravagance, especially for novice owners.
Training must first prioritise hailing in order to keep the dog under control when a foreign element catches his eye. Socialisation must also be prioritised as this dog can prove to be very imposing (even aggressive) towards fellow canines and other animals, with a constant need to have the upper hand.
The Fox Terrier is a fierce barker. In this sense, he is a good alarm-dog, and even though this might not be the function most sought after by owners, it will be difficult to suppress his barking as it is one of his main means of communication.
Tendency to run away
As is the case of many hunting dogs, the call to tracking is often stronger than anything else, leading to frequent escapes.
The main ways in which to mitigate this are, on the one hand, a very secure environment with a foolproof fence that is often checked and, on the other, daily outdoor walks (on a leash if hailing has not yet been mastered).
Moreover, tracking games and exercises will help meet the dog’s instinct in a controlled manner. This might diminish the Terrier’s urge to run away, since he will have many chances to expend himself in his master’s presence, no less.
Last but not least, a tag containing the owner’s contact details will facilitate the search for this dog in case he ever goes missing.
When bored, this terrier can be a real bulldozer. If he’s in the garden, he’ll dig quite a few holes up; if he’s at home, he will throw himself at anything he can get his paws on.
That’s why it is necessary to expend the Fox Terrier as much as possible in order to stop him from taking his leftover stores of energy out on what we would simply consider as mischief.
Greedy / Gluttony
A big eater, you must absolutely be careful not to overfeed this dog, because as long as there is something to eat, the Fox Terrier shall eat!
This Terrier is quite insistent in announcing someone’s approach. A good alarm-dog, vigilant and loud. Despite his small size, the Fox’s confidence and stern expression can succeed in deterring intruders.
It is very risky to adopt this little dog for its physical appearance only. It is of utmost importance to take his behavioural particularities into account, since they are far from being innocuous.
With a tendency to take the upper hand, this dog is not to be placed in just anyone’s hands. His owners will have to be strict in order to gain a certain amount of control over the dog, instead of being subjugated to him.
If prospective owners have no interest in hunting whatsoever, it is recommended that they consider a more docile dog to adopt.
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Fox Terrier in a flat
Living in a flat could suit this dog if he is provided with plenty of exercise in parallel. But his watchdog instinct, coupled with his propensity to excessive barking, could be somewhat of a nuisance to the neighbours.
If he is raised in an urban environment, he will have to get used to various sounds (honking, sirens, etc.), walking on a leash without pulling, or encountering other dogs without overreacting.
Nevertheless, this hunting dog is happiest in rural environments, in a house with a big garden. Warning: the outdoor space at the dog’s disposal should never justify the absence of walks; the latter need to remain daily to secure the dog’s good mental and physical equilibrium.
Need for exercise / Sporty
If he does not hunt, this terrier’s large stores of energy absolutely have to be channeled into recreational and physical activities that stimulate his body, intellect, and above all else, his sense of smell.
This dog is most suited to available and active owners as he will not tolerate being enclosed between four walls, even if he has access to a big garden.
He needs to be provided with several long walks a day, and taking up a canine sport (such as agility, tracking, canine-cross, flyball, etc.) is recommended.
Travelling / easy to transport
His small size makes this hunting dog an easily transportable pooch. Having said that, since he is a restless one who can hardly ever stay still, travel can be difficult to manage, both for owner and dog alike.
Fox Terrier and cats
The Fox Terrier likes to take the upper hand and control anything that moves. As a result, the relationship he’ll have with cats will essentially depend on the quality of socialisation this intrepid little dog has been exposed to.
It will be difficult to render cohabitation safe and peaceful. Still, nothing is impossible, and if this dog grows up side-by-side with a cat, he might not become friends with it, but he might just learn to tolerate its presence.
Fox Terrier and dogs
Very jealous indeed, this terrier can become “mean” and throw himself at another animal, even if it is bigger than him. Warning: cohabitation with other dogs is very delicate. It can only be considered if both dogs in question have grown up side-by-side and have been socialised very early on.
Fox Terrier and children
Integrating this dog into a family with children is absolutely possible, even recommended, as this pooch loves children.
Be careful, however, some rules of conduct will have to imperatively be established in order to teach the children to respect their dog.
Fox Terrier and the elderly
Sufficiently dynamic retirees who can meet this highly active dog’s need could absolutely be suitable. Having said that, be advised that this hunting dog is in no shape or form made for sedentary life.
The price of a Fox Terrier varies depending on its origins, age, and gender. You have to count an average of £845 for dogs registered at the Kennel Club.
The maintenance of the wire-haired variety will of course be more strenuous than the smooth-haired one, but remains nonetheless simple and unrestricting.
Weekly brushes (once a week for the smooth-hair Fox, two or three time a week for the wire-hair) are enough to maintain the aesthetic and protective qualities of their coats.
Trimming and grooming sessions are recommended for the wire-hair type (not more than three a year), to be carried out by a professional dog groomer.
Both varieties lose very little hair, and shedding seasons are not particularly felt, which greatly facilitates their maintenance.
Nutrition of the Fox Terrier
This dog’s nutrition needs to be carefully supervised in order to avoid excess weight. Daily rations will have to be adapted to the dog’s physical shape, his daily activities, his age and his health.
A meal a day is enough, preferably in the evenings to encourage better digestion. Be wary of gastric torsion however, which is particularly recurrent among the very active dog breeds. At least an hour ahead and after every meal, the dog be at rest.
Quite the glutton, the ration can be spread out over a security blanket or in the garden, to stop the dog from ingesting it too fast. This will also have the added benefit of stimulating the dog’s sense of smell and providing him with precious activity that meets his needs and instincts.
Veterinary supervision is advised during the Fox Terrier’s entire period of growth. Moreover, he will have to be fed premium-quality kibble throughout his life.
Health of the Fox Terrier
Life expectancy is estimated at 13 years.
Strong / robust
Both varieties are rustic, very robust and have a long life expectancy.
Be wary of intense physical activity in times of heavy heat. It will be required to adapt the walks to the given temperatures, favouring early-morning and late-night walks so as to let this dog expend himself without overheating.
The Smooth Hair Fox is quite vulnerable to the cold, contrary to the Wire Hair Fox.
Tendency to put on weight
This dog’s nutrition must be monitored, and his need for daily exercise must be met, in order to keep his intended weight in check.
- Congenital megaesophagus (abnormal contraction and dilation of the aesophagus)
- Cardiac problems (tetralogy of Fallot)
- Hereditary cerebral ataxia (many Terriers are afflicted)
- Skin problems (atopic dermatitis)
- Mastocytoma (skin cancer)
- Congenital vestibular syndrome (issues with the inside of the ear)
- Eye problems (dislocation of the lens, cataracts)