If you like terriers but aren't fond of wiry hair or a whole lot of terrier 'tude, consider the soft-coated wheaten. While this Irish native has many terrier qualities, he isn't as scrappy as your typical earth-digger. He's a friendly, medium-size dog that gets along well with kids.
Although the origin of the breed is lost in the mists of time, the soft-coated wheaten terrier has been known in Ireland for more than two centuries as a hard-working varmint-killer and hunting dog. He was a working-class dog more likely to be owned by the common Irishman than the aristocrat. According to the American Kennel Club, there is some belief that the wheaten is an ancestor of the Kerry blue terrier. The soft-coated wheaten entered the Irish Kennel Club registry in 1937 and the English Kennel Club's in 1943.
The soft-coated wheaten terrier's name describes his appearance to a great degree. This dog's coat is soft, wavy and the color of wheat. At maturity the male wheaten ranges from 17 to 19 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 30 and 40 pounds. Males are larger than females. The wheaten's coat consists of a single layer, so he doesn't shed a lot. While puppies may be lighter in color, by the age of 2 years a wheaten must be that special wheat shade in order to compete in the show ring.
Although the wheaten is single-coated, that doesn't mean his coat isn't high-maintenance. Without regular brushing, that distinctive coat tends to mat, causing discomfort and possible infection. Daily grooming is also a good way to bond with your dog and train him to stand and otherwise obey you. If you show him, he'll need to visit the groomer regularly for a classic terrier clip. Even if he's only a pet, trips to the groomer neaten him up.
Your wheaten's an energetic guy that needs regular exercise. He's suited to city, suburban or country living, but living in a rural area doesn't mean you can let him loose. He's a terrier, after all, bred to hunt. Take him for long walks or let him run in a fenced-in yard. Check the fence line regularly to make sure he can't escape or dig underneath.
A wheaten's idea of a greeting is jumping up and licking your face. That can be cute and you may adore it, but it might get old if he gets you dirty or knocks you down. All dogs need training, especially terriers. Let your wheaten know gently but firmly that you're in charge, and be consistent with him. Take him to obedience school not only for the training but for the bonding that working with you dog brings.
While generally healthy, soft-coated wheaten terriers are prone to certain hereditary ailments like any purebred dog. He might be susceptible to hypoadrenocorticism, commonly known as Addison's disease. This disease affecting hormone production of the adrenal glands can be fatal if untreated. Renal dysplasia, under- or poor development of the kidneys, has been noted in the breed. Affected dogs suffer from renal failure at an early age. Wheatens may develop inflammatory bowel disease due to food allergies.
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
- American Kennel Club: Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier - History
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America: About the Breed
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America: Wheaten Health
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America: The Basics of Grooming Your Wheaten
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.