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Breeder Buzzwords – The Toy Fox Terrier

Bigger is not always better in dogs, especially among the companion and Toy breeds that provide canine comfort in small doses. Scaled down versions of familiar breeds, such as Spaniels and Greyhounds, have delighted fanciers for millennia. From Beijing to Boston, diminutive dogs provide solace and entertainment for people of every class. In the U.S., several miniatures that were developed include one breed possessed with more than its fair share of the American spirit – the Toy Fox Terrier.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Toy Fox Terrier’s genesis occurred in the whelping box of Smooth Fox Terriers brought to the U.S. beginning in the 1870s. Some breeders must have looked upon the smaller runts with favor, as those miniatures were soon crossed with various existing breeds to produce even smaller dogs. Miniature Pinschers, Italian Greyhounds, Chihuahuas and Manchester Terriers are mentioned as having been crossed with the Terriers to produce a companionable canine with spirit, but with a dampening of the aggressiveness typical of the original breed.

In the early years of the 20th century, the dogs were reduced in size from the 18- to 20-pound originals to an average weight of 7 pounds. Prior to the start of World War I, support for the little dogs had already begun to swell among American dog lovers.

The United Kennel Club accepted registrations of the smaller dogs as Fox Terriers (Smooth) beginning in 1912; however recognition as a separate breed did not come until 1936. Since February of that year, the Toy Fox Terrier has been a member of that organization’s Terrier Group. AKC recognition was slow by comparison, granted only in 2003 when the breed was included as the newest member of the Toy Group.

Described by supporters as outgoing and friendly, the TFT certainly has the appearance of a Toy, however it most certainly is in full possession of a Terrier’s heart. Supporters of the breed in both registries have fallen under the spell of the breed’s courage and keenness as much as its diminutive size and devotion to its people.

Outgoing without going overboard, the Toy Fox Terrier enjoys life in two worlds. On the one hand the breed is a devoted lap dog, content to share a cozy spot on the sofa. On the other, it’s always up for a good romp and the chance to prove its usefulness. As noted by the American Toy Fox Terrier Club, “He considers himself ‘Superdog,’ making it clear that he has a huge ego and will dominate almost every situation.”

AKC registrations for the Toy Fox Terrier are indicative of the breed’s popularity among small dog fanciers, with a ranking of 103rd among the 175 recognized breeds for 2012.

The Toy Fox Terrier brings to life the influence of its Toy and Terrier ancestors. Photo by Shabina Dalidd/Dreamstime.com

A Smooth, Elegant Outline
The General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard highlights the form that perfectly fits the breed’s character. “The Toy Fox Terrier is a well-balanced Toy dog of athletic appearance, displaying grace and agility in equal measure with strength and stamina.” A better description would be hard to pen for the physique of this little athlete.

A real life Yankee Doodle Dandy, the TFT possesses a “muscular body” with a “smooth, elegant outline.” A true contender in any game or activity, the breed’s reduced size does not prevent it from making a big impression. Measuring between just 8.5 and 11.5 inches tall at the withers, the breed conveys an “effortless movement and endless endurance.”

The Toy Fox Terrier’s rather refined appearance is innate, with a figure that’s genuinely handsome. “He is naturally well-groomed, proud, animated and alert,” according to the breed standard. One look and it’s not difficult to understand the breed’s major league appeal.

Always alert and aware of what’s going on, the TFT’s head and expression compliment its athletic and graceful body. Keenly alert, with a look that’s “full of interest,” the head is described as “elegant, balanced and expressive with no indication of coarseness.” A “soft, intelligent” expression is correct, with “clear, bright and dark” eyes that are “full, round and somewhat prominent, yet never bulging.”

Elegant and intelligent, this Toy Terrier’s good looks come from both sides of its family tree. The breed is as handsome as the Smooth Fox, with much of the IG’s elegance.

Self-Possessed and Spirited
The Toy Fox Terrier is as lively as it is handsome, with a natural charisma that is hard to come by, even in a dog twice its size.

The breed standard is not at a loss for adjectives to describe this lively little companion. “Intelligent,” “alert,” “friendly” and “loyal” are a few of the words used to describe the breed’s character, followed by self-possessed, spirited, determined and “not easily intimidated.” To acknowledge his dual nature, the standard emphasizes two sides to its personality. “He is a highly animated Toy dog that is comical, entertaining and playful all of his life. Any individuals lacking good Terrier attitude and personality are to be faulted.”

The ATFTC brings the breed’s lively character into focus through the following description: “The Toy Fox Terrier makes a wonderful companion and seems to anticipate his master’s every thought and mood. Nothing escapes the keen hearing of the Toy Fox Terrier which, coupled with his alert nature, makes him an exceptional watchdog… It is impossible not to spoil these funny, loving, intelligent and utterly loyal little dogs.”

At work, rest or play, the TFT has no shortage of appeal.

Smooth to the Touch
Its uniquely patterned coat accentuates the Toy Fox Terrier’s many charms. Eye-catching in its white jacket and colored hood with colorful body spots to match, the diminutive daredevil seems dressed for adventure.

The breed’s short and glossy coat is described as “shiny, satiny, fine in texture and smooth to the touch.” The hair is uniform in length over the entire body, although a “slightly longer” ruff is evident.

As described by the breed standard, the smooth coat may be of several color patterns: tri-color; white, chocolate and tan; white and tan; and white and black. In each case, the color appears “predominantly” on the head, and the white must cover more than 50 percent of the total body area. Tri-colored blacks and chocolates will have “sharply defined” tan markings on the cheeks, lips and as “eye dots,” and in all colors, body spots may or may not be present.

“Colors should be rich and clear,” notes the standard. Clear white is “preferred,” however a “small amount” of ticking is acceptable. “Color, other than ticking, that extends below the elbow or the hock” is a fault, and a blaze is acceptable, but it “may not touch the eyes or ears.”

Body spots are carefully considered, and on black-headed tri-colors they “must be black. Likewise, on chocolate-headed tri-colors, they “must be chocolate.” A “slight fringe of tan alongside any body spots near the chest and under the tail as seen in normal bi-color patterning” may be present in tri-colored dogs.

As might be expected, several disqualifications pertaining to color appear in the breed standard. “A blaze extending into the eyes or ears” disqualifies, as does any color combination not specified. Also cause for disqualification from the show ring is any dog with a head that is “more than 50-percent white,” a dog with a body that is “not more than 50-percent white,” and any dog “whose head and body spots are of different colors.”

According to the ATFTC, the breed‘s coat is an easy keeper. “The Toy Fox Terrier is an excellent apartment or housedog…They are economical to maintain because they eat little and maintain a neat appearance with no special grooming required.”

Fun and fit, with a wash-and-wear coat and a confidence that’s surprising for its size, the Toy Fox Terrier is happy to be both comforter and protector. Part Terrier and part Toy, the breed is equally at home in either role.


Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.