Fox Terrier (Wire)

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Fast Facts

Country of Origin:Great Britain
AKC Group:Terrier Group
UKC Group:Terrier
Use today:Earthdog
Life Span:10 to 13 years
Color:White with black, tan or ginger.
Coat:Hard and wiry.
Grooming:Hand clipping to maintain coat.
Size:Medium Dog Breed
Height:Up to 15.5 inches at the withers
Weight:Proportionate to height

The eager and dynamic Wire Fox Terrier was bred in the British Isles in the 19th century to catch and kill vermin on farms, and to assist in hunts. The Wirehaired Fox Terrier probably descended from the rough-coated Black and Tan Terrier. Like the Smooth Fox Terrier, the Wirehaired was a hunt terrier whose job it was to go to ground and rout out the fox. Asta, the little dog of the "Thin Man" movies, did much to popularize the breed. Wire Fox Terriers are loaded with pep and personality and should have a good exercise area outdoors.

Today the amiable Wire enjoys both family time and hunting activities. Wires love to dig holes, play with toys and chase everything including other pets. Because of their natural instincts, wires are not the best match for families who enjoy small animals.

An active and intelligent breed, consistent training helps harness the Wire’s energy and determination. The breed is a good watchdog, fond of children and always ready for a game.


Wire Fox Terrier picture


The Wire Fox Terrier:
  • Energetic
  • Playful
  • Adventurous

Should I get a Wire Fox Terrier?

Terrific for a person who:
  • Likes an independent thinker
  • Wants a dog always ready for a game.
  • Has plans to involve a dog in sports or other adventures.

Think twice if you’re a person who:

  • Wants a dog to be friends with your bunnies and hamsters.
  • Would rather spend a day on the couch than out exploring.
  • Wants a dog to stare adoringly at you all day.
Wire Fox Terrier Grooming

The coat, which is predominantly white with black, tan or ginger markings, needs special treatment to keep its tailored look. For pets, regular machine clipping to shape is the easiest way to groom the coat. But if you're a purist willing to accept the challenge, hand plucking about four times a year is the only way to retain correct coat texture.

The Wire Fox Terrier Standard Look

They should be no more than 15.5 inches at the shoulder, identical in all respects to the Smooth except for coat, which must be hard and wiry. Males are about 18 pounds with females weighing 15-17. Predominantly white, usually with black and tan. Brindle, red, liver, or slaty blue are objectionable.

Wire Personality

Keen, feisty, and dynamic; happy, affectionate, and companionable.

Are Wire Fox Terriers Easy to Train?

Moderate; independent thinkers with a stubborn steak, but keen on a high-level challenge when it suits them.

How Much Energy do Wire Fox Terriers Have?

High energy; ready, set, go!

Do Wire Fox Terriers Have Any Health Concerns?

Patellar luxation (slipping kneecap); Legg-Perthes disease and skin allergies.

Are Wire Fox Terriers Good with Children?

Yes, they are affectionate and playful, although at times too active for young children.

Are Wire Fox Terriers Good with Other Pets?

May challenge other dogs. Likely to chase small critters.

Wire Fox Terrier Video


Wired for Action

Energetic and playful, the Wire Fox Terrier is always up for a new adventure.

At a dog show in Paris, American Kennel Club judge Connie Clark of Rio del Mar, Calif., had narrowed the Wire Fox Terrier competitors down to six. As Clark scrutinized the dogs to make the next cut, a cat unexpectedly bolted through the show ring. "Watching the various dogs’ reactions, I knew that the Wires that immediately went on alert watching the cat were my finalists,” says Clark, board member and AKC delegate for the American Fox Terrier Club. "A Wire Fox Terrier, after all, should stand on the tiptoe of expectation.”

The eager and dynamic Wire Fox Terrier was bred in the British Isles in the 19th century to catch and kill vermin on farms, and to assist in hunts. "Wires were carried in a hunter’s saddlebag and dropped down to worry foxes that went to ground,” says longtime owner and breeder Diane Ryan of Laguna Niguel, Calif. The Wire Fox Terrier became a popular family dog in the 1930s, in part perhaps because of The Thin Man film series, which starred a personable Wire named Asta.

Five-Star Hunter

Today the amiable Wire delights in both family time and hunting activities. "Wires dig holes, chase everything from blowing leaves to birds, and shake their toys hard from side to side to keep hunting skills tuned,” Ryan says. Ready to dash at any moment, a Wire will pursue many small animals. "Two-year-old Flirt once beheaded a snake and proudly carried both pieces into the house to show off,” Ryan says.

These dogs easily stay busy in their yards watching squirrels and birds, and some may try to "help” the neighborhood with animals, as well. "When I was a child, I couldn’t bring (then 2-year-old Skippy) to my best friend’s house to play because the family raised chickens,” says longtime owner Georgia Weber of Lakeway, Texas.

Prospective owners need to respect the Wire’s hunting aptitude. "Families can’t expect a Wire to cohabitate with gerbils, hamsters, birds, or rabbits,” Clark says. "Supervision is also wise around cats, although some Wires can learn to get along with the family’s own cats.”

Wire Fox Terrier picture

Ready, Set, Spring

The spontaneous Wire rarely mulls over choices before jumping into action. "The breed lives out the principle ‘to think is to act,’” Clark says. For example, 3-year old Spring was chasing another dog around a pool when a shortcut popped into her head. "She obviously acted before working out the details, for she tried to make an impossible leap lengthwise across the pool,” Clark says. "Airborne, in a split second of realization, Spring’s eyes grew big as saucers, and then she plummeted into the pool.”

Consistent training helps harness the Wire’s energy and determination. "The breed may be bossy, so they’ll benefit from confident family leaders,” Clark says. A socialized and well-trained Wire can play nicely with children. "While typically dear and affectionate with everyone, Wires may be too active or jumpy for young children,” Clark adds.

Bust my Boredom

In the sport of Earthdog, Wires show natural talent. "Some may also enjoy agility, obedience, and rally, but owners must have patience, humor, and treats to work this independent breed,” Ryan says. "A Wire may respond to human requests with a cock of the head, as if to say, ‘Sure, I could do that — but is it worth my while?’”

In her first few novice agility classes, 4-year-old Judy exuberantly scrambled up the A-frame and dashed through tunnels. "I was convinced I had a star until we started repeating the exercises, and then Judy began wandering off, skipping obstacles, and mixing up the course order,” Ryan says. "She learned to stay on task with tasty treat incentives, but I worked hard to keep her boredom at bay.”

Wire Fox Terrier


An intelligent breed, Wires learn tricks easily, as long as they’re not distracted. "Indoors, Skippy quickly mastered tricks such as Sit Up, Roll Over, and Play Dead,” Weber says. "Outdoors, she preferred dashing in circles around a local field.” Short walks won’t suffice; Wires require extensive exercise to burn off energy. "The Wire takes plenty of naps on his owner’s lap, but when awake, he’s eager for action,” Clark says.

Although the midsize Wire can adapt to many living arrangements, a yard for running is ideal. "Apartment living with a Wire is possible when the owner is committed to exercising the dog frequently,” Clark says.

Owners hoping for off-leash canine companionship on walks or jogs don’t generally match up with the free-spirited Wire. "Off-leash activity should be closely supervised, and yards should be fenced,” Ryan says. "Although happy to please humans when it suits them, few Wires respond to a recall when they spot prey.”

Canine Friends

Many Wires get along with their family’s dogs, though the breed may show unfriendliness toward strange dogs. "Wires were bred to work individually, not in tandem with other dogs,” Ryan explains. "The breed won’t typically like every new dog, but they can learn to walk nicely with other dogs.”

Although some Wires will play with other dogs, most take a pass on the idea of dog parks. "Skippy was more likely to challenge strange (especially same-sex) dogs than seek new playmates,” Weber says. "She plainly preferred playtimes with her adored human family.”

Bred to chase vermin but not trespassers, Wires may make good watchdogs, but few Wires put on guard-dog badges. "Although they may bark initially, most Wires put their energy into greeting and entertaining guests rather than running them off,” Clark says.

A Word About Wires

Usually a healthy breed that rarely slows down with age, the Wire’s life span typically reaches 12 to13 years. "Health problems to watch for include skin allergies, Legg-Perthes (degeneration of the hip joint), and patellar luxation (slipping kneecap),” Clark says. "The Wire is generally considered an easy keeper, with good health and a good appetite.” Travel is relatively manageable with the Wire, as well. "The Wire is small to pick up and transport, and yet a sturdy dog,” Ryan says.

Wires shed minimally, making them a good choice for owners averse to frequent vaccuming. "The Wire’s coat adapted to the wet climates where the breed was developed,” Ryan explains. "A raindrop will all but bounce right off the properly maintained Wire’s coat.”  

Grooming a Wire involves weekly brushing or combing, and either hand-stripping or trimming. "Stripping a terrier coat is an art, best done by professional handlers or professional breeders,” Ryan explains. Pet owners may choose to clip the dog’s coat. "Clipping rather than stripping may tend to make the coat less wiry, as well as mute the natural colors,” Clark says.

Active owners who can juggle the breed’s exercise and affection needs will find the Wire a delightful companion. Prospective owners hoping for a dog who gazes adoringly at them all day should think twice. "Like most Wires, Flirt doesn’t hang on my every word,” Ryan says. "She has an eye for mischief, a big heart, and an independent spirit.” When a Wire spots adventure, he jumps at the opportunity. "Owners of the breed known for standing on the tiptoe of expectation will need to stay on their toes as well,” Clark says.

Ask the Breeder

Must I have my Wire’s coat hand-stripped?

"Hand-stripping will keep the wiry coat in the best condition, but trimming is easier for pet owners that don’t show the dogs,” says Connie Clark, a longtime American Kennel Club judge. "Expert groomers may combine some stripping with clipping to better maintain the texture and color of the pet dog’s coat.”

Will my puppy grow a smooth or wiry coat?


"The puppy coat of a Wire Fox Terrier will grow into a wiry coat that repels everything from seeds and sticks to water,” Clark explains. "In earlier days, wire- and smooth-coated Fox Terriers were varieties of the same breed, but in 1984, the American Fox Terrier Club designated the two as separate breeds.”




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