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Wire Fox Terrier Breed Information: Facts, Traits, Pictures & More


Last Updated: February 1, 2024 | 12 min read | Leave a Comment

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The Wire Fox Terrier is a rare dog breed in America, and they seldom reach the top 100 dog breeds. So, chances are, you’ve never met one out and about. They are unmistakable thanks to their handsome and distinguished appearance. Their wiry coats and long beard-like facial hair make them stand out from the doggy crowd.

Wire Fox Terriers need an active family that can commit to at least one hour of exercise daily. They need plenty more mental stimulation on top of this. These are not lapdogs, but they could be a great choice if you’re seeking a fun little buddy to join you on your adventures and offer affectionate companionship. Like true terriers, they can be tricky to train, but they can make obedient poochs with patience and persistence.

In this guide, we look at all of their needs, from their grooming requirements, activity needs, health problems, and more. Yes, they are small and cute pups. But they are true terriers, full of cheekiness, tenacity, and fun galore. Do you think this sounds like a match made in heaven? Let’s take a closer look at the unique Wire Fox Terrier.

Wire Fox Terrier
    • weight iconWeight15-18 pounds
    • height iconHeightNo more than 15.5 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12-15 years
    • color iconColorsPredominately white with black or tan markings
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs


The Wire Fox Terrier‘s journey began in the 18th century when fox hunting was popular in England. The role of this terrier in a fox hunt was to jolt foxes out of their lair, allowing hounds and their masters to pursue the fox. They descend from the Rough Coated Black and Tan Terrier. The Wire Fox Terrier is a rare breed in America and their homeland. But they have been hugely successful show dogs. This distinguished pup has won 13 “Best In Show” awards at the famed Westminster Kennel Club.

It’s not known precisely when or how they came to America. Their popularity was boosted slightly thanks to Astra, when he featured in the famous “Thin Man” movies. Their comical personality and striking appearance showcased how wonderful they are. The American Kennel Club (AKC) didn’t differentiate between the Wire Fox Terrier and the similar-looking Smooth Fox Terrier until 1985.


The Wire Fox Terrier is a very energetic pup that needs an equally active family to keep up with them. Their energy and curiosity are always leading them into trouble. If you’re seeking a cheeky companion, the Wire Fox Terrier fits the bill. There is never a dull moment with one of these doggos around. Their boundless energy means you’ve always got someone to play with.

As you might expect, the Wire Fox has a massive prey drive and chases everything that comes into their yard. It’s best to keep this pup on a leash in public because he might not return if he sees a squirrel. They also make fantastic watchdogs and have a loud, piercing bark. This is great if you’re seeking a canine alarm system, but it’s not ideal if your neighbors are the sensitive type.

They are cuddly and affectionate with their family and a proper homebody hound. They are very loyal and stick to their favorite people like glue. As a pack dog, they crave company from humans or other dogs. Although they love the entire family, they often bond closely with their primary caregiver. Wire Foxes are suspicious of strangers and take a lot of time to warm up to them.

Size & Appearance

Wire Fox Terrier trotting outside.
Wire Fox Terriers have an undeniable charm.

The Wire Fox Terrier is a small size breed. They only weigh between 15 and 18 pounds and stand no more than 15.5 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. They could technically be toy dogs by AKC standards, but they proudly sit in the terrier group. Despite their small size, they have an athletic frame, showcasing their ability for power and endurance. Their wiry coat makes them look slightly more significant than they are.

Wire Fox Terriers have a high tail, usually around three-quarters docked, allowing the correct handling of working terriers. Their eyes are moderately small and should always be brown. They have small v-shaped ears that fold over close toward their cheeks. Their long, narrow, flat skull gives them a distinctive look and charming expression.

If you want to showcase your Wire Fox in the show ring, he must meet the Wire Fox Terrier breed standard requirements. These guidelines are specific. For example, the length of their head needs to be between 7 and 7.25 inches long to be successful in competition. Even the way they walk is important, too. However, these guidelines aren’t too important if you only plan for your pooch to be a family companion.

Coat & Colors

Wire Fox Terrier outside in water standing.
Playful and fun this terrier knows how to steal hearts!

The Wire Fox Terrier’s coat is their signature feature. Their wiry hairs tend to twist and are rough to the touch. This terrier’s undercoat is very short and fine, which helps to keep them warm in harsher weather climates and working in the field. Their coat is compared to the hair on a coconut shell, and when you part their hair, you can barely see their skin. The fur around their muzzle and chin is longer than the rest of their face, giving them a beard-like appearance.

The Wire Fox’s coat is predominately white, usually with color patches. The color patches are either black or tan, sometimes with a mixture of both colors. A Wire Fox’s coat should never contain red, as it should be easy to differentiate from foxes during a hunt. Brindle, red, liver, or blue are unfavorable in the show ring.

Exercise & Living Conditions

Wire Fox Terrier puppy playing with a toy outside.
From wiry coat to wagging tail, there’s lots to love about this spunky breed.

Don’t let their small size fool you. This pup keeps families on their toes all day. Wire Foxes need around one hour of daily exercise as a hardworking terrier. Their high energy is surprising for some families who expect much less from such a small pup. They need challenging activities to keep their mind and body happy. Think about doggy agility courses, fetching, and running. An unstimulating walk around the block isn’t going to cut it every day.

However, it would be best not to let your Wire Fox off-leash in public. They are bound to forget their recall, training, and you, for that matter, at the sight of a small animal to chase. Invest in a long leash that allows them to run around, or find an enclosed field for some good romp-around time. Their high prey drive means they aren’t the best option for non-canine multi-pet households with smaller animals or rodents.

With proper training and socialization, they can live with other dogs. They are pack dogs and enjoy the company of other canines in the home, especially when their humans aren’t there. However, introductions to new dogs joining the family must be slow to avoid upset. Wire Foxes view children as their playmates, and they enjoy the company of dog-savvy children.

Wire Fox Terriers can live in apartments thanks to their compact size — however, only if they get plenty of outdoor exercise. Otherwise, they are likely to get cabin fever and become destructive. They prefer a yard to play in. Their yard must be secure, with no gaps for escaping. Remember that their hunting technique is to dig foxes out of their lair so they won’t hesitate to dig their way out of their yard. Fences must be deep within the ground to prevent this.


Wire Fox Terrier chewing on a stick.
Training a Wire Fox Terrier can be a rewarding experience, given their intelligence and energetic nature.

Training a Wire Fox Terrier is challenging but not impossible. Like proper terriers, they are stubborn and independent, especially if there is something they want. Training must begin on day one, and it needs to be consistent. Don’t allow your pup to dig in the garden if you don’t want them to as adults. Make training sessions short and fun to captivate their attention, and reward them with a squeaky dog toy to satisfy their prey drive.

Early socialization is vital if you want them to accept other dogs. Take them to your local doggy park and mix them with as many dogs of all different sizes as possible to increase their confidence and doggy manners. Make every interaction as positive as possible, too. Although suspicious of strangers, they make regular visitors feel welcome with their waggy tails and playful natures.

Crate training is highly recommended for these pups. As they are people-orientated, they are prone to separation anxiety. Teaching them to enjoy their crate makes them feel secure when you aren’t there. It also means they can’t dig through your furniture when you aren’t there. Wire Fox Terriers aren’t the best choice for novice dog owners given their head-strong nature, but it is possible with help from trainers like Doggy Dan.


Wire Fox Terrier face up close.
Wire Fox Terriers may be prone to certain health conditions, so proactive approach to their well-being is essential.

Wire Fox Terriers are generally healthy dogs and enjoy an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. To keep your Wire Fox as healthy as possible, it’s essential to feed them a high-quality diet, keep them fit and happy with daily exercise, and keep them secure and safe. Visiting the vet for regular health checks and staying up-to-date with routine vaccinations are also important.

The cost of health care can be expensive, so you should consider pet insurance. It can help offset the costs and ease the financial burden of unexpected expenses. Although they are generally healthy, you never know what’s around the corner. Plus, they are curious terriers that often find themselves in sticky situations. All dogs are different, but here are the primary health concerns to research for this breed.

Eye Conditions

There are various eye concerns to be aware of, in particular, cataracts, primary lens luxation, and glaucoma. Primary lens luxation is a hereditary disorder where the lens moves from its normal position, causing inflammation and glaucoma. Symptoms include red, teary eyes, general pain, pawing at the eyes, cloudiness, change in pupil size, and squinting. If left untreated, it can cause total vision loss at a rapid rate. Rapid acceleration and considerable pain make this an emergency, so please see your vet as soon as you notice any problems.

Heart Problems

Various heart problems affect this breed. Pulmonic stenosis is the most common, and it is a heart disease that causes partial blood flow obstruction from the heart to the lungs. This puts extra strain on the heart and other parts of the body to work harder. Symptoms of this disease include excessive coughing, exercise intolerance, and fainting. In severe cases, heart surgery is sometimes required. Regular visits to the vet can help to identify cardiac conditions early.

Patellar Luxation

Many small breeds are at risk of patellar luxation, also called a “floating kneecap.” It occurs when the knee joint doesn’t develop and sit correctly with the femur. This abnormal development causes the knee to slip out of place. Symptoms include kicking out, a skipping gait, and general irritableness. A vet can slip it back into place, but severe or persistent cases often require surgical correction.

Wobbler Syndrome

Wobbler syndrome is a neurological condition that causes dogs to have a “wobbly” gait. It is sometimes called cervical spondylomyelopathy. If you notice your pooch has an uncoordinated walk, stumbles, or scuffs their feet, they could have wobbler syndrome. Some dogs experience neck pain, which can cause complete paralysis in all limbs over time. It is manageable with daily medication in some cases, but often it requires surgical treatment. Little is known about the causes of wobbler syndrome, and dogs with this condition should not be bred.


Two Wire Fox Terrier playing outside with a Frisbee.
Wire Fox Terriers thrive on a balanced diet given their activity levels.

Thanks to their small size, Wire Fox Terriers don’t need too much food. How much you feed them depends on their size, age, activity levels, and the type of diet you provide them. Always follow the feeding instructions on your chosen food for a better idea of how much to feed them. It’s essential to feed them high-quality food that meets their nutritional needs. Look for the Association of America Feed Control Official’s (AAFCO) seal of approval on the package.

Look for a diet with meat protein at the start of the ingredients list and includes carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy omega fats. If your Wire Fox is a working pup, he might need a higher protein and energy diet. Choose an age-appropriate diet, especially during their puppy stage, as it helps their body to develop healthily. Why not consider one of the leading fresh food diets, such as The Farmer’s Dog?


Wire Fox Terrier being groomed.
Grooming a Wire Fox Terrier is essential to maintain their distinctive wiry coat and overall well-being.

Grooming a Wire Fox Terrier can be moderately simple or time-consuming, depending on what you plan to do with your dog. If they are a show pup, their coat needs hand-stripping. This can be a tricky and lengthy process, which is why many Wire Fox owners send their dogs to a professional groomer with experience in hand-stripping coats. If your Wire Fox is a family pooch, you can clip their fur short to keep it more manageable.

Regular brushing is essential to prevent their wiry coat from matting, no matter how their jacket is cut. The best brush for a Wire Fox Terrier is a slicker brush made of fine wires, as they help to dematt the hair and remove dirt and debris. Look for a slicker brush with round or rubber tips that protect the skin from scraping. Never use too much pressure, and always brush in the direction of the hair, never against it. Although these dogs are low shedding, they are not hypoallergenic.

Dental hygiene is important for this small pup with tightly packed teeth. They are more at risk of periodontal disease, so brushing their teeth weekly is essential. Check their ears weekly for signs of infection or wax buildup, and clean them regularly. You only need to wash them several times a year, and it’s important to use a lightweight, natural shampoo for dogs with a wiry coat.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Three Wire Fox Terrier puppies sitting.
Wire Fox Terrier puppies will be ready to steal your heart with their irresistible cuteness on day one!

Working with a responsible breeder is vital for the health and well-being of your next family companion. Ethical breeders only breed healthy dogs and ensure their puppies are given the best start to life, hopefully meaning better health and temperament. Always research the breeder, look for independent reviews of previous clients, and see the puppies and their mom in person. A great place to start your search for a reputable breeder is on the AKC’s Wire Fox Terrier breeder page.

The cost of a healthy Wire Fox puppy from a reputable breeder usually ranges from $1,500 to $2,500. Various factors, including location, bloodline, registration, demand, etc, influence puppy prices. Puppies from award-winning bloodlines can fetch much more. You must also consider the cost of setting your puppy up with everything they need and puppy-proofing your home and yard.

Rescue & Shelters

Wire Fox Terriers are relatively rare purebred dogs, and they are even rarer in rescues. Head to your local shelters and speak to the staff about your search for a Wire Fox Terrier. They might know of one in a nearby shelter you haven’t seen yet. Often, rehoming a dog from a shelter is cheaper than buying a puppy from a breeder.

Alternatively, use online rescue organizations that list Fox Terriers nationwide. American Fox Terrier Rescue is a small group of volunteers that save and help to rehome Fox Terriers across the US and Canada. Get in touch with them and specify your search for a Wire Fox. Although you can’t be sure of their history, adopting a dog is a fantastic thing to do.

As A Family Pet

  • Wire Fox Terriers are high energy and need an active family.
  • They have lots of mental energy and need dog toys to burn off steam.
  • Their high prey drive means they must be kept on a leash in public.
  • They are incredibly fun and entertaining.
  • Wire Fox Terriers have a wiry coat that might need hand stripping.
  • They can live in apartments and prefer a yard to play in.
  • Other dogs and dog-savvy children are ideal as companions.
  • Expect lots of cuddles and doggy kisses.

Curious About Similar Terriers?

Wire Fox Terriers are very rare, and you are sure to turn heads with one of these handsome hounds by your side. Despite their toy frame, they are typically terrier-like and love life and their family. If you want to find other similar terriers, why not check out the Jack Russell Terrier or the Miniature Schnauzer? Their dinky size makes them all suitable for apartment living, as long as you exercise them enough.

No matter what type of terrier you choose, picking a reputable breeder is key to finding a happy and healthy puppy. Training any terrier requires patience and some experience. Otherwise, they are generally easy to care for and make great family pets for many families. Before you commit to any dog, make sure you’re ready for them and understand our top tips for dealing with temporary adoption regret.

Why Trust Canine Journal?

Emma is a dog owner with over 20 years of experience. She has also worked as a professional dog walker and sitter for many years, taking care of countless dog breeds with different needs, including a variety of small terriers. Emma dedicates countless hours researching the latest pet care, health, food, and training developments to keep her two best buddies and other doggy clients as happy and healthy as possible. She works alongside a professional and experienced team to bring the best, most accurate, and up-to-date information to our readers.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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