The Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier

Wheaten Terrier
The Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier
The happy and energetic Irish farm dog who’ll bounce his way into your heart.

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Out of the Emerald Isle and into your heart, the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, or Wheaten for short, is yet another sturdy, joyful terrier native to Ireland. 

The working farms of Ireland are synonymous with small-to-medium sized plucky terriers, and the Wheaten is no exception. Bred by farmers a few hundred years ago, written records don’t exist to tell us the exact origins of the breed. But the Wheaten, along with his cousins the Kerry Blue and Irish Terriers, was bred to be sturdy, tough, and well-balanced. His purpose was multi-faceted on the farm—ratter extraordinaire, tracker of game (such as otter and badgers) both on land and in water, and of course herding and guarding sheep and cattle. It was versatile, tough work, often on tougher-still terrain. Terriers, simply put, were the preferred choice for the job. These Irish farmers and early breed fanciers also sought to create a ‘just the right size dog’—one sturdy enough for hard work but also manageable indoors as a permanent house guest of sorts. The Wheaten certainly fits the bill in every way. 

A regular fixture on farms for centuries, the Wheaten emerged as a distinct breed, alongside the Kerry Blue and Irish Terrier. Show and fancier interest in the Wheaten was slow to build in comparison to the others, and numbers dwindled, until a Wheaten stole the show at a terrier field trial in 1932. People took note, and a surge of interest in refining and building the breed began.

The Wheaten was recognized by the Irish Kennel Club in 1937, naturally at a meeting that occurred on St. Patrick’s Day! The first known occurrence of the breed in America took place in 1946, when seven Wheaten puppies were imported. The breed gained little notoriety until the mid 1950s, and it wasn’t until 1973 that the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. 

He may have been slow to gather interest from fanciers, but those days are long past. Today, he’s a popular choice as a family companion.

Today, the AKC accepts the breed in heights from 18-19 inches (males,) to 17-18 inches (females,) and in weight ranges from 35-40 pounds and 30-35 pounds for males and females, respectively. 

This is a breed known for being energetic and fun-loving. Many wonder when their bouncy and oh-so-adorable little puppies will grow up, only to discover that there is always a lot of ‘puppy’ in even the most senior of Wheatens. That forever-young spirit is, to be sure, one of the things that fanciers absolutely adore about this breed.

Deeply devoted, he’s a family dog, not suited for outdoor living. Interaction with people is important, and most likely one of the reasons he makes such a great family pet is that the Wheaten is an equal-opportunity-lover. He doesn’t just stick with one member of a household—he loves everyone.  

Can the Wheaten be in a home with other pets? Yes, but when it comes to cats most likely those they’re raised with—but it’s a no for rodents. They were, after all, bred to kill vermin, and that instinct remains. 

Game-y and athletic; fun and up-for-anything—they can be a really fun breed for those with an interest in canine sports. With all of that energy, many find a good fit for the Wheaten in activities like flyball and agility. Plenty of daily walks and play-time are an absolute minimum to keep this bouncy breed happy.

Training is recommended, ideally in the early puppy stage. He’s eager to please, and happy to try new things, but there’s a catch: He’s still a Terrier. He may not be the feistiest of the group, but that trademark stubborn streak is in there, rest assured. If his independent streak is going emerge at any time, it’ll likely be during a training session when he’ll have his own ideas about what to do and how to behave. 

Fortunately, he’s also smart and loving, and wants to be good for his people, so he certainly can and will become a dog with excellent manners. Patience is very important, as is a gentle approach. Negative reinforcement training is never a good idea, and least of all with a sensitive soul whoseheart is as soft as that glorious coat of his.

Speaking of which, a word on grooming is in order. 

The breed’s coat distinguishes it from all other terriers. His single coat covers the entire body and is soft, silky, and slightly wavy. Soft and gentle to the touch. To keep him looking his best, regular brushing and trimming is needed. Though low-shedding, this is not a ‘wash and go’ breed—maintenance is required to keep the Wheaten matt-free and looking dapper. 

Friendly, loving, exuberant, devoted, good with kids… it may be that the Wheaten is hard to beat as an all-around family companion. His earliest days were spent working farms in Ireland, and, given the chance, he’ll work his way into your heart.

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