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Smooth Fox Terrier


The Smooth Fox Terrier, also known as the Fox Terrier, the Smooth-haired Fox Terrier, the Smooth-coated Fox Terrier and most affectionately as "the gentleman of the terrier world," is an old English breed that has been shown in the United States for more than a century. It developed in the 17th century as a hunting and sporting dog that specialized in flushing foxes and other vermin from their dens. Its keen senses of sight and smell, together with its size and stamina, made it especially well-suited to that task. The Smooth Fox Terrier is, as they say, "all terrier." It is plucky, active, short-backed and intently focused on whatever job it is given to do. It is used less to hunt fox and rodents now than it was historically and is more commonly used as a show dog and a companion. Potential owners should remember that this small terrier has an almost insatiable instinct to dig and is quite vocal. The Smooth Fox Terrier was recognized by the American Kennel Club as a breed distinct from the Wire Fox Terrier in 1995. The combined breed was admitted into the AKC, with a smooth and a wire variety, in 1885.

The mature male Smooth Fox Terrier should not exceed 15½ inches at the withers and should not be more than 12 inches from withers to the root of the tail in length, with the female being slightly smaller but in the same proportion. The adult male in show condition usually weighs about 18 pounds, with a bitch being about 16 pounds in the same condition. The breed's coat is smooth and flat but also hard, dense and abundant. White predominates with a few black patches, and brindle, red or liver markings are not preferred, because they too closely resemble the color of the fox. Its tail typically is docked to about ¾ of its original length and is set high and held upright.

History & Health


The Fox Terrier has been shown in the United States as one breed with two varieties, the smooth and the wire, since it was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. In 1984, the AKC approved separate standards for the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier, and breeds were recognized as fully distinct effective June 1, 1995. Experts believe that the two fox terriers developed very differently. The Wire Fox Terrier is thought to have descended from the old rough-coated black-and-tan working terriers of Wales, Durham and Derbyshire. The Smooth Fox Terrier apparently descended from the smooth-coated black-and-tan terrier, the Bull Terrier, the Beagle and the Greyhound. Both the Smooth and the Wire Fox Terrier were bred for their excellence as ratters and as aides to British farmers in eradicating vermin. Traditionally, the fox terriers would go to ground to bolt foxes, where the hunters and their pack of foxhounds would carry on the chase.

The Smooth Fox Terrier was in the show ring 10 to 20 years before its wire-haired cousin. The first class devoted to the Fox Terrier was at a dog show in London in 1862. In 1863, at the Birmingham show, three Fox Terriers known as the founding fathers of the breed were shown. The appearance of Old Jock, Old Tartar and Old Trap in the ring boosted the Fox Terriers' career as competitive show dogs in addition to their working talents. The two then-varieties were crossed many times, particularly to give more of a white coat color to the Wire Fox and a cleaner silhouette. That practice has been discontinued for many years. However, the mostly white coat has remained, originally desired because dark-coated fox terriers were sometimes mistaken for prey by the hunting hounds when they emerged from bolting the fox from its borough.

By the late 1800s, the Fox Terrier had skyrocketed in popularity to become one of the most popular terrier breeds in all of Britain. In 1873, more than 275 entries were in a single Fox Terrier class at an English show. The Fox Terrier Club of England was created in 1876. So well drafted was its breed standard that it remained virtually unchanged for decades. The American Fox Terrier Club was formed in 1885 and adopted the British standard for the breed. The Fox Terrier was accepted into the American Kennel Club's Terrier Group, with a Smooth and a Wire variety, that same year. By the early 1900s, the smooth Fox Terrier had become the most popular dog breed in England. By the 1920s, the wire-haired variety gave it a run for its money, and later, both varieties declined in Britain as other terrier breeds became more fashionable for dog fanciers.

Today's Smooth Fox Terrier retains its hunting instincts and traits, making it arguably less commonly seen as purely a house pet than many other terrier breeds. It excels at flyball, agility and other activities that let it satisfy its natural desires to run, chase and explore. The Smooth Fox Terrier can be stubborn, scrappy, aloof and snappy. Its fanciers, however, understand and value these attributes and adore this fiery little terrier.


The average life span of the Smooth Fox Terrier is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include cataracts, congenital heart disease (pulmonic stenosis), insulinoma, shoulder luxation, congenital vestibular disease, congenital deafness, distichiasis, glaucoma, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, primary lens luxation, refractory corneal ulceration, ectopic ureters and skin allergies.

Temperament & Personality


Fox Terriers are spunky, fearless, loyal dogs who adore the outdoors as much as they enjoy people. They were developed to work as part of fox hunting parties, bolting foxes from their dens out into the open where Foxhounds and hunters then took over. Their small size allowed them to get into the foxes dens, and t heir long legs helped them keep up with the hounds. Today, Fox Terriers still enjoy running and digging, and are happy to do so alongside kids of all ages. They are active dogs who require a family who is committed to exercise, but for experienced owners, these terriers make a great family pet.

Activity Requirements

Fox Terriers are small, but they have energy to spare and need a lot of exercise to maintain health and happiness. Even when indoors they are always "on the go," constantly moving about the house. You should walk your Fox Terrier several times a day, but jogging is even better. Fox Terriers prefer running to walking, so joggers have a true blue companion in this breed. They chase balls to the point that some owners believe they are obsessed with the activity, and can use up all of their energy playing fetch, as long as your arm doesn't tire out in the process. Their size makes Fox Terriers fine apartment dogs, but a commitment must be made to keeping up with a regular exercise program.


Fox Terriers can be a handful to train. They are independent thinkers who will make you prove that you are a worthy leader. Training sessions should begin early and conducted with a firm but gentle hand. Consistency is important, as Fox Terriers will test boundaries and the minute a rule is bent will attempt to run roughshod over the house. Praise is a good motivator, but food works the best. Once a Fox Terrier learns that there is something in training that benefits him (treats), he will come around quickly.

Once leadership has been established and basic obedience has been mastered, Fox Terriers should move on to advanced obedience, trick training or agility activities. They need to work their brains as much as their bodies, and keeping them focused on learning new activities can prevent your Fox Terrier from making mischief in the house, especially when left alone.

Behavioral Traits

Fox Terriers are very aggressive toward other dogs, picking fights and refusing to back down when he is picked upon. Unfortunately, the Fox Terrier can't defend himself very well and is bound to lose most fights he picks. It is very important, no matter how well-behaved you believe your Fox Terrier to be, that you keep him on a leash or in a securely fenced area at all times. This keeps him safe from fights, but also keeps him from running after small animals, which this breed is also very prone to do. A Fox Terrier will not obey commands to return home if he takes off after a cat, rabbit or squirrel. It is also best if your Fox Terrier is the only pet in the house. He'll pick fights with dogs, terrorize cats and stalk small caged animals.

Fox Terriers are prone to excessive barking. This trait is classic Terrier and can be difficult to train out of the dog. This makes Fox Terriers excellent watchdogs, but lousy housemates and neighbors, especially if you live in close proximity to other people. Teaching your Fox Terrier to obey commands to cease barking can save the sanity of the neighborhood.

Fox Terriers are small, but they can escape a fence in the blink of an eye. Fences should be high, and also sunk low beneath the ground and yard time should always be supervised. They can jump higher than you think, and are expert diggers who can tunnel quickly under a fence in search of new adventure.

Breed Standard

General Appearance

The dog must present a generally gay, lively and active appearance; bone and strength in a small compass are essentials; but this must not be taken to mean that a Fox Terrier should be cloddy, or in any way coarse--speed and endurance must be looked to as well as power, and the symmetry of the Foxhound taken as a model. The Terrier, like the Hound, must on no account be leggy, nor must he be too short in the leg. He should stand like a cleverly made hunter, covering a lot of ground, yet with a short back, as stated below. He will then attain the highest degree of propelling power, together with the greatest length of stride that is compatible with the length of his body. Weight is not a certain criterion of a Terrier's fitness for his work-general shape, size and contour are the main points; and if a dog can gallop and stay, and follow his fox up a drain, it matters little what his weight is to a pound or so.

N.B. Old scars or injuries, the result of work or accident, should not be allowed to prejudice a Terrier's chance in the show ring, unless they interfere with its movement or with its utility for work or stud.

Size, Proportion, Substance

According to present-day requirements, a full-sized, well balanced dog should not exceed 15½ inches at the withers--the bitch being proportionately lower--nor should the length of back from withers to root of tail exceed 12 inches, while to maintain the relative proportions, the head should not exceed 7¼ inches or be less than 7 inches. A dog with these measurements should scale 18 pounds in show condition--a bitch weighing some two pounds less-with a margin of one pound either way. Balance--This may be defined as the correct proportions of a certain point, or points, when considered in relation to a certain other point or points. It is the keystone of the Terrier's anatomy. The chief points for consideration are the relative proportions of skull and foreface; head and back; height at withers and length of body from shoulder point to buttock-the ideal of proportion being reached when the last two measurements are the same. It should be added that, although the head measurements can be taken with absolute accuracy, the height at withers and length of back and coat are approximate, and are inserted for the information of breeders and exhibitors rather than as a hard-and-fast rule.


Eyes and rims should be dark in color, moderately small and rather deep set, full of fire, life and intelligence and as nearly possible circular in shape. Anything approaching a yellow eye is most objectionable. Ears should be V-shaped and small, of moderate thickness, and dropping forward close to the cheek, not hanging by the side of the head like a Foxhound. The topline of the folded ear should be well above the level of the skull. Disqualifications--Ears prick, tulip or rose.

The skull should be flat and moderately narrow, gradually decreasing in width to the eyes. Not much "stop" should be apparent, but there should be more dip in the profile between the forehead and the top jaw than is seen in the case of a Greyhound. It should be noticed that although the foreface should gradually taper from eye to muzzle and should tip slightly at its junction with the forehead, it should not "dish" or fall away quickly below the eyes, where it should be full and well made up, but relieved from "wedginess" by a little delicate chiseling. There should be apparent little difference in length between the skull and foreface of a well balanced head. Cheeks must not be full.

Jaws, upper and lower, should be strong and muscular and of fair punishing strength, but not so as in any way to resemble the Greyhound or modern English Terrier. There should not be much falling away below the eyes. This part of the head should, however, be moderately chiseled out, so as not to go down in a straight slope like a wedge. The nose, toward which the muzzle must gradually taper, should be black. Disqualifications--Nose white, cherry or spotted to a considerable extent with either of these colors.

The teeth should be as nearly as possible together, i.e., the points of the upper (incisors) teeth on the outside of or slightly overlapping the lower teeth. Disqualifications--Much undershot, or much overshot.

Neck, Topline, Body

Neck should be clean and muscular, without throatiness, of fair length, and gradually widening to the shoulders. Back should be short, straight (i.e., level), and strong, with no appearance of slackness. Chest deep and not broad. Brisket should be deep, yet not exaggerated. The foreribs should be moderately arched, the back ribs deep and well sprung, and the dog should be well ribbed up. Loin should be very powerful, muscular and very slightly arched. Stern should be set on rather high, and carried gaily, but not over the back or curled, docked to leave about three quarters of the original length of the tail. It should be of good strength, anything approaching a "Pipestopper" tail being especially objectionable.


Shoulders should be long and sloping, well laid back, fine at the points, and clearly cut at the withers. The elbows should hang perpendicular to the body, working free of the sides. The forelegs viewed from any direction must be straight with bone strong right down to the feet, showing little or no appearance of ankle in front, and being short and straight in pastern. Both fore and hind legs should be carried straight forward in traveling. Feet should be round, compact, and not large; the soles hard and tough; the toes moderately arched, and turned neither in nor out.


Should be strong and muscular, quite free from droop or crouch; the thighs long and powerful, stifles well curved and turned neither in nor out; hocks well bent and near the ground should be perfectly upright and parallel each with the other when viewed from behind, the dog standing well up on them like a Foxhound, and not straight in the stifle. The worst possible form of hindquarters consists of a short second thigh and a straight stifle. Both fore and hind legs should be carried straight forward in traveling, the stifles not turning outward. Feet as in front.

Should be smooth, flat, but hard, dense and abundant. The belly and underside of the thighs should not be bare.


White should predominate; brindle, red or liver markings are objectionable. Otherwise this point is of little or no importance.


Movement, or action, is the crucial test of conformation. The Terrier's legs should be carried straight forward while traveling, the forelegs hanging perpendicular and swinging parallel with the sides, like the pendulum of a clock. The principal propulsive power is furnished by the hind legs, perfection of action being found in the Terrier possessing long thighs and muscular second thighs well bent at the stifles, which admit of a strong forward thrust or "snatch" of the hocks. When approaching, the forelegs should form a continuation of the straight line of the front, the feet being the same distance apart as the elbows. When stationary it is often difficult to determine whether a dog is slightly out at shoulder, but, directly he moves, the defect--if it exists--becomes more apparent, the forefeet having a tendency to cross, "weave," or "dish." When, on the contrary, the dog is tied at the shoulder, the tendency of the feet is to move wider apart, with a sort of paddling action. When the hocks are turned in-cow-hocks-the stifles and feet are turned outwards, resulting in a serious loss of propulsive power. When the hocks are turned outward the tendency of the hind feet is to cross, resulting in an ungainly waddle.


Ears prick, tulip or rose.
Nose white, cherry or spotted to a considerable extent with either of these colors.
Mouth much undershot, or much overshot.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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