Wire Fox Terrier

An Excellent Pet with a Wonderfully Cheerful and Happy Personality

Wire Fox Terrier

When Properly Disciplined, the Wire Fox Terrier is an Excellent Pet with a Wonderfully Cheerful and Happy Personality.

Small and sturdy, very intelligent and loving, the Wire Fox Terrier needs lots of attention and stimulation to exhaust its abundant level of energy. Originally, the Wire Fox Terrier dog was developed by fox hunters in England, and is considered a descendent of a rough-coated, black-and-tan working Terrier that is now extinct. That dog came from Derbyshire, Durham and Wales, and the Wire Fox Terrier, displays many of its traits.

Although Queen Victoria owned one as did her son, King Edward VII, the Wire Fox Terrier didn't become a family pet to any great degree until the 1930s. Then, it was featured in the "Thin Man" series of feature films, popularized by a Wire Fox Terrier named Asta. (Amusingly, this dog’s original name was Skippy until he rose to Hollywood fame.)

Today's Wire Fox Terrier puppies still have strong hunting instincts, and you'll need to keep a close eye on your pet, since these instincts can result in difficult times for friends and neighbors. Prone to taunting and attacking other animals, your dog will require extremely firm boundaries and strict discipline to become well-behaved. However, its strong personality and sturdy physique will contribute to a long, active life.


The Wire Fox Terrier was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. At first, the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier were shown as the same breed, simply as two different varieties. It took almost a full century to pass before the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier acquired separate standards. The two breeds were recognized as fully distinct as of June 1, 1985.

The Wire Fox Terrier probably came from the rough-coated, black-and-tan working Terriers that were prevalent in Derbyshire, Durham and Wales in the 17th century. The old rough-coated, black-and-tan working Terriers are now extinct. The Smooth Fox Terrier was first to be shown, and the Wire Fox Terrier was extensively crossbred with the Smooth Fox Terrier to give the Wire Fox Terrier its modern appearance with a largely white coat, and a cleaner head and outline. However, today, crossbreeding between the two breeds is now discouraged and nearly discontinued.

With heightened intelligence and sturdy constitution, the Wire Fox Terrier is considered an excellent "working dog." Although it has been historically used to help retrieve small game, this breed is so smart that it can easily learn to take sophisticated commands, giving it success in the entertainment industry. Painter Vincent van Gogh featured a friend's Wire Fox Terrier in his painting Paul, Marcella and Van Gogh. And many authors have showcased this dog as well.

Currently a member of the AKC Terrier group, the Wire Fox Terrier ranks 93rd in overall popularity out of a total of some 178 registered breeds.


Hardy and well-coordinated, this small dog weighs between 15 and 21 pounds, and stands about 15 inches at the shoulder. It has a rough "broken" coat that's normally white with brown and/or black markings on the body, face and ears. There may also be a black and/or brown saddle-shaped pattern on the body, as well as other spots of color on the body. The Wire Fox Terrier has a long head for its body, but generally, it is well proportioned. The eyes are keen and alert, small, deep set, and rather dark. They are very intelligent and alert, though, as this dog is always keenly aware of its surroundings. They shed little (not at all if the coats are stripped) which makes them great for homes where hair is an issue for the 'homemaker'!

Personality and Temperament

The Wire Fox Terrier ranks as an excellent family dog if you can give your pet the leadership and firm discipline it absolutely requires. The Wire Fox Terrier has an unfortunate reputation as a "misbehaving" dog, when in fact, it is not. Rather, its strong instincts as a prey animal erupt in combative behavior. It is known to attack other pets, for example, and to try to establish dominance over them. It can indeed cause significant harm to other pets if not given proper guidance.

If that sounds harsh, take heart. While some adoptive owners have returned Wire Fox Terrier puppies because they failed to realize the need for proper training, with dedication and proactive awareness, your efforts will be amply rewarded. When properly socialized and well-disciplined, the Wire Fox Terrier is an outstanding pet who will show you unmitigated loyalty, enthusiasm and love along with a wonderfully cheerful and happy personality. Your pet will need a lot of physical and mental stimulation, and will absolutely need you to be in charge at all times. Frisky and playful, your new pet can be wonderful for children as long as you supervise your pet's instinctive behaviors properly and make sure that it knows its boundaries.

Small Dog Syndrome

Finally, it's important to note that Wire Fox Terrier puppies, like other small dogs, can develop Small Dog Syndrome if you allow your pet to “rule the roost,” or tyrannize your household. Little dogs who are treated like children instead of like pets and who are allowed to be "in charge" will think that they are the alpha dog in the family and will therefore defend their position judiciously. They may become aggressive, snappish, even biting children and adults. Remember, your pet is never truly happy without a set of clear guidelines about acceptable behavior from you. Therefore, you will need to be the "alpha dog" in your family. If you are, your pet will be truly happy and content.

Proper Environment

This is not a pet that should be left alone. This dog needs nearly constant companionship to discourage misbehavior. Influenced by the strong hunting instincts of its predecessors, this breed can be a danger to other animals (especially small animals like birds, rabbits, and pet rodents). Always vying to establish dominance over other animals, this little dog may try to injure your other cats or dogs if you have not specifically stymied such actions from an early age. However, if you properly socialize your puppy from the time you bring him or her home, your pet will get along very well with other dogs or cats, or other large animals in the family. Small animals like rabbits, birds, or pet rodents will always remain threatened, since you cannot behaviorally force your pet to tolerate being around its natural prey.

It's important that your loving, cheerful and well-socialized pet still be walked on a leash and not allowed to roam. This accomplishes two things. Number one, it establishes you as pack leader, and number two, it thwarts your pet's natural instinct to explore its environment.


The Wire Fox Terrier is an exceedingly healthy little dog, and will retain its loving, cheerful, bold, brave, and playful personality well into old age. These dogs live to be about 12 to 15 years of age, although they can be prone to epilepsy, in addition to cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and skin allergies.


Although Wire Fox Terrier puppies that are shown are hand-stripped several times a year to preserve the colors and sheen of the fur, normal grooming only requires simply clipping on a similar schedule. They shed little (not at all if the coats are stripped) which solves any excessive hair issues for sensitive owners.

Questions people often ask about Wire Fox Terriers...

  • +Does the Wire Fox Terrier bark a lot?

  • +Is the Wire Fox Terrier easy to train?

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