One of the biggest questions we had when considering a wire fox terrier was what their coat was really like. We knew what the word “wire” meant to us, but what did it really mean for this dog? Was it something we wouldn’t want to be cuddled up to? And was it true that they really didn’t shed, and were hypoallergenic? While nothing beats finding another owner of a wire that you can actually go visit and see for yourself, this article should help answer a lot of your questions.
What does the wire fox coat feel like?
One of the foremost things on our mind when considering a wire fox terrier as our family dog was how soft this “wire” coat was. We looked at a ton of pictures online, and it sured looked soft enough, but looking at a picture only gets you so far, and we couldn’t find a breeder that could really explain what it was like to the touch. So we’ll try our best here! First, you need to understand what the wire coat is all about.
The individual hair of a wire fox terrier’s coat has two parts. As it first grows, the first or top half of the hair is dark in color, stiff, and well, wiry of course. The second half of that same hair strand is both lighter in color and softer. So if you think about a brand new coat growing in on the dog, it is going to be fairly stiff and wiry. But as it grows out, the undercoat is soft, fluffy, and light to the touch. This is where the two grooming methods will drastically affect how your dog both looks and feels to the touch.
In the show-dog world, wire fox terriers are stripped as their primary method of grooming. In stripping, old hairs are pulled out with a special tool called a stripping knife, allowing new hairs to grow in place with their wiry tops in-tact. What this means for the dog is that their coat colors are darker and more vibrant, the coat lays flatter against their body, and the feel is more wiry. The best way I can think to explain the wire feel is that of a wool pea coat. It isn’t as harsh and stiff as some short-haired dogs can be when you pet them the wrong direction. But it isn’t going to feel like the inside of your cozy fleece lined slippers.
Most owners however do not groom their dogs for show using the stripping method. Most owners have their wire fox terriers clipped just like any other dog that is groomed with scissors or electric clippers. Now, remember the hair strand of the wire fox terrier… the top half is dark and wiry, the bottom half is light and soft. So if you are repeatedly having your dog clipped at the groomer, you are constantly going to be clipping off the top wiry half of each hair, leaving the soft undercoat as the main coat on the dog. This is going to mean that the tan and black colored sections of the dog turn light orange and grey respectively, and the overall feel of the coat is much softer. Now, it’s still not as soft as those fleece lined slippers. But the coat is now going to be closer to the texture of cotton, pillow stuffing, or even some types of human hair. As time goes by, new wiry hairs start to come through the coat, and eventually you have your dog groomed again. We personally find the clipped wire fox terrier to be soft. There are certainly softer dogs. But we love to cuddle up and stroke his light fluffy hair.
Are they really non-shedding?
As long as you understand that every animal, including humans, shed old hairs to some degree, we can emphatically say YES, the wire fox terrier is truly a non-shedding dog! In fact, our wire sheds just about as much as a human. A hair here, a hair there, and you tend to find more as you go about dusting and sweeping. But if you know people that have to vacuum every single day, lint roll their couches every morning, and never wear black, that won’t be your life. Sure, my black fleece sweatshirt has some white hairs on it. And the wiry nature means that the hairs tend to get stuck in things a little more than usual, but a good lint roller takes care of most of it. We can’t tell you what a relief it has been not having to worry about mats of hair all over our furniture and rugs. It really is nice. When people meet Watson and ask about shedding, we give a little tug on his fur with our fingers and hardly a hair even comes out. That hasn’t been our experience with most dogs. So, we’ve been really happy with the lack of shedding.
Are they really hypo-allergenic?
Full disclosure – I am not a veterinarian, nor any kind of dermatologist or doctor. I’ve never seen it written anywhere that there is a dog out there that NO ONE is allergic to. Some people are just allergic to everything! I can tell you that the wire fox terrier is widely considered a hypo-allergenic breed, yes. And I can tell you that my wife and I are allergic to cats, and are not allergic to our wire fox terrier. I can tell you that some people in our family who are typically allergic to animals are not allergic to Watson, and I can also tell you that one person in our family who is allergic to most all animals has shown no allergic signs to Watson that I have witnessed. If you have a highly-allergic person in your family, you may still have some issues with a wire fox terrier. But from what I have read and what I have experienced, they are as hypo-allergenic as a dog can be.
What do I need to do as an owner to care for the coat of a wire fox terrier?
Wire fox terrier coat maintenance is actually fairly simple if you are going to have them clipped as most people do. We take our dog to the groomer about every 8 weeks, just depending on how short he is cut. Besides that, we usually give him a quick bath every week or so depending on the weather and the amount of mud he gets into. We towel dry him, after which he runs around like a crazy bucking bronco for a few minutes. Then we take him outside and give him a treat while we brush him. This weekly brush is probably the most important (yet easiest to ignore) part of routine maintenance.
Brushing removes old hair from their coat which means less of them floating around your home, and it keeps the hair from getting matts in it. Remember to remove the collar (if the dog is in a safe place where he cannot escape) and brush their neck, as the collar is the biggest culprit of matting. I use a two-sided brush, combing the hair in reverse with the pointy metal side to remove hair, and then brushing in the natural direction with the softer nylon side to smooth things back down. It just takes a minute to do this each week, and goes a long way toward keeping your wire fox terrier a happy, fluffy fox terrier.
What other questions or suggestions do you have about the coat of a wire fox terrier? Let us know in the comments!