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The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier originates from Ireland where they were originally bred to hunt vermin and guard farms. They are happy, fun-loving terriers that make wonderful family pets because they thrive on being around people and in a home environment. These little dogs may be high maintenance in the grooming department, but the effort is well worth it because Wheaties are so much fun to have around thanks to the fact they remain so “puppy-like” throughout their lives.
It's thought that the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier first appeared on the scene in Ireland around 200 years ago. They were bred to work on farms and considered to be a "poor man's dog”. They had to do many jobs around a farm which included hunting, guarding and herding livestock all of which were tasks these terriers proved themselves to be very good at becoming highly prized “ratters”. They are thought to be one of Ireland's oldest terrier breeds although their true origins remain a bit of a mystery.
For a long time, these farm terriers were allowed to breed quite freely and it was not until the 1930's that breed standards were established by the Irish Kennel Club and which at the time included four terrier breeds. There is some thought that Wheaten Terriers could well be one of the founding breeds for another Irish dog namely the Kerry Blue Terrier. These charming little terriers were finally recognised as a breed in the own right by The Kennel Club in 1943 and over the years, they have earned themselves the reputation for being trustworthy, reliable and affectionate dogs that make great family pets and companions.
Height at the withers: Males 45 - 50 cm, Females 43 - 46 cm
Average weight: Males 14 - 20 kg, Females 14 - 16 kg
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are compact, medium sized dogs that boast a charming look about them thanks to their lovely curly or wavy, wheat coloured coats. They have quite flat heads with an abundance of hair that falls forward so it covers a dog's eyes. They have a well-defined stop with a nice level topline to their muzzles. Noses are large and black in colour which adds to the large appearance of a dog's head. They have clear, medium sized eyes which are set nicely under a pronounced brow. Eye colour is a lovely bright, dark hazel which blends in well with the colour of their coat.
Their ears are V-shaped and small to medium in size being covered in hair. They fold over with the front edge slightly dropping forward so it lies close to a dog's cheeks. The Wheatie has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Necks are strong and moderately long merging nicely into a dog's shoulders. Their shoulders are well-laid back being long, muscular and sloping inwards. Front legs are well-muscled, perfectly straight showing a good amount of bone and their chests are relatively deep.
The Wheatie has a compact, robust body with short, powerful loins and their backs are strong, level with dogs having well-sprung ribs. Hindquarters are muscular and strong, with well developed, powerful back legs. Their feet are compact and strong with nice firm pads and black toenails. Their tails are set high which dogs carry gaily with some Wheaties having a slight curve in their tails which is acceptable as a breed standard.
When it comes to their coat, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has a silky, soft coat that can either be wavy or curly. However, it the hair is curly, the curls are light, loose and large. Their coat falls naturally and is more profuse on a dog's head and legs. Their adult coat only fully grows through when a Wheatie is around 24 months old. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
The Soft Coated Wheaten is what is known as a "natural" terrier and one that boasts being a strong minded albeit small dog. With this said, they are known to be even-tempered and fun-loving, outgoing, confident characters that boast a great sense of humour. They are extremely intelligent and like nothing more than to please which means in the right hands and environment, a Wheatie learns new things very quickly. The downside being they learn bad habits and behaviours just as fast as they learn the "good" ones.
They form strong bonds with one person which is typically the member of a family who takes care and feeds them. However, they always show affection and loyalty to everyone in a household. They are a good choice for first time owners as long as they have enough time to dedicated to their canine companion bearing in mind that a Wheatie's socialisation and training has to start as early as possible and it has to be consistent throughout their lives to get the best out of these terriers.
Keeping a Wheatie's coat looking as good as it should, takes a lot of time and effort. On top of this, they need to be professionally groomed several times a year which can be a little expensive. They are a good choice for families where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house because these little terriers thrive on human contact and do not do well if they are left on their own for longer periods of time. If they are left alone, a Wheatie can quickly get bored and this can lead to a dog developing unwanted destructive behaviours around the house. They may also suffer from separation anxiety if left on their own for too long.
Wheaties are intelligent little dogs and they learn new things very quickly, but this means they can learn both the good and the bad. They can be a little stubborn at times and because they have an independent streak in them, they can be a little harder to train than other dogs. As such, it takes a bit of patience and understanding to train one of these intelligent, high energy dogs. The key is to keep a Wheatie as focussed as possible and not to make a training session too long because they do so much better when they are given shorter training sessions more often, especially when still young.
They are sensitive terriers by nature and as such they do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods. They do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these lovely little dogs. It's essential for Wheatie puppies to be well socialised from a young enough age for them to grow up to be well-behaved and happy mature dogs. This has to involve introducing a puppy to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they've been fully vaccinated.
Sort Coated Wheaten Terriers thrive on being in a home environment and they really come into their own when they are around children. They revel in playtime and love nothing more than a bit of rough and tumble with the kids. However, as with any other dog, it's best for any interaction between children and their pet to be well supervised by an adult to ensure nothing gets too boisterous which is especially true where toddlers and younger children are concerned.
When well socialised from a young age, Wheaties are known to get on with other dogs. If they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together, but a Wheatie would think nothing of chasing off any other cat they come across. Care has to be taken when they are anywhere near any smaller animals and pets because of their high prey drive.
The average life expectancy of a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Wheatie is known to be a healthy, robust little terrier. However, they are known to suffer from a few health issues which are worth knowing about which are as follows:
As with any other breed, Wheaties need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
A Wheatie's coat is moderately long and is made up of silky, slightly wavy hair which is longer on a dog’s face. Although they don’t shed, they are high maintenance in the grooming department. Ideally, a Wheatie's coat needs to be brushed on a daily basis to remove any debris they may have picked up and to prevent any knots or tangles from forming. Particular attention has to be paid to a dog's muzzle which needs wiping with a soft, damp cloth after a Wheatie has eaten.
They also need to be professionally groomed several times a year to keep their coats in good condition, bearing in mind that their grooming needs are higher when they are younger and before their adult coats grow through. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Wheaties are energetic, intelligent little terriers and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well balanced dogs. If they are not given enough to occupy their minds and enough outdoor time, these little dogs can become unruly and wilful. They are best suited to families who live in the country and who lead more active, outdoor lives because although small, a Wheatie needs to have lots of room to express themselves. They need to be given at least 60 minutes exercise a day and more if possible to keep them from getting bored. If a Wheatie does get bored it could lead to dogs developing all sorts of behavioural issues which includes excessive barking and being destructive around the home.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these energetic, inquisitive dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Wheatie puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Wheatie puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to anything from £150 to over £300 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier in northern England would be £18.12 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.
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