The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is also known as the ‘poor man’s wolfhound’, because it was used as an all purpose farm dog by poor farmers in Ireland. They are energetic and friendly dogs, with much less of an aggressive temperament than other terriers. They also love children and make a good family pet, with their exercise needs being moderate.
Male adults reach a height of 18 to 20 inches, and females a height of 17 to 19 inches. Males weigh 35 to 45 pounds at maturity, and females 30 to 40 pounds.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers were bred to be farm dogs in Ireland, with multiple purposes. Their typical roles included keeping the rat population down, guarding chickens, herding livestock and watching for intruders. They were first exported to the United States in 1946, and recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1973.
This breed is one of the most friendly of all the terrier breeds. They love people, get on well with children, and with other dogs. They still have a tendency to be stubborn though. A trademark of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is their little twirl in a circle when they’re happy to see you. Most Wheatens don’t slow down as they grow out of puppyhood, so you will need some enthusiasm and energy yourself to keep up with them. They are affectionate, and will happily settle down on your lap or on the floor by you in the evenings.
Wheatens have a rectangular head and a compact body. Puppies have coats of red, brown, white or mahogany. The coat matures into a wheaten color as they grow older, though it may still contain brown, black or white hairs. Their soft, silky hair doesn’t shed but keeps growing, which makes them a good choice for people with allergies. It does however mean that they need regular trimming. A black nose is accompanied by almond shaped, brown eyes.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers can make good apartment dogs. But it does depend on the dog, and you need to bear in mind that they have a lot of energy and may become destructive if you leave them by themselves for too long. However, if they get a good amount of exercise this will help curb any tendencies in that direction. It has a thick and soft coat which helps protect it in cold and wet weather, and they enjoy playing in the snow. They shouldn’t be left outside or exercised in hot weather though, because they may overheat or dehydrate. They make good dogs for novice owners because they train quite easily, so long as they are prepared for how hyperactive they are!
Very friendly dogs, Wheatens get on well with children and like to be around their families, to the point of jumping up and licking their face to greet them. They do have a strong prey drive so may chase cats and small animals, although if they are raised with other pets they should do OK. Other dogs aren’t usually a problem, and strangers will probably get barked at, but they don’t tend to show aggression.
With their constantly growing silky hair, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers do need quite a bit of maintenance. A daily grooming session is recommended, with a pin brushing to remove any dirt or loose hair. Then a thorough combing should be given, and any mats taken apart with a brush, comb, or fingers. Nails should be trimmed regularly, and teeth brushed weekly. Generally bathing should be done one month, alternating with trimming the next month. The coat is usually clipped to about 3 inches long.
Early socialization and obedience classes should be given to help your puppy round out into a well balanced dog. Wheaten Terriers train well, but do have a wilful streak, so they can be challenging at times. Patient and firm consistency is needed, along with positive training methods. They can get bored and will walk away and ignore you if they’ve had enough, so sessions are best kept short and interesting, with rewards at the end. They should be kept on a leash when out and about, and in a fenced yard at home because of their prey drive. Otherwise they might run away after a rat or squirrel.
A moderate amount of exercise is needed for these Terriers. A daily walk and a few games will usually satisfy their needs. If they have too little exercise they may develop anxiety and become destructive. Some activities that they do very well include agility, tracking, herding and flyball. They also enjoy hikes outside, and love accompanying you on outdoor activities. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are known for their high energy level, which doesn’t tend to decrease as they get older. So make sure you set aside some time and energy every day to play with them.
Find a high quality food for your dog, and make sure that fresh water is available at all times. Dry food is good for their teeth and packs in a lot of nutritional content. Dogs often prefer canned food, but because it’s not as good for their teeth and contains more water, it is usually best to mix some in with the dry food.
Your Wheaten puppy should be fed three times a day to start with, and then gradually transitioned to twice daily once he reaches about four to six months old. You should keep your puppy on the same diet that your breeder gave him at first, and only change over to a new diet over the course of a few weeks. You can mix a bit of the new in with the old in varying amounts so that he doesn’t get an upset stomach.
If you have a picky eater and your dog picks at the food, just put it away after it’s been left out for 10 minutes and then give him the next meal as usual. Allergies can be a problem in this breed, so if you see itching or digestive issues you might want to consult your vet. Often he will recommend switching to a food with a couple of ingredients that your dog is not used to eating to see if the problem goes away. If it does, then other ingredients can be introduced gradually to find out what is causing the problem. Chemical additives such as preservatives and food coloring can cause sensitivities, so many experts recommend giving as natural a diet as possible.
Recommended daily feeding amount: 1.5 to 2 cups of high quality food every day, divided into two meals.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers can become obese, so you do need to be careful how many treats and table scraps you give them. These are often high in calories. You can keep tabs on their weight by making sure you can feel their ribs without being able to see them.
Common Health Concerns
Wheatens are generally a healthy breed, but there are some health conditions they are prone to. One of these is called Protein-Losing Nephropathy. This is where protein and plasma are lost through the kidney, causing symptoms such as weight loss, thirst, leg swelling, labored breathing and kidney failure. The condition can be treated through diet and medication, but it can’t be cured. Wheaten Terriers also get affected by Protein-Losing Enteropathy. Again protein and plasma are lost excessively – but this time through the gastrointestinal tract rather than through the kidney. This causes many of the same symptoms as with the previous condition, and again it can be managed with diet and medication.
Addison’s disease, also known as Hypoadrenocorticism, may be found in Wheatens. In this condition there is a lack of adrenal hormone production, which results in lethargy, vomiting and poor appetite. If early signs are missed it is possible for them to go into shock and die, so it should be taken seriously. Renal Dysplasia is a genetic condition that can affect Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers. This is where the kidney develops improperly, and it can cause kidney failure. Symptoms include poor appetite, vomiting, and increased thirst and urination.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier rescue.