Characteristics of the Wired Haired Fox Terrier

Wire Haired Fox Terriers are charismatic, energetic and often amusing dogs. They remain puppy-like in their attitude for most of their lives. That means they are always ready to play. They can be very independent and will find trouble if not exercised on a regular basis. These are just a few of the characterstics of the wire haired fox terrier. This breed isn’t, however, the best match for a first-time dog owner. Have you been thinking about getting a foxie?  

I’ve had three Wire Haired Fox Terriers over the years. I’ve known quite a few others, including four foxies owned by my in-laws. The following are the typical characteristics of the wire haired fox terrier :

  1. Inquisitive
  2. Energetic
  3. Hypoallergenic
  4. Prey-driven   
  5. Intelligent
  6. Fearless
  7. Athletic  
  8. Feisty
  9. Independent
  10. Flashy.

If it sounds like the Wire Haired Fox Terrier is an awesome breed, you’re right! But they are not for everyone. They have a polarizing effect: you are fiercely loyal to the breed or not loyal at all, vowing they are demons wrapped in fur and would never own one again. Why? One reason is if you have a foxie in the house, you’ll never be bored. These quirky little dogs are certain to keep you amused with their antics. They are also independent thinkers, so they have been known to run roughshod over inexperienced dog owners. Ask any owner of a Wire Haired Fox Terrier, and they will tell you that this breed has absolutely no problem with being the leader of the pack. Please read on to see if this dog would be a good fit for your family.

Is a Wire Haired Fox Terrier Right for Me?

Here’s a quick overview of some important Wire-Haired Fox Terrier breed information.

  • Common breed names: Wire Haired Fox Terriers, Wire Fox Terriers, WFT, Wires and Foxies.
  • Original purpose: Fox hunting, vermin control.
  • Average height:  Foxies should not exceed 15 1/2 inches at the withers.
  • Weight range: A male Wire Fox Terrier should weigh between 17 and 19 pounds, while a female’s weight ranges between 15 and 17 pounds.
  • Average size: A foxie should have a back length (measured from withers to root of tail) of no more than 12 inches. Females are also typically an inch or two smaller.  The head length should be between 7 1/4 inches and 7 inches.
  • Colors: A Wire Haired Fox Terrier’s coat should be predominantly white. Many have both black and brown markings, especially on the head and back. Dogs that only have brown markings are sometimes referred to as gingers. In show dogs, brindle, red, liver or slatey blue are considered objectionable, but other than that, a dog’s markings are not considered important.
  • Common varieties: None.
  • Lifespan:  13 to 14 years.
  • Energy levels: High
  • Size of habitat they would ideally thrive In: Many Wire Haired Fox Terrier rescues and breeders require a prospective owner to have a house with a fenced-in backyard so that they will have a place to run and burn off energy. This breed is compact so it can do well in an apartment, but only with an owner is committed to exercising it several times a day.
  • Exercise needs: High.
  • Friendly scale: Medium.  Typically, wires love people, especially if they are well-socialized when young.
  • Good with children scale: Medium.
  • Good with cats scale: Low.  
  • Athletic and agile scale: High.
  • Intelligence: Medium-high.
  • Trainability: Medium. Fast learners, but getting them to do what you want can be an issue.
  • Hair length: Short.
  • Shedding/hypoallergenic scale: Low to no hair shed.
  • Grooming requirements: Medium. In the winter, some dogs may need a sweater.
  • Barking scale: Medium. Although there are exceptions to the rule, I have personally found that foxies don’t bark a lot. They will alert an owner to strangers or a doorbell ringing, but are not yappy dogs,  
  • Environment: Wires enjoy being both inside and outdoors. Some owners crate their foxies when not at home, but I’ve found that once my dogs were about a year old, I could trust them to roam freely in the house. I also preferred pens to crates when my Wires were puppies. Foxies enjoy their toys, so make sure to provide them with at least a few to keep them entertained.

Wire Haired Fox Terriers are not Schnauzers!

Foxies are not a breed that most people see on a regular basis, so they are frequently mistaken for dogs with a similar appearance.

Exasperated Wire Haired Fox Terrier owners complain that their pups are most often mistaken for Schnauzers and Airedales. These breeds actually bear little resemblance to a Foxie.

Some people also mistake Wires for Smooth Haired Fox Terriers or Jack Russells.

Wire Haired Fox Terrier History

What were Wire Haired Fox Terriers bred for?

Wire Haired Fox Terriers were also used to hunt vermin.  

Today’s Wire Haired Fox Terriers are feisty little creatures for a reason. They were bred to chase down foxes with the hounds. Then, when a fox went into a lair or a hole, it was the Wire Haired Fox Terrier’s job to go after him and drive him out into the open.

Won 15 Best in Show titles

Another area where fox terriers excel? In the show ring. These dogs are beautiful, flashy movers who exude confidence. As of 2019, they have, in fact, won 15 Best in Show titles at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show. The next closest breed is the Scottish terrier, with eight wins.

Terriers, as a group of dogs, have won Nest In Show more than twice as much times as any other dog groups (Sporting, Working, Toy, Non-Sporting, Hound and Herding). That may have something to do with the fact that there are 46 specific breeds in the Terrier group. It’s by far the largest of dog groups entered into best In Show each year.

Wire Haired Fox Terrier origin

Foxies came from in England.

It is believed that Wire Haired Fox Terriers are descended from a now-extinct black-and-tan working terrier similar to today’s Welsh Terrier. This breed was crossbred to the Smooth Fox Terrier in order to add more white to its coat. Adding white was important because when wires were used to chase foxes out of holes, the hounds could mistake a dark-colored dog for a fox and tear it apart.  

The Wire Fox Terrier and the Smooth Fox Terrier have been recognized as separate breeds in England since the late 19th century. However, the American Kennel Club didn’t recognize them as separate breeds until 1985.

Characteristics of the Wire Haired Fox Terrier

If you’re interested in adding a foxie to your family, it’s important to understand the wire fox terrier personality. The following are some key wire haired fox terrier traits that could either persuade or dissuade you from becoming a foxie owner:  

Curious and Inquisitive

Nothing seems to get by a Fox Terrier. Perhaps, it’s because they were bred to chase rats, rabbits and foxes. This means that they are pre-programmed to be on high alert at all times, just in case, one of these creatures might be nearby. So walking with a Foxie — well — let’s say it’s interesting! You may not notice a cat hiding in the bushes, but your Wire Haired Fox Terrier probably will. And he/she will be leaping on it before you can yell for them to stop.

Foxies are also very curious about anything their owners are trying to accomplish. For example, if I have to look under a couch for something, I can be sure that my foxie’s head will be right next to my face, checking to see what I’m doing.

Energetic and Fun

The Foxies I have owned are always ready to play ball or to go for a walk. Mine also love a good game of tug of war. And squeak toys — well, that’s a Foxie’s Kryptonite! Most Wires have a very hard time resisting a toy that sounds like a small animal in distress. Unfortunately, most wires also believe it is their mission in life to destroy squeak toys.

My two Wires that had higher prey drives — Ollie and Cody — also loved to play hide and seek with me and the children. This game really seemed to satisfy their need to chase after and find their intended victim.

Because the Wire Fox Terrier energy level is so high, this breed does best if you can take it on walks at least three times a day. Having a fenced-in yard is also a plus. That allows a Wire to run off any excess energy. High energy is one of the key characteristics of the wired haired fox terrier.

Unfortunately, many owners have found that a Wire Fox Terrier’s exercise needs cannot include visits to a doggie daycare or to a local dog park. The natural Wire-Haired Fox Terrier temperament is scrappy, which can lead to fights with other pups. You have been warned.

Hypoallergenic

If you have allergies, you’re probably wondering, “Are Wire Fox Terriers hypoallergenic?” Yup, they are.

My husband is allergic to most dogs, especially those that shed a lot. But he grew up around Wire Haired Fox Terriers, so when we got married, it was an easy decision to go with a Foxie.

The one thing that some people don’t seem to realize, though, is that if a dog doesn’t shed, it means that it requires regular grooming. Otherwise, the dog’s hair will just keep growing and get matted.

High Prey Drive

Foxies may be cute, but without proper training, they have an almost irresistible urge to chase and eliminate small creatures. This can be problematic if you own cats or small animals. It can even be an issue if you have small children and your Wire Haired Fox Terrier isn’t properly socialized. Cody, for instance, would chase after running children and nip at them. He wasn’t doing this because he was vicious, but because he was following his natural instincts.

With the proper training, though, most Wires are wonderful around children.  They can also be taught to get along with cats. In fact, I have seen many pictures of Wires and cats getting along splendidly on Wire Fox Terrier Facebook pages.

Because of the WFT’s high prey drive, running away is a common concern. In fact, many owners never let their dogs off of their leash, because most (but not all) Wire Haired Fox Terriers will take off if they see something interesting and refuse to return to their owners. bear this in mind as a characteristic of the wired haired fox terrier.

Intelligence: Wires are Smart Pups

Wires are sometimes referred to as clowns, for their playful, often silly and fun-loving attitude. So you may be wondering: Are wire fox terriers intelligent?  Yes. In truth, though, they typically use their smarts for their own benefit. For example, Cody would eye everyone entering his domain and then judge which person might be a weak link. It didn’t take him long to realize that visiting grandparents weren’t very fast and would leave the front door open just a crack longer than they should. And that’s when he would make his escape, full blast through the front door.

Wires also learn tricks fairly quickly. Although, that doesn’t mean they’ll always do them when asked!

Fearless and Feisty

Wire Haired Fox Terriers don’t realize that they are small dogs, which can, unfortunately, cause problems. Both Cody and Ollie, for instance, never had a problem with challenging dogs three times their size.

A feisty nature is actually considered a desirable trait in a Wire Haired Fox Terrier. So, they are sometimes asked to “spar” at dog shows. Sparring is when two competitors are brought face to face and under total control by their handlers. What the judges are looking for is the dog that exhibits the best “terrier attitude,” the dog who exudes confidence. In fact, the Wire Fox Terrier’s official standard actually says that this breed should be “on the tip-toe of expectation at the slightest provocation.”

Athletic

Wires are fast runners and are very adept at making quick, evasive movements, especially when being chased by their owners (I have learned this the hard way).

This breed also tends to be very cat-like in their desire to climb to high perches. So, it’s not unusual to find them sleeping on dining room tables or perched on the back of couches. My especially athletic Cody could even jump up on our kitchen counters!

Persistent and Headstrong

Once something has captured a Wire Haired Fox Terrier’s attention, you’re going to have a hard time breaking the spell. For instance, if a ball rolls under a dresser, a wire is going to do everything in its power to try and get it back. Trying to distract a Foxie rarely works.

My boy, Vinnie, is also not shy about picking the direction he wants to go in during our walks. He will grab his leash in his mouth and pull it in the direction he wants to go. And if I won’t listen, he will sit down and refuse to move. That is surely a demonstration of stubbornness as one of the main characteristics of the wired haired fox terrier.

Independent Streak

Out in the field, searching for foxes or vermin, the Wire Fox Terrier had to make its own decisions — not wait on a human’s directions. So, Foxies tend to be independent thinkers. And that means that they will often decide what best suits them. It’s not about what you want.

So, are Wire Fox Terriers easy to train? Yes. I’ve taught my pups many tricks, including closing a door on command, sit and speak. But do they always do these tricks when asked? The answer is if they feel like it or if there is a reward for performing the trick.

Flashy

Wires are showy, handsome dogs that have a proud way of moving that just shouts, “Look at me!” It is one of the reasons why this breed does so well in the show ring.  So, if you want a dog that really struts its stuff, you’re sure to appreciate the flashy Wire Haired Fox Terrier’s personality.

Potential Wire Fox Terrier Health Issues

Foxies are a generally healthy breed. This is especially true if you perform your due diligence and select a puppy from a reputable breeder. The following, though, are a few potential Wire Fox Terrier health issues that could affect your foxie one day.

Allergies

Allergy issues are fairly common in all terrier breeds, including foxies. If your dog has allergies, its skin will be itchy, and you’ll probably notice that it is scratching, chewing or constantly licking its skin and paws.  If your pup has allergies, it may also have recurring ear infections. Common fox terrier allergens include fleas, pollen and grass, as well as food allergies. Chicken is a very common allergen for fox terriers.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar Luxation typically affects medium and small dogs, including foxies. When a dog has this condition, its patella (kneecap) can move out of alignment, which can cause the dog to suddenly appear lame. Depending on the severity of the condition, your dog may have no symptoms or be very lame and in a lot of pain.

Wire Fox Terrier Ear Gluing

A Wire Fox Terrier’s ear should be small, V-shaped and fold neatly over. Unfortunately, the ears of some wires don’t always cooperate, and so you’ll see dogs with one or both ears that stand straight up. To fix this issue, some breeders and owners will glue a puppy’s ears in place while it is still in the teething stage. Although the practice is painless, there are a number of owners who believe that you should leave a pup’s ears alone. If you do decide to glue your pup’s ears, make sure to read up on the subject. You cannot just haphazardly glue the ears down and hope to get the right results.

Care and Ongoing Maintenance for a Wire Fox Terrier

Coat

Foxies have a dense double coat. The top coat should be wiry — not curly — and should resemble coconut matting. The undercoat should consist of finer, softer hair.

Shedding

Although all dogs shed to some extent, the wire is considered to be a no- to low-shed breed.

Grooming

Foxies require hand stripping or clipping every four to six weeks. In between, an owner should brush a foxie’s legs and beard to keep them from getting tangled. You will need the following Wire Hair Fox Terrier grooming tools:

  • Wire slicker brush
  • Pair of scissors
  • Sturdy comb with medium teeth
  • Shampoo formulated for dogs (people shampoo can be hard on dogs, especially foxies, which tend to have sensitive skin).

Wire Fox Terrier Clipping or Stripping?

Hand stripping a Wire Fox Terrier is very labor intensive and can take several hours every three to four weeks. In most areas, it’s also extremely difficult to find a groomer willing to hand strip a dog, and the few that do will charge a fee commensurate with the hours necessary to perform this service.

My foxies are not show dogs, so I do not have them hand stripped. Instead, I take them to a groomer who has been doing my dogs for the past 20 years.

To save money, I did clip my first dog Ollie a few times. I bought Oster dog clippers, which worked great on Wire Haired Fox Terriers — and scissors. Unfortunately, I was terrible at clipping and Ollie never really looked that great when I was done (one child even mistook him for a goat). The clipped hair also made me itch. So, as soon as I could afford to have my dogs groomed by a professional, I hung up my clippers.

When to Start Grooming Your Dog

You should brush and/or comb your puppy often to get them used to the sensation while they’re still young, especially on their legs and muzzles. My groomer also sets up three pre-clipping dates, where she just washes, dries and scissors away excess hair to get a puppy used to her working with them and used to being in her shop.

Diet

Most foxies are picky eaters and grazers, meaning that they won’t typically wolf down their meal in one sitting. Because of that, a Wire fox terrier diet should include a high-quality dry dog food that won’t go bad if left out for him to nibble on throughout the day. Wires also have a tendency to be allergic to chicken and low-quality filler ingredients, such as wheat. So if you notice your dog is chewing its paws or scratching a lot, you may want to change your dog’s diet. And when it comes to fillers, the best dog food for Wire Fox Terriers with allergies tend to be ones that include brown rice or sweet potato.

Wire Fox Terrier Exercise Needs

I walk Vinnie at least three times a day. He is six now and is a little less energetic than the other wires I have owned. So, during the week, he goes on a short walk in the mornings and at lunch, and then I take him on a mile-long jaunt in the evening. On weekends, we will often go three to four miles. My other wires required more exercise. For those dogs, I would also walk them a mile in the morning before work. That way, they would be tired and sleep most of the day while I was out of the house. All of my wires also loved to chase after toys and/or balls and to play tug-of-war.

I have tried harnesses on both Cody and Vinnie. I’ve found that the best Wire Haired Fox Terrier harness is an easy-walk harness. However, Cody was a rascal and always managed to get out of his harnesses that I tried, so I had to give up using one on him.

Activities for Foxies

Wires love to be with their owners. So, whatever you’re doing, they want to be doing it. The following are just some of the activities my wires have loved doing with us:

  • Boating
  • Hiking
  • Chasing balls
  • Kayaking
  • Motorcycle riding (for Cody because Vinnie is terrified of motorcycles)
  • Jet skiing (We taught Ollie how to ride the old-fashioned stand-up ones with us, and he loved it!)
  • Swimming
  • Golf cart rides
  • Slow ATV rides (Cody)
  • Camping
  • Going out to dinner with us.

When Cody was older and could no longer walk very far, I bought him a dog stroller, so that he could still enjoy going on a stroll.

characteristics of the wired haired fox terrier
Cody tucked safely away for a ride on my husband’s motorcycle

Wire Fox Terrier Tail

Most foxies in the United States have their tails docked.

In the UK and Australia, the practice of docking tails has been outlawed. Some breeders in the U.S. are also now leaving the tails undocked.  

Entertainment

A bored foxie is likely to get itself in trouble. Two examples: As a puppy, Cody chewed the wood trimming around a window, and Vinnie once gnawed up the leg of a chair. If left outside too long, bored foxies will often dig. To prevent these types of incidents, I always try to exercise my dogs well, especially if I know they will be home alone for a while. And I also provide them with plenty of chew toys.

Average Annual Cost

According to the ASPCA, the average cost of owning a dog during its first year is more than $1,000. That cost includes such things as spaying or neutering, miscellaneous pet supplies, training and vet visits but excludes clipping. You should clip your dog approximately eight to twelve times a year. The cost of clipping varies but typically ranges between $50 and $100. This average cost also does not include emergency vet bills or pet insurance. After the first year, the ASPCA estimates that owners pay approximately $695 a year for their dogs’ expenses.

Buying Guide

How Much are Wire Fox Terriers?

Foxie puppies usually cost between $750 to $2,000 for pet-quality dogs. You can sometimes find older dogs through rescues or owner give-ups. Most rescues charge between $350 to $500.

Size

A miniature version of the Wire Haired Fox Terrier miniature is not currently recognized as a breed. Any miniature fox terriers you might see listed will look like a smooth fox terrier. In addition, there is not a large version of the Wire Haired Fox Terrier.

What to Look for in a Breeder

Reputable breeders will ask you questions to determine if you will be a suitable owner for a fox terrier. They should also be willing to allow you to visit their site to ensure that they are not a puppy mill. Most reputable breeders are also unwilling to ship their puppies, though a few do.

Wire Fox Terrier Colors

Wires can be:

  • White and tan
  • White, black and tan.

Useful Resources

If you would like to find out more about the Wire Fox Terrier, I’ve pulled together some useful resources for you.

Facebook Pages

  • Wire Haired Fox Terriers
  • Wires R Us
  • Wire Haired Foxies United.

Wire Haired Fox Terrier Rescue Centers

  • American Fox Terrier Rescue
  • Wire Fox Terrier Rescue Midwest
  • Fox Terrier Rescue UK.

Other

  • The Wire Fox Terrier Association
  • The America Fox Terrier Club.

Related Questions

What does a Wire Haired Fox Terrier look like?  

They are medium size dogs that should not exceed 15 1/2 inches at the withers and weigh between 15 and 19 pounds. They are beautiful dogs that are always on the alert.

How long do Wire Fox terriers live?  

They typically live between 13 and 15 years.

Are Wire Fox Terriers good with cats?

Generally, no. However, with good socialization and training, some can become besties with a cat.

Are Wire Fox Terriers affectionate?

They love their people, but most aren’t big on snuggling.

Are Wire Fox Terriers yappy or bark a lot?

They will bark if they see a stranger or something interesting. Generally, however, they are not real yappy dogs.

Do Wire Fox Terriers shed?

Foxies are low to no-shed dogs.

When is a Wire Hair Fox Terrier fully grown?

Between one year and one and half years of age.

How large is a Wire Hair Fox Terrier?

They are medium size dogs.

When does a Wire Hair Terrier stop growing?

Height-wise, most WFTs stop growing at around one year of age.

Are Wire Fox Terriers hard to train?

They are not hard to train, but they may not always do what you train them to do.

How high can a Wire Fox Terrier jump?

Foxies are good jumpers. My own dogs have jumped up on pool tables and on high kitchen counters.  

How to hand strip a Wire Fox Terrier?

To hand strip a dog, you or a groomer will use a stripping knife and/or fingers to pluck out dead hair by the roots. To minimize any pain, you should always pull in the direction of hair growth.

Does the Wire Haired Fox Terrier have a friendly temperament?

Yes. They are friendly, but like most terriers, they can be wary of strangers.

Are Wire Fox Terriers good family dogs?

Foxies have a natural instinct to chase anything that is small and moves. This includes young children, cats and small animals. They won’t be vicious when they catch their chase, Just a little nip will satisfy them. However, WFT’s can certainly be good family dogs if you train them properly. Are wire haired fox terriers easy to train? Yes. And trained my dogs to be OK with my children!

Are wire fox terriers smart?

Yes indeed!


Author - Jane

Jane owns 2 high-energy dogs - Kuzy the Welsh Terrier and Vinnie the Wire Fox Terrier. Jane's favorite thing to do is take her dog on long walks in the woods. They also love hiking, kayaking, and boating together. Jane walks her dogs several times a day whether it's raining, snowing or just plain cold. She is interested in teaching Kuzy how to Barn Hunt. Jane walks rescue dogs on the weekend so that they can enjoy a little fresh air and exercise.

Recent Content