Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are medium-size dogs prized for their silky and soft coats characterized by a gentle wave and lovely, warm wheaten color. The abundant single coat covers the breed's entire body, including its legs and head. These dogs have medium, almond-shaped eyes in dark brown or reddish brown. The muzzle is strong, the nose is large and black, and the ears are small to medium in size. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers measure 17 to 19 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 30 to 40 pounds.
These dogs are less scrappy than other terrier breeds, but they tend to be just as active.
Happy, alert, and confident, Wheaten Terriers make great family pets and easily adapt to city, suburban, or rural life. These dogs are less scrappy than other terrier breeds, but they tend to be just as active. They need exercise every day, preferably with time to run around outdoors. Grooming needs are moderate, but shedding is minimal.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are so friendly and welcoming (even when it comes to strangers) that there's a well-known name for the way the breed greets people. Their greeting is called the "Wheaten Greeting."
Known for their happy, lively, and alert personalities, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers make sweet and playful companion animals and are good with children and other household pets. These fun-loving dogs can also be a bit headstrong, especially if they don't receive enough attention, affection, or physical activity. Generally, this breed is a good watchdog.
Easygoing and cooperative, Wheatens are gentler than most other terriers. This is especially true if they are given plenty of opportunity to release excess energy through vigorous play sessions, long walks on a leash, and games of fetch in the backyard. When outdoors, these dogs should be kept in a securely fenced yard; they have a tendency to hunt and chase small animals and may wander away from home. Wheaten Terriers also like to dig.
When happy, these dogs jump and twirl. They do not hold back when it comes to showing appreciation or excitement, and they are generous with their affection. This is not a breed that does well when left alone for long periods. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers need human companionship.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are known to suffer from a few serious health conditions, but the breed is relatively healthy. Protein wasting diseases are a significant challenge to the health of these dogs. Protein loss in the kidneys (called protein-losing nephropathy or PLN) and protein loss in the intestines (called protein-losing enteropathy or PLE) are both significant health concerns in Wheaten Terriers. These conditions can cause numerous symptoms and are difficult to diagnose.
Hip dysplasia, renal dysplasia, allergies, heart problems, von Willebrand's disease, and Addison's disease, which is an adrenal gland disorder, are all more common in Wheaten Terriers than in some other dog breeds. Additionally, these dogs are prone to developing certain eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy, a condition that leads to blindness.
Routine veterinary care, regular canine vaccinations, a healthy diet, and daily exercise all help ensure Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers live a full and active life of up to 15 years.
Although they look sweet and innocent, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers can grow into stubborn, badly behaved dogs if not trained firmly and consistently from an early age. This breed may not be the best choice for busy or inexperienced dog owners, as Wheatens need a lot of attention and guidance to ensure anything remotely resembling obedience. Positive reinforcement, fairness, and consistency are important when working with these dogs.
These dogs tend to act out when neglected, lonely, or bored. They are talented escape artists, tend to wander, and like to chase small animals, including neighborhood cats. They should be kept in a securely fenced yard when not on a tight leash, and they should never be left alone around unfamiliar cats, rabbits, or other small animals.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers should be taught early on that it is not appropriate to pull on the leash, jump on people, bark without cause, or dig in the garden. If these bad habits are not dealt with early, they will become very difficult to correct.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers need daily grooming to keep their coat healthy and attractive, but the breed is not difficult to groom. Combing is preferred to brushing if the goal is to prevent frizzy hair, but either grooming method will work to remove tangles and prevent uncomfortable mats from developing. Because these dogs don't shed much, any loose hair remains and becomes entangled in the coat. This can quickly lead to significant mats if grooming is inadequate. Clipping the coat to about 3 inches reduces the need for grooming, but it also takes away from the breed's natural outline.
Bathing should be done every other month, or more often if necessary to remove harmful substances from the coat. A gentle canine shampoo will clean the coat without irritating the skin, and a thorough drying is essential to remove all soap reside from the breed's hair. Blow drying on a low setting is important if bathing is done during cold weather.
The nails need to be clipped about every 10 days to keep them from clicking against the floor when the Wheaten walks around. This can be painful and lead to snags and breaks. Brushing the teeth every day is also important and will help keep away bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. Weekly ear checks and cleanings can help identify problems, such as wax accumulation or infections, before they can become serious.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers have been known in Ireland for more than 200 years and share ancestry with the Irish Terrier and Kerry Blue. These dogs were considered a poor man's dog and worked on farms patrolling the borders, hunting and destroying vermin, and herding sheep.
These dogs remained local favorites for a long time before gaining worldwide attention in 1937 while debuting at the Irish Kennel Club Championship Show. The breed's popularity gained an immediate boost, and the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1943.
In 1946, the first Wheaten Terrier made its way to the United States. The breed was brought to America by Lydia Vogel of Massachusetts. It was not until the 1950s that Wheatens started making a splash in the show ring, and it took a while for the breed's numbers to take hold in the U.S. Today, these dogs are popular companion animals.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier in 1973.