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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Average Cost to keep/care for a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier originates from Ireland where they were originally bred to hunt vermin and guard farms and crofts in what can only be described as often harsh and spartan environments. As a result, these little terriers were hardy and robust which are traits they have passed on the terriers we see today.
Soft Coated Wheatens are happy, fun-loving terriers and they make wonderful family pets because they thrive on being around people and in a home environment. They 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 loving nothing more than to entertain and be entertained.
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 for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
When a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier moves, they do so with a lively, graceful and free moving gait covering a lot of ground when they do. They take long, low, well-coordinated strides showing a good reach both in their forequarters and hindquarters. Dogs carry their heads and tails high while keeping their backs nice and level.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.
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 providing they have enough time to dedicated to their canine companion bearing in mind that a Wheatie's socialisation and training must start as early as possible and it must 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 the perfect choice for first time dog owners because they are so amenable and people-oriented, loving nothing more than to please and to entertain their families. They are particularly good with young children and older people too although playtime can get a bit boisterous at times.
Wheaties have strong hunting instincts which is deeply embedded in their psyche. As such, they have a high prey drive and will happily chase anything that moves or tries to run away, although it would be fair to say that this trait is not as strong as it was in days long past. However, care should always be taken as to where and when a Wheatie can run off the lead more especially if there are wild animals or livestock close by.
Wheatens are fun-loving by nature and thrive on playing interactive games whenever they can. Dogs remain extremely playful well into their senior years which is another reason they are so much fun to share a home with.
The Wheaten is highly adaptable and providing they are given lots of daily physical exercise combined with a ton of mental stimulation, they are just as happy living in an apartment in town as they would be living in a house in the country.
Soft Coated Wheatens form strong ties with their families and some dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained which could include incessant barking.
Some Wheatens like the sound of their own voices a little too much which is something that needs to be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young being careful not to frighten them. Others will only bark when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their surroundings but rarely would a Wheatie do so aggressively.
Most Wheaties love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Wheaten off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
A Wheaten is a good watchdog and will always bark to announce that there are strangers about or to alert an owner of something they don't like in their environment. With this said, rarely would a Wheaten show any sort of aggression preferring to keep their distance until they get to know someone and then they can be all over them.
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 focused 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 must involve introducing a puppy to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they've been fully vaccinated.
Wheatie puppies are incredibly cute and they are extremely clever too. As such, puppies learn new things very quickly which includes the good and the bad. They are very inquisitive and lively when young which can see them jump up with delight whenever they can so they can "kiss" their owners. Although, this might be acceptable behaviour for immediate "family", it might not go down so well with strangers. As such, puppies need to be gently taught what is acceptable behaviour and what is not being extra careful not to scare them. The first commands a Wheaten puppy should be taught are as follows:
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 and unlike many other terrier breeds, they are not as "scrappy” being a lot more gregarious by nature. 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 should be taken when they are anywhere near any smaller animals and pets because of their high prey drive.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
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:
Wheatie puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Some Wheaties gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Wheaties are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up, bearing in mind that the breed is known to be predisposed to skin issues. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions for the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.
The Kennel Club strongly recommends that all breeders included KC Assured Breeders use the following schemes on their breeding stock:
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.
Soft Coated Wheaten puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
Keeping vet appointments
As previously mentioned, Wheaten puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Soft Coated Wheatens need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include taking a look at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Soft Coated Wheatens need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Wheatens don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
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 daily to remove any debris they may have picked up and to prevent any knots or tangles from forming. Particular attention should 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 builds 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 must 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.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Wheaten puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 12 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult dog must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier can be fed the following amounts every day:
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 £19.89 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £412.98 a month (quote as of December 2017). 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 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 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 well-bred, healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy.