Breed Type: Terrier
Country of Origin: Ireland
Also known as: Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Wheaten
Males: Height: 46-51 cm, Weight: 16-20 kg
Females: Height: 43-48 cm, Weight: 14-18 kg
Exercise Requirements: Medium
Care Requirements: Medium
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Best Suited as: Family Pets/Working Dogs
No longer considered the “Poor Irish Man’s Wolfhound”, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has found his place in the pet world. This bouncy, jubilant dog is a lot of fun to have around, but can also be a lot of work.
Wheaten Terrier pups are extremely fluffy and cute. Despite their name, they are born a rusty brown color and then when they have outgrown their puppy stage; their fur will turn wheaten blond. Their coat color can range from white to wheat, but white coats are not considered desirable by breeders and show enthusiasts. Their fur is soft and silky with a slight wave unlike most other terriers that have wiry coats. Their signature style is a long blond tuft of hair called a fau on top of their head that hangs over their eyes and a long beard. Their strong muzzles and medium sized ears are typically black or dark brown. Their eyes are almond shaped and reddish-brown to brown in color.
The Wheaten has medium size body, square structure and is well built. They have strong, long legs and are well coordinated. Their gait is graceful and free. Their tails may be docked or left long and they are set on high.
The Wheaten Terrier can be traced to Ireland where they were kept as working dogs by the working class in the 1700’s. They are one of four terriers of Irish Decent and are thought to be the oldest. They were primarily used as farm dogs for herding and hunting small vermin due to their keen sense of smell and eyesight. Some farmers also used them for protection. In Ireland, they were commonly referred to as the “Poor Man’s Wolfhound.” Only landowners were allowed to own hunting dogs and poorer tenant farmers could only own a dog that was worth five pounds or less and that was less than 19 inches at the withers. Most Wheatens in their natural state did not qualify because their tails exceeded this length. Creative farmers started docking the tails to get around the rule and their popularity exploded.
Despite their popularity throughout the centuries in Ireland, the Irish Kennel Club did not recognize the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier until 1937. The same year on Saint Patrick’s Day, it made its competitive debut at the Irish Kennel Club specialty show. In 1943, the British Kennel Club recognized the breed in England, as well. The breed was introduced in the United States in 1946 when Lydia Vogles of Springfield, Massachusetts acquired six puppies. The next year, she exhibited them at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America was established on Saint Patrick’s Day of 1962. This caused their rise in popularity with many new breeders devoted to gaining breed recognition. The Wheaten was admitted to the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1973 and Canada recognized the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier in 1978. Wheatens were exhibited in the AKC Miscellaneous Class until 1973 when they were accepted in regular classes. In the 1970s, the first Wheatens came on the scene in Australia when Anubis Kennels imported them.
Today, Wheaten Terriers are both adored pets and working dogs. They have been known to compete in obedience, agility, and tracking contests and are occasionally used as therapy dogs.
Searching for a spunky and light hearted dog breed? You have found it in the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. However, be ready to play – they are extremely high energy and bouncy with a tireless devotion to play. There will be never a dull moment with this guy. Getting serious about learning may not come quite as easily to your headstrong Wheaten as they have been called a fairly difficult breed to train. A consistent and positive approach will be most successful with this perpetual puppy. One of the most difficult training tasks you will encounter will be to teach your Wheaten not to jump on humans. Because of their natural bouncy attitude and actions, many Wheatens that are not properly trained have been known to bowl visitors over.
While Wheatens will certainly let you know when there is someone at the door, do not count on them to protect your family. They are more likely to lick you to death than cause any real harm.
Care and Grooming
Grooming your Wheaten will take as much attention or more than training. They shed very little so their hair needs to be brushed daily. Many Wheaten owners find that taking their Wheaten to a professional groomer is easier than managing the forever growing ball of fur themselves. Without proper brushing and grooming your dog’s beautiful, wheaten locks can easily turn into a matted mess.
Wheatens need daily exercise to maintain health, happiness and their happy go lucky spirit. They need fresh air and if kept cooped up indoors for too long they can become anxious and high-strung. Wheatens excel at many athletic activities such as hiking, agility, flyball, organized tracking and herding. Spending time with you no matter what the activity will be her favorite activity.
There are some common health concerns for the Wheaten Terrier, despite being a long-lived breed. One of the more unusual problems is their strong allergic reaction to fleas. Even one bite can cause their whole body to react quite strongly. The breed is also prone to two protein wasting conditions: protein-losing nephropathy (PLN) and protein-losing enteropathy (PLE). These diseases can sometimes be managed with strict dietary changes and medicine. Other health concerns include food hypersensitivity, Addison’ Disease, renal dysplasia, cutaneous asthenia (Ehrel-Danlos syndrome), and cataracts.
Suitability as a Pet
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier makes a wonderful, fun addition to many families but due to their lively, inquisitive spirit, these exuberant dogs might not be right for everyone. They generally due well with small children but should be taught not to jump up on them. Having an active child in your family may be the outlet both your pet and child need to tire them out.
Work on training your Wheaten as soon as you adopt him as the younger he is the more eager he is to please. He may be smart and cute but he is also willful and training is not always an easy task with this pooch. Reward and play based training works best with a strong leader at the helm.
Wheatens do well in both cold and warm climates and they can exercise without easily overheating. They love playing in the yard but fences should be high and secure, as this breed is exploratory and athletic and may jump over to greet people on the other side, or to chase passing cats or squirrels.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is usually friendly and playful with other family pets. They generally do very well with other dogs and if socialized with them as puppies, cats. They will likely chase smaller furry family pets due to their strong prey drive.