Fox Terriers

All guts, all glory. That could easily be the motto of this breed. The Fox Terrier’s original purpose was to ride shotgun in a saddlebag as hunters rode to hounds. When the fox was run to ground, the Fox Terriers were released to rout him out. Here’s what else you should know about Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers.

Is the Fox Terrier the Right Dog for You?

The Fox Terrier is an outgoing, inquisitive and active dog with a devil-may-care demeanor. He has an endless desire to be digging, barking and investigating. That’s just what terriers do, and they’re good at it. If that behavior would drive you batty, the Fox Terrier is not for you. But if you, too, have an excess of energy and curiosity, keep reading.

If you’re dedicated, you can channel this breed’s enthusiasm into hunting or earth dog trials, but if your interests lie elsewhere, the Fox Terrier excels at all kinds of organized and informal canine activities. He loves to hike and can be an excellent agility and obedience dog. You’ll also find Fox Terriers at work doing search and rescue, drug detection and assisting people who have disabilities.

A Fox Terrier will need firm, fair and consistent training from a young age so he'll understand the boundaries necessary for living with humans. As long as he's getting plenty of exercise and stimulation for his quick mind, he's perfectly capable of differentiating between the great outdoors and the family room sofa – as long as you take the time and care to teach him.

Fox Terriers are active and cheerful playmates for kids, although they are too rambunctious for toddlers. They generally get along with dogs their size or bigger, but toy dogs and cats are likely to set off their prey drive. They will chase and kill them if given the chance.

When he’s not landscaping your yard or chasing the neighbor’s cat or alerting you that someone is walking by the house, the Fox Terrier is likely to be playing with his favorite squeaky toy or entertaining you by performing tricks. After wearing himself out with all this activity, he’ll curl up by you on the sofa while you watch TV and then sack out in bed with you.

Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Fox Terrier needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Fox Terrier who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Variations of the Fox Terrier

The Fox Terrier comes in a smooth coat and a wire coat. The smooth coat needs a minimum of grooming – just a quick brushing a couple of times a week to keep shedding under control. Other than that, just keep his ears clean and his nails trimmed. He's definitely meant to be a no-fuss dog. The wire coat must be stripped—plucked by hand or with a special stripping implement—or clipped regularly. A stripped coat retains its characteristic hard texture, but a clipped coat becomes soft.

5 Tips to Bringing Home a Healthy Fox Terrier Puppy

  1. Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
  2. Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search for a good breeder on the website of the American Fox Terrier Club, and choose one who is committed to following the AFTC's Code of Ethics.
  3. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Fox Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Fox Terrier can live to be 12 years old or more, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
  4. Puppy or adult, take your Fox Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
  5. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Health Issues Common to Fox Terriers

Although both Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers are generally very healthy dogs, they can suffer from some genetic health problems.

The Fox Terriers are among the breeds that can be affected by Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. This condition causes reduced blood supply to the head of the thigh bone, which in turn causes it to shrink. The first sign of this disease is limping, which usually appears when the puppy is 4 to 6 months old. Treatment is surgical removal of the head of the leg bone, after which the puppy will have a relatively normal life other than an increased likelihood of arthritis.

They can also have luxating patellas, where the kneecap easily slips out of place. This can be corrected with surgery. The dogs' shoulders can also sometimes become dislocated. Make sure your puppy's breeder has obtained Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certification of the hips, shoulders and knees of her breeding stock.

Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) documentation must also be obtained yearly, to certify that the puppy's parents do not have any genetic vision or eye abnormalities. In addition, make sure to have your puppy's eyes examined once a year by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist, and seek veterinary care immediately at any signs of cloudiness, redness, itching or irritation of the eyes, or if the dog is squinting or pawing at them.

Both Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers can suffer from hearing loss, and your puppy's parents should have been checked with a brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) test before being bred. You should also have your puppy's hearing tested by this method as well (see list of BAER Testers here).

can be affected by an inherited condition known as myasthenia gravis. While many breeds of dog can acquire this disease later in life, in the Smooth Fox Terrier it is congenital, which means the dogs are born with it.

The first symptom of myasthenia gravis is usually muscular weakness, followed by difficulty swallowing caused by an enlarged esophagus. This can cause the dogs to regurgitate their food, and then inhale it, which in turn leads to pneumonia. The prognosis for affected dogs is not good, and it's unlikely they will live to adulthood.

Other conditions that can affect the Fox Terriers include epilepsy and other seizure disorders. There are no genetic screening tests for these conditions.

A good breeder will be able to discuss how prevalent all health problems, those with and those without genetic screening tests, are in her dogs' lines, and help puppy buyers make an informed decision about health risks to their dog.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation
Medium $1,500-$3,000
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease High $1,000-$3,000
Mitral Valve Disease High $500-$2,000
Pulmonic Stenosis* High $1,000-$7,000
*Wire-haired fox terrier
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for Fox Terriers

Pet insurance for Fox Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Fox Terriers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are preexisting) to which Fox Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Fox Terrier is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.