The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a medium-sized, hardy, well balanced sporting terrier, square in outline. He is distinguished by his soft, silky, gently waving coat of warm wheaten color and his particularly steady disposition. The breed requires moderation both in structure and presentation, and any exaggerations are to be shunned. He should present the overall appearance of an alert and happy animal, graceful, strong and well coordinated.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Breed are generally a long-lived breed. They are susceptible to various heritable diseases, although are most known for two protein wasting conditions: protein-losing nephropathy (PLN), where the dogs lose protein via the kidneys; and protein-losing enteropathy (PLE), where the dogs fail to fully absorb protein in their digestive tracts, causing it to pass in their stool. Both PLN and PLE are potentially fatal, but if caught early enough, can sometimes be managed with strict dietary changes and pharmaceuticals. Laboratory tests can aid in diagnosing PLN and PLE; Wheaten owners should check their country’s advised testing protocols. Research suggests that PLE and PLN often are more prevalent in female wheatens and often happen in concurrence, with PLE following diagnosis of PLN. While a genetic predisposition has been suggested, an unknown mode of inheritance remains. Research programs, mainly in the United States and the United Kingdom, are looking for answers. Other Wheaten health issues are renal dysplasia, inflammatory bowel disease, Addison’s disease, and cancer. Some Wheatens can suffer from food and environmental allergies, and can be prone to developing the skin disease atopic dermatitis. Potential owners of Wheaten Terriers should discuss health issues with a breeder before deciding to get a puppy.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are puppies for life. They are joyful, energetic and affectionate and never lose their love of play time. They are more friendly and easy going than other terrier breeds and generally get along well with other dogs. Wheatens are very people-oriented and enjoy the company of well-behaved children. Wheatens expect to be invited along for all outdoor family activities, and want to participate 100%. If they aren’t included in a game, expect them to do their best to snatch the ball and invite themselves into the mix. Wheatens can adapt to city life or country life, as long as they are properly exercised. They will buzz around the house, park or back yard with great exuberance for as long as you let them, but if they spot an available lap to curl up in, they are happy to take a load off and relax for a while. Wheatens will greet you at the door every day as if you’d been gone for years, and they will usually give you the trademark Wheaten twirl. For people who like the size and energy of terriers but are put off by their temperaments, the Soft Coated Wheaten is the breed for you.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers need moderate exercise to maintain health, happiness and their outgoing personality. Wheatens who are kept indoors can become anxious and high strung. Daily walks and a few games of ball will meet his daily requirements, so this breed is adaptable to apartment life. They are sturdy little dogs, however, and can also accompany people on long hikes in the woods. Wheatens excel in agility, flyball, organized tracking and herding. If it is possible to enroll your Wheaten in one of these activities, he will appreciate the opportunity to exercise and use his mind.
Whereas Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are not typical terriers, they do share one common trait with their terrier cousins: stubbornness. Training them can be a handful, so start young. Sessions should be kept short and the activities should be varied in order to hold your dog’s interest. When a Wheaten gets bored with training, he has no qualms about walking away from you mid-command. Treats are an excellent motivator, and be ready to give gracious amounts of praise when your Wheaten does something correctly. Never treat this breed harshly, as this can cause them to become defensive and snap at you. If a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier loses trust in you, it’s difficult to gain it back. Socialization should also begin early with Wheatens. They are generally easy going around new people and don’t mind other dogs, but if you isolate your dog from the rest of the world, he won’t have the opportunity to develop these traits. When basic obedience and social skills have been mastered, you should enroll your Wheaten in advanced obedience, agility, flyball, tracking or herding activities. Wheatens also make excellent therapy dogs.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are good with older, well-behaved children who understand a dog’s boundaries. Wheatens can be overwhelmed by toddlers who may poke or tug at their beard, or who sneak up on them while eating. They are not recommended for homes with small children. Wheatens dig, and if left alone for too long in the backyard, they will tear up flower beds or dig under the fence in search of new adventure. Fences should be stuck deep into the ground and outdoor time should always be supervised. Barking is also a problem with Wheatens. They make great watch dogs, alerting you that someone is approaching, but they are very quick to bark at every little sight and sound outside their window. Teaching your Wheaten to obey commands to stop barking can save the family’s sanity.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier so not have an undercoat, so they shed very lightly throughout the year. Daily grooming is required to maintain the proper look and feel of the coat, but dogs who aren’t being shown can get away with a scruffier appearance and three days of grooming per week. Baths are only required as needed. Check the ears on a weekly basis for signs of infection, irritation, or wax build up. Cleanse regularly with a veterinarian-approved cleanser and cotton ball. Brush the teeth at least once per week to prevent tartar buildup and fight gum disease. Additionally, nails should be trimmed once per month if the dog does not wear down the toenails naturally.
The Wheaten was bred in Ireland for over two hundred years to be an all-purpose farm dog whose duties included herding, watching and guarding livestock, and vermin hunting and killing. They share a common ancestry with the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Terrier but were not owned by gentry. In Ireland, they were commonly referred to as the “Poor Man's Wolfhound.” Their tails used to be docked to avoid taxes and were often kept to a specific size.
Despite its long history, the Wheaten was not recognised as a breed in Ireland by the Irish Kennel Club until 1937. In 1943, the British Kennel Club recognised the breed in the UK as well. The first Wheatens were exported to Lydia Vogel in the United States in the 1940s, but serious interest in the breed took another ten years to develop. In the 1970s, the first Wheatens were imported into Australia by Anubis Kennels. Finally, in 1973, they were recognised by the American Kennel Club. Recent importation of Irish-style dogs have improved and broadened the gene pool. Today, Wheatens compete in obedience, agility, and tracking and are occasionally used in animal-assisted therapy as well.