Difference Between Irish and American Wheaten Terriers

Dogs younger than 2.5 years old may have black on the face and ears.
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Both the Irish and American varieties of the wheaten terrier are known by their respective kennel clubs as the soft coated wheaten terrier. All dogs stem from Irish ancestors bred to be a working man's dog -- tough enough to hunt badgers and vermin, energetic enough to herd cattle and gentle enough to be a family pet. Differences to between the Irish and American wheaten terrier stem from preferences in coat texture bred over many generations.

The Main Difference

The soft, wavy fur of the Irish soft coated wheaten terrier lies close to the body, with an oily sheen that keeps it fairly dry in wet weather. Any moisture left in the coat dries quickly once he's out of the rain, making him easy to maintain. By contrast, the American coat is less oily and more full, standing away from the body when groomed and giving the dog a more teddy bear-like appearance.

Ease of Grooming

The dense puppy coats of the American soft coated wheaten terrier requires daily brushing to prevent tangling and mats. A trip to the groomer every two or three months for a trim and bath is enough to keep your dog looking good. The groomed American terrier's hair stands away from its body, appearing all one length. The Irish coats grow more slowly, and a puppy won't need to visit the groomer until he is about 9 months old. The Irish coat is less prone to tangling than the American coat and requires only occasional brushing.

A Range of Colors

Pups of both Irish and American ancestry bear little resemblance to the breed standard. Their harsh puppy coat does not take on its true color and texture until they are between 18 months and 2.5 years old. Young terriers are sometimes red, brown or gray in color with scruffy coats. Some have a black mask on the face and ears. By the time they are fully mature, the black will clear away on the Irish variety through a series of coat changes, leaving their head the same color as their body. American wheatens sometimes have some black hairs in the beard and ears as adults. The mature coat may vary from light wheaten to a reddish gold, but variations such as brown or white will disqualify a dog from the show ring.

About the Size of It

American wheaten terriers are somewhat smaller than their Irish counterparts. While both the American Kennel Club and Irish Kennel Club breed standards set the size of the male at 18 to 19 inches at the shoulders, the Irish version of the breed weighs in slightly heavier. Irish Kennel Club breed standards call for a 40- to 45-pound weight for the males, while the AKC caps the weight of American dogs are 35 to 40 pounds. The exact size of the female isn't specified in the Irish breed standard, only that her height and weight be "somewhat less" than that of the breed standard of the male dog. The American bitch may not be less than 17 inches or taller than 18 inches at the shoulder. She weighs between 30 to 35 pounds to meet American standards.