Love the terrier look but are a bit put off by their overwhelming personalities? Meet the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. This medium-sized dog has the love for life and energy of a terrier, but without the scrappiness (although some of the stubbornness). Their gorgeous silky, wavy coat sets them apart from other terriers too. Happy, friendly and deeply devoted to their people, Wheaten Terriers are versatile family dogs who are at home in the city or country. All they ask for is plenty of daily exercise and attention. In return, expect doggy kisses, lap snuggles and a self-confident pup always by your side.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers have their origins in Ireland where they were originally used as farm dogs to get rid of vermin, do some hunting, and act as a guard dog against intruders. These days, these versatile pups make well-loved family pets.
This medium-sized terrier looks quite different to other terriers and that’s thanks to their silky, wavy coat. As their name tells you, it’s wheaten coloured which means it looks like the colour of ripening wheat. Think anything from pale beige to shimmering gold. Their somewhat shaggy coat is topped off by a peek-a-boo hairdo (with their eyes hidden by fur) and a sweet goatee.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers have round, dark eyes and folded ears that can be well camouflaged by their fur. Completing the picture is a dark, usually black, button nose.
Like other terriers, Wheaten Terriers are surprisingly sturdy and well-muscled, all the better for energetically bouncing around.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are sunshine in a dog package. Happy, friendly and self-confident, they make great watchdogs with their warning barks but lack the aggression to back this up with action. Think of their barks more as a greeting to the person or pup they’ve spotted.
Packing typical terrier traits like liveliness, Wheatens aren’t as scrappy as other terrier breeds. Their loving, people-orientated natures mean they’re great with children and other animals too, although it’s best if they’re raised together. You’ll see those terrier instincts kick in if anything small and furry appears while they’re outside. Given they were originally bred to hunt vermin on farms, it’s not that surprising!
Wheatens, with their medium size and not too excessive exercise needs, will fit well into most homes. But they do enjoy human company and lots of it. Prone to separation anxiety if they’re left alone too long, Wheatens can display destructive behaviour, including digging and chewing. If you work away from home, consider doggy daycare or a dog walker who can give your Wheaten the attention they crave.
You won’t mind piling on the attention though, because Wheaten Terriers are very affectionate and fun dogs. Walk through the door and a Wheaten will rush to greet you and give you a kiss or jump into your arms. Expect them to twirl when they’re happy, rest their head in your lap when they want something, and frown if you expect them to go outside in the rain (Wheatens are known for not liking getting wet).
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are generally sturdy, healthy, muscular dogs who are expected to live a long, healthy life (up to 14 years). There are a few health issues that they seem to be more at risk of developing. Preventative care, like regular vet checks, can help spot any signs.
Wheaten Terriers are more at risk of developing PLN and PLE than other dog breeds. PLN causes proteins and plasma to be lost through the kidneys. A Wheaten with PLN might experience weight loss, leg or abdomen swelling, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties and seem more thirsty or pee more than usual. Although there’s no cure, PLN can be managed through medication and diet.
PLE is similar to PLN but this time proteins and plasma are lost through the gastrointestinal (digestive) tract. It has the same symptoms as PLN. A vet can check whether your Wheaten is experiencing PLE or PLN by running tests to check levels of certain proteins in their body. Again, there’s no cure but it can be managed with medication and diet.
Addison’s Disease or hypoadrenocorticism is caused by not enough production of adrenal hormones. Signs include vomiting and a lack of appetite and energy. Addison’s isn’t very easy to spot in the early stages and typically gets to a more advanced stage before it’s diagnosed. At that point, it becomes a serious condition when the dog is stressed or their potassium levels get so high that their heart is impacted, causing shock or death. If your Wheaten seems like they’re not eating well and don’t want to move much, take them to the vet who can check for Addison’s.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are known for being more at risk of inheriting Renal Dysplasia. RD causes their kidneys to not develop normally, resulting in early kidney failure. A dog with RD might drink and wee more than usual, not eat much, vomit and possibly experience frequent urinary tract infections. As an inherited condition, responsible breeders should screen for it.
If you don’t like mess, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier might not be the dog for you. Their silky coat attracts outdoor debris and dirt which gets trapped and then dropped inside your home. Wheaten Terriers need plenty of grooming, but it’s a small price to pay for this happy pup.
Although they only shed lightly, expect to groom your Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier every day. First, use a brush to remove dirt and loose hair. Then, use a comb to detangle any knots or mats. Use a brush, comb and fingers to gently pull apart any mats, rather than cutting them out. You only need to bathe them when necessary, like if they’ve rolled in something really stinky.
Wheaten Terriers approach food like they do life: with great enthusiasm. This means they’re known for being messy eaters. If (when) they get food in their beard, you’ll often find them wiping it off on anything nearby, including the sofa.
This does mean they’re not fussy eaters though, so they’ll do well on quality commercial dog food that’s tailored to their life stage (puppy, adult or senior). With treats forming a big part of your Wheaten Terrier’s training, keep an eye on how many they’re getting each day - treat calories count towards their daily calorie intake.
Like most terriers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers have a medium to high energy level. If you’re hoping they might chill out as they grow older - they won’t. You can expect to give them plenty of exercise every day. Wheaten Terriers need at least 30 minutes of exercise to keep them happy and healthy.
You could break this up in two 15-minute walks on-lead, or a walk plus a game of fetch. Because Wheatens bond so strongly to their people, you’ll have to take part in these daily exercise sessions too - this isn't a dog that will entertain themselves for hours in the garden.
Wheaten Terriers have a strong prey drive and want to chase pretty much everything that moves, from small fluffy cats to cars. Keep play time to a securely fenced area and always walk them on a lead.
Wheatens love dog sports, especially agility, so check out local clubs in your area for some classes you can enjoy together.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are smart and independent dogs, having been bred to be solo hunters. This makes training them a little challenging so they do best with an experienced pet parent. However, starting obedience training from when they’re a puppy makes a big difference, as it’ll train out any bad habits.
Teach your Wheaten Terrier puppy basic commands like sit, stay and drop. Consistent, firm training with plenty of patience is needed. But keep it positive (reward them when they do what they’re asked with treats, praise and special toys) as these are sensitive souls who don’t respond to harsh training methods.
Early socialisation is important for Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers as it exposes them to different people, sights, sounds and experiences. Enrol them in puppy school, gently introduce them to friendly dogs, or take them on neighbourhood strolls where they can meet new people. Socialisation helps them grow up to be a well-mannered dog. You can also enlist a professional trainer to help you and your dog get started on the right paw.