The soft-coated wheaten terrier is a medium-size dog with a playful and outgoing personality -- he's notoriously sociable, for a terrier. He's also long-lived among terrier breeds, reaching 12 to 14 years of age while maintaining puppylike behavior. Because of his temperament, hypoallergenic coat and size, the soft-coated wheaten terrier boasts a growing reputation as an excellent family pet.
Square in shape and smaller in stature, the soft-coated wheaten terrier grows to 30 to 40 pounds and 17 to 19 inches at the shoulder. Their name is derived from the silky, wheat-colored coat that ranges in thickness and wave from the thin Irish coat to the bouffant American coat. Soft-coated wheaten puppies are born with dark coats and black-tipped ears but will lighten with age. Wheaten tails are either docked or kept natural to curl above the back.
Bred in Ireland as all-purpose farm dogs for the lower classes, soft-coated wheaten terriers were expected to catch and kill vermin, herd livestock and guard the family around country farms and cottages as far back as the late 1700s. Later, wheatens excelled as confident gun dogs, helping to hunt and retrieve. The breed became recognized by the Irish Kennel Club in 1937 and by the American Kennel Club in 1973.
Temperament and Personality
The soft-coated wheaten has a more gentle personality than other terrier breeds; he is known in the terrier world for his friendly and sociable nature. Very people-oriented, the soft-coated wheaten greets friends and strangers alike with a unique twirl and affectionate jumping. The breed is highly energetic and active, requiring daily exercise to stave off boredom and frustration. Bouncy and affectionate, wheatens can be overwhelming to small children and other pets, though they are not typically aggressive.
Health and Daily Care
One important responsibility of the soft-coated wheaten terrier's owner is caring for the dog's silky coat. Wheatens have a single coat, so shedding is minimal -- and daily brushing and weekly trimming are mandatory to keep the coat from getting matted and dirty. In addition to careful grooming, the soft-coated wheaten terrier requires plenty of exercise and stimulation; without it, he may resort to destructive chewing or digging. The wheaten can suffer from canine hip dysplasia and Addison's disease -- routine vet exams are important, especially as he ages.