Wire Fox Terrier Breed by Pamela Gallagher |Published 06-01-2020
Pamela is a lifetime owner of Wire Fox Terriers and she agreed to share her insights into living with this breed for anyone who might be contemplating the addition of a puppy or adopted adult dog.
We have had four wires in our lives, and they have all been a source of laughter for over forty years. Each had her own personality and quirks, but all shared key characteristics. On a Venn diagram of comparisons with all we have read and learned about the breed, they show a zone of agreement with all of the books and sites we've read.
Way back when my husband and I wanted to get our first dog, I did extensive research for a medium-size dog that was not going to shed much. I spent months of trips to libraries (there was no internet at the time) and reading as much as I could and numerous discussions with the vet I'd known from nearly the day she hung her shingle.
First, she said that "you need to be the Alpha in every sense. They are good dogs, healthy dogs, and way too smart for their own good." And thus began the phoning to find and interview candidate breeders and dogs. Now nearly 50 years later, four wires have been in our lives.
In short, with patience, love and training, all of our wires have come to see, especially me as their Alpha. My husband and son, though were much more the softies.
Our four wires, Ginger, Foxy, Sandy, and ASTA, all learned when to stop their barking on a command signal. Yes, they want to tell the world who they are and where they rule, but given a chance to express themselves, the learned signal silences the barking to some mumbling. THEY LEARN!
All of the team learned to urinate and defecate on command. We didn't like each of them to do their business on people's lawns, so emptying their business where and when we wanted them to do so greatly reduced the number and amount dropped on walks. THEY LEARN!
Each one was or learned to be great, even with smaller children. Our son was born when Ginger was eight years old, and from the time he came home to the house, Ginger ended her habit of sleeping on the bottom of our bed and took up her new station under the crib. She stood guard at the playpen, allowing the baby to pull her ears and try to remove her nose.
All four were quiet and obedient as we (or a groomer) groomed and clipped, giving their 'look of disdain' as each one tolerated the rather long grooming process (with people and doggie breaks to stretch).
Yes, the purchase of clippers (I only mildly 'stripped' .. do read about that process) has saved thousands of dollars over the years. I learned how to groom the wire hair fox terrier look by using pictures and making mistakes ... it grows in, so mistakes cover-up ... I LEARNED!!
A happy and important time of day is playtime. Energetic play with toys, including 'keep away’ was a hit every time with the humans becoming exhausted long before the dog.
The dogs would collapse, though, when we'd finally call a halt. Each one really LOVED to play but would drop their toys when the command 'drop' was given but often after a bit of 'keep away' to let us know who really was boss.
We've found that Wires are quite trainable if and only if learning is CONSISTENT and wrapped in lots of love and praise. Wires, like all of the dogs I have known as a small child require consistency and love.
They don't understand many of the words we say; dogs, in general, are not wired to do so. Thus the words they do learn must be utterly concise, crystal clear, and consistently applied.
What we love about our wires past and present was/is their quirky, absolutely hilarious personalities, their problem-solving abilities, and the love of all kinds of puzzles.
Certainly, they are a product of their heritage, but it can sometimes be modified. That is why it is so important to read and understand a breed’s history. Many of a breed’s traits can be explained by understanding its development.
Two of our Wires (Ginger and Sandy) were diggers as Wires are wont to be. If left to her own devices, Ginger would dig holes so deep that all we'd see was the tip of her fuzzy tail as the dirt was flying. This only happened when each of us would assume that the other person had brought her in!! There she'd be with balls of dirt hanging all over her sides, tummy, and face!
What a mess .... hello … bath time.
Foxy and Ginger could easily dig out under a fence and mightily try to climb trees after squirrels. Luckily Frank got under Ginger to catch her as she fell from about 7 feet up on her way to get that blasted squirrel.
These dogs are hunters ... These are really, really smart dogs. They want and need to be stimulated. BUT they are just as happy on a lap watching television.
All four loved to play with chew toys and edible bones. (We never used the rawhide ones for digestive reasons... read carefully before buying anything that might be unsafe).
Once they became available we loved providing the highly digestible and yummy 'No-Hide' bones. All of our dogs would/will destroy cheap toys and possibly be harmed by them.
We learned to buy the tough stuff by reliable manufacturers. Our girls entertained themselves and us for hours and hours playing, tossing, and chewing their toys. Still, all of them preferred one of us to engage in the play.
To this extent, they would walk to our feet and deposit a sodden, slimy toy onto our shoes or sock feet. This small ritual was always pared with that tilted head of intelligence, that screamed, "your turn! "... "I dare you!".... thousands of hours of hilarity.
These are wonderful dogs who are very, very smart, and can be a terror if a human isn't the clear Alpha. My husband and son kid about the dogs (even dogs with whom we've come in contact) knowing who is the 'leader.'
If abundant love and enthusiasm are present with UTTERLY CONSISTENT and CLEAR expectations, these dogs will provide a lifetime of happy, goofy companionship. They literally light up a room with funny faces and affection.
They are real cuddle bugs if allowed to be. Each of ours learned that the living room furniture was off-limits and when in other people's homes, one flat 'No' kept them off that furniture as well.
All are superb watchdogs, and their 'bark' was different when they were really on alert vs. the bark used to answer the communications of other dogs. (But each one learned when it was time to shut up!)
They are so very loving but retain elements of their independent spirit, which we admire in them. We have learned much from each of the Wires who were/are a part of our family, and each of them has taught us much as well.
With the exception of Sandy (an old, horribly abused rescue who needed little 'limiting' just care and love), our Wires have taught us that they utterly needed crystal clear limits so that they could enjoy life in the family to its fullest.
Quiet Ginger was a breeder/trainer drop out that didn't make the grade as a show dog prospect.
We purchased her from a breeder at 7 months of age. She was afraid of everything, including grass. She learned FAST. In less than a week, all major commands were mastered.
Ginger was the timidest of all of our wires. We honestly had to teach her how to bark. She was affectionate to the extreme. She helped to 'raise' our baby human (who was born when Ginger was 7), taught the child next door how to walk, adopted two gerbils and raised an abandoned Mallard duckling as her own (that is a long and hilarious story) during her long, long life dying in my arms at nearly 17.
Crazy Foxy was another breeder's dog, purchased after meeting her father and observing her with her mom and littermates in Maryland. She was wound tighter than any dog we've had. She died suddenly at the vet's likely from a second bee sting (the first a year before) of prophylaxis at age 7.
Wise Sandy: an adopted 10+-year-old rescue (a really awful story) who, as the fostering couple (with 6 other fosters) told us, probably only had perhaps 6 months to live (failing kidneys among other things) but deserved to have a home of her own for the time she had left.
We happily took her home. She wound up living two and a half more years very contently and joyfully as we nursed her back to somewhat better health with the help of our vet. Even though I didn't expect her to, she learned all of the 'drills' (doing her business on command, wait, etc.) in little more than a week. She was constantly demonstrating her love for us, NEVER being out of our sight if one of us was home. She was the embodiment of love who thrilled to quiet play and cuddling.
As she was in the last months of her life, she tolerated the infusions the vet taught us how to give (functions like dialysis) with stoic dignity waging her tail when each one was finished. When she went into the final moments of kidney failure with its violent seizures, we had the vet put her to sleep in our encircling arms.
Exuberant Asta: a rescue with a 'history' (she retaliated to the attack of another dog and tore it up pretty badly requiring over 500 stitches but lived). LucySue, as she was named at the time, had not one mark. We got her through Fox Terrier Rescue (as was Sandy}.
She was utterly wild when she entered the house.
She was on top of the kitchen table for less than a few minutes. For more than 6 weeks was constantly tied to the belt loop of my jeans as we learned how to live, work, and play with each other. She is still with us but dying of TCC (Transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder), which is 5% more likely to occur in Wires, Scottish Terriers and a few other breeds.
While our yard has never had any chemicals, she came to us with an unknown history of coming into contact with chemical lawn applications. Research into TCC seems to indicate a correlation between the occurrence of TCC and such chemicals.
She is on a regime of meds and is doing well, but if she follows the norm, she only has few months left. But she is happy, goofy, and doesn't know she's dying. As long as she is happy ...
OK, that is a short history of our lives with Wire Foxies ... they are not for everyone. They are not pocketbook dogs but travel really, really well (with proper training!).
They are very, very smart and can be mischievous. They can be high energy, but living with our four found that the energy is easily addressed with household play and periodic walks (they will go on as many as you want!). They are personable and welcoming (but need a moment to settle). They are good with vets, groomers, caregivers. They want to please... but they also want to have fun.
If you are thinking about having a wire, read the books. There are many now available that didn't exist when I started my research. No matter what the dog, please learn all you can first, then (preferably) adopt. If you plan to adopt, be sure to discuss a week or so foster period with the dog to see if s/he fits you and if you fit him/her. We did this with Asta (aka LucySue), which gave us time to have her seen by the vet we knew well. Within the week's time, I called to say that we 'fit'!
The more you know, the more successful you and the dog will be.
Best wishes, the Gallaghers