Interview with Sheryl Irwin, Breeder of StarFox Toy Fox Terriers
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Sheryl Irwin: I live in Western New York, outside of Buffalo. I have been loving and raising Toy Fox Terriers since early 2001 when I discovered that this delightful little breed was about to be accepted into AKC’s Foundation Stock Service. My first TFT puppy bitch came from a local breeder, and we drove to Georgia to pick up a TFT puppy dog the following year. Those two produced my first AKC Champion, and ever since then I have been diligently working to Preserve, Protect, and Promote the Toy Fox Terrier breed.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Sheryl Irwin: My AKC registered kennel name of “StarFox.”
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Sheryl Irwin: StarFox is thrilled to have had Group-winning, Group-placing, Westminster Best of Breed-winning, No. 1 Owner-Handled, and highly ranked Toy Fox Terriers, but the most notable by far has to be that “One in a Million” girl, “Regina!” She is BIS RBIS MBISS GCHB CH StarFox Queen of Hearts.
She has won: Best in Show, Reserve Best in Show, Back-to-Back Westminster Best of Breed (2022 & 2023), Multiple Group Wins, Multiple Group Placements, No.1 All-Breed (2022), Two-Time ATFTC National Specialty Winner, ATFTC TOP 20 Best of Breed (2022,) No. 1 Owner-Handled Toy Fox Terrier (2022), and No. 1 Owner-Handled Toy Fox Terrier (Lifetime).
Regina is owned by Jerry Barlet, Ted Vida, and myself and was bred by Sheryl Irwin and Gordon Irwin. She lives with and is loved by her custodial owners, Ted and Jerry, in Delaware where she is a pampered and spoiled family pet during the week who gets to play “show dog” on the weekends.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Sheryl Irwin: The strength of the StarFox breeding program is undeniably in my bitch line. My girls usually free-whelp large, healthy litters of strong body and sound mind. Miss Eleanor (CH StarFox Memphis Phantom Lady, ROM) and her daughter, Miriah (CH StarFox NY Winds O’Fire, ROM), have been my some of my most influential dams.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Sheryl Irwin: Unless medical intervention is required, all StarFox puppies are whelped in the master bedroom right next to the bed where they stay with their dam until they are weaned. After about four weeks, puppies move out to the kitchen so that they are surrounded by the sights and sounds of everyday life. They start to have play dates with family and friends and, weather permitting, learn to potty outside. After their first vaccinations they might even get to ride in a shopping cart at Home Depot or Lowe’s and enjoy other outings, ensuring that they have a large variety of positive experiences.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies?
Sheryl Irwin: I don’t know that I have a “process” for selecting show puppies. Sometimes I think the puppies themselves decide which ones will make the best show dogs. As I watch them grow, they will show me, with their structure, movement, temperament, and attitude, which ones will be the best show or performance prospects!
How important are Breed Specialties to me? How important are Group Shows?
Sheryl Irwin: In the past, I thoroughly enjoyed the Breed Specialties. They are a wonderful way to observe some of the top dogs in the country, meet up with old friends, make new friends, talk with other breeders, and enjoy the camaraderie. Unfortunately, I do not travel much anymore, but my breeding program has been represented at many of these events. I attend as many local and semi-local all-breed shows as possible and enjoy the friendship of the dog show community.
What are my priorities when it comes to breeding? What are the drawbacks?
Sheryl Irwin: My breeding priority is to continue to improve with each generation. There’s always more to learn and room to grow. The drawbacks can be that sad occasion when a puppy is lost or a planned breeding fails to produce a litter.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed? How important is coat care?
Sheryl Irwin: The Toy Fox Terrier is an active little breed that can stay in good condition from his normal everyday exercise of running and playing. A warm bath coupled with a quick trim is about all the coat care required for this wash-and-wear little breed.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Sheryl Irwin: The Toy Fox Terrier is generally a healthy and hardy little breed. Most genetic health concerns can be easily avoided with the use of simple DNA tests.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Sheryl Irwin: I think there are growing numbers of dedicated Toy Fox Terrier breeders committed to producing quality dogs that fit the written AKC Breed Standard. There has been significant improvement in this breed over the last twenty years, so I’d have to say our breed is in good hands.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Sheryl Irwin: The Toy Fox Terrier is an adaptable little breed and I have seen them thrive in family situations. The best candidates to own this breed are those individuals who, themselves, possess a good terrier attitude and personality!
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Sheryl Irwin: I think the biggest misconception about this breed is thinking that, because they’re small, they’re fragile and yappy. I think their best-kept secret is that a Toy Fox Terrier can “DO IT ALL.” They can excel in the Conformation ring, Agility, Rally, Fast CAT, be your best sofa buddy, catch mice, and even make a good Service Dog. The only thing they can’t do is be a big dog!
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Sheryl Irwin: I would like to thank those judges who have taken to checking the bite last as part of the table exam. I would also like to thank the many caring judges whom I have shown under over the years who clearly love what they do!
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Sheryl Irwin: I would first tell newer breeders to never stop learning. I would then urge them to maintain the Toy Fox Terrier’s spirited and self-possessed attitude along with their sense of determination and courage by keeping those characteristics firmly rooted in their breeding program so as to not breed out that which embodies the total Toy Fox Terrier.
As a closing statement, I would like to add that I am tremendously grateful to have traveled this amazing journey in the wonderful world of Toy Fox Terriers!