Wire Fox Terrier

Breed Group: Terrier

Temperament and Behavior

Wire Fox Terriers are feisty, curious, extremely active, and even more intense than its Smooth Fox Terrier brother. Their surprising energy level can overwhelm some people. They love to play, especially with a ball. Wire Fox Terriers were bred to hunt, so great care should be taken with small pets; those that are squeaky and run stand little chance around a one. They usually accept cats if raised with them, but the cat will likely get plenty of exercise. With other dogs, this daredevil with a peppery personality won’t back down from a challenge. In fact, he is frequently the one issuing it, especially with dogs his own size and sex. If not given the time and space to play and what they think is adequate affection from family members, they will likely show their mischievous side. They can be overly bold and sometimes need to be rescued from the consequences of their own impulsive behavior. With their high drive for action, Wire Fox Terriers need exercise every day. They enjoy a good play session or a long walk. Unlike some breeds, they will be happy to provide their own exercise in a large, fenced area which is required whenever a Fox Terrier is off their leash. But watch out, they can be escape artists digging under, jumping over, or squeezing through just about any fence opening. These dogs relish adventure and are sure to pursue one whenever they get or can make the opportunity. With keen vision and acute hearing, they can be counted on to issue a warning bark whenever something is amiss, or even if something isn’t amiss but they think it might be sometime in the future. This makes them a first-rate watchdog, but their barking can become excessive. However, he enjoys strangers almost as much as his own family, so he is not much of a guard dog. Like most terriers, he can be possessive of both food and toys.

Physical Characteristics

Wire Fox Terriers are small, agile, muscular dogs. They grow to about 16 inches tall and weigh about 18 pounds. Wire Fox Terriers have a dense wiry coat with a beard and heavy eyebrows. They shed less than their smooth coated brother but need brushed more frequently (at least twice a week) and clipped periodically. Their coat is mostly white with black or brown markings. They enjoy playing outside in any weather and even though they handle most temperatures well, a sweater is appreciated when cold.

Trainer's Notes

Not for a first-time owner or trainer, their training is never easy; in fact, Wire Fox Terriers are among the most difficult dogs to train. They are intelligent and willing, but their energy, curiosity, and independence make it a challenge to keep them focused and their stubborn streak must be finessed in order to avoid a contest of wills. The best way to train them is to have short, fun sessions. Finding an activity, like agility, can help to focus these energetic dogs.

Photo © by State Farm available under the CC SA-BY 2.0
Wire Fox Terrier

Wire Fox Terrier


Wire Fox Terriers are a relatively healthy breed. Not quite 1 dogs in 10 are affected by Hip Dysplasia. Legg-Perthes, and the eye problems of Distichiasis, Cataracts, and Lens Luxation and shoulder dislocation complete the most often seen issues with the breed. They typically live into their mid-teens.


Asta from The Thin Man helped greatly increase the popularity of Wire Fox Terriers in the U.S. in the thirties and forties. Today, they are less popular with about 1,000 dogs registered with the American Kennel Club in a typical year ranking them 76th on the AKC’s list of most popular dog breeds.

Breed History

Some believe the Wire Fox Terrier has roots different from his smooth coated brother. Those holding this position believe the Wire Fox Terrier was developed from the wire-coated Black and Tan Terrier of Wales. In any event, the two types of dogs were bred for similar purposes. They ran along on foxhunts and flushed foxes from their hiding places. Hunters preferred mostly white dogs, so they were easily distinguishable from prey. Although at one time the smooth and wire-haired varieties were bred together, the practice had long since ceased when The American Kennel Club classified the two different Fox Terrier breeds as distinct in 1985.

Additional Information

Sometimes people choose the smaller Fox Terrier with the belief they are less excitable and less of a training challenge than the larger Airedale, Kerry Blue, or Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers. However this is a misconception. The larger terriers were bred to work more closely with people than the smaller terriers, which were originally bred to work independently underground. The National (US) Breed Club is the American Fox Terrier Club.

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