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Toy Fox Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

Toy Fox Terrier

The Toy Fox Terrier is a small or toy sized purebred from the U.S and is also known as the American Toy Terrier, Amertoy or when writing abbreviated it is the TFT. It was bred to hunt Foxes primarily and was bred to be small so that hunters could easily carry it in packs or even in pockets. It is a very adaptable dog as a result so makes a great dog to travel with but it is a frequent barker. It was bred by taking Smooth Fox Terriers and breeding then smaller but is now considered a separate breed. Over the years they have had a variety of uses as working dogs but they also make great companions.

The Toy Fox Terrier at A Glance
Name Toy Fox Terrier
Other names American Toy Terrier
Nicknames Amertoy, TFT
Origin U.S
Average size Small (toy)
Average weight 4 to 7 pounds
Average height 9 to 11 inches
Life span 13 to 14 years
Coat type Short, fine
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, tan, white
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 116th by the AKC
Intelligence Above average – understands things fairly quickly
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle warm to hot but not very hot or extreme heat
Tolerance to cold Moderate – does not do well in cold weather
Shedding Moderate – will be some hair around the home
Drooling Low – not prone to a lot of slobber or drool
Obesity Low – not prone to weight gain
Grooming/brushing Low maintenance – still will need regular brushing and basic care
Barking Occasional to frequent – training a command to stop can help
Exercise needs Slightly active – not much needed but still needs short daily walks
Trainability Moderately hard – have an independent mind
Friendliness Very good – quite social
Good first dog Moderate to good – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good but supervision needed with young children sue to its fragility
Good with other dogs Good but socialization and supervision needed as tends to challenge dogs but larger than itself
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization
Good with strangers Good but wary – needs socialization
Good apartment dog Very good due to size but barking may be a problem
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Somewhat healthy – some issues can include patellar luxation, skin problems, VWD, CHG
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $195 a year for license, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys
Average annual expenses $705 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $650
Rescue organizations Several including the American Toy Fox Terrier Club Rescue
Biting Statistics None Reported

The Toy Fox Terrier’s Beginnings

The Toy Fox Terrier was developed in the US. Some fanciers believe it was bred by taking small Smooth Fox Terriers brought over from England and crossing with other smaller breeds like the Miniature Pinscher, the Toy Manchester Terrier and the Chihuahua. Others think the Smooth Fox Terrier was bred smaller and smaller. The latter opinion stems from the fact the Smooth Fox Terrier varied quite a lot in sizes from just 7 pounds up to 20 pounds. In 1912 the United Kennel Club registered the Smooth Fox Terrier at all its sizes but in the mid 1920s some people requested that the smaller version be allowed to be separated as a different breed.

It was developed in the 1930s and was used at first to hunt rats and other rodents but then by fox hunters to flush out foxes from their den. It was bred to be versatile, bold, agile, brave and fast. As well as being used to hunt vermin and fox they were also used on farms and to hunt squirrel and other smaller game. Being so good at learning tricks they were even used as performance dogs and in circuses. It was recognized by the UKC in 1936. There was some debate at one point whether the breed should be bred to be larger, but in the end the UKC agreed it should stay a toy. In the 1960s the UKC closed the stud book on it so that no cross breeding was allowed anymore.

New Lease on Life

In 1949 the National Toy Fox Terrier Association was founded and in the 1970s many attempts were made to have it recognized by the AKC but they were unsuccessful. In 1994 another group of TFT fanciers tried again and finally in 2003 they were successful and AKC recognition was achieved. Today it is ranked 116th in popularity. It does well at agility events, earthdog trials, obedience, fly ball and other events requiring performance. As well as being good companions too they have also been successfully used as service dogs.

The Dog You See Today

The Toy Fox Terrier or TFT is a toy sized dog weighing 4 to 7 pounds and standing 9 to 11 inches tall. It is an athletic and muscular small dog with a squared shape and a topline that is level. It has a tail that is set high up and in some places is docked where that is still allowed, or left straight and long were that is now illegal. It is elegant looking and has a short coat that is smooth and fine and glossy. Its base color is white but then has usually a dark head and some markings in tan, chocolate or black. Around the neck can be a slightly longer ruff. It has a domed skull with a slim muzzle and its nose is usually black. Its eyes are large, round and dark and its ears are v shaped, high on the head and erect.

The Inner Toy Fox Terrier


The Amertoy is an alert and bold dog and it will be a good watchdog. Should an intruder break in it will bark to alert you. It also has some protective instincts though being small there may not be much it can actually do to scare anyone away. It is best owned by people who are not new to dog ownership, some experience helps as this is a typical terrier, frequent barking, feistiness, and a stubborn nature that needs firm experienced leadership. In the right home it is loving, loyal, playful, energetic and plucky. It is intelligent and is also very sensitive so needs homes where there is not a lot of tension and not a lot of shouting. It needs lots of attention and companionship and it bonds very closely with its people, it will want to sleep in bed with you, dominate your lap for cuddles and loves to be carried around and so on.

Toy Fox Terriers need to be treated as part of the family, included in activities. It has a curious nature and does tend to bark a lot so training to control that on command will be needed, especially if you live in an apartment. It may be a toy dog but it is still strong and robust, passionate and active. It retains a puppy like enthusiasm for life all throughout its life and will certainly make you smile, though for some of its antics a good sense of humor really helps. While it can be impulsive though it is more easy going and biddable than its relative the Smooth Fox Terrier. Around strangers it can be aloof at first until it has gotten to know them and socialization is needed.

Living with a Toy Fox Terrier

What will training look like?

How well training goes really does depend on the temperament of your dog and how much experience you have. It can be stubborn and rowdy which makes training more difficult, but with the right approach and experience it can go well too. Usually it is eager to please, its is intelligent and can go beyond just basic obedience training quite easily, performing tricks, taking part in shows even learning to assist disabled people. It is certainly one of the easiest terriers to train and for experienced owners things can go smoothly and even easily. Make sure you are consistent and firm, clear about the rules and expect it to always stick to them. Do not use harsh corrections, rather use praise, treats and rewards to motivate and encourage it. As adorable as it is always remember it is your dog not your baby, treat it as such and it will behave beautifully, spoil it and let it break rules and you could end up with a dog that develops small dog syndrome, becoming difficult, snappy and destructive.

House training varies with the TFT. Some like other small breeds are able to sneak off easily to go where they want so it can be hard to break them off that bad habit. However some owners find that the TFT is one of the few toy dogs that are actually easier to housebreak. They are able to be taught to use pads in canine litter boxes and that is useful for ones living in apartments.

Along with at least basic obedience training, when you get your Toy Fox Terrier home you should make sure you start early socialization. This is a breed that is wary around strangers as well as being a bit skittish when it comes to sudden unusual sounds. Introduce it at a young age to different places, sights, sounds, people and animals so that it gets used to them, learns appropriate responses and grows to be a more confident and less suspicious adult.

How active is the Toy Fox Terrier?

The TFT is a slightly active dog, it does not need a lot of physical activity to keep it happy and healthy so owners who are not very active themselves can consider this as a suitable dog to own. It plays indoors and some of that will go towards its needs, it loves to chase a ball which it can do indoors and out. Take it for a short walk a couple of times a day and along with some play and some mental activity opportunities it will be good. Of course it is capable of more, it is agile, does well in some doggy sports and it would appreciate some opportunities to run safely off leash. Some dog parks have separate areas for toy dogs. If there is a yard that would be great though not a requirement. Make sure it is well fenced and also make sure when walking that is had a collar and leash on or a harness. When it is cold it will need a coat to go outside.

Caring for the Toy Fox Terrier

Grooming needs

Looking after a Toy Fox Terrier is quite easy and does not require a great deal of time. It sheds an average amount so there may be some hair around the home which is part of why regular brushing is recommended, once or twice a week. However having a short coat means that brushing is easy to do and being small means it is a quick job too. Give it a wipe down now and then to keep it clean and a bath just when it needs one. Always use just a dog shampoo to clean it, anything for people will damage its natural oils even shampoos for babies.

Along with taking care of its coat it also needs its ears taken care of, its oral hygiene taken care of and its nails clipped when they get too long. The nails need to be cut with care using a proper dog nail clipper. Do not cut too far down as it can nick the part of the nail where there are blood vessels and nerves which will cause bleeding and pain. Its ears should be checked for infection – look for a build up of wax, a discharge, redness, sensitivity or irritation. If they are fine give them a clean once a week using a dog ear cleanser and cotton ball or a damp cloth. Do not insert anything into the ear, it could cause damage and hurt it. Its teeth should be cared for regularly too, especially as the TFT can have dental problems. Brush them at least two to three times a week to prevent gum disease and tooth decay and to give it better smelling breath! It is a good idea to give some kind of chew to help remove tartar or chewable toys.

Feeding Time

Being so small this dog only needs about ¼ to ½ of a good quality dry dog food a day split into two meals. How much exactly can vary from one TFT to another depending on its level of activity, its age, health, metabolism and size. Make sure it always has access to water that is regularly freshened.

How is the Toy Fox Terrier with children and other animals?

In general this is not the best dog to have around children, especially not young ones. It is best in homes with adults only, retirees, and such. The problem is mostly its size. When you are that small it is so easy for toddlers to cause some serious damage without meaning to. TFTs are wary around toddlers because of their sudden noises and movements. Toddlers also do not know how to hold back when touching them and playing with them. If it feels threatened it may snap no matter how good natured it usually is. Always teach children how to play and touch nicely what ever the size of the dog is. Early socialization is essential as would supervision be. Around small critters like mice its prey drive tends to be triggered and it will want to hunt. With socialization it can get along with other pets in the home, but ones straying through its yard will annoy it! It also tends to get itself into trouble with other dogs that are a lot larger than it.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Amertoy should live for between 13 to 14 years and in general is fairly healthy. It is small so fragility can be a problem and care needs to be taken with handling and how high you let it jump from. Some issues it can be prone to include dental issues, skin problems, VWD, food allergies, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, patellar luxation and hypothyroidism.

Biting Statistics

In reports that look at dogs attacking people that have caused bodily harm over 35 years in the US and Canada there is no mention of the Toy Fox Terrier. This does not mean it is not capable of snapping or becoming aggressive, as any dog can. Some people misjudge dogs by their size and their breed. It is true dogs larger than this are more likely to do more damage if they become aggressive, but it does not mean toy dogs never do. Socialization, training, being raised with enough attention, mental stimulation and physical activity are important in seeing your dog is less likely to have an incident, but even they will not give 100% guarantees, nothing can.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Toy Fox Terrier puppy from a trustworthy and decent breeder will cost about $650. From a top breeder of show quality TFTs this will go up, double or possibly even more. Be prepared to do some research and find a breeder that has experience, knowledge and treats their animals well. Avoid puppy mills, disreputable breeders, pet stores and back yard breeders who have little knowledge and some can even be cruel. Another option if you are not getting a dog to show, so it does not have to be a purebred, is to look at local shelters and rescues. Adoption can cost between $50 to $400 but it is possible there is a dog waiting for you to come take it home that can offer just as much love and companionship as any purebred can.

When you have found your puppy or dog there are some things it will need in the home. Bowls to eat and drink from, a crate, carrier, collar and leash or harness for example. These will cost about $120. Then when it is home as soon as you can, you should take it to a vet for some tests and check ups. The vet can do some blood tests, give it a physical, vaccinate, deworm, micro chip and spay or neuter. These initial health concerns will cost about $260.

Ongoing costs are important to factor in when deciding whether to get a dog and what kind of dog to get. Usually smaller dogs are less expensive in terms of per year, but then they live longer so you are paying for them for longer. Basic health care like shots, check ups, tick and flea prevention and dog health insurance is going to cost something like $435 a year. Miscellaneous costs like toys, basic training, license and miscellaneous items will be another $195 a year or more. Then a good quality dry dog food and dog treats will start at around $75 a year. This means an annual starting figure of $705 is likely.


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The Toy Fox Terrier is a small dog, easy to groom and care for, lively and full of character, entertaining and smart. It is easy to meet its needs in term of physical activity but is best not in a home with children, and certainly is not suited to homes with toddlers. Because of its size additional care does have to be taken as it can get hurt very easily. Kicking it as you step away from the sink, sitting on it when it is under a cushion, these are things that larger dogs can deal with, but could cause serious damage or even kill a toy dog.

Popular Toy Fox Terrier Mixes

Toy Fox Terrier, Shih Tzu Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 10 to 15 inches
Weight 8 to 15 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Slightly active
Breed Traits




Taco Terrier
Chihuahua, Toy Fox Terrier Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 6 to 10 inches
Weight 7 to 10 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Somewhat sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Somewhat active
Breed Traits

Eager to please
Can be stubborn



Featured Image Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.