Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
 
Photo of adult Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a medium sized terrier breed that originates from Ireland. Its history is as an all round farm dog and it tends to have a less feisty character than many other terrier breeds but can still be independent and stubborn at times. The breed needs plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to keep it happy and healthy and ensure it does not become rebellious and disobedient. This means it is best suited to an active lifestyle and country environment.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has a compact appearance and is strong and powerful for its size. It has an unusually soft and silky coat compared to other terriers and this requires regular brushing, although it does not shed. The breed usually lives to the age of 12 or older but can suffer from some inherited health problems, so it is important to chose a responsible breeder if you are thinking of getting a puppy.

About & History

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, known as An Brocaire Bui in Irish is a medium sized breed of terrier that is unusual compared with many other similar sized terrier breeds, as it has a soft and silky coat. The breed is also known by its shortened name the Wheaten or Wheatie. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier shares its origins with the Irish Terrier and the Kerry Blue Terrier and was originally kept in Ireland as a multi-purpose farm dog, where its duties included guarding, herding, rat-catching, retrieving and hunting badger and otter. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was often expected to live in harsh conditions, which means the breed evolved to be tough and hardy.

Today, the breed is most commonly kept as a pet, making an exceptional companion due to its happy, bouncy nature but also makes an excellent partner in dog sports, such as agility and flyball.

Appearance

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Large Photo

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier only has three colours, which are all variations of its typical ‘wheaten’ colour that can be registered with the Kennel Club. In younger dogs, coat colours may appear darker, but should become clearer between 18 to 24 months of age:

  • Blonde
  • Brown
  • Wheaten

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a compact, medium sized terrier that should stand between 46 to 49 cm tall at the withers and weigh between 16 and 20.5 kg. Female dogs should fall towards the lower end of these measurements. The breed should have a strong neck, which widens towards well-angled, muscular shoulders. Front legs should be perfectly straight. The overall appearance of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier should be one of power with a short but strong and level back. The chest should be deep and the back should be roughly the same length as the height to the withers. Hind legs should continue to fit with the breed’s strong appearance and also be perfectly straight. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier should have a high set tail, which is carried upright.

The breed should have a reasonably long flat head with a square muzzle and strong jaws forming a perfect scissor bite, giving the impression of refined power. Teeth should be large and pigmentation of the lips and nose should be black. There should be plenty of hair, forming the breed’s characteristic beard and eyebrows. The breed should have medium sized, oval shaped eyes of hazel colour. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier’s medium sized ears should fold over forwards to form a ‘V’ shape, lying close to the cheek.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier should have a free, energetic movement, which gives it a graceful air. The breed should move with long, ground covering strides with plenty of drive and carry its head and tail high, whilst the topline remains level.

Character & Temperament

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a confident, spirited breed that is affectionate and intelligent. The breed is less feisty and argumentative than some other terriers and is faithful and protective, but not aggressive. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is usually good with all the family and its playful character means it gets on well with children. However, the breed can be boisterous so is best supervised around younger children.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is not especially prone to suffering from separation anxiety. However, dogs should not be left home alone for extended periods of time and this is an important consideration when thinking of getting any breed of dog. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is not an aggressive breed but its loyal character and dedication to its family means it will bark and warn of any danger or intruders.

Trainability

Photo of Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy

Despite the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier’s reputation for being a little more easy going and less feisty than some other terrier breeds, it can still be headstrong and have a stubborn streak. The breed’s independence and intelligence means it is quick to learn, and picks up bad behaviours just as fast as good ones. It is therefore important to be extremely consistent and use positive reinforcement techniques combined with training and socialisation from an early age to achieve the best results in terms of behaviour. The breed’s hunting instincts and independent character means that training recall correctly from the start is important otherwise dogs can be prone to being disobedient.

If the breed is going to be expected to live with other animals it is essential that they are introduced and socialised with them from a young age, otherwise their hunting instincts can mean they are prone to chasing small animals and being rowdy around other dogs. House-training the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is not normally a problem and the breed is quick to learn if it has a consistent routine and plenty of access to an outdoor area.

Health

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier can be prone to suffering from a number of breed related health problems, so careful selection of a healthy family line is important. Despite this, it has a reasonably long life expectancy of over 12 years of age. The following health conditions are known to be inherited within the breed:

  • Hip Dysplasia – Although not obligatory, the Kennel Club strongly recommends that breeders participate in this scheme to try and reduce the incidence of the condition within Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers. Hip dysplasia is a condition caused when abnormalities form in the hips during a dogs development. Later in life, these often cause joint problems, resulting in pain and discomfort. Dogs over a year old should have their hips radiographed, and these radiographs are then evaluated by experts who assign each dog a score. The lower the score, the fewer the signs of hip dysplasia are present.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – PRA can refer to various developmental or degenerative genetic diseases that affect the retina in the eye and therefore, ultimately, affect sight.
  • Retinal Dysplasia – Retinal dysplasia occurs when there is a malformation of the retina. This can eventually lead to retinal detachment, resulting in blindness. The condition is hereditary and dogs intended for breeding should be tested to identify any signs of abnormalities.
  • Renal Dysplasia – With renal dysplasia, congenital abnormalities in the kidney lead to degenerative changes that eventually result in kidney failure. Symptoms of the condition are similar to other causes of renal failure, including slow growth in puppies, weight loss, affects on appetite, increased drinking and urination and less inclination to be active. The disease can become evident between puppyhood and middle age and eventually progresses to cause death. At the time of writing, there are no genetic tests available to identify if a dog is carrying the condition, so breeders should monitor their dogs responsibly for any symptoms.
  • Protein Losing Enteropathy and Nephropathy – These conditions cause dogs to lose protein either through their digestive tract or kidneys and are hereditary. Diet and medication can be used to try to manage the conditions but there is no cure. Any dogs that are thought to be affected should not be bred from.
  • Hearing Problems – Some Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers can be affected by deafness and loss of hearing and this is thought to be linked to certain family lines. Responsible breeding coordinated by the breed club is helping to reduce the occurrence of this condition.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a bouncy and energetic dog that loves to play. On average, it needs about an hour and a half of walking a day; where as much of this time as possible should be spent running off the lead or playing with other dogs. The breed is best suited to a household where it has plenty of outside space, such as a large garden, but this should be well-fenced to keep the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier from getting into trouble. The breed’s energy levels mean that it is best suited to a rural environment and an active household.

Grooming

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has a single layer coat that should be soft and silky. If left untrimmed, this does not normally grow longer than around 12.5 cm and does not shed. There are differences between the typical coat style for the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier in America and Europe. In Europe, dogs tend to have a thinner, silkier coat and the typical cut tends to be less well kept and styled than in America, with a shorter beard and eyebrows, reflecting the original working type more closely. The breed should be brushed at least a few times a week to prevent it becoming knotty and matted.

Famous Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers

Despite the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier’s lovable looks there are not currently any truly well known examples in popular culture. There are, however, quite a few quasi-famous Wheatens on Instagram who are 'famous' within their own right.

Cross-Breeds

Some Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier cross-breeds that are popular today include:

  • Whoodle – Cross between Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and a Poodle
  • Hava Wheat – Cross between Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and a Havanese
  • Wheatador – Cross between Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and a Labrador Retriever
  • Soft Coated Golden – Cross between Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and a Golden Retriever
  • Soft Coated Wheatzer – Cross between Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and a Miniature Schnauzer
  • King Wheaten – Cross between Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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