What to Know About Smooth Fox Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 29, 2022
7 min read

The smooth fox terrier is one of the many terrier dog breeds. This breed originated in England, where hunters used it to track and chase foxes. Although smooth fox terriers are fearless and have strong hunting instincts, their playful, affectionate, and loving personalities make them excellent pets for families with children and other animals.

Smooth fox terriers are muscular and have compact bodies built for speed and agility, befitting a hunting dog. The head is V-shaped with a flat and moderately narrow skull that gradually decreases in width toward the eyes. These dogs have small, moderately thick V-shaped ears that fall forward toward the cheeks, and their large, round eyes are dark in color and full of life and intelligence.

Smooth fox terriers have great smelling and tracking abilities thanks to their powerful muzzle that gradually tapers to a long black nose. The neck should be muscular and of fair length, gradually widening toward the long, well laid back shoulders. Smooth fox terriers have smooth and flat but dense coats that come in white with brindle, red, or liver markings. 

Smooth fox terriers make good family pets, though some might not be suitable for living with cats or other dogs. Early socialization and training can help tame your dog’s prey drive and give them tools for future interactions.

Smooth fox terriers are small to medium-sized dogs with a standing height of 15.5 inches at the shoulder. Fully grown males weigh 18 pounds on average, and females are slightly lighter, weighing anywhere between 15 and 17 pounds.

The smooth fox terrier personality is affectionate and cheerful. But this fun-loving breed is also known for its mischievous and somewhat sly nature. They're always on the lookout for possible danger. This means that they tend to be nuisance barkers, which might be unbearable for people with a low tolerance for barking behavior.

Smooth fox terriers are lively and athletic dogs. They need 1 to 2 hours of physical exercise daily to keep them healthy and in good shape while minimizing behavioral problems like excessive barking and biting. These dogs have a high prey drive, so you might want to keep them on a leash during walks, as they might take off as soon as they spot a rabbit, squirrel, or chicken.

Smooth fox terriers are generally low-maintenance. However, these dogs are quite adventurous and will bounce off everything and run around, so grooming is a must. Yearly veterinary check ups even when your dog looks healthy will also allow your vet to detect any hidden illnesses.

Grooming. The coats of smooth fox terriers are short, so grooming should be easy. A weekly brushing using a rubber brush should be enough to remove loose hair and dirt and keep their coats healthy. A bath is not necessary unless they’re dirty. Their strong, fast-growing nails should be kept neat and trimmed. Check your dog’s ears weekly to remove wax and debris. Sometimes wax can be a result of an ear infection. Also brush your dog’s teeth every day to prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

Exercise. Smooth fox terriers are lively and full of energy. To stay happy and healthy, they will need lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation — otherwise, they can become destructive and turn into nuisance barkers. These perky canines also enjoy playing games of fetch and chasing balls or Frisbees.

Training. Smooth fox terriers are intelligent, which makes them easy to train. However, they tend to be self-willed and may need to be trained by a professional. First-time smooth fox terrier owners need to be aware that digging is normal and instinctive for these dogs. Early training can help discourage digging in unwanted areas around your home.

Health. Smooth fox terriers are generally healthy. But you should make sure your dog gets core vaccines like canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. Your vet may also recommend noncore vaccines depending on your dog's exposure risk.

Regular veterinary exams may help detect medical conditions long before they become extreme and fatal. Veterinarians recommend patella evaluation and cardiac exams at least once per year to make sure your dog lives a healthy life. They will also recommend year-round preventative medication for heartworm infestation. You should also ask your vet about flea and tick control. There are prescription and over-the-counter options available.

Feeding. Veterinarians recommend feeding your dog high-quality dog food. Commercially available dog food is well balanced for your pet’s nutritional needs. If you’d rather use home-prepared meals, make sure the food is nutritious and approved by your veterinarian. Also, dogs should have clean, fresh water available at all times. Monitor your dog’s calorie intake so they don't become obese. Obese dogs have an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart problems, arthritis, and cancer.

Smooth fox terriers are generally healthy. But, just like all dog breeds, they're susceptible to some health problems, like heart disease, cataracts, luxating patellas, and wobbler syndrome. If you’ve never owned a smooth fox terrier before, knowledge of these health concerns will help you ensure that your new pet lives a long and healthy life. 

Genetic conditions of smooth fox terriers include:

Eye problems. Smooth fox terriers are prone to hereditary cataracts that form when proteins in the dog’s eye clump together to form a cloudy substance that blocks light from entering the eye. Cataracts can also result from eye injuries, diseases, or medication. 

While this condition is not painful, it's likely to cause inflammation in the affected eye, which can be painful for your dog. The only effective way to treat cataracts once they’ve formed is surgery.

Primary lens luxation (PLL) is an painful inherited eye disorder that occurs when the lens of the eye moves from its normal position, causing inflammation and glaucoma, which eventually leads to loss of vision.

Smooth fox terriers are also susceptible to glaucoma, a very painful condition that's caused by inadequate drainage of fluid from the eye. This causes an increase in pressure on the affected eye and can cause total loss of vision if left untreated. Glaucoma is treated through medication and surgery. Symptoms of glaucoma include:

  • Pain
  • Avoiding touch near the affected eye
  • Watery discharge from the eye
  • Cloudy eye appearance

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. If your dog has this condition, the head of their thigh bone will shrink due to a reduced blood supply. One of the signs that you should check your dog for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is a limp in their walk. The symptoms can start to show as early as 4 to 6 months of age. If left untreated, there’s a chance that the condition will cause arthritis. Your vet will recommend surgery to treat this condition.

Luxating patella. A luxating patella occurs when a dog’s kneecap dislocates. You may notice your dog seems to walk uncomfortably or has trouble running and jumping. Luxating patellas can only be treated through surgery. Anti-inflammatory medication and lifestyle modification can help ease your dog’s discomfort.

Wobbler syndrome. Although it's uncommon in small dog breeds, the smooth fox terrier is prone to wobbler syndrome, a disease that affects the spine in the neck region. Dogs with wobbler syndrome experience a great deal of pain and discomfort in their neck due to compression of the spinal cord. Wobbler syndrome is corrected through surgery and medical management.

Smooth fox terriers are loyal and devoted to their families. They're suitable for anyone who leads an active lifestyle and would like to take their dog along. Smooth fox terrier dogs are affectionate and great companions for children, as they don't easily get tired of playing.

Socialization and training as early as possible are key to eliminating undesirable behavior like small dog syndrome and excessive barking. Train your kids on how to handle these dogs with care and respect and monitor their interactions. A smooth fox terrier will do well in apartment living as long as you meet its social and physical needs.

The history of smooth fox terrier dates back to the 18th century, when fox hunting was at its peak in England. The breed’s origin in history is not well documented, but the smooth terrier has been known to be a distinct breed since the 18th century. 

Besides hunting foxes, these dogs were also used to retrieve birds and track deer. Although fox hunting was part of rural culture in England, this sport, as well as chasing other mammals with dogs, was banned. While these dogs have high prey instincts, today, they're used as great companions and show dogs.

Smooth fox terriers are affectionate, loyal to their loved ones, and full of life. These dogs are always up for an adventure if it means running around. If you're looking to stay active by running and hiking, among other fun activities, this dog will keep you on your feet.