Toy Fox Terriers – More than Just a Pretty Face

    Toy Fox Terrier activity - lure coursing

    Is your Toy Fox Terrier retired from the show ring but you are looking for something to keep him or her busy? Maybe you want something to do with your Toy Fox in between shows? Perhaps you’ve gotten a Toy Fox but aren’t ready to try the show ring? Perhaps your Toy Fox is a beloved pet that you are looking to have some fun with? A benefit of owning Toy Fox Terriers is that they love to learn and they love to perform, and there are many events you and your dog can participate in.

    Toy Fox Terrier activity - agility

    Toy Fox Terriers were often used by clowns in the early and mid-1900s because they are so easy to teach and because they love to perform. These dogs, while small in stature and usually between 8-1/2 inches and 11-1/2 inches at the withers, have big personalities and are generally fearless due to their terrier heritage.

    Toy Fox owners have found their dogs to be quite versatile, and Toy Fox Terriers are excelling in many dog sports. One convenient aspect of the breed is that, with their very small size, finding places to train them is simplified. If you live in the city or in a neighborhood with no yard space, it’s not a problem. A large yard or area isn’t necessary. You can do much of the training for this breed in your home or apartment! Even equipment that’s necessary for some of the activities can be made or modified, and smaller versions may be bought to do the initial training or to keep them “fresh.”

    Toy Fox Terrier activity - agility

    Another activity that also utilizes courses and gets a lot of publicity (and one that Toy Fox Terrier do really well in) is Agility. Toy Foxes are agile and love to run and jump. They take great pleasure in speeding around an Agility course with their owners.

    With the circus history, earning Trick Dog titles is one activity that all Toy Fox Terrier owners can aspire to. The Novice Trick Dog title (TKN) incorporates both simple tricks and some very basic Obedience skills. As the dog proceeds through the various title levels, the complexity and number of tricks increase; but one thing is for certain—Toy Foxes love to perform for their owners.

    Toy Fox Terriers, in general, are very food-focused, making trick training something the dogs really get into. Janet Weerts, a Toy Fox owner who competes in various events with her Toy Foxes, states:

    Their high intelligence, coupled with fun-loving attitude, makes them a quick study for any new skill. A caution here: one had best teach a skill correctly the first time because, once retained, change becomes nearly impossible!

    In addition to the Basic Obedience skills used for trick training, Obedience skills can quickly earn your Toy Fox Terrier titles such as Canine Good Citizen and maybe even the Farm Dog Certification.

    Small dog in a Barn

    From there, it’s a natural progression to Rally. In Rally, your dog heels, sits, downs, stands, comes when called, stays, and performs other basic Obedience-type skills and these are executed in various combinations. There is a course set up in the ring and you go from sign to sign performing what each sign directs. Rally Novice and Rally Intermediate are both on-leash, and levels above them are off-leash. Rally is less formal than regular Obedience and you can talk, praise, use body language and hand signals, and proceed through the course together in sync to demonstrate your partnership with your dog. Toy Foxes can do this really well; however, sometimes their clown days express themselves. My boy, “Barnum,” prefers to play “bang… you’re dead” which he learned in tricks instead of a normal down. I lose a couple half-points and he gets lots of laughs!

    Another activity that also utilizes courses and gets a lot of publicity (and one that Toy Fox Terrier do really well in) is Agility. Toy Foxes are agile and love to run and jump. They take great pleasure in speeding around an Agility course with their owners. Toy Fox Terriers sometimes share that joy with happy barks, but their sheer vivacity as they proceed over jumps, through tunnels, and zigzagging through weaves and over obstacles makes everyone smile. They are very intelligent, however, and I have it on good authority from a friend who has shown three Toy Foxes in Agility that they get bored with “excessive” do-overs.

    Toy Fox Terrier activity - agility

    Toy Fox Terriers, being bred down from Fox Terriers, are excellent mousers and ratters and they relish Barn Hunt. Toy Foxes can get very intense when they discover that there are rats in tubes hidden in the stacked bales of hay, and their terrier personality comes out in full when they are searching for the hidden rats. My “Sparkles,” a Gold Grand Champion, begins singing when she gets to a Barn Hunt event. Her eyes become like lasers and she quivers in anticipation. She relishes the opportunity to find the rats.

    Using their noses can also be fun in another growing dog sport—Scent Work. In this sport, cotton swabs saturated with the essential oils of birch, anise, clove, and cypress are hidden and the dog seeks them out. The work mimics working Detection Dogs but uses legal and common scents. The swabs are hidden in various elements: container, interior, exterior, and buried. As with other sports, the titles start at Novice and you can work to higher levels as you both gain expertise. Toy Foxes of all ages love this sport because they are really good at using their noses.

    As Toy Fox Terriers have a lot of energy and also prey drive, many Toy Fox owners find that their dogs excel in events that emphasize running. Fast CAT (see Top Notch Toys article “Run Your Toy in Fast Cat” in the November 2021 issue) is a 100-yard dash chasing a plastic bag on a pulley. The Coursing Ability Test for toy-sized dogs is a 300-yard course chasing a bag. In both, the titles are awarded based on successful runs.

    Other events that Toy Fox Terriers participate in include Obedience Trials, Tracking, and Dock Diving. Results for these vary but are always fun endeavors, and Toy Foxes that participate in these sports receive the accolades and admiration of Toy Fox owners everywhere.

    Dog playing with a colorful toy inside a hallway

    Toy Fox Terriers are long-lived, versatile, and active dogs that thrive on doing things with their owners. Training and competing in these Companion Sports will give your dog confidence, build your relationship, and provide endless hours of fun. As the clowns have known and you will discover, Toy Fox Terriers thrive on learning and active engagement with their owners. Retiring from the show ring should be the start of new adventures and not the end of you and your dog having fun and going places. Grab the treat bag and get started!

    A special thank you to our Performance ATFTC members for sharing photos of their awesome dogs!

    Susan Thibodeaux

    Susan Thibodeaux began showing dogs in 1978. Ten years ago, after decades in the Sporting Group showing primarily Vizslas, Cocker Spaniels, and English Cockers, she made the decision to segue to the Toy Group and now has Toy Fox Terriers and Toy Manchester Terriers. She is Vice President for the American Toy Fox Terrier Club and on the Board of the Brevard Kennel Club. In addition to showing, Susan can be found having fun in various events such as Rally, Fast CAT, and Barn Hunt, stewarding, teaching handling classes for BKC, and judging sweepstakes and matches.

    • Susan Thibodeaux began showing dogs in 1978. Ten years ago, after decades in the Sporting Group showing primarily Vizslas, Cocker Spaniels, and English Cockers, she made the decision to segue to the Toy Group and now has Toy Fox Terriers and Toy Manchester Terriers. She is Vice President for the American Toy Fox Terrier Club and on the Board of the Brevard Kennel Club. In addition to showing, Susan can be found having fun in various events such as Rally, Fast CAT, and Barn Hunt, stewarding, teaching handling classes for BKC, and judging sweepstakes and matches.

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