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Wheaten Terrier Dog Breed Information

General Information:

Height: 17-19 inches
Weight: 30-40 pounds
Life Span: 12-15 years
Coloring: Any shade of wheaten by the time they are 2 years old. No other color should be seen except ears and mouth where there may be shading.
Area of Origin: Ireland
Similar Breeds: Kerry Blue Terrier, Scottish Terrier, and Tibetan Terrier.

History and Origin:

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was originally bred to be a peasant’s dog. Their job was to help with any and all chores on the farms from herding their flocks to defending them, protecting the home from intruders as well as vermin and being mild mannered enough to be a part of the family.

The exact origins are unknown because as a peasant’s dog, this dog’s ancestry was not nearly as important as its functionality. It is rumored that the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier share a common ancestor yet as this dog was bred by a different class, it will never be known for sure.

This is also why, despite being popular among the lower classes for decades, it was not recognized until 1937 by the Irish Kennel Club, the Kennel Club in 1943 and the American Kennel Club in 1973.

Personality and Temperament:

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a terrier through and through; they are extremely energetic, playful, affectionate, and needy and have a hate on for all small creatures such as rodents. These dogs, despite their terrier ancestors, are not overly vocal and while they are rather quiet, they are not pushovers and make an acceptable watchdog due to their loyal and protective nature, particularly if their family is home.

They do require that their family allow them to be involved in day to day activities and they do not do well being left to their own devices as they will quickly become depressed and express their displeasure either through destructive behavior or nuisance barking. When properly included in their family’s activities, this dog is the perpetual puppy as they remain young at heart throughout most of their lives, even into their senior years. Often onlookers will not believe the age of a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier as they see the 9-year-old bounding around full of zest looking for one more ball to chase.

These dogs are very good with children as long as they are well trained and socialized although they may be too pushy with younger children and so supervision is required, although this should not be an issue as all young children should be supervised with dogs at all times.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier cannot be trusted with smaller animals on any level as they were bred for rodent extermination, this instinct is very strong and as soon as the dog knows a pet gerbil is in a location, they will stop at nothing to dispatch it as they cannot distinguish between pet and vermin. Some smaller dogs and cats may also be looked at as potential prey and therefore it is recommended to ensure proper socialization when the dog is young to show them that these are not prey items.

Exercise & Training:

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is definitely a terrier when it comes to exercise. If you are looking for a weekend-hike type dog that is happy with the daily walk of 10 minutes and then a 3 hour leisurely hike on the weekend, this is not the dog for you. When they are not properly exercised they will go looking for ways to burn off energy and this can include digging, running in circles, climbing, barking and other undesirable behavior.

These dogs require at least an hour a day to run, if they are being walked at least 2 one hour walks a day on a leash. The leash is important to prevent them from bolting after potential prey while they are out. While they do not necessarily require a yard, they do require access to a safe place to run such as a large-dog off-leash park. It is not suggested to take them to a dog park which allows dogs of all sizes as a Chihuahua can very easily be hurt either by being confused as prey or just from an overzealous Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier jumping on it. Although a yard is not needed, apartments are not well suited to these dogs as they are very active indoors and out and there are few apartments which can provide enough space for these dogs.

While these dogs are impressively intelligent and learn new concepts quickly, it is their terrier nature which can occasionally get in the way of the perfect dog. While they understand the command given, they will occasionally enable their selective hearing and ignore you. This is particularly true if you have asked them to stop playing a game, to wait for dinner or anything else which prevents them from doing what they want. To prevent this from becoming an issue, firm yet consistent training is required and with time the dog will realize that you are not going to fall for their selective hearing routine and eventually give it up, eventually being a key word as these are rather stubborn dogs.

Once the basics have been mastered, these dogs are excellent at performing tricks and love the attention it brings. They also make good utility dogs in tasks such as herding, hunting and tracking and seem to have a fondness for agility which is another excellent way to have them burn off energy.


Grooming the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is fairly standard for their coat length. They will require weekly brushing with a bath every 2-3 months. Their nails should be trimmed and their teeth brushed about once a week as well.

Trimming this dog is not necessary for anything other than the area around the eyes yet some owners prefer the look and so that is all down to personal preference. Whether or not the dog is to be trimmed, getting the dog accustomed to being handled all over, especially the face and paws is very important from an early age. This will make not only grooming easier, but also any time you need to wipe their feet or take them to the vet. Vets appreciate very little more than a well-behaved dog in their office.

Health and Wellness:

While fairly hardy little dogs, these dogs are prone to some genetic disorders and are prone to:

  • Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism)
    • A condition where the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones which ends up causing electrolyte and metabolic imbalances. This is a very serious disease with various causes, usually genetic. There is only one noted preventable form of Addison’s disease and that is iatrogenic hypoadrenocoticism which is caused when a dog is suddenly taken off a steroid medication.
  • Canine Degenerative Myelopathy (CDRM)
    • An incurable spinal cord disease with a late-onset which will target the rear limbs. Weakness is the first sign and will progress to total paralysis. There are some treatments to lessen the early symptoms but there is no cure. There is, however, a simple test which will give the dog one of three grades:
      • N/N – Normal/Normal – This means that the dog does not have the disease nor do they carry it. This would be a good candidate to breed as they will not pass on CDRM.
      • N/A – Normal/Abnormal – This means that the dog may not display the signs of the disease yet is able to pass it on to future generations. This dog should not be bred and should be fixed to prevent any accidental litters.
      • A/A – Abnormal/Abnormal – This means that the dog both carries the disease and has a high chance of displaying the physical characteristics of the disease as they age. Obviously this dog should not be bred and close monitoring by a certified veterinarian is suggested to provide proactive care.
    • Hip Dysplasia
      • A genetic condition where the dog’s hip joint is shaped incorrectly causing painful rubbing and tearing of the surrounding tissue. This is usually treated by medication, physiotherapy, massage therapy and diet for mild cases. Severe cases may require surgery to either fix or replace the affected joint. This can be tested for by the parents. The average Soft Coated Wheaten terrier scores an 11.6, however to improve the breed, potential parents should score lower.

While searching for a breeder you need to remember to ask them the important questions such as:

  • Have your dogs been genetically tested?
    • This is important to rule out the above issues and to prevent potential heartache in the long run. If their dogs have not been tested, it is probably better to find a different breeder as most breeders will want to ensure they are improving the breed in both looks and health and understand that while their dogs may appear healthy, they may be carriers to certain issues which could be eliminated should all breeders screen their dogs properly.
  • Can you meet the parents?
    • This is important to see what the temperament of the parents are, how they are cared for and a good way to get an idea of what your potential puppy will end up looking like.
  • What training have the puppies received?
    • While the puppies will not have gone through formal training, training such as socialization with other dogs, cats, kids, etc. can start the day they are born. Other things such as where they go to the bathroom are very important as a dog that has been trained to use a litter box will look at a newspaper and not know that is what they are meant to go on.
  • What veterinary care have the puppies received?
    • All puppies should be dewormed and more than likely have their first shots at least, possibly further veterinary work depending on the puppy’s age. You should also ask for a copy of the puppy’s health record should you choose to purchase one of the puppies so their medical chart is complete. If they are of age to have seen a veterinarian and have not, it would be wise to ask if there was any specific reason for this.

Interesting Facts about the Wheaten Terrier:

  1. While not having an overly long coat, these dogs do not tolerate heat well and should be kept cool during hotter weather.
  2. Yorkshire Terriers are named after the region where they were originally bred.
  3. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are commonly considered to by hypo-allergenicbecause they shed less and have less dander than the average dog making them more appealing to people who suffer from dog allergies although no dog is 100% hypo-allergenic.
  4. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are known for their digging, so if a perfect garden is what you are into, ensuring your Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is watched at all times is important.
  5. The Subaru commercial featuring kids and puppies feature the Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier.

Organizations dedicated to the Wheaten Terrier:

Breeds Similar to Wheaten Terrier Dogs:

Breed Information Wheaten Terrier

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