References to a “soft coated” dog can be found in Irish historical texts from as far back as the 1800′s, and they are thought to be the
original Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers. Some breed historians believe they share their heritage with the Irish Terrier and the Kerry Blue Terrier. These sturdy, stocky dogs were popular with poorer farmers because they were versatile workers, but didn’t cost as much to feed as the larger breeds. They were a “jack of all trades” on the farm, and their job description included herding and guarding livestock, and keeping rodent numbers under control.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was formally recognized as a breed in Ireland in 1937 and in the United States in 1973.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are a very good looking breed of dog. If you own one, you can expect people to stop you in the street just to say hello! Their coat is a mass of soft curls, and the hair doesn’t fall out but grows continually, much like that of a Poodle. They have a thick fringe of hair above their eyebrows and a long beard that grows around their muzzle. Add to that a large black nose, and they have one of the most charming and attractive faces in the dog world.
They are a medium sized dog with a square build, so they won’t take up much space on your couch. When fully grown, they are up to 45lbs in weight, and can grow to 20 inches at the shoulder.
Interestingly, Wheaten Terrier puppies may be brown, red or white at birth. As they grow, their coat will develop into its adult shade which can be anywhere from almost white to a rustic gold tone.
As you’d expect from any terrier breed, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers can be headstrong, so they need firm and consistent handling from a very young age. This doesn’t mean you need to be harsh, but they do need to know that they are not in charge. They are very smart and need something to do with their brain, or they’ll make their own entertainment. You may not be impressed with their creativity! Because of their intelligence and enthusiasm for life, they often excel at dog sports such as agility.
This breed of dog has many characteristics that make them a wonderful companion. They are outgoing, confident, loyal and love a game. Although they’ll let you know with a loud bark when you have visitors, they are not at all aggressive, which makes them the perfect watch dog. They tend to jump up on people, and often manage to sneak in a lick to the face when you least expect it. Many Wheaten Terrier owners comment that their dogs are perpetual puppies, and never seem to grow up.
Because Wheaten Terriers were originally used to hunt vermin, they have a strong prey drive. This means that they may chase anything that doesn’t sit still, and may not be the best choice of dog to have if you own cats or other small pets.
It’s important that these dogs are kept securely behind a sturdy fence, as they have a tendency to go exploring their neighborhood.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is generally a robust, healthy breed, and can share your life for up to 15 years. Although they may suffer from diseases that occur in any breed of dog, such as skin allergies, the breed does have a few hereditary diseases that potential owners should be aware of.
Protein losing enteropathy is a condition that results in excessive loss of protein from the gastro intestinal tract. Protein losing nephropathy also results in the loss of protein, but through the kidney. At this stage, nobody knows the genes that are responsible for these diseases, or the way the diseases are inherited.
The breed also may suffer from Addison’s Disease, which occurs when there are lower than normal levels of the hormone cortisol in the blood. Kidney failure may result from renal dysplasia.
Although they are not a large dog, Wheaten Terriers can suffer from hip dysplasia. This too is largely genetic.
Conscientious breeders are checking their adult dogs before they are mated, to reduce the risk of any of these hereditary diseases raising their ugly head in their puppies. There are no specific tests for the protein losing diseases but regular blood and urine tests can detect them early. Potential parents can be x-rayed to make sure their hips are sound, which helps to reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia. Prospective Wheaten Terrier owners should ask breeders about which health tests they have performed, so they have the best chance of buying a healthy puppy.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers need a moderate amount of hair care. They don’t molt, so they need to be groomed regularly to remove loose hair and prevent their fur getting matted. Their coat should never be brushed, because that will make it frizzy, and they’ll look like they have a bad Afro hairstyle. A comb is a much better tool to keep their hair tidy and tangle free. If their owner prefers, their hair can be trimmed to make it easier to maintain.
Regular exercise is a must to keep a Wheaten Terrier in good health. They need a daily walk or run to expend their energy, and prevent obesity.
Being a social and extroverted breed, they need attention. Any potential Wheaten Terrier owner must be prepared to spend time with their dog training them, playing with them and making sure they have the companionship they crave.
if you think the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier sounds like the ideal family dog, you are right. These dogs tend not to attach themselves to one person, but instead bond with everyone in the family. They are wonderful playmates for children; however they may be a bit boisterous for young toddlers.
Because they don’t shed much hair, this breed may be a good choice for allergy sufferers. Having said that, people with dog allergies also react to skin cells and dander, so there is no guarantee that the Wheaten Terrier won’t cause problems.
If you are looking for a happy, active and outgoing dog that will enjoy a good walk, will let you know when there are intruders around, and will get on well with your friends and family, then the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a good match for you. Just make sure you have the time to spend training them and caring for their coat, and you’ll enjoy the company of a cheery and loyal companion for many years.