What to Know About Toy Fox Terriers

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

The toy fox terrier or TFT is a small breed of dog belonging to the toy and terrier groups. You can trace their lineage directly back to the early 20th century in the United States. TFTs are well known for their bravery, determination, athleticism, and willingness to learn. They can be playful, friendly, and great companions for respectful, especially older, children.

Toy fox terriers have lean and muscular bodies. They're known for their proudly held heads supported on a well-set, slightly arched muscular neck and laid-back shoulders. Additionally, they have inverted V-shaped ears that are erect, strong muzzles, and round dark eyes with strikingly soft and intelligent expressions.

TFTs accommodate other pets and do not show aggression with unfamiliar dogs. They're devoted, brave, and excellent watchdogs. But this doesn't mean that TFTs are vicious dogs. They're intelligent and know when to fight off an intruder.

Toy fox terriers ooze elegance in smooth, shiny, satiny coats that come in various color patterns, including tricolor, white and tan, black and white, and white and chocolate. The nose of a TFT should be black except in chocolate dogs, where it will be self-colored.

Both male and female toy fox terriers are 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall and weigh between 4 and 9 pounds. The lifespan of toy fox terriers is about 13 to 15 years.

Toy fox terriers are friendly, spirited, and affectionate, and they love to please their owners. They're intelligent, eager, and full of interest, with a fearless demeanor unique to the terriers. While most dogs crave human touch and affection, TFTs are naturally independent and might need their own space.

Toy fox terriers need regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. They are full of energy and are capable of any range of outdoor activities, from running to hiking and playing games of fetch. They do well in small living spaces like apartments, provided that they get enough exercise outdoors. TFTs are not recommended for families with small children because they are skittish and prone to biting.

Toy fox terriers are playful and will run around a lot. These dogs need regular exercise to keep their minds occupied and regular veterinary visits to ensure they live a long, healthy, and happy life.

Grooming. Weekly brushing and occasional baths are all this dog needs to maintain a healthy skin and coat. Toy fox terriers have short coats, so there is not much to shed. Aim to trim your dog’s nails every month and brush their teeth daily. Wash your TFT’s ears every week to prevent wax and dirt buildup.

Exercising. Toy fox terriers are natural athletes. They need regular exercise. Keep your TFT on a leash during runs or walks to prevent them from taking off.

Training. Despite their small size, TFTs are intelligent, eager, full of interest, and easy to train. Early training and socialization will ensure your dog grows to be a friendly and well-mannered companion. Potential TFT owners should be aware that these dogs have a stubborn streak and might need a professional to help them train them.

Although TFTs respond well to treats, it's easy for them to become overweight. Give your dog treats in moderation to prevent obesity.

Health. Toy fox terriers are known to pile on pounds. Physical activity and a healthy diet are most effective in preventing obesity. TFTs are also prone to specific genetic health concerns like luxating patellas and eye disease. Veterinarians recommend yearly heartworm prevention and prescription flea and tick control. Checkups are necessary even when your dog seems healthy so that your vet can detect any hidden illnesses early. 

Make sure your dog gets core vaccines like canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. Your vet may also want to administer other noncore vaccines, depending on whether your dog is exposed to certain risks.

Feeding. Whether you cook for your dog or purchase pre-prepared food, your dog should do well with a highly nutritious diet. But it's best to ask your veterinarian to help you choose what homemade foods will work best for your dog, as it is very difficult to make nutritionally complete, well balanced food.

Toy fox terriers tend to have relatively good overall health. But, like other dog breeds, they're predisposed to some heritable conditions. It's important to note that, although these conditions are genetic, it doesn't mean that your TFT will necessarily get them. Having access to your dog’s medical records is vital for determining a treatment plan for your dog. 

Genetic health issues in toy fox terriers include:

Primary lens luxation (PLL). PLL occurs when the lens of the eye moves from its normal position. It usually affects dogs from ages 3 to 8 years and causes permanent blindness if left untreated. This condition causes a great deal of pain to the affected dog and is only reversible through surgery.

Joint problems. Toy fox terriers are prone to luxating patellas, a condition that occurs when your dog’s kneecap dislocates. You may notice your dog having difficulty running or bending their knee and having pain when trying to move the affected leg.

Luxating patellas are treated through surgery, physical therapy, weight management, exercise restriction, and anti-inflammatory medication, depending on the severity of the luxation.

Like most small dog breeds, toy fox terriers are susceptible to Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, caused by an inadequate supply of blood to the femur, which causes the dog to limp on the affected leg. Signs of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease include:

  • Limping that gets worse over time
  • Stiffness in one or both lower thighs
  • Pain 
  • Popping or grating joints
  • Muscle weakness
  • Licking or chewing the skin around the affected area

Hypothyroidism. This condition occurs when the thyroid gland can no longer produce enough hormones for metabolism. Hypothyroidism is common in dogs between the ages of 4 to 10 years. Currently, hypothyroidism has no cure, but it’s manageable through thyroid hormone replacement therapy. If your dog has hypothyroidism, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Obesity
  • Lethargy
  • Hair loss
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Dark pigmentations on the skin

Von Willebrand's disease. Toy fox terriers are prone to von Willebrand's disease, an inherited bleeding disorder caused by the deficiency of proteins needed for blood clotting. If your dog has von Willebrand's disease, they might have prolonged bleeding after a cut.

Toy fox terriers are affectionate and loyal, and they never tire of play, making them excellent pets for active families. If you have small children, though, a toy fox terrier might not be ideal for you because they have unpredictable biting tendencies.

These dogs are protective of their families and will constantly bark if they sense danger. A toy fox terrier can live in a home without a yard as long as you exercise them outdoors regularly. TFTs may show separation anxiety when they're left alone for long.

The toy fox terrier is a dog of North American descent developed by breeders in the 20th century who brought together the smooth fox terrier, chihuahua, miniature Manchester, pinscher terrier, and Italian greyhound. The result was a fast and alert little dog with a smooth, shiny coat and the stamina and intelligence befitting a hunting dog.

Toy fox terriers were used widely for hunting foxes before charming their way to circuses because of their high intelligence and trainability. It was not until 1963 that the toy fox terrier was placed in the terrier group by the United Kennel Club, and it was later recognized by the American Kennel Club as a toy dog in 2003. Today, TFTs are not only great at competitive agility but also faithful companions and friends.