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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
All guts, all glory: that could easily be the Fox Terrier motto. The Fox Terrier is an outgoing, inquisitive and active dog with an endless desire to be digging, barking and investigating.
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.
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.
The Fox Terrier is classically beautiful and appealing with a lot of history behind him. He has ridden to the hunt with kings, entertained the public in circuses and on film, and won more Best In Show awards at Westminster than any other breed.
Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers are classic breeds that have changed little over the centuries. From Colonel Thornton’s Pitch, back in 1790, to foundation dogs Old Jock and Belgrave Joe in Smooths and Meersbrook Bristles and Cackler of Notts in Wires, to representatives of the breed today, the two breeds look much the same.
Smooth Fox Terriers probably descended from a blend of smoothcoated black and tan terriers, Bull Terriers, Greyhounds, and Beagles. The ancestors of the Wires were probably rough-coated black and tan terriers from Wales, Derbyshire, and Durham.
The Fox Terrier’s original purpose was to ride in a saddlebag or box as hunters rode to hounds. When the fox was run to ground, the Fox Terriers were released to rout him out.
The modern Fox Terrier began to take shape in the late 18th century. By the 19th century, the dogs had a uniform look. In 1876, England’s Fox Terrier Club was formed. At that time, the Wire and the Smooth, which had previously been considered one breed with two varieties, were separated into two registries with two breed standards. They were popular dogs; one show in the 1870s had an entry of 276 Fox Terriers.
In the United States, the American Fox Terrier Club, which was formed in 1885, became the first specialty club to become a member of the American Kennel Club, which had formed the previous year. For a century afterward, Fox Terriers in the United States were considered a single breed with two varieties. It wasn’t until 1985 that separate standards for the breeds went into effect. The Smooth Fox Terrier is currently ranked 110th among the breeds registered by the AKC, down from 93rd a decade ago. The Wire is more popular, ranking 97th, but still down from 68th in 2000.
Whatever his coat type, the Fox Terrier has a regal bearing with self-confidence to spare. He’s outgoing, inquisitive and highly active. A Fox Terrier is always in the moment, enjoying every bit of it. Both Wire and Smooth have similar temperaments, but expect the Wire to be a bit more spirited and sharp.
His alert nature and acute hearing make the Fox Terrier a super watchdog, and you’ll never have to worry about mice or other vermin invading your home -- a Fox Terrier will dispatch them with ease and style. He’ll treat cats the same way if given half a chance, so don’t get one if you have friends of the feline persuasion. Pet birds and pocket pets such as hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs will also be at risk. He might get along with any or all of these pets if he is raised with them, but be smart and don’t ever leave them together unsupervised.
The Fox Terrier’s heritage is that of an independent hunter, so he definitely has a mind of his own. When he has you trained just the way he wants, or even if he doesn’t, he is affectionate and sociable.
Fox Terriers excel at all kinds of activities and dog sports. You will find them starring in the agility and obedience rings; working as search and rescue, drug detection or service dogs; and performing on films, TV shows, commercials and even in circuses. This is a dog who loves the spotlight. Teach him tricks and train him to be a therapy dog. With his cheerful and funny personality, he’s sure to bring smiles and laughs wherever he goes. Got a horse? He’ll run alongside you as you ride, capable of going for miles. At the end of the day, he’s happy to snuggle with you on the sofa or keep you warm in bed.
In the right home — that is, with people who have a strong sense of humor and children who are old enough to play with — the Fox Terrier can be the ideal family dog. He loves people and can adapt to any routine.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Train this breed with positive reinforcement techniques: praise, play and treats. Keep training sessions short and fun, and avoid a lot of repetition. The Fox Terrier gets bored easily. Always be firm and consistent, though, or he’ll get the idea that he can get away with things.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Fox Terrier, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Fox Terriers are prone to certain health problems. They include Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, luxating patellas, allergies, congenital heart conditions, eye abnormalities, hearing loss, myasthenia gravis and seizure disorders.
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is a condition that is assumed to involve a reduced blood supply to the head of the thigh bone, which in turn causes it to become deformed. The first sign of this disease is limping, which usually appears when the puppy is five to eight months old. Treatment is surgical removal of the head of the leg bone, after which the puppy will have a relatively normal life.
When the kneecap easily slips out of place, a dog is said to have luxating patellas. This is a common condition in small dogs and can range from mild to severe. Severe cases can be corrected with surgery. Make sure your puppy's breeder has obtained Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certification of the hips 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 regularly, 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.
If a breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
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).
Smooth Fox Terriers 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 can be congenital, which means the dogs are born with it.
The first symptoms of myasthenia gravis are usually muscular weakness, and regurgitation, often caused by an enlarged esophagus. Dogs that regurgitate their food can inadvertently 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.
Another condition that can affect the Fox Terriers is epilepsy. There is no genetic screening test for this condition.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Fox Terrier at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Fox Terrier comes in a smooth coat and a wire coat. The Smooth has a soft undercoat and a straight, flat, smooth topcoat with a hard texture. The Wire also has a double coat, but his topcoat is thick and harsh to the touch.
The smooth coat needs a minimum of grooming – just a quick brushing with a rubber hound glove or curry brush a couple of times a week to keep shedding under control. He’ll shed a little year-round and go through a seasonal shed in spring and fall. Other than that, just keep his ears clean and his nails trimmed. He's definitely meant to be a no-fuss dog. Baths are rarely necessary. Just wipe the coat down once in a while with a damp chamois (don’t use one that has been treated with chemicals).
The wire coat must be stripped -- plucked by hand or with a special stripping implement twice a year -- or clipped regularly. A stripped coat retains its characteristic hard texture, but a clipped coat becomes soft. Clipping also affects the coat’s color. Clipping is easier, but if you like the hard texture, you’ll need to learn how to strip the dog. Between trims or stripping, keep the coat neat with regular brushing and combing. An occasional bath doesn’t go amiss.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder 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 is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Fox Terrier and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the American Fox Terrier Club. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the AFTC’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to help rehome dogs if the buyer cannot keep the dog at any time in his life.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the AFTC and the American Kennel Club. You should also remember that buying a puppy from one of those “instant pet” websites leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Many reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Fox Terrier puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Fox Terrier might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Fox Terrier in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Fox Terriers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Fox Terrier. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Fox Terriers love all Fox Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The America Fox Terrier Club’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Bulldog rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Fox Terrier home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Fox Terrier, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Fox Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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