Breed Profile: Wire Fox Terrier

The wire fox terrier was once classified as a sporting dog for its hunting abilities and stamina.

Wire fox terriers are playful and spunky. By: Alicia Nijdam-Jones
Wire fox terriers are playful and spunky. By: Alicia Nijdam-Jones


Wire fox terrier



Physical Description

The wire fox terrier is an active, friendly and playful medium-sized dog with dark eyes and V-shaped ears. The high tail is sometimes docked, although this practice is illegal in many parts of the world with the exception of working dogs. The wire-haired coat is dense and short with a soft undercoat. Coat colors are generally white with brown or black markings.

Males weigh between 15 to 20 pounds with a height average of 14 to 16 inches. Females weigh slightly less at 12 to 18 pounds and average a height of 12 to 15 inches tall. The average life expectancy of a wire fox terrier is around 15 years.


The wire fox terrier is an old dog breed from 17th century England originally classified as one breed with two different coat types. The American Kennel Club (AKC) separated the breed into two different standards in 1984 to list the smooth fox terrier and the wire fox terrier.

The first known record of the breed is listed in 1790 from paintings and print works of a white smooth fox terrier named Pitch. The variety in the breed is thought to have been created from different sources. The wire fox terrier’s ancestors include the rough-coated black and tan working terriers from various areas of England. The smooth fox terrier is believed to have resulted from crosses of the smooth-coated black and tan terrier, bull terriers, Greyhounds and Beagles.

The early terriers were originally classified as sporting dogs because of their hunting abilities and stamina. Wire fox terriers were crossed with their smooth counterparts to achieve a predominantly white coat and a more classical physique.

The American Fox Terrier Club adopted the 1876 breed standard in 1885. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1885.


Wire fox terriers were originally used for hunting, and some may still fill a similar role today. They also participate in conformation, agility, obedience, tracking and earth dog competitions in addition to being a watch dog and family pet. They are also known for doing tricks.


Wire fox terriers are active, playful dogs with extroverted personalities but are not aggressive. They are friendly, highly trainable and excel at agility. They are driven and determined dogs and make excellent watch dogs. They are great with children. They are also prone to relentless digging if a small animal or vermin is underground.

This breed will require firm, consistent training to avoid behavioral issues, such as digging, aggressiveness, excessive barking and more. They can suffer from separation anxiety. Wire fox terriers are good with other dogs when proper socialization is provided, but they should be monitored around smaller animals.

Exercise Needs

A daily walk or jog is necessary for this active breed. A backyard would be beneficial but is not a necessity with sufficient outings. Wire fox terriers have a strong prey drive, so keep them on a leash and monitor their interactions with smaller animals.

The exercise requirements for this breed should not be ignored. They have high energy and a high prey drive, and a lack of exercise could lead to a host of behavioral problems. They are active indoors and would do well in apartments with regular outings. Running free in an enclosed area is ideal.

Grooming Requirements

Brushing a few times per week with a firm bristle brush and occasional baths are all that is needed to maintain the wire fox terrier’s coat.

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Dogs participating in conformation usually have their coats stripped prior to competing. Shedding is minimal to none, and this breed is a good choice for allergy sufferers. As with any dog, regularly check and clean the ears and teeth and keep the nails trimmed at a comfortable length.

Common Health Problems

While all dogs are susceptible to typical canine disorders, there are specific health problems that have been identified as being associated with the wire fox terrier:

Maintain annual vet visits to ensure your dog’s health. If you plan on obtaining your wire fox terrier from a breeder, ask the breeder about genetic testing performed on the dog or the parents of the dog.

Is the Wire Fox Terrier the Right Dog for You?

Wire fox terriers are medium-sized, active dogs who enjoy being around their family members and children. They are friendly dogs but also have watch dog instincts.

They get along well with other dogs when properly socialized but should be monitored around small animals because of their high prey drive. This is also the reason they need to be on a leash or allowed to exercise in an enclosed area.

This breed is active indoors, so apartment living is acceptable with regular outings. The coat sheds little to none, making this breed a good choice for allergy sufferers. Grooming requirements are minimal as long as the dog is not participating in conformation.

There are several health concerns to be aware of, so keeping annual veterinarian visits is highly recommended. If you feel you can fulfill the recommendations of this breed, an energetic wire fox terrier might be the right choice for your next dog.

Adopt, Don’t Buy

Start your search for a wire fox terrier using our adoptable search tool or contact local rescues and shelters. If you decide to go through a breeder, be aware of the puppy mill warning signs.

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