The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is a friendly, people-oriented breed developed in Ireland as an all-purpose farm and hunting dog. Though they do exhibit plenty of terrier traits such as a high prey drive, barking, or bossy and impulsive behaviors, they aren't your typical terrier. Wheatens are friendly, affectionate, loving dogs who are thrilled to spend time with anyone willing to pet them. They are intelligent, yet headstrong. The Wheaten Terrier is in perpetual play mode and has plenty of energy to burn, and often makes a great match for a family.
The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is also known as the Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, the Wheaten Terrier, the Wheaten, and the Wheatie. They are known as An Brocaire Buí in Ireland.
The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier has a single, silky coat that starts dark when she is a puppy and lightens to a wheaten color as she grows into adulthood. The coat is light shedding, but requires regular grooming.
Average Height: 17-19 inches
Male: 35-40 pounds
Female: 30-35 pounds
Breed Standard & History
The medium-sized Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier has a soft and silky coat which sets it apart from other terriers. The coat should not be wooly or frizzy. In adulthood the coat's color should be a shade of wheaten, with minimal red, black, or white hairs scattered throughout. It should be allowed to grow long and silky, never clipped, plucked, or shaved. The hair on the head should be trimmed to a rectangular shape, and the eyes should not be visible beneath the hair. The Wheaten Terrier's body should be square, balanced, and appear hardy; her gait should be graceful and her tail held erect. Her temperament should be happy, alert, and confident, without the terrier 'attitude' as seen in other breeds. – AKC Breed Standards
Said to be descended from the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Terrier, the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier was used for centuries as an all-purpose farm dog. The first record of a Wheaten Terrier was in 1785 in County Kerry, Ireland, though the type was likely common before then. Legally, only the gentry were allowed to keep hounds and hunting dogs; the terrier was a breed allowed for farmers. The Wheaten Terrier's tail was docked to mark it as a farm dog. Wheaten Terriers were used to rid farms of rats, act as watchdogs, and accompany owners on the hunt—a general use dog.
Though the Wheaten was common across Ireland for centuries, the Irish Kennel Club didn't recognize the breed until 1937. The American Kennel Club recognized the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier in 1973.
AKC Breed Category
The energetic Wheaten Terrier is spirited and occasionally hyperactive, but less so than other terrier breeds. They are friendly and alert, and are not known resort to aggression. They are often excited to greet their people upon returning home—these greetings are often overzealous, even if the family has been away only a short time. Fans of the breed lovingly refer to this enthusiastic reception as the Wheaten Greetin'. Wheatens make devoted companions with a slight terrier-like stubborn streak.
Are Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers Good with Kids? Wheatens often make a good match for children, but because they are bouncy and energetic, may knock over small children.
Are Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers Good with Other Pets? If raised with them, the Wheaten Terrier may do well with dogs, and even cats—but they do have a high prey drive and may give chase to small animals, especially if the animal runs away. Early socialization is important to help create a peaceful living situation with other animals.
Wheaten Terriers were used to protect farms and families, and their protective nature is present today. They are devoted dogs with a deep loyalty to their owners. They love everyone, so they are more likely to greet newcomers with a wagging tail than with aggression—after they've done their job and alerted you to their presence with an alarm bark.
Wheatens have a high, puppy-like energy level and are always ready to play.
- Wheatens are escape artists, known to wander and should wear their personalized collar at all times.
- They may chase cats and small animals.
- Jumpy, bouncy, high-energy greetings are likely.
- Wheatens may have separation anxiety.
- They have a tendency to dig.
- They possess a stubborn and headstrong terrier personality.
- Wheaten Terriers require regular grooming.
The people-loving Wheaten Terrier can adapt to a number of living situations with enough exercise and attention. They are high-energy dogs who need plenty of time to romp outdoors, but do not need an excess of space. They may make good companions for an apartment or city dweller.
Outside exercise must be made a priority for the energetic Wheaten. While they enjoy time spent outdoors, it is best spent with their people. The breed is known to run and may chase squirrels or other critters in the neighborhood. They do not tolerate heat, so activity in hot weather should be minimized. When left outdoors alone, Wheatens may dig, bark, or roam.
Half an hour to one hour per day of activity is ideal to keep the high-energy Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier happy, healthy, and tired out.
Wheatens possess the stamina required for high-energy activities such as agility or other dog sports. Any opportunity for adventure excites this athletic breed, but hot weather may be difficult for the Wheaten Terrier to manage.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: An adult Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier in good health may be able to run between three and five miles.
- Hiking Miles: The energetic Wheaten Terrier may be able to hike up to 10 miles. They should be full grown and well-conditioned before you expect them to hike long or strenuous trails. The breed is known to roam, so leashed hikes or impeccable off-leash behavior is recommended.
The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food (based on average weight and activity level) to feed a Wheaten Terrier is a cup to a cup and a half per day, divided between two meals.
Food guarding behaviors are not more common in the Wheaten Terrier than in other breeds, but children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while a Wheaten or any dog is eating.
The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier becomes attached to her family, and prefers to spend time with them. While you can leave her alone from four to eight hours per day, she needs plenty of exercise due to her high energy level. Expect exuberant barking, jumping, and face licks upon your return home. Some Wheatens may suffer from separation anxiety or become destructive when left home alone, so crate training may be necessary.
Health and Grooming
The single coat of the Wheaten Terrier sheds minimally, but needs plenty of attention. Brushing once or twice per week and monthly trips to the groomer for a trim are recommended. A bath may be necessary once per month as the Wheaten's coat tends to pick up debris on every outing. A Wheaten kept as a pet rather than a show dog may sport a pet cut—an allover trim—for easier grooming.
Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or broken nails. The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier has floppy ears with long hair and may be more prone to ear infections, so regular ear cleaning and hair trimming may be necessary.
Common Health Issues
Though the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is a relatively healthy breed, they can be prone to breed-specific health concerns, including:
- Protein-losing nephropathy (PLN)
- Protein-losing enteropathy (PLE)
- Renal dysplasia
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Addison's disease
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier by purchasing her from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
While intelligent and eager to please, the Wheaten Terrier is still a terrier. She may be stubborn and headstrong. The breed is known to jump in excitement and this energy should be redirected from an early age to encourage polite greetings. Persistence, consistency, and positive reinforcement go a long way while training a Wheaten Terrier. Early socialization with people and other dogs is important to raise a well-behaved adult Wheaten.
The Wheaten Terrier is an athletic breed that does well in agility competitions and advanced tricks training. Advanced training is a good way to run the excess energy out of a Wheaten.
They may be easily distracted, so short training sessions with varied lessons will help keep the Wheaten's attention.
Sporting Dog Training
The Wheaten Terrier has a history as a hunting dog and is still occasionally used as a modern sporting dog. With patience and training, they may learn to flush birds or hunt small game.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers.
The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier may be referred to as having an Irish or American coat. While all Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers are descended from the original Irish breed, two distinct coats may be seen in the modern breed. The Irish Wheaten Terrier's waterproof coat grows more slowly, tangles less, is more oily, and lays closer to the body. The American Wheaten Terrier has a fuller, less oily coat that grows quicker and may need more grooming.
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers are born with dark fur in shades of red or brown, with a darker mask. As they grow, their fur begins to change. The color begins to lighten at about six months of age, and when the dog is between one and two years old, her coat attains the standard wheaten coloring. Her coat's texture may also change during this period.
While any dog can cause an allergic reaction in a vulnerable human, the Wheaten Terrier is considered hypoallergenic. Wheatens shed minimally, but because all dogs produce dander and saliva—which can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals—even hypoallergenic dogs can aggravate allergies.