Fox Terriers

English Breed is Full of Surprises

The fox terrier is as lovable as it is crafty—known as much for its devotion and affection as it is for its mischievous antics and ability to perform tricks.

The breed has two distinct variations in appearance, but whether yours is a "smooth" terrier or a "wire" terrier, the fox terrier has a face (and personality) with which many American families have fallen in love.

Fox terrier

The modern-day fox terrier descended from the British terrier in England during the 19th century.

While small, terrier-like dogs were mentioned in the 1500s and 1800s, the earliest known record of a terrier was discovered in an early 1800s Sawrey Gilpin painting, in which a portrait of "Pitch," a dog owned by Colonel Thomas Thornton, is featured in the field chasing after an object of curiosity.

Historians believe that a variety of dog breeds formed the basis of the fox terrier, including the beagle, the bulldog, an English toy terrier and a Dalmatian. By the late 1800s, breed standards were instilled for the fox terrier, during which time strong lines were created which are credited for today's fox terrier.

Due to their small size and quick speed, the fox terrier was highly favored as a companion in fox hunting.

While the smooth fox terrier and the wire fox terrier were at one time cross-bred with another, today's breeding standards typically keep the two types separate in order to maintain the purity of each type of terrier within the breed itself.

In 1885, the American Fox Terrier Club became the first breed specialty club to become a member of the American Kennel Club.

Fox terriers are active dogs with plenty of energy, although they are more than willing to take a time out to curl up with you on the couch for some R&R.

Known to be very affectionate and devoted, fox terriers prefer the companionship of their owners and don't like to be left alone for long periods of time.

The breed is also very intelligent and can show an affinity for cleverness, trying to outwit and outsmart its owner from time to time, getting into mischief such as counter surfing, opening refrigerators, cabinets and drawers, or digging holes in the yard or flower bed if left unattended for too long. This breed benefits greatly from mental stimulation, which will go a long way to curb any mischievous behavior.

The fox terrier's high intelligence also lends to successful training and the breed is known to be a fine watch dog. The dog's protective nature can develop into a form of aggression in some terriers when confronted by another dog.

Daily exercise, stimulation and routine training will help maintain a well-behaved fox terrier, although many terrier owners recommend a healthy sense of humor when it comes to your dog's occasional rambunctious behavior as it can be a part of their charm.

Fox terrier

The appearance of the fox terrier will vary, based on the "type" or breed classification of terrier: smooth fox terrier or wire fox terrier.

Both the smooth and wire fox terriers have white coats with piebald markings (a spotted pattern of large unpigmented, usually white, areas of fur with black pigmented patches); however, each has a different coat texture as well as variations in color and their particular markings.

While the smooth fox terrier's coat is very short and coarse, the wire fox terrier has a double coat in which the fur twists and feels crisp and coarse. The wire coat creates a somewhat bearded and mustachioed appearance on the dog's face. In addition, the double coat protects the wire fox terrier in colder climates. The wire fox terrier also has a slightly different proportioned body: its body is shorter than it is tall.

Both types of fox terriers are considered small breed dogs, weighing on average between 15 and 20 pounds. Each breed has a long, wedge-shaped head with small ears that flop over in a v-shape.

While these medical conditions are generally uncommon they are known to occur in the breed. Your fox terrier will not necessarily develop the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.

  • Cataracts are an opacity of the lens of the eye and may cause blindness if not treated surgically. Symptoms include enlargement of the pupil and a gradual change in color of the eye. Progressive loss of vision occurs and is most noticeable at night due to the lens opacity. This condition is notably more prevalent in fox terriers than the average dog breed.
  • Legg-Perthes disease and Patella luxations are common orthopedic disorders of fox terriers. Both conditions result in rear leg lameness and arthritis if not surgically treated.
  • Legg-Perthes disease is a degenerative disorder of the hip joint caused by an interruption of the blood supply to femoral head of the hip joint. This causes degeneration of the bone and subsequent lameness from pain and arthritis of the hip joint.
  • Patella luxation is due to instability of the knee cap that results in the “knee cap popping out of joint”. Signs include carrying the rear leg for a few steps and often chronic lameness of the leg.
  • Megaesophagus is a condition in which peristalsis (the symmetrical contraction and relaxation of muscles) fails to occur properly and results in an enlarged esophagus, which then prevents food from being pushed down to the dog's stomach. The food will either then be regurgitated, enter the dog's lungs through breathing, or decay inside the esophagus.
  • Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disease passed down through the terrier breed through an autosomal recessive gene which causes fluctuating muscle weakness. The primary symptom is weakness in various body parts of the dog, including megaesophagus.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.