The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, also known as the Wheaten for short, is a less common breed in the United States. But his friendly, jolly, and deeply devoted personality is slowly making him an increasingly popular breed amongst dog owners.
Whether you are just looking for a little bit of information about the Wheaten, or have recently adopted one and are looking for a few tips, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the breed in this comprehensive guide.
You’ll learn about his history and how that influences his personality. You’ll also learn about his time-consuming grooming regime and sometimes stubborn personality. He is a terrier, after all! So this means this breed isn’t perfect for everyone. However, the Wheaten can be a perfect fit for many lifestyles. Let’s find out if this breed is the perfect fit as your next canine companion!
Ireland has gifted the world with many fine things. From some of the best literature in the world to delicious smooth whiskey. But best of all, three beautiful terrier canines! The Kerry Blue Terrier, the Irish Terrier, and this lil’ scamp, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. Unlike many pure breeds, the history of the Wheaten is not completely documented. But it is believed that all three Irish terrier-types share the same canine forefather.
The Wheaten was created to be a versatile farm dog. His tasks included guarding the chicken coop, alerting his master to visitors/intruders, herding, and exterminating vermin. By night, he was welcomed into the family home to entertain the kids in the evening. Followed by a well-earned rest in front of the fire with his master. This canine chap excelled in everything he did and was much loved by the whole family.
Wheatens are often referred to as the ‘poor man’s dog’ because ordinary folk were not allowed to keep Irish Wolfhounds, Beagles, or Spaniels by law. These guys were reserved for nobility or those with wealth. So the Wheaten was the working class dog, and working hard and playing hard is his mantra. His tail was docked to let the taxman know that they were exempt from tax collections.
It is believed that the first Wheatens arrived in America in 1946. But it wasn’t until 1962 that the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America was formed. Their first meeting was held in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day (obviously!). The AKC recognized them as an official breed in 1973. The Wheaten is by far the most popular in America. He consistently ranks between the 50th and 60th most popular dog breed in the American Kennel Club canine charts.
The AKC sums up the Wheaten’s personality in four words; friendly, happy, and deeply devoted. He has a real love for life, and there is never a dull moment with a Wheaten in your life. Even on the most boring of days, the Wheaten’s grin will beam from ear to ear. Cheering the entire family up, whatever the weather. This bouncy ball of fluff is always eager to play games with the family. And a breed trait is twirling in a circle when he is super excited!
A life of solitude is this guy’s worst nightmare! He craves companionship, and this is one of those love it or hate it characteristics. If you seek an intense dog to keep you company for every moment of the day, this guy’s the dog for the job. But if you prefer dogs who will happily keep themselves entertained for a few hours and let you get on with your own day, it’s not going to work out.
But every cloud (if that’s how you see it!) has a silver lining, right? Well, as a reliable farm dog, this guy has formed a close bond with humans across the years. And even if you don’t work him on a farm, everyone in the family will be the apple of his eye. Devoted to humans, this breed likes to see himself as part of the pack. He’ll spoil you in endless Irish love and slobbery kisses!
His devotion, combined with his naturally sharp instincts, makes him a brilliant watchdog. Great if your alarm bell has run out of power. Not so great if you have noise-sensitive neighbors or are already on a tenancy noise warning! But he won’t follow up his warning barks with any protective behaviors – he’s far too friendly for that. Watchdog, yes. Guard dog, definitely not!
He is very friendly and polite, and overall a delight to meet. Everyone falls in love with him, and it’s easy to see why he is becoming increasingly popular. He loves to be the center of attention and is particularly fond of children. Probably because they’re equally as silly as he is. He has a comical charm, as well as a soft side. Cuddling on the sofa with his favorite people is a top hobby of his.
Size & Appearance
The Wheaten is a medium-sized dog who weighs between 30 and 40 pounds. He measures between 17 and 19 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. Female Wheatens tend to be smaller than their male brothers. Under his fluffy coat, he has compact, terrier muscle that gives him surprising strength and power. Overall he has the typical Irish terrier square outline.
His face is rectangular in shape and slightly longer compared to the average dog skull. His eyes are dark in color and set widely apart, with a large nose that’s solid black in color. The Wheaten’s ears are small in size, pointing slightly towards his eyes. His tail is usually docked, sometimes natural, but is always held high. If you want to show your Wheaten in the show ring, he’ll need to conform to the breed standard.
Coat & Colors
The Wheaten’s coat is his most loved feature. This teddy-bear-coated pup is fluffy and beautiful. He has a single coat that places him in the hypoallergenic dog group. Although, no dog is truly hypoallergenic! But it can make him easier on slight-allergy sufferers. It is soft and silky in texture, making him unique in the terrier dog group.
There are two coat types, the Irish coat, and the American coat. The Irish coat is generally wavier and silkier than the American coat. And the American coat tends to be heavier and fuller. In America, the breed standard favors the American coat. But Irish breed fanciers prefer the thinner coat, as this is seen as the original working coat. They see the American coat as too bouffant.
There aren’t many Irish-coated Wheaten breeders in America. So, if this is important to you, be sure to speak to the breeder about what coats their pups have. Some breeders try to mix the two coat types to create a happy medium, and these go by the name of ‘Heavy Irish.’ Overall, the coat type does not affect their personality in any way.
There is one accepted coat color, and that is wheaten. It can be any shade of wheaten, ranging from pale beige to vibrant shimmery gold. Sometimes the eyes and muzzle have gray-blue shading, and occasionally red and white hairs will be found hiding in the coat. Puppies are born much darker, and their coat will gradually lighten. You’ll only know their true color when they reach two years of age. And their waves will wait until then to come out, too.
The Wheaten is a hardworking breed with terrier genes. Meaning he needs high levels of daily exercise, right? Well, no, actually! And this is a big appeal of his. He has the typical cheeky terrier nature, without the constant need for physical stimulation as we see in many other terrier breeds. He needs 30 minutes of exercise a day, making his exercise requirements average. This is great for families who cannot commit hours to daily walkies.
What he does need, though, is plenty of mental stimulation. In between outdoor exercise, he needs interactive play with his family throughout the day. He also needs access to fun and puzzling dog toys to stimulate his mind. Without these, he will undoubtedly become bored and destructive. Most ratting dogs love to dig, which will be something he’ll do if he is bored.
The Wheaten does not have many requirements when it comes to his preferred living conditions. Really, there are only two, which makes him a laidback luke for sure. The first is that his home can be any size, apartment, or large estate, but it needs to be escape-proof.
These pups are escape artists, especially in the pursuit of something fast and furry. He couldn’t care less if there’s oncoming traffic; he will catch that squirrel! For his safety and your peace of mind, you need to secure the house and yard.
The second is that his family needs to be home for most of the day. Again, big or small, he doesn’t really care what type of house or apartment you live in. Just as long as he isn’t alone. Don’t underestimate the potential for a serious case of separation anxiety. So, please don’t take this guy on if you work long hours away from home. Overall, he’s a very adaptable pooch if you can meet these two requirements.
He can live with any type of family. He’s fond of children and makes a great addition to young families. Often making the best canine sibling any child could ask for! He’s not too big, but not too small for most kiddos. Equally, he could live with a retired couple or a singleton. He can also live with other pets too. Despite having an extremely high prey drive, those in his family are friends, not food! Everything else, furry or feathery, outside of the family unit, will be chased.
The Wheaten is a reasonably intelligent dog breed that lives to please his owner. Meaning that he is trainable, on the most part anyway! He has to remind us that he is a terrier somehow, and he does so by being a little bit stubborn. Most days, he will take to training well. But on occasion, he will turn his nose up. We’ll let him off, though, as we all have bad days!
He needs early and consistent training if you want to get the best out of him. Positive reinforcement training is the best way to train the Wheaten. He will sulk if you are too harsh with your words! His high prey drive means that he’ll probably love to chase things, so invest in toys that you can toss as a reward for good behavior.
For him to transform into a polite pooch, he needs to be socialized well as a pup. Otherwise, he’ll see everything in the world as a threat, and he’ll grow into a scared and anxious dog. Mix him with as many dogs as you can and expose him to other humans, sights, sounds, and environments. Not only is it fun, but it’ll make both your future life with him much easier too.
There is no escaping that the Wheaten has an anxious streak, especially when left alone for too long. Be sure to leave him for short periods when he is a pup so that he gets used to it. It’s also a great idea to crate train. Not only does it provide the shelter that all dogs naturally crave. But it will comfort him when you have to leave. Plus, it means he doesn’t have access to your favorite possessions when you aren’t there.
Although we wouldn’t recommend letting this guy off-leash in a public space, this is not always the best way for some families. Plus, it’s useful if he escapes. If you want to let him off the leash, you will need to work hard on his recall training. He has an incredibly high prey drive, though, so be warned that his natural instincts might take over even if you do train him well. We’ll leave that decision with you!
The Wheaten is a relatively healthy dog breed, and his typical lifespan is 12 to 14 years. There are many things that all dog owners can do to prolong their pup’s lifespan. Things such as sticking to regular health checks at the vets, feeding the best nutrition you can afford, and keeping them fit with regular exercise. Simple things really are the most effective for your pup’s best health.
The Wheaten is prone to certain health conditions more so than others because of gene inheritance. And this means you’ve got a great place to begin your Wheaten health research. But remember, it is not an exclusive list because all dogs are different. Let’s take a look at the most common health concerns and what symptoms are associated with them.
Hip dysplasia is a common health concern. This occurs when the hip socket and the thigh bone do not sit properly. This can cause painful mobility and hip dislocation. Always work with a breeder who tests for high hip scores. Exercise intolerance, struggling to stand, lay down, or climb the stairs are all symptoms.
Progressive retinal atrophy is the most common eye condition. The Wheaten is more likely to suffer from this than other breeds. It can lead to permanent vision loss. If you notice poor vision, light sensitivity, or bumping into things, it’s time to visit the vets.
This is a genetically transmitted disease that causes an excessive amount of proteins and plasma to be lost through the kidney. It can cause anemia and high cholesterol, which leads to other health concerns. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, weight loss, diarrhea, swelling of the abdomen, difficulty breathing, and kidney failure. It can be managed with medication and diet.
Like the condition above, this also causes excess protein loss, but through the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms are the same, and it can also be managed with medication and diet.
This is also known as hypoadrenocorticism. It occurs when there is insufficient production of adrenal hormones. This leads to other conditions too. If not detected, it can lead to severe body stress and toxic potassium levels that cause shock and sudden death. Early symptoms include vomiting, and poor appetite, and little poor appetite. These symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions, so remind your vet that this is more common in Wheatens.
This is another kidney condition that occurs when the kidney develops abnormally. Which can result in early renal failure. Increased thirst and urination, vomiting, poor appetite, and frequent urinary tract infections are all symptoms of this condition.
A typical non-working Wheaten will consume between 1.5 and 2 cups of kibble every day. The amount you feed your pup will depend on his energy levels, age, and the kibble you feed him. It’s important not to overfeed the Wheaten, so be sure to follow the package instructions. His coat might hide any extra pounds of weight, so be sure to check his weight regularly.
It’s important to feed your pup a high-quality kibble that provides a well-balanced diet. Your vet may prescribe a particular diet that caters to all of the potential kidney concerns that he might face. Or they may suggest a low protein or energy food. Be sure to ask your vet when you next see them. Age-appropriate food is always the best because it will cater to different life stage needs.
The Wheaten’s coat is his best asset, and despite being a laidback luke, this guy’s grooming regime is anything but easy! Whether you have an Irish or American-coated pup, he will need daily grooming. The difference is that it will take a little bit longer to brush him if he has a thicker, fuller American coat. His long, wavy hair is prone to matting and tangling, so you need to keep on top of it.
Start off with a pin or slicker brush to remove all of the dirt and dead hair. Then follow it up with a thorough brush with a fine-toothed metal comb to remove any tangles. He shouldn’t get too many tangles if you brush him daily. Concentrate on areas such as under the legs and neck as they tend to build up more there. Matting is more painful than it looks!
As a single-coated hypoallergenic breed, he is a low shedder. This is a fab appeal of his, and it will help to keep your home looking pristine. Did we say pristine? Forget it, sorry! This guy’s long hair will hold onto dirt and grime from the outside and bring it in. Plus, every time he eats and drinks, the food and liquid will stick to his mustache. He’ll get it all over the sofa and wipe his chops on the rug for good measure. If you are a neat freak, the Wheaten is definitely not the one for you!
Because he gets so dirty, he’ll need bathing once a month. Not any more than this, though, because it will irritate his skin and damage his natural coat oils. Always use a doggy shampoo made with natural ingredients such as oatmeal. You’ll need to dry him thoroughly to prevent dampness and consequent sores. He will also need clipping regularly. Many Wheaten owners opt to send him for the groomers once every six weeks to keep him looking his best.
The Wheaten needs his teeth brushed at least twice weekly to keep periodontal diseases at bay. Clip his nails once every two to four weeks, too, depending on how much they wear down naturally. It’s a good idea to expose your Wheaten to his daily grooming regime as a pup so that he becomes accustomed to it. Otherwise, it’ll be a daily nightmare to groom him!
Breeders & Puppy Costs
The Wheaten is a relatively rare dog breed, so you may have to travel far to find a reputable breeder. But you need to work with a reputable breeder to ensure you find a happy and healthy puppy. A great place to start your breeder search is on the AKC’s Wheaten breeder page. The average price of a Wheaten puppy starts from $1,000, rising to $1,500.
If you find a puppy for any less than this average price, see it as a warning sign that they could be an irresponsible breeder. Or worse, a puppy mill. Not only are they more concerned with profit over your pup’s health. But they neglect the puppies and dog’s basic needs. If they seem cagey about information, pushy to make a sale, or refuse for you to see the pups in their ‘home’ environment, walk away.
A good quality breeder will have years of experience breeding the Wheaten. They will probably have a professional website and independent reviews online. Ask to see the relevant health certificates, and always meet the puppies in person. Paying a little extra means that you can rest assured the breeder has done everything they can to produce healthy puppies.
It’s not just the initial puppy cost to think about. You also need to factor in the ongoing costs associated with owning a dog. Firstly, you’ll need to set up your home with everything that he needs, such as beds, a crate, toys, and a harness, etc. Not forgetting puppy and escape proofing your home! Then you need to factor in ongoing medical costs, insurance policies, food, and grooming. The Wheaten is not the most expensive breed to care for, but it all needs thinking about.
Rescues & Shelters
Brand new shiny Wheaten puppies are not the only option here. You can also consider adopting a Wheaten. Sure, you are more likely to find an older Wheaten in the shelter, but this is a better option for some families. Head out to your local shelter and speak to the staff there, who will be able to talk you through the adoption process. And hopefully, point you in the direction of a Wheaten pooch!
There are also independent rescue organizations that dedicate their entire time and efforts to rehoming Wheaten dogs and their mixes. This is likely to increase your chances of finding a Wheaten, considering that they are already a rare breed in America. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America has a rescue page where you can submit an application form for adoption. So, be sure to check it out.
As Family Pets
- The Wheaten is an all-around great dog for many families.
- Wheatens have a laid-back nature that makes him adaptable.
- He is a playful pup who loves to spend time with the family.
- He is affectionate, sweet, and loving.
- Wheatens love to relax on the sofa with his owner.
- He is friendly with all humans and outgoing.
- Wheatens make great watchdogs, but poor guard dogs due to their friendliness.
- The Wheaten has a very high prey drive.
- This means he shouldn’t be let off-leash without supervision
- You’ll also need to make sure your house and yard are both secure.
- He adores children and plays gently with them. Kiddos tend to love him too!
- He is polite with other pups, but he will chase everything else outside of the family unit.
- Wheatens are low-shedding dogs but can be messy due to their fluffy long hair.
- This breed has an intense daily grooming schedule.
- Expect to set aside time dedicated to grooming this pup.
The Wheaten is a lovely pup who has the lively nature of the terrier, but he is much less in your face than other terriers. He is always happy, and you’ll feel the happiness radiating off his golden body for sure! Wheatens love to play and chill with his family and is super fond of other dogs and children.
He doesn’t expect much from his family on top of his basic needs, other than companionship and daily grooming. If you can handle his messy fur and needy ways, you might just find that canine pot of Irish gold you’ve been searching for!