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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
An American-bred toy dog, the TFT was created to keep farms free of rats and other small vermin. He’s playful, silly, and fearless, but he also has a terrier temperament, which is not always easy to live with. He’s a super watchdog and has a short coat that’s easy to groom.
Toy Fox Terriers are active and agile. They have even been known to climb trees in pursuit of squirrels.
Life is merrier with a Toy Fox Terrier. That sentiment neatly sums up the entertainment and companionship value of this smaller version of the Smooth Fox Terrier. The TFT comes in a range of personalities, from live wire to couch potato, and life with him is never dull. Active, intelligent, and clever, he doesn’t want to miss out on anything exciting. This makes him a great companion, but it also means he can become bored and destructive when no one is home to keep him entertained. Despite his small size, this dog needs plenty of training and exercise, plus a dog-proof home, to keep him out of trouble.
Like all terriers, he has an endless desire to be digging, barking, and investigating. The TFT frequently becomes a nuisance barker, and he can be aggressive towards other dogs, no matter what their size. When it comes to encounters with larger dogs, he must be protected from himself. His territoriality and noise level make him a good watchdog, however.
Agile and athletic, the TFT excels at dog sports, especially agility, flyball, and rally. At night, expect to find the TFT in bed with you, possibly inside your pillowcase.
He’s smart and learns quickly, but he can also be stubborn and easily bored. Keep training sessions short and fun or he’ll rapidly lose interest. And expect him to put his own spin on whatever you’re trying to teach.
Unlike many toy breeds, he is generally easy to housetrain, especially if provided with a litter box or housetraining pad. Males don’t have very good aim, so if you box-train them, be sure to choose a box with high sides.
Because he’s small, the TFT fits well in any home, but if you live in an apartment or condo, his noisy nature and high activity level should give you pause if you won’t be home during the day to keep him entertained. Toy Fox Terriers love attention and do best with people who can spend a significant amount of time with them daily.
They are perfect for families with older children and other pets, but because of their small size most breeders won’t place them in homes with young children. They’re so squirmy that hanging onto them can be a handful even for adults.
The TFT is thin-skinned and likes his comforts. He may need a sweater to keep him warm in cool or cold climates. The satiny smooth coat is easy to groom with a quick weekly brushing to remove dead hairs. He also needs regular nail trimming, ear cleaning and dental hygiene — always important with toy breeds — plus the occasional bath if he rolls in something stinky.
Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Toy Fox Terrier needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy TFT who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
This small American-bred dog has been around for the better part of a century. He was first known as a little farm dog, whose job it was to clear rats and other small vermin from barns and granaries.
The Toy Fox Terrier was developed by breeding small Smooth Fox Terriers with several toy breeds, including the Chihuahua and Manchester Terrier. Some of the Chihuahua and Manchester Terrier traits did not fit with the type that the developers of the breed were trying to achieve, so after the initial crosses to set the size for the new breed, later breedings involved only smaller Smooth Fox Terriers.
The United Kennel Club registered its first Toy Fox Terrier in 1936, but the breed didn’t gain American Kennel Club recognition until 2003. The TFT ranks 99th among the breeds registered by the AKC, and his size and temperament are sure to bring him greater popularity in the future.
Life with a TFT is dynamite. The breed is a perfect blend of terrier and toy, combining terrier exuberance and hunting ability with the small size and more compliant, lap-loving characteristics of toy dogs. They’ll fetch almost anything that can be thrown, yet love nothing better than to sit with their people and relax.
Toy Fox Terriers come in a range of personalities, from live wire to couch potato. The personality is often fully formed and obvious by 12 weeks of age, so be sure the personality of the puppy you like will fit well in your household
They do well with older children and other pets, but be cautious when letting small children handle a TFT. They are squirmy and can be difficult even for adults to hold onto. A TFT will do best in a family where children are five years or older. Younger children may rush at the dog and scare him, causing him to hurt himself or the child.
Plenty of TFTs live with cats, sometimes cats that are two or three times their size, and they get along beautifully with them. It’s not unusual to see them sleeping and playing together.
Once a TFT has worn you out by playing and hunting and fetching, he’ll curl up in your lap and go to sleep. And be prepared to share your furniture with a Toy Fox Terrier. He’ll be up in your recliner with you or sleeping under the covers of your bed, sometimes wriggling all the way into the pillowcase.
For the most part, housetraining TFT is easy, which is not always the case with toy breeds. Females, especially, take well to using a litter box or housetraining pad. Males have a little more difficulty hitting their mark, so to speak, so they do better with a pan that has high sides.
Their size makes Toy Fox Terriers suited to most homes, although their noisy nature and high activity level should serve as a caution to people in apartments or condos who aren’t home during the day to keep them entertained. This is a breed that loves attention and exists to be a companion, so it does best with people who can spend a significant amount of time with it daily.
Like every breed, TFTs have drawbacks. His terrier heritage can make him just a wee bit stubborn. Also in typical terrier fashion, TFTs tend to be active and noisy, willing and able to express an opinion about everything, especially if other dogs are passing by. That territoriality, however, makes them excellent watchdogs, albeit watchdogs that are a little too willing to take on all comers, regardless of size.
A TFT is smart and can learn anything in record time, but he gets bored easily and isn’t big on repetition. Keep training sessions fun and interesting, or he’ll start adding his own spin to the behaviors you’re trying to teach.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 10 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is six 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.
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 Toy 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.
The Toy Fox Terrier is a fairly healthy breed, but is not free of genetic diseases. For that reason, make sure your puppy’s parents have been screened for those conditions that have a genetic test. The breeder should be able to provide Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) evaluation of the parents for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Dogs with this condition have reduced blood supply to the head of the rear leg bone, which causes it to degrade. It usually shows up in puppies, and the first sign is limping. It can be treated with surgery, so the sooner it’s caught and treated, the greater the chances the dog will have a full recovery.
Toy Fox Terriers can be affected by, or carry, congenital hypothyroidism with goiter, a disease of the thyroid gland. Severely affected puppies do not survive past a few weeks. A DNA test can identify carriers of CHG when they are as young as 2 weeks old. Reputable breeders have all of their breeding stock tested and either don’t breed carriers or don’t breed two carriers together. Through this selective breeding, the incidence of CHG should decrease and may even be eliminated in the future. If you intend to spay or neuter your Toy Fox Terrier, carrier status will not affect their health, but make sure your puppy’s breeder has screened her dogs for the condition. If you are buying your puppy as a breeding prospect, it is critical that you screen him or her for the condition as well.
The kneecaps of some Toy Fox Terriers can very easily become displaced, a defect known as luxating patellas. Ask your veterinarian to examine your dog’s knees regularly, especially if you notice him limping or “hopping” while running. Your puppy’s breeder should also have OFA clearance of the parents for knee health.
The canine bleeding disorder known as von Willebrand’s disease can cause life-threatening loss of blood. Dogs can be carriers of the disease and yet not have it themselves, so it’s essential that your puppy’s breeder test both parents for the condition. This test can be done by any veterinarian, and the results registered with OFA.
Toy Fox Terriers can also have an eye condition called primary lens luxation in which the lens of the eye slips out of place. The breeder should be able to show you certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that both of a pup’s parents have healthy eyes.
If the breeder you’re dealing with is a good one, she’ll be willing and 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.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard 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 these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
If the breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been vet checked, or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
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.
Not every TFT visit to the vet is for a genetic disorder. TFTs are prone to certain skin allergies. There’s also a frequent occurrence of broken bones in young puppies, not surprising in this small, active breed.
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 Toy Fox Terrier at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of diet and exercise to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
All it takes to groom a Toy Fox Terrier is a lick and a promise. Give his short coat a quick brushing once a week and you’re done. Baths are needed only rarely, maybe after he’s rolled in something stinky. He sheds a little, but he’s so small that the amount of hair floating around is manageable.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Small breeds are prone to periodontal disease, so brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste 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 a great way to find 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 possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than 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. And remember that breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical.
Look for more information about the TFT and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the American Toy Fox Terrier Club. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ATFTC’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to take back or help rehome any dog that the buyer can’t keep.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it 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.
Lots of 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. Quickie online purchases 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 TFT 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.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult TFTmight 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 TFTmay 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 can have you searching for a Toy 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 TFTs 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 TFT. 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 Toy Fox Terriers love all Toy Fox Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The American Toy Fox Terrier Club can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other TFTrescues 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 TFThome for a trial 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 pup. 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 Toy 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, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Toy 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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