Ted’s had a grumble. I write about March Hares, musty old books, why not him? I can’t come up with a decent argument, so here it is Ted, your formal introduction.
Ted is a Wire Fox Terrier, called by many other names; Fox Terrier, Rough Haired Terrier, and “is that a small Airedale?” He was bred to hunt the fox and failing that, clearing the rats from the barn (don’t tell him this, it will upset his coffee image.) His full name is Theodore, but I call him The Tedster, Theodora Gabora ( seriously I have no idea why!) He also goes by Teddy, Teddy Bear, and You Cheeky Little Monkey! He responds to all when he’s in the mood, the rest of the time, he contemplates me curiously as if to figure out, what is she shouting about now? Who’s Ted?
Jerome K Jerome famous for his fox terrier quotation (albeit Montemercy was a Smooth Fox Terrier) still hit it on the head when analysing Fox Terriers.
“Fox-terriers are born with about four times as much original sin in them as other dogs are, and it will take years and years of patient effort on the part of us Christians to bring about any appreciable reformation in the rowdiness of the fox-terrier nature.”
Well, jolly good luck, I say. But, I can’t quite agree a hundred percent with all that. Sin comes with guilt, and I have yet to meet a guilty Wire Fox Terrier. When I am asked, what are Fox Terriers like to live with, I give pause. They are not for everyone. They are a handful. Ted gets three good walks a day, and he gets a half hour of “kill the prey time” otherwise known as “get that ball!” He is a marvellous ball thief. I have never purchased a green tennis ball, and yet there are ten at any time lying around the house. Where did they come from? Ted has no idea and even if he did, he’s not telling.
I like to advise people, living with a Wire Fox Terrier is very much like living with your five-year old boy stuck indoors all day. Here is a classic Wire Fox Terrier Event-
You’ve just finished baking and icing a chocolate cake for your husband’s birthday. It is amazing. You are about to put the candles into the rich chocolate icing when the doorbell rings. It’s a sales person of sorts. When you finally get rid of them, you turn around and there is your little boy, Tommy, chocolate smeared from ear to ear.
“Tommy, did you touch Daddy’s Chocolate cake?” you ask, hoping your little darling will break down, sob, beg for forgiveness, any sign of contrition will do.
Tommy’s eyes widen, and his mouth opens in surprise.
You wait with anticipation and preplanned forgiveness, but you hear these stunned words from your little boy,
“You made chocolate cake! Can I have some?”
Such is the innocence of the Wire Fox Terrier. He can do no wrong, as he has no knowledge of wrong doing. He is the Peter Pan of dogs, the little dog that never grows up.
Ted comes from a long lineage of English Hunting Dogs, his kind first bred to be a sturdy little dog, weighing between 7 and 9.5 kg (15 and 21 lb). Ted’s willing to share his weight, a proper 20 pounds. You won’t get that information from me!
He has a rough coat. When I got my first wire, I had no idea how to care for the coat. Like many terriers, Ted has a rough broken coat, meaning there is a soft undercoat, and a top wiry coat, somewhat hard, like a Brillo pad. In order to keep this hard coat, the Wire’s coat must be hand-stripped, not clippered. Hand-stripping is worth the effort, but someone must teach you how to do it. My first attempts left my wire moth-eaten. Distressed at what I had done to my Wire Fox, I found a breeder who showed me how to hand- strip a Wire, and my dog with hunks of hair missing from here and there, came back home looking like a proper Wire Fox. For the pet owner, it is simpler and easier to clipper the dog, if colour isn’t an issue for you, if so, find someone who knows how to strip the coat for show and then ask for a pet strip ( a pet strip allows for retaining the colour of the coat, but clippers the tail, underbelly, under ears, neck, sides of cheek.)
Ted goes through phases with his coat, winter he is all wooly, as if he were a cotton ball injected with air, spring, summer and autumn, he is the smart-looking city dog. He would prefer to be the wooly beast, but I like him trimmed! Sometimes I win, sometimes he wins.
The Wire is and should be predominately a white dog. In the early years colour was not of the utmost importance, but farmers and hunters often lost working dogs to the mud and dirt from animal’s dens as the hounds often mistook the Wire for the prey. White became the colour of the working dog and of the terrier of fashion, and soon all signs of the brown body of the old English Black and Tan Terrier were gone. The ideal Wire has a black saddle, tan head, and white body, but for the companion dog that matter’s little. I’d love my Ted even if he were white all over, a ginger wire, or heavily marked, and even covered in mud.
Wires have a lot of energy, and it has to be burned off. Ted, gets a good twenty-minute walk in the morning, a lunch-time walk, and finally an evening walk. The walk is not so much to relive body functions, but it is for his mind and spirit, not to mention the good it does me to get out and away from the desk. He loves to play. We play tuggy in the evenings and that helps burn off the energy. If you to jog, this dog will love coming along with you for that run and coffee stop.
Ted like most Wires can get bored easily. He has to be in the heart of the action. He plays football/soccer with visiting children, when they are not around, he has learned to toss the ball down the stairs and I toss it back up. These are games he taught himself. I claim no ownership in his education. When I am on the phone I kick the stolen tennis ball for him. He dashes after it and I have to often make excuses as to why I breathe heavy on the phone as I chase him! He is not the ideal dog for the first time pet owner. Wires are truly companion dogs and need to be doing whatever you’re up to, and they constantly love to learn new things.
The Wire Fox Terrier is an independent thinker. I remember my first wire, Ayres who was tormented by the barn’s large tabby cat. One day we had a visiting wire, named Joy. Joy watched Ayres being outsmarted by the cat. Ayres would run after the cat and the cat would run rather slowly around the vegetable garden fence, stopping to twitch it’s tail. A classic catch me if you can. Joy watched this go on for a day or two and decided enough was enough. Well, the two of them teamed up. Ayres went for the orange tabby in one direction and Joy in the other. I have never seen a cat so shocked before and so capable of jumping straight up into a tree! That cat never came back again. Two wires, who can think and plan, were just too much for it!
Ted can figure out for himself, whom he can play with gently and who he can rough house. Soccer with my nephew is a body slam event, ball with Grandma is a gentle– I toss you the ball-you toss it back. At first he tried to kick the ball back with his front paws. It was amazing to watch him struggle and try to do something he knew could be done, but his body would never allow. He now tosses the ball with a strong forward push of his nose!
The Wire Fox Terrier is a hunting dog and any one contemplating one, must take that into hand. They were bred to chase, and to dig, and worry their prey in animal dens. There are no foxes for the average Wire to chase, boars to hunt, but there are bicycles to run after, buses to catch, and if they see a cat from across the street or squirrel– they are off. There is no stopping to think twice about crossing that road! Ayres loved to dig holes in the garden, there was no stopping him. He was certain he would find that fox den! The solution– he had his own digging area and we came to a truce on his terms. Ted on the other hand could care less about digging a hole. He has squirrels and the neighbour’s cat to keep him busy and walks to the local coffee shop. Digging holes? Please….
Wire Fox Terriers need to be on leads when out and about. Even when walking about in the countryside, an unused badger set is temptation for a Wire–down the hole they go! They will hunt all day if left to their own desires. Ayres, when we lived next to a horse farm, used to go out as soon as I opened the door, only to come back in for water. But, as a reward for my good behaviour, he deposited on average some twenty mice on my steps. Heaven help me if he saw me put them in the rubbish. This was something to be proud of, so praise he got, and as soon as he ran off to hunt some more, those mice were bagged and tossed quicker than a wag of his tail! Thank you very much, but errg…no thank you!
They say nothing good ever comes without some effort. It takes some time to learn how life cracks on with a Wire, but having learnt it, I would have no other dog. The endless hours of amusement, watching Ted think (I swear you can see him reason) is worth the extra effort Terrier’s need and give back.
I am in good company of those who have been loved by a Wire. There was Caesar, who was heartbroken after King George’s death. Agatha Christie owned a Wire, and wrote Dumb Witness starring a Wire named Bob. Ted often gets called Asta whilst out and about. Asta was made famous in the Thin Man Series and started the Wire’s massive rise in popularity in the 30’s and forties. Leonard Woolf, the husband of Virginia, owned Charles a wire. Polly was Charles Darwin’s constant companion, Cicero Einstein’s, and of course I can’t forget– Snowy the white Wire Fox Terrier of Tintin fame. I could go on about those who lives are challenged by a Wire, but Ted wants a walk and there’s no excuse not to. He doesn’t want all this written about him, a hug and walkies is all he needs! All in all, Ted’s a thundering good chap! I am so lucky to have him in my life.
If you are looking for a Wire Fox Terrier, please do not buy from a pet shop. Contact your Kennel Club to get the name of a reputable breeder and Wire Fox Terrier Association. Just what is a reputable breeder? A reputable breeder is one who stands by the health, welfare, and care of their dogs, and will be there to aid you with your Wire’s needs, and sadly, if your Wire Fox Terrier ever need rehoming, that is the first person you should contact and should expect assistance from. Here’s to our Foxes!