Toy Fox Terrier: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Toy Fox Terrier standing in a field

Sergey / Getty Images

The Toy Fox Terrier is native to North America and came about after breeders crossed small Smooth Fox Terriers with various toy dogs. These little dogs have big personalities and are playful, intelligent and spunky.

Breed Overview

Group: Toy

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 Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Toy Fox Terrier

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

The Toy Fox Terrier is super smart, confident, affectionate and lively. Although they are small, you will need to be prepared for their big personalities, that can sometimes make them a bit of a challenge too.

The breed tends to form very strong bonds with their family. They are fun-loving and often make eager playmates for respectful children. They can also be fiercely loyal and often make excellent watchdogs. You just have to watch that their alert barking doesn't get out of control; otherwise, you could have some rather frustrated neighbours.

Their protective instincts can also turn into guarding behaviors if these are encouraged too much. Making sure they have early, appropriate and ongoing socialization is a good idea.

Toy Fox Terriers are intelligent and energetic and, while very affectionate, they aren't known for being lapdogs.

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. They will enjoy accompanying you on hikes and can make great agility competitors. There are a number of champion Toy Fox Terriers in various dog sports.

Don't forget to have plenty of enrichment opportunities for them around the home too. They are playful, wily and full of beans, and making sure they have a good selection of interactive treat toys will be important. They will likely find their own, much less appropriate ways of keeping themselves entertained otherwise.

Toy Fox Terriers don't have as much of a stubborn and willful streak as some of their terrier relatives. They tend to be eager to please and this, combined with how clever they are, means they respond really well to training using reward-based methods. They tend to pick up new things quickly and are experts when it comes to learning fun tricks.

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.

When out on walks, if they see a squirrel or a rabbit, it will be hard to prevent them from giving chase. 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 the temptations are too high.

The breed doesn't have a high maintenance grooming regime. Their smooth, short coat only sheds moderately, and will just need a weekly brush out to remove dead hairs and keep it looking shiny and healthy.

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: PLL 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: 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 medication. The dog will need to be on meds for the rest of their life.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, you should feed your Toy Fox Terrier a high-quality and 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 in the United States, and it can lead to a host of more serious health problems.

Pros
  • Fun-loving and playful

  • Incredibly loyal and affectionate

  • Smart and easy to train

Cons
  • Can have a high-prey drive

  • Can be vocal

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

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.

A good place to start your research would be through the American Toy Fox Terrier Club.

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 a breed-specific rescue like Toy Fox Terrier Rescue.

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.