The hallmark of these merry extroverts, and what sets them apart from other terriers, is the silky, gently waving coat. It runs from a pale beige to a shimmering gold, recalling the color of ripening wheat. Topping out at 19 inches tall and 40 pounds, Wheatens are square, sturdy terriers with a peek-a-boo hairdo and dashing goatee. The overall picture is that of a hard-muscled but soft-coated working terrier or, as the breed has been described, an iron fist in a velvet glove.
Among Ireland’s gifts to civilization are reams of great literature, a mighty smooth whiskey, and three magnificent long-legged terriers: the Wheaten, Kerry Blue, and Irish. All share a common ancestry and were bred for similar purposes. As versatile farm dogs, Wheatens were expected to do any number of rustic chores, like ratting, guarding the chicken coop, and even herding or bird-dogging. When day was done they were engaging fireside companions, a role they still relish—even if the hearth has been replaced by a TV.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a medium-sized, hardy, well balanced sporting terrier, square in outline. He is distinguished by his soft, silky, gently waving coat of warm wheaten color and his particularly steady disposition. The breed requires moderation both in structure and presentation, and any exaggerations are to be shunned. He should present the overall appearance of an alert and happy animal, graceful, strong and well coordinated.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The Wheaten’s soft, silky coat requires a fair amount of maintenance. The daily grooming session starts with a thorough going-over with a pin brush or a slicker brush to remove dirt and loose hair. Next comes a thorough combing with a medium- and fine-toothed metal comb. Any mats that are found should be pulled apart with the brush, comb, and fingers—never with scissors. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can be painful to the dog and cause problems walking and running.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has a medium to high energy level that does not diminish, even in old age. They need plenty of exercise every day. With a strong prey drive, Wheatens will have an urge to chase after just about anything that moves, from squirrels to cars, so the backyard or other play area must be securely fenced, and walks must always be on a leash. Wheatens bond to their owners, who should expect to participate in the daily exercise sessions.
Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended for all dogs to help to ensure that the they grow into well-adjusted, well-mannered companions. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is keenly smart and willful, and often has his own agenda. This makes them challenging to train. It also provides another reason why obedience training should start early, before bad habits become ingrained. A Wheaten needs consistent, firm discipline but is sensitive to harsh treatment. Wheatens must be trained to be compliant without breaking their spirit.
Wheatens are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as protein-losing nephropathy, a kidney ailment; protein-losing enteropathy, a term that is applied to several gastrointestinal conditions; Addison’s disease; and renal dysplasia. As with all breeds, a Wheaten’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste formulated for dogs.