Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier: Dog Breed Profile

The Wheaten Terrier is an Irish farm dog with a prized silky coat.

soft coated wheaten terrier

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A happy, energetic Irish farm dog, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a friendly and deeply devoted family pet with all of the characteristics of a terrier—including stubbornness—but with a prized silky, wavy wheaten coat. The breed is known to be an exuberant extrovert that’s compact, graceful, and sturdy. With a unique temperament that combines the alertness and intelligence of a terrier and the steadiness and confidence of a working dog, the Wheaten was bred to be both a hard-working farm dog as well as a cuddly companion.

Breed Characteristics

Group: Terrier

Height: 17 to 19 inches

Weight: 30 to 40 pounds

Coat and Color: Soft, silky coat ranging from beige to gold

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium-High
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

The Wheaten is one of three long-legged terriers that originated in Ireland some 200 years ago, along with the Kerry Blue, Glen of Imaal, and the appropriately-named Irish Terrier breed. All three dogs were bred as farm dogs that were responsible for tasks such as ratting, herding, guarding the chicken coop, and even bird-dogging. When their day’s work was complete, these dogs were more than happy to curl up beside their owners, and to this day they continue to be both an alert, sturdy working breed as well as a loving, affectionate family pet.

The breed was considered to be a "poor man’s dog," in Ireland; as an all-purpose farm dog, the Wheaten's primary mission in life was to patrol small farms and eliminate vermin, help herd sheep, and go on hunting expeditions with their owners. As such, these square, medium-sized dogs have historically been steady, strong, and self-confident, and always alert to their surroundings...which means they are excellent watchdogs.

The first Wheatens to arrive in the United States were brought by Lydia Vogel of Massachusetts in the 1940s, when she imported a litter of six puppies that were first exhibited at Westminster the following year. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the breed began to grow in popularity when the Gramachree Kennel of New York, owned by the O’Connor family, and the Sunset Hills Kennel of Connecticut, owned by the Arnold family, began competing in the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) miscellaneous class. As a result, the O’Connors and the Arnolds are often credited with the establishment of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier in the United States.

The Soft Coated Wheaten was recognized as a breed by Irish Kennel Club in 1937 and the AKC in 1973, when it became the organization’s 118th breed. The Soft Coated Wheaten made its first appearance at Westminster in 1947. The Wheaten's versatility has allowed this breed to perform well in obedience, agility, and earth dog trials.

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1962, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America was founded when a small group came together in Brooklyn with the goal of preserving and protecting the Wheaten in the United States. Three Wheatens were present at that meeting, and ultimately became well-known in show rings: Holmenocks Gramachree, Gads Hill, and Holmenocks Hallmark, better known as “Irish” (O’Connor), “Liam,” and “Maud” (Arnold), which helped spread awareness of the Wheaten and continue to grow the breed's popularity.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Care

The first thing to know about a Wheaten is that their soft, silky coat is going to require some maintenance, including a daily grooming session. Its unique coat doesn't shed much, but will still need diligent care in order to prevent matting. Combing these dogs will require the use of a pin brush or slicker brush to remove dirt and loose hair before a more thorough combing out with a medium- or fine-toothed metal comb. Mats will have to be pulled apart (never cut), and like all breeds, Wheaten owners will also have to include nail maintenance in their grooming regimen.

Though it's a particularly happy, adaptable breed, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier will require daily exercise and plenty of love and attention from their owners. These dogs are also known to get along well with children, most likely due to their playful, affectionate nature. Though their activity needs can vary from medium to high, their history as a busy Irish farm dog means that they crave plenty of outdoor time…and will thrive on daily exercise session with their owners. These dogs also have a strong prey drive and a seemingly uncontrollable urge to chase after everything from squirrels to cars, so a fenced-in backyard (and leashed walks) are a must.

Like many terriers, the Wheaten seems to have a mind of its own. Though it’s an intelligent breed, these dogs often have their own agenda and tend to be stubborn and willful—which makes training somewhat difficult. Early socialization and training will be crucial, and a Wheaten will also thrive on consistent, firm discipline that does not include any sort of harsh treatment.

Common Health Problems

Wheatens are generally healthy, sturdy dogs, though some health conditions that have been associated with this breed include certain kidney and gastrointestinal conditions, Addison’s disease, and renal dysplasia. A Wheaten’s ears should also be checked regularly, and as with all dogs, their teeth should be brushed often.

Diet and Nutrition

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier should perform well with a high-quality commercially or home-prepared (under veterinary supervision) dog food. Like many other breeds, these dogs can become overweight if they aren't offered the correct diet and an appropriate amount of exercise (or too many treats), so be sure to monitor your dog's calorie consumption and provide plenty of opportunities for playtime. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times for this active, high-energy breed.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Be sure to check your local animal shelters and rescue groups for Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers that are in search of their forever home. National groups for the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, such as S'Wheat Rescues and Adoptions, Inc. or the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America, can provide online resources to help you find your new best friend.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Always be sure to do your homework when choosing a dog breed. Talk to other Wheaten owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more about this particular breed and their unique personalities and care requirements. There are a wide array of dog breeds, and with a little research, you can be sure you'll find the right dog to bring home.

If you're interested in other terrier breeds, here are a few other dogs to consider: