Toy Fox Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Toy Fox Terrier standing in a field

Sergey / Getty Images

The toy fox terrier is a small dog breed native to North America, known for its athletic body, predominantly white glossy coat, and large erect V-shaped ears. This tiny and playful package comes with a huge personality. The breed was developed when breeders crossed small smooth fox terriers with various toy dogs.

Breed Overview


HEIGHT: 8.5 to 11.5 inches

WEIGHT: 4 to 7 pounds

COAT: Smooth, shiny, and fine single coat

COAT COLOR: Black, white and tan, or white and tan, or white and black; spots and ticking can sometimes be found on the body

LIFE SPAN: 13 to 15 years

TEMPERAMENT: Playful, friendly, loyal, intelligent, alert, spirited


ORIGIN: United States

Characteristics of the Toy Fox Terrier

These dogs tend to form very strong bonds with their families. They are fun-loving and often make eager and playful companions for respectful, but often older children. They can also be fiercely loyal and make excellent watchdogs. Watch for uncontrolled alert barking or you could have some frustrated neighbors. Toy fox terriers are intelligent and energetic and, while very affectionate, they aren't known for being lapdogs.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly  Medium
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  High
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Toy Fox Terrier

The toy fox terrier is a true American. They were first developed in the late 19th and early 20th century when breeders of smooth fox terriers in the United States crossed them with toy breeds. These included Chihuahuas, miniature pinschers, Manchester terriers, and Italian greyhounds.

The original fox terriers were introduced in England to force foxes out of their dens to allow the hunt to start their chase. They were known for being brave, determined, and athletic.

Breeders of the toy fox terrier wanted a smaller dog with similar characteristics. These little dogs would still be ferocious ratters around farms and homesteads but would have a more gentle disposition than their bigger relatives.

Their size, smarts, and agility meant they also became popular additions in traveling circuses, and could often be found on the arm of a clown, performing tricks for a captivated audience. This also helped endear them to a wider audience.

The United Kennel Club recognized toy fox terriers in 1936, but the American Kennel Club didn't give them official full breed status until 2003.

Toy Fox Terrier Care

Toy fox terriers are super smart, confident, affectionate, and lively. Although they are small, they will always let you know when they're in the room, and that energy can sometimes make them a bit of a challenge. They are playful, wily, and full of beans, so making sure they have a good selection of enrichment activities and interactive toys will be essential. These dogs will likely find their own, much less appropriate ways of keeping themselves entertained otherwise.


You will need to make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise; a quick walk around the block isn't enough for these spritely and adaptable characters. Instead, a vigorous 30-minute walk every day will burn off excess energy. This dog will enjoy accompanying you on hikes and can make a great agility competitor. There are a number of champion toy fox terriers in various dog sports.


The breed has a low-maintenance and basic grooming regime. The dog's smooth, short coat only sheds moderately and will need weekly brushing to remove dead hairs and keep it looking shiny and healthy. As with all dogs, it's important to brush your terrier's teeth to prevent dental disease.


Toy fox terriers don't have as much of a stubborn and willful streak as some of their terrier relatives. These intelligent little creatures are eager to please which means they respond well to training using reward-based methods. They also love to learn fun tricks, which will keep them happily occupied.

You will have to work hard on achieving a rock-solid recall around distractions, and they may even need to stay on the leash in certain environments where there's too much temptation to chase small animals like squirrels or rabbits.

It will be best to give your terrier early, appropriate, and ongoing socialization. If you don't, the dog will become too protective and it will become more of a guard dog than a chipper playmate.

Two young Toy Fox Terriers
Farinosa / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Toy fox terriers are generally considered to be robust little dogs that can live a long and healthy life. As with any breed, however, they can be prone to certain inheritable conditions.

By finding a reputable breeder that performs the recommended health checks on prospective parents, you can reduce the risk of some of these conditions developing.

Some of the health problems they can be prone to include:

  • Primary Lens Luxation: This condition causes the lens of the eye to detach and move around. It can cause pain and even lead to blindness. Treatment will vary depending on how severe the case is. Removal of the eye is sometimes required.
  • Demodectic Mange: Demodex mites are present on all dogs in small numbers. In some young dogs, or adults with a compromised immune system, the number of mites will proliferate excessively, and this can lead to hair loss, skin irritation, itching, and even infection. Puppies can grow out of it, but often establishing any underlying condition will also be required along with treatment of the mange itself.
  • Joint Problems: Toy fox terriers can suffer from joint problems, including Patellar Luxation (a slipped knee) and Legg-Calve-Perthes (a degenerative hip condition).
  • Von Willebrand's disease: Dogs with this condition will have a problem with blood clotting effectively. Often owners will not be aware their dog has this until they have an injury or surgery and they bleed excessively. Transfusions may be required to replace the blood lost.
  • Hypothyroidism: Dogs with an underactive thyroid have a decreased metabolic rate. This can result in weight gain, hair loss, skin problems, and lethargy. Once diagnosed, it can usually be successfully treated with a lifetime medication.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, you should feed your toy fox terrier high-quality food and a properly portion-controlled diet. It can be tempting to spoil your dog with tasty treats and table scraps, but obesity is a major problem for dogs, and it can lead to a host of more serious health problems, such as diabetes.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Toy Fox Terrier

The importance of finding a good breeder when you are searching for a puppy can't be overstated. It means you will have a much better chance of having a healthy and well-socialized pup that has had the best start in life. Depending on the breeder, expect to pay between $600 to $1,200 for a toy fox terrier puppy.

Have you considered adopting a toy fox terrier or similar breed? Offering a forever home to a dog in need can be a hugely rewarding experience. There are lots of deserving terriers in shelters across the country, or you could reach out to breed-specific rescues.

Here are a few good places to start your research:

Toy Fox Terrier Overview

  • Fun-loving and playful

  • Incredibly loyal and affectionate

  • Smart and easy to train

  • Can have a high prey drive

  • Can be vocal

  • Not a lap-dog and needs lots of exercise and enrichment

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you are interested in dogs similar to the toy fox terrier you could also consider the following breeds:

There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there. By doing your research, you will find one that will be best suited to having a forever home with you.

  • Do toy fox terriers get along with cats?

    The breed has the typical high prey drive of the terriers. You will have to be careful about handling introductions with any cats living in the home, and they may not be best suited to living alongside small furries.

  • Is the toy fox terrier a good choice for a first-time dog owner?

    If you can keep up with a toy fox terrier's impulsive shenanigans and exercise requirements, it could be a good choice for a first-time dog owner. The small breed is also recommended for apartment living, but fair warning that you'll likely need to curb the barking, which can be loud coming from a tiny dog like this.

  • Why do toy fox terriers shake?

    Many dog breeds, including toy dogs like fox terriers and Chihuahuas, tend to shake when excited, anxious, or cold. It may be that the dog can't jump or run, so it trembles as a way to expel some of its energy. Short-term shaking in a dog may be normal; But if the shaking is starting to affect the dog's daily life, take it to the veterinarian to see if there's a medical reason for the shaking.

  • Is the toy fox terrier aggressive?

    This breed might only be aggressive towards other dogs. The toy fox terrier tends to think it can intimidate much larger dogs, and though it is comical to watch, you'll likely need to protect your tiny tyke from its own bluster, especially when in dog parks or out walking.