Toy Fox Terrier

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Toy Fox Terrier

The only toy breed to have been developed in America, the Toy Fox Terrier is a product of breeding together the Smooth Fox Terrier with a handful of Toy breeds in order to produce a Terrier with a more mellow attitude and lower exercise requirements. These dogs make wonderful family pets, though should be supervised around young children due to their small size.

Wiry and muscular, these athletes are built solidly and move with grace. Their characteristic prick ears stand proudly on their head and they have piercing dark, brown eyes. Their short and shiny coat gives them a sophisticated appearance, though some may not appreciate the amount that they shed (which can be quite excessive). Though there has been a general move away from tail docking, many breed members in America will continue to have their tails docked to this day.

About & History

The Toy Fox Terrier is not to be confused with the Smooth Fox Terrier and while they are closely related, they are classed as different breeds entirely. Toy Fox Terriers are also known as American Toy Terriers and they are an all-American breed that were first developed at the start of the 20th century, with the aim of producing a dog with the spirit of a Terrier but a more laid-back and sociable attitude.

Toy Fox Terriers were first established by breeding together the smallest of the Smooth Fox Terriers with other breeds, such as the Italian Greyhound, Miniature Pinscher, Manchester Terrier and the Chihuahua. By out-crossing the Smooth Fox Terrier rather than simply breeding the runts of the litter, a larger gene pool was established ensuring a healthier and more robust dog.

It was in 1949 that the National Toy Fox Terrier Association was founded, with the purpose of protecting and promoting the breed and ensuring it remained ‘Toy’ sized, rather than getting any larger (which was the wish of some breeders). They are currently recognised by both the UKC and the AKC within their Terrier groups. While the majority of individuals are kept as companion animals, some are also used to compete in canine activities, such as agility and obedience.


Toy Fox Terrier Large Photo

A well-bred Toy Fox Terrier should have an elegant silhouette with an athletic body and a proportionate, square-shaped frame. They walk with a confident and agile gait. The head of the Toy Fox Terrier is wedge-shaped and not overly-large with prominent ears that stand erect at the top of the skull, quite close together. They have circular brown eyes that give them an expression of curiosity and alertness. Though a small dog, the chest of the Toy Fox Terrier is relatively deep and they have a moderate tuck-up and strong limbs. Naturally, their tails should stand vertically, though some will have their tails docked (a controversial practice which is largely falling out of favour internationally).

Toy Fox Terriers are classified as toy-sized and stand at 22-29cm at the withers. They weigh between 3.6-6.8kg when fully grown. The fur of the Toy Fox Terrier is glossy and sleek and may be tri-colour, black and white, white and chocolate brown or white and tan. Despite the various coat patterns, all dogs will be predominantly white.

Character & Temperament

Spritely and amusing, the Toy Fox Terrier encompasses the best of the Terrier and the Toy breeds. Not as rambunctious or ‘hyper’ as the typical Terrier, they have still maintained their zest for life and sense of humour. They are undeniably confident, often fearless and rarely need to be encouraged to go exploring or try a new challenge. Regardless of what their owner is up to, they want to be a part of it. On top of this, they have inherited their affection and loving nature from other Toy breeds and will devote themselves to those in their close family.

Most individuals are territorial, protecting their homes with a surprisingly loud bark and a fierce sense of loyalty. They will take on the role of watch dog without being asked, proud to ‘do their part’. They are distrusting of new people and can take some time to warm up to them. Due to this, intensive socialisation when young is advised to ensure these dogs tolerate new people in their lives, such as vets and groomers. When it comes to other animals, Toy Fox Terriers can tolerate those they have been raised with though should not be trusted around small pets, such as guinea pigs, which will almost certainly be seen as prey.


Photo of Toy Fox Terrier puppy

Wickedly smart and full of energy, the Toy Fox Terrier has a huge potential to learn and can be highly trained by even an amateur. They relish the opportunity to learn new things and are always keen to show off what they have been working on. These dogs tend to be in tune with their trainer and will often pick up on their feelings.

They work best when rewarded for good behaviour rather than when reprimanded for any bad behaviour. This training method is called ‘positive reinforcement training’ and tends to be a good model for most dogs. Often, punishing unwanted behaviours can lead to resentment and results in a sullen dog that no longer enjoys their training sessions.


With a life expectancy of 12-15 years, this breed typically enjoys good health. However, there are certain medical conditions that must be monitored for by breeders and owners alike.

Patellar Luxation

As with most Toy dogs, the frame of the Toy Fox Terrier can predispose it to knee caps that do not sit correctly in their grooves and can pop in and out of place. For some, this will simply mean a skip in their step every so often, while others may experience life-limiting lameness and arthritis.

Mildly affected dogs benefit from conservative management, such as hydrotherapy, weight management and joint supplements, while more severely affected dogs will likely benefit from orthopaedic surgery.

Legg Calves Perthes Disease

A condition whereby the top of the long leg bone (the femur) is ‘eaten away’, it is thought that this syndrome is caused by a faulty blood supply. Symptoms include a progressive lameness and leg muscles that visibly waste away. X-rays can confirm a suspected diagnosis and an operation to remove the head of the femur is generally the treatment of choice.

Allergic Dermatitis

Dogs can react adversely to a wide range of allergens in their environment, including their food, grass and house dust mites. Those with allergic dermatitis may develop chronic itchiness and skin disease, as well as ear infections and anal gland impactions. Discovering what a dog is reacting to is key and the trigger should be avoided at all times if possible. In reality, this is not easily achieved and many dogs are managed with medication.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A quick sprinter and a dog that loves to run, the Toy Fox Terrier will enjoy the opportunity to be off lead in the great outdoors. However, due to their small size they do not need a huge amount of exercise and the average family should find their requirements manageable.

These dogs are suited to apartment living, though do need plenty of mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom and the development of any nuisance behaviours.


The short, silky coat of the Toy Fox Terrier is remarkably easy to maintain and simply needs a brush down once a week or so, removing any dead skin or loose fur that has built up. Most dogs will shed a good deal so it can be a good idea to brush them when outside. Their pricked ears do not tend to require cleaning and are not prone to infection.

Famous Toy Fox Terriers

Though there are not many examples of famous Toy Fox Terriers, the Twilight actress, Ashley Greene, is a proud ‘mum’ to a handsome Toy Fox Terrier named Marlo.


The Toy Fox Terrier is itself a mix of a number of different modern dog breeds, including the Miniature Pinscher and the Chihuahua. There are several Toy Fox Terrier cross-breeds, each offering something a little different:

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