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Breed Priorities – Toy Fox Terrier

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266 – September,2015

By Nikki Riggsbee


As their parent club emphasizes, the Toy Fox Terrier is both a toy and a terrier, small-sized but with a “big dog” attitude. It was developed in the United States using small Smooth Fox Terriers crossed with several other toy breeds, such as the Miniature Pinscher, Chihuahua, and Italian Greyhound. The breed was first recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1936 and achieved full AKC recognition in 2003.

Twenty-eight Toy Fox Terrier breeder-judges and mentors were identified to be included in a survey on the breed’s conformation priorities. Thirteen agreed to contribute, fewer than typically respond. After reminders, eight surveys were received.

Those who did participate averaged over seventeen years in the breed. The breeder-judges among the group have judged the breed for twenty-one years on average and have judged the national specialty.

Toy Fox Terrier Virtues

The experts were asked to prioritize a list of virtues from the Toy Fox Terrier breed standard. Below is the list ordered by the averages of the ranks, 1 being most important.


1. Square in proportion

2. Movement smooth, flowing, with good reach and strong drive

2. Topline level

4. Grace and agility in equal measure with strength and stamina

5. Forequarters well angulated

6. Elegant head

7. Neck erect, well set on, slightly arched, clean, muscular, same length as head

8. Ears erect, pointed, set high and close, never touching

9. Hind quarters well angulated, strong, muscular

10. Chest deep, muscular, with well sprung ribs

11. Eyes full, round, somewhat prominent, set well apart

12. Distance from nose to stop equal from stop to occiput

13. Short high-set tail

14. Coat shiny, satiny, fine, and smooth

15. Feet small, oval, toes well arched, closely knit, deep pads

16. Full complement of strong white teeth, scissors bite

The group had a good number of majorities agreeing on the value of many virtues. Seventy-five percent concurred on the importance of “Topline level” (tied at 2nd), “Coat shiny, satiny, fine, and smooth” (14th), and “Full complement of strong white teeth, scissors bite” (16th). On dentition, while most put it at or near the bottom, two had it second.

A majority of the experts agreed on “Square in proportion” (1st), “Movement smooth, flowing, with good reach and strong drive” (tied at 2nd), “Neck erect, well set on, slightly arched, clean, muscular, same length as head” (7th), “Ears erect, pointed, set high and close, never touching” (8th), “Hind quarters well angulated, strong, muscular” (9th), “Distance from nose to stop equal from stop to occiput” (12th), and “Feet small, oval, toes well arched, closely knit, deep pads” (15th). While “Square” (1st) had the majority in the top quartile, not all agreed, with three putting it closer to mid-point.

Half of the group thought similarly on these virtues: “Forequarters well angulated” (5th), “Elegant head” (6th), “Chest deep, muscular, with well sprung ribs” (10th), and “Short high-set tail” (13th). Overall, there was more than typical agreement on more virtues on this breed, including the mid-range ones that tend to vary a great deal.

“Grace and agility in equal measure with strength and stamina” (4th) was ranked all over as was “Eyes full, round, somewhat prominent, set well apart” (11th). Each was valued from first or second to last place. There were no bi-polar distributions of the ranks among the virtues.

The tie at second would be broken with additional input. No other virtues were unusually close in rank. Almost two points separated the two tied at second with the next virtue, emphasizing the importance of the first three.

Toy Fox Terrier Faults

The survey had the experts rank a list of faults from or derived from the breed standard from most serious to least serious. The list below is in sequence by the average ranks, with 1 being the most serious.

1. Topline not level

2. Apple head

3. Lacking good terrier attitude

4. Forequarters not well angulated

5. Tail not set high, not held erect

6. Stifles not well angulated

7. Ears not high set and close

7. Lacking athletic appearance

9. Muzzle fine rather than strong

9. Chest doesn’t extend to point of elbows

11. Head coarse

12. Excessive bone

13. Bulging eyes

14. Lacking fill below the eyes

15. Eyes slanted

15. Color (on coat) that extends below the elbow or hock

As with the virtues, more than half of the items on the list had majorities. The greatest agreement, with all but one with a similar opinion, was “Excessive bone” (12th). It is quite unusual to have the greatest agreement on a middling-ranked feature.

Seventy-five percent of the experts concurred on the lesser seriousness of the bottom two faults tied at fifteenth: “Eyes slanted” and “Color (on coat) that extends below the elbow or hock.”

The following faults had a majority agreeing: “Topline not level” (1st), “Tail not set high, not held erect” (5th), “Stifles not well angulated” (6th), “Ears not high set and close” (tied at 7th), “Chest doesn’t extend to point of elbows” (tied at 9th), and “Bulging eyes” (13th). “Shallow chest” (tied at 9th) had a bi-polar distribution with five having it high in the second quartile, but three putting it in the last quartile, lowering its average.

Several other faults also had split decisions. “Lacking athletic appearance” (tied at 7th) had half rank it near the top and the other half near the bottom. “Muzzle fine rather than strong” (tied at 9th) and “Head coarse” (11th) had similar splits, but not as extreme. “Lacking fill below the eyes” (14th) was towards the bottom on half the surveys, but nearly as many put it a bit below mid-point. Also with half in agreement were “Apple head” (2nd) and “Lacking good terrier attitude” (3rd).

“Forequarters not well angulated” (4th) had an odd distribution with no consensus. Three placed it second, two placed it sixth, and two placed it eleventh.

Additional input would break the ties at seven, nine, and fifteen. No other ranks were unusually close to each other. Nor were there big gaps between adjacent ranks.


The experts were asked to evaluate two sets of outlines, six dogs and six bitches, and place each set first through fourth, and then select best of breed. The outlines were made from photos of actual dogs, so they are not all in identical positions. Note that the placements could well change if the experts could see the dogs in person and see them move.

The Toy Fox Terrier dog with the best average placement was dog “C.” Those who placed him first said he “had the best whole picture, squarely built, neck fitting smoothly into shoulders, balanced, decent topline, excellent tail set,” “best balance, selected for front and rear angulation,” “smooth transition to level topline,” and “short back, brisket down to elbow, good legs.” His top placement average was the result of four first placements and four second placements.

The dog with the next best average placement was TFT “B.” Those who liked him commented “balance and level topline,” “best all around structured animal, correct shoulder placement, head type, and size,” and “correct proportions, correct tail set.” He had three first placements, with some seconds, thirds, and a fourth.

The bitch with the best average placement was TFT “U.” Those who chose her said “good balance and overall type, sound front and rear, ears good,” “wonderful outline, small ears, level topline, good tail set,” “most balanced, most refined,” “very nice, nice head,” and “beautiful balance, square proportions, smooth, elegant.” She had five first placements and three third placements, so her average was slightly behind TFT “C.”

The next best bitch was “X,” with comments such as “balance, conformation, breed type, topline, bend of stifle,” and “nice body, typey, better hindquarters.” She placed first once, and was second on every other survey, putting her average slightly behind first place “U.”

Best of Breed was dog “C” with the best average placement overall and selected BOB by three experts, more than any other outline.

Bitch “U” got more first placements than any other, followed by dog “C.” Dogs “A,” “D,” and “E” and bitches “V” and “Z” were not placed first on any survey.

Dogs “B,” “C,” and “D” and bitches “U” and “X” were never out of the ribbons. Dog “E” was out of the ribbons most often. Among the bitches, “V,” “Y,” and “Z” were unplaced by five experts each.

The group was fairly consistent in their outline selections, focusing in on dogs “C” and “B” and bitches “U” and “X.”

Essential Characteristics

The experts listed four to six characteristics that a Toy Fox Terrier must have to be a good one. “Head” was mentioned most often, followed by “movement,” “overall balance,” and “square outline.” Several details were mentioned after these, including “high set tail,” “alert expression,” “ear placement,” and “terrier attitude.”


The survey asked what movement component they felt was most important and which movement fault was most serious.

Most important to good movement, for this group, was reach and drive, followed by balanced angulation. Level topline and smooth and rhythmic movement were also valuable.

The most serious movement fault was hackney gait followed by goose stepping and poor movement caused by straight shoulders.


Here are additional comments from the Toy Fox Terrier experts:

• Proper terrier temperament without terrier aggression is critical.

• I want a square dog, balanced at both ends, a good typical TFT head, level topline, and good tail set.

• Go to a national specialty to see the different bloodlines and variations.

• Judge on the floor; examine on the table.

• Don’t get too involved with size; this is a robust small dog with good bone and substance; never toyish or too refined.

• The ATFTC has an excellent Illustrated Breed Standard – study it.

• Don’t try to get all placements the same size. The TFT allows for a range of 3” in size. Any exhibit within that range should be equally considered.

• Color: A dog with 50% color has a nearly solid black saddle extending far down each side. Don’t discount an exhibit with 35% color thinking it overmarked. White breaks up the color; white on the underside counts in quantifying color.

• TFT is a tan patterned dog. The tan markings appear where they would on a Doberman or Manchester. The standard only allows for them to be present “as fringing” on the chest and under the tail.

• It is a head breed.

• TFTs should be shown naturally, without the handler on the floor stacking the dog.

• Watch size; many winners are too large.

Thanks so much to the Toy Fox Terrier experts who participated in this project and shared their knowledge.

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Posted by on Sep 24 2015. Filed under Current Articles, Editorial, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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