Critter Culture
Feisty Fox Terriers

Feisty Fox Terriers

Critter Culture Staff



Initially working dogs, Fox terriers grew in popularity as family pets in the 1930s when Skippy — a funny, charming canine actor — appeared in dozens of Hollywood movies. These days, fox terriers can be seen outside hunting and show circles as faithful family pets. Their confident, alert, and gregarious nature make them an excellent companion dog. They are well-suited to active owners and families who enjoy being outdoors.


There are two distinct types of fox terrier

Close up shot of a happy cute fox terrier dog in the park

The two kinds of fox terriers differ in their coat length and texture: smooth fox terriers have a shorter coat that sits flat against their bodies, while the wire fox terrier’s hair is longer and coarser. Another notable difference is that the smooth fox terrier’s head is usually more of a v-shape than the wire’s.

The two varieties of fox terrier are otherwise quite similar in appearance. Both are around 15 inches to the shoulder and weigh 15 to 19 pounds. These two dogs also have much the same kind of temperament.


Fox terriers were hunting dogs

young Fox Terrier in the meadow

As their name suggests, fox terriers were originally bred to flush foxes out of their hiding places during hunts. In a few areas where fox hunting is still practiced, they are still used for this purpose.

These dogs were bred to have as much white in their coat as possible to make them clearly distinguishable from the fox. This also made them easier to spot among the undergrowth. Their white markings are now an important characteristic of the breed, along with their black and tan markings.


They are independent and very adventurous

fox terrier jumping over log

Fox terriers love exploring and will happily run off on an adventure — with or without their owner. Fox terrier owners should be cautious about letting even the best-trained fox terrier off-leash in unsecured areas and shouldn't be left unattended in your yard at home. Their love of digging means they could tunnel under the fence, or they could hop over it as they are excellent jumpers, too.


Fox terriers require structured training

little puppy breed Toy fox terrier in the summer the park on the green grass

These charming dogs are real independent thinkers and can be a touch mischievous. This means that, despite their intelligence, training them might be a little more challenging than with other breeds.

However, as long as the methods are consistent and sessions are kept short and fun, fox terriers will remain eager and enthusiastic students, picking up new skills and tricks with ease.


They love to chase other animals

fox terrier breed in the autumn forest

As terriers, these dogs have a strong prey drive. They are likely to chase cats and other small animals when given a chance. While training can likely reduce this behavior, it probably won’t ever eliminate it completely.

For this reason, owners need to be cautious when letting their fox terrier off-leash in places where there are likely to be rabbits, squirrels, and other critters. This breed also doesn’t do well in households with small pets that resemble prey.


Fox terriers need plenty of exercise

fox terrier playing with a stick

As a working breed, fox terriers are extremely active dogs. The ideal owner for these pups is one willing to provide them with lots of walks and playtime; fox terriers love to play and need around one hour of exercise per day.

Without this, owners may see an increase in digging, chewing, and nuisance barking. This breed is not well-suited to apartment life. Fox terriers benefit from having access to a secure yard where they can run off their excess energy.


They are hardy, healthy dogs

fox terrier dog standing in a pond

Fox terriers have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, and there are no significant health issues with this breed. Although, as terriers, they are prone to allergies that can cause dry, flaky, itchy skin.

Another potential problem is that these dogs love to eat. They can quickly become overweight if their diet is not monitored and if they don’t receive enough exercise.


Fox terriers make very friendly and affectionate pets.

Fox terriers are devoted companions, but they are also vivacious. They need a lot of attention and mental stimulation to keep them out of trouble. They can also be quite strong-willed and stubborn, which means they aren't ideal for first-time owners.

Their love of play makes them great family pets, and they get along well with children. However, they can be a little too boisterous for very small children. They can also be very protective of their food and toys and may nip if provoked.

Fox terrier cuddling with their owner avdeev007 / Getty Images


They are incredibly vigilant and a little bit scrappy

As is the case with most terrier breeds, fox terriers make great watchdogs. While they are friendly with most people, they will bark to alert their owners to the presence of strangers or anything unexpected near their home turf.

The fox terrier’s friendliness doesn’t always extend to other dogs. They will never hesitate to pick a fight with another dog, even when the other dog is much larger. Proper socialization from an early age will help curb this behavior.

Dog breed Fox Terrier in the park DevidDO / Getty Images


Their coats are pretty low maintenance

While there are some differences between the two breeds, on the whole, fox terriers are reasonably easy to care for. The smooth fox terrier’s short but dense coat requires weekly grooming, but they only need a bath once a month.

Wire fox terriers need slightly more regular brushing than their smooth-coated cousins. Some owners choose to have their hair clipped to make it even easier to maintain. If the dog is used for showing, then they will need their coat hand-stripped fairly regularly.

Dog breed smooth-haired fox terrier on open air DevidDO / Getty Images


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