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Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier standing as if at a conformation dog show
Other names Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
and variant spellings: "Soft Coated" and "Softcoated"
Nicknames Wheaten or Wheatie
Country of origin Ireland
Weight Male 35 to 45 lbs
Height Male 17 to 20 inches
Coat Soft and silky, loosely waved or curly
Color Wheaten or rust color
Litter size up to 8
Life span 12 to 15 years

The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is a breed of dog originating in Ireland. There are four coat varieties: Traditional Irish, Heavy Irish, English, and American. They are considered to be hypoallergenic[1], a trait popular with allergic or asthmatic dog owners. These dogs have a single coat which sheds very little hair.



The Wheaten was bred in Ireland to be an all-purpose farm dog whose duties would have included herding, watching and guarding livestock, and vermin hunting. This is probably why they are not as aggressive as other terriers, who were primarily vermin hunters. They are believed to be related to the Kerry Blue Terrier. Today Wheaten terriers compete in obedience, agility, and tracking, and are used in animal-assisted therapy as well.

Despite its long history, the Wheaten was not recognized as a breed in Ireland by the Irish Kennel Club until 1937. In 1943 the British Kennel Club recognized the breed as well. The first Wheatens were exported to the United States in 1946 but serious interest in the breed took years to develop. Lydia Vogel was one of the first breeders of the Wheaten Terrier in the United States. Finally, in 1973, they were recognized by the American Kennel Club. The first Wheatens imported into Australia occurred in the 70's by Anubis Kennels. Since then many more have been imported. Recent importation of Irish style dogs have improved and broadened the gene pool.


Puppies have a dark coat of either red, brown, mahogany or white. The muzzle and ears of Wheaten puppies may be black or dark brown. The dark puppy coat gradually grows out to nearly white before maturing into a wheaten-colored coat as they get older. The color can range from wheat to white, but white coats are not considered desirable by breeders and show enthusiasts. The adult coat may contain black, white, or darker brown "guard" hairs in addition to the lighter wheaten-coloured hair. If adults ever have skin injuries the resulting hair growth will be the dark color of their puppy coat before it eventually grows out to the wheat color.

A Wheaten of the English coat variety

The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is a medium-sized dog, which ranges on average anywhere from 17 to 19 inches and weighs about 30 to 45 pounds. The breed has a square structure and is well built. Its hair does not shed like most dogs; like human hair and Poodle hair, it keeps growing, needs regular trimming, and drops just a few hairs daily.[2]

The Irish coat tends to be thinner and silkier than the American variety.


Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are generally a long-lifed breed. They are susceptible to protein-losing nephropathy (PLN) where the dog loses protein from the kidneys. There is also protein-losing enteropathy where the dog loses protein from the intestines (PLE) Both PLN and PLE are fatal.

These conditions have an unknown mode of inheritance but there are research programs, mainly in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Other wheaten health issues are renal dysplasia, inflammatory bowel disease, Addison's disease and cancer. Some Wheatens can also suffer from food and environmental allergies.


The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is an energetic and playful dog. They require patience and consistent positive training. Harsh methods will often result in fear aggression. A positive, even-handed approach works best with these intelligent yet headstrong terriers. They are enthusiastic greeters and will often jump up in order to lick a person's face, commonly referred to as the "Wheaten greetin'"[3]These dogs do best when they are exercised regularly. They are cool weather dogs and can become easily overheated in hot weather. They are very good with children. If socialized with cats as puppies they will get along fine with them; if not, care should be taken in introducing them to cats. Wheatens get along well with other dogs if properly socialized. They are extremely friendly and loving pets. Wheatens are very protective of their families, and although they may bark an alert at strangers, they rarely get aggressive. Many Wheaten owners thus say that Wheatens make great watch dogs but poor guard dogs.

Cross breeds

Wheatens are unofficially crossbred with Standard Poodles, to create the mixed breed known as the Whoodle, and with Beagles to create those known as "Wheagles". They are also a cross with a sighthound such as a greyhound, for the purpose of breeding lurchers.


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