The Wire Fox Terrier breed standard says they should be ‘on the tip-toe of expectation at the slightest provocation.’
Once a mainstay of traditional British foxhunts, today’s Wire is a handsome and amusing companion and master show dog. The Wire Fox Terrier, 16 to 18 pounds of coiled energy is a sturdy, symmetrical, short-backed hunter with fire and intelligence shining in its dark, round eyes. The predominantly white coat is rough and wiry; the V-shaped ears are neatly folded forward, the better to point up the face’s distinctive, and completely irresistible, expression. Wires are delightful pets for families looking for an upbeat, friendly companion with loads of personality. As terriers, they possess the typical independence and prey drive of this feisty canine clan. They are smart and companionable; training can be a challenge but by no means impossible. Excellent athletes, natural comedians, and charming housemates, Wires are long-lived and low-shedding.
Fox Terriers as we know them today took shape in the late 1700s, during the heyday of British foxhunts. The terrier’s job was to bolt the fox from its lair, enabling hounds and horsemen to join the pursuit over open country. Fox Terrier coats are mostly white, with no red allowed, to avoid being mistaken for foxes during a hunt.
The Wire has always been a consistently successful show dog, with, at this writing, a record 15 Westminster Kennel Club Bests in Show. In one of the great bargains in show-dog history, Matford Vic, a Wire bought from a farmer for $10, won Westminster in 1915 and 1916. In England, Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers have been recognized as separate breeds, with different registries and breed standards, since the late 19th century. The AKC did not recognize Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers as distinct breeds until 1985.
Among the many beloved Wires of history was Caesar, the favorite dog of King Edward VII, who enchanted the British Empire. The Wire’s popularity received a major boost in the 1930s and ’40s thanks to Asta, the comical Wire who costarred with William Powell and Myrna Loy in six “Thin Man” movies. Since Asta’s time, the Wire’s striking looks, expressive features, and natural performing skills have made the breed a familiar presence in movies and on TV.
Temperament: Confident / Alert / Gregarious
Height: 15.5 inches
Weight: 15-18 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
Wire Fox Terriers are healthy dogs generally, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as eye disorders (cataracts, primary lens luxation, and glaucoma), luxating patellas, elbow and hip dysplasia, and a neurological condition known as ‘wobbler’s gait.
Grooming a Wire Fox Terrier can require a vast difference of time and effort according to what you plan to do with your dog. If you will be showing him in conformation events, you will need to learn to hand-strip his coat or pay someone else regularly to do it for you. Pets, however, can be clippered into a trim similar to a show trim with much less effort. All Wire Foxes will require regular brushing to avoid matting, no matter how they are groomed. Nails should be trimmed monthly. Ears should be checked weekly, and any excess wax and debris should be removed to avoid ear infections.
Like most terriers, the Wire Fox requires a good bit of exercise. Long walks with his owner, chasing a tennis ball in the backyard, or playtime in a large, securely fenced area are all great ways to exercise your dog and keep him mentally and physically fit. Never allow your Wire Fox Terrier to run off lead, as he is likely to forget all training if he catches sight of a small animal he perceives as prey.
Training the Wire Fox Terrier requires consistency, patience, and a great sense of humor. Spunky and happy-go-lucky little dogs, Wires are very smart but are also somewhat independent and get bored easily, so training sessions must be kept fun and interesting. They react well to positive training methods and will shut down if treated harshly. Wires are wonderfully suited for participation in earthdog trials as well as other performance events that require agility, speed, and intelligence.
The Wire Fox Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.