Toy Fox Terrier
This all-American breed is a diminutive yet fun-loving companion.
- Dog Breed Group
- Companion Dogs
- 8 inches to 11 inches tall at the shoulder
- 3 to 7 pounds
- Life Span
- 13 to 14 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
See All Characteristic Ratings
Originally created as smaller versions of their larger Smooth Fox Terrier ancestors, Toy Fox Terriers have been used for a variety of tasks, serving as ratters on farms and as hunters of small game such as squirrel. They have been successful circus dogs and performers and their intelligence helps them to do well in obedience and agility competitions. Their most important purpose, however, is to be a loyal, loving, and devoted companion that amuses and entertains their families.
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The Toy Fox Terrier (TFT) was developed in the United States, making him one of only a few breeds that are truly "All American." He was created from small Smooth Fox Terriers bred with several toy breeds--including Chihuahuas and Manchester Terriers--to set breed size. He's a true terrier, with fire, heart and spirit to go out in the field hunting squirrel, and a true toy dog, a diminutive, loving companion who will curl up on the sofa and watch TV with his people.
Toy Fox Terriers are highly intelligent. They housetrain easily as puppies and their small size makes them suited to using a canine litter box or housetraining pad. Obedience and other canine activities come easily to them as well, perhaps a vestige of their heritage. TFTs did acrobatics, walked tightropes and performed other circus dog tricks in the small dog and pony shows that once traveled the country. Today, they are shown in conformation and do quite well in obedience and agility trials, rally, and flyball.
A hardy breed, Toy Fox Terriers can be expected to live into their teens, remaining active into old age.
Toy Fox Terriers are extremely loyal to and protective of their family. They make excellent watchdogs with a large bark that belies their size. They are persistent in their protection efforts, making smart burglars decide to take on a less noisy target.
This dog bonds tightly with his family and demands to be included in all activities. Sometimes you might question whether the Toy Fox Terrier considers himself a dog. He has abundant energy and is eager to please, but has a mind of his own that makes him insist on rights and privileges given to other family members, such as sleeping on the bed.
His intense loyalty to his family can make him aloof with strangers, but socialization and training to accept strangers should help your dog to realize there is no danger from visitors you allow in your home.
The Toy Fox Terrier until recently had been only a recognized breed in the United Kennel Club (UKC), but the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) have now granted registration and full show status to the breed. This will give the TFT many more opportunities to gain fans and admirers for his lively disposition, loyalty, spirit, and intelligence, not to mention his sleek good looks. People who have been owned by this breed feel that their family is not complete without one around.
- The Toy Fox Terrier is not a suitable companion for all children. While a sturdy little dog, they cannot tolerate excessive rough handling, especially as they are prone to broken legs.
- Terrier instinct may cause it to chase small animals, and thereby will need close supervision if outdoors off-leash with out a fence. Your dog should never be off-leash in an area where you cannot contain him should the need arise.
- Being terriers they may not do well with smaller pets in the household such as hamsters, mice and gerbils.
- They are a small dog but do not realize this; they sometimes challenge other dogs much larger than themselves. Supervised interaction with larger dogs is advisable.
- Beneath the cute exterior of your TFT puppy can reside the heart of a tyrant. Be sure to train your puppy early to be a responsible and well-behaved member of your family.
- Most Toy Fox Terriers would prefer to share your bed with you. However, jumping from such heights, especially when a puppy, can cause broken bones. Teaching your TFT to sleep in his own bed on the floor is a safer route.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Smooth Fox Terrier had always been widely divergent in size, with some dogs weighing about 20 pounds while others were as small as 7 pounds. These runts were often more prized than the larger dogs as they seemed to be feistier and more willing to jump into the fray whether it be ratting, hunting other game or defending the homestead.
The United Kennel Club began to register Smooth Fox Terriers in 1912. The smaller dogs were registered along with the larger ones as Smooth Fox Terriers. In the mid- 1920s, fanciers of the smaller dogs petitioned the UKC to make the smaller dogs a separate breed, which was finally accomplished in 1936. The breed was registered as the Toy Fox Terrier. The TFT was granted American Kennel Club recognition in 2003.
For many years there was a debate among breeders regarding size, some wanted a larger dog; others wanted the dog to remain a toy. Some fanciers introduced Toy Manchester and Chihuahua blood into the breed to help fix the size.
This move upset other breeders who did not want the contamination of other breeds in the gene pool. The UKC agreed that the dog should remain a toy and that other breeds should not be introduced into the gene pool. The Toy Fox Terrier stud book was closed by the UKC on August 31, 1960 so no more crossing of breeds could be done.
SizeThe AKC standard defines size by height. Height should be between 8.5 to 11.5 inches with 9 to 11 inches preferred. Weight ranges from about 3.5 to 7 pounds.
Loyal, protective, and smart, the TFT loves his people and wants to be involved in everything they do. He's a superb watchdog and will alert you to the approach of guests and strangers, as well as to all the goings-on in the neighborhood. Personalities vary, ranging from couch potato to live wire.
As with every dog, the TFT needs early socialization--exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences--when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your TFT puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Toy Fox Terriers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all TFTs will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In TFTs, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Demodectic Mange: This is a skin disease caused by a microscopic parasitic mite. All dogs have Demodectic mites in small numbers in their hair follicles. In some dogs, the mites proliferate and large numbers inhabit the hair and skin causing the dog to have a moth eaten appearance. Demodectic mange may be localized in one or two spots or generalized over the entire body. Juvenile onset Demodicosis generally occurs in dogs 3 to 13 months of age. The first sign is a thinning of the hair around the eyelids, lips, corners of the mouth and the front legs. It is sometimes confused with ringworm. Adult onset Demodicosis occurs in dogs more than 5 years old and can be associated with internal disease or cancer.
- Patellar Luxation: This is a dislocation of the kneecap (patella). It may dislocate to the inside (medial) or the outside (lateral) of the leg or it may go both directions. It can be congenital (present at birth) or caused by an injury. Patellar luxation can be mild with few or no symptoms or severe with intense pain and limping.
- Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: Generally a disease of small breeds, it can be confused with hip dysplasia. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease is due to aseptic death of the head of the femur. This causes wearing and promotes arthritic changes, at which point it can be difficult to distinguish if the damage was due to hip dysplasia or Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease.
- Von Willebrand's Disease (VWD): Canine von Willebrand's Disease is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder. Affected dogs are more likely to bleed abnormally, similar to symptoms of hemophilia. This can lead to life threatening situations in case of accidental injury, spaying, or neutering. Because it is a recessive genetic disorder, carriers will not show signs of the disease but if bred to another carrier will pass the disorder to their offspring.
- Congenital Hypothyroidism with Goiter (CHG): Affected puppies do not move around as much as normal pups, and their head may appear large in comparison with their body. If they survive as long as three weeks, the eyes do not open, the ear canal remains very small, and the hair coat is abnormally bristly. By two weeks of age, a swelling on the underside of the neck can be felt and it continues to enlarge. Delay in lengthening of bones in legs, spine and face causes dwarfism. Eventually, even with treatment, the goiter constricts the airway. Affected puppies usually die or are euthanized by the age of 3 weeks. Carrier status does not affect the pet that is spayed/neutered. It is only when breeding that carrier dogs pass the disease to their puppies.
Toy Fox Terriers do well in smaller living spaces such as apartments. They need little space to exercise adequately. They are definitely housedogs; they do not have the coat to live outdoors.
That said, they love to explore the outdoors but should be leashed or properly supervised to prevent them getting into trouble. Their big dog attitude can often cause them to attempt to tangle with animals much larger than themselves.
Recommended daily amount: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference--the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
For more on feeding your Toy Fox Terrier, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat, Color and GroomingThe coat of a Toy Fox Terrier is short, fine and smooth, slightly longer at the ruff. Generally, the body of a TFT should be mostly white. He comes in several color combinations:
- Tricolor: mostly black head, tan markings on cheeks, lips, and eye dots, body over fifty percent white with or without black markings.
- White and Tan: mostly tan head, body over fifty percent white with or without tan markings.
- White and black: mostly black head, body over fifty percent white with black markings.
- White, chocolate and tan: (allowed in AKC and CKC, not UKC) mostly chocolate head, tan markings on cheeks, lips and eye dots. Body is over fifty percent white with or without chocolate body spots.
Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding--and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you're not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your TFT to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently--dogs are touchy about their feet--and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children and other pets
They can be active, fun loving companions for older children, but like most toy breeds, they are not recommended playmates for very young children. Their small size, tendency to break bones easily, and terrier tenacity can make a bad combination with very young children.
They get along well with other dogs and cats in their home, although they may be territorial toward strange dogs passing or approaching their property.
Toy Fox Terriers are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many TFTs in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a TFT rescue.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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