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Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a medium sized purebred with several talents in guarding, tracking, agility and hunting. It is a sturdy and playful dog with a bit of a stubborn streak. It has two types of coats the Irish or American and that can require a lot of grooming. It is one of the friendlier terriers and could be a good family dog.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier at A Glance
Name Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Other names Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Wheaten Terrier
Nicknames Wheaten, Wheatie,
Origin Ireland
Average size Medium
Average weight 30 to 45 pounds
Average height 17 to 20 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Silky, long, thick
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Wheaten, black, white, red
Popularity Quite popular – ranked 47th by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle warm climates but not very hot
Tolerance to cold Moderate – not good at dealing with cold weather
Shedding Low to moderate – not too much loose hair left in the home
Drooling Low – not known to be prone to drool
Obesity Average – can be overweight if allowed to overeat
Grooming/brushing Moderate to high maintenance
Barking Average – might become more frequent if not well raised
Exercise needs Fairly active – needs daily activity
Trainability Moderately easy
Friendliness Excellent – very social dog
Good first dog Very good – new owners should be good with them
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with strangers Excellent with socialization
Good apartment dog Excellent – good size for living in a small space
Handles alone time well Moderate – prefers to have companionship
Health issues Very good but some issues can include Addison’s disease, kidney problems and PLE
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for treats and dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $530 a year for grooming, toys, training, license and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expenses $1135 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $825
Rescue organizations Several including the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America Rescue and S’Wheat Rescues
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 3 Maimings: 2 Child victims: 1 Deaths: 0

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier’s Beginnings

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier come from Ireland, bred for over two hundred years to work on farms, hunt small game and vermin, herd and guard. It is possibly one of the oldest Irish dog breeds. Both the Irish Terrier and the Kerry Blue are related to this dog. It was a working man or poor man’s dog not one nobility would have had and as a result was often called the Poor Man’s Wolfhound.

There was a time back then when their tails were docked as it was a way to avoid a certain tax back then. Other than that there is not a lot of recorded history on this breed. Despite its long history the breed was not recognized by the Irish Kennel Club until 1937, funnily enough on St Patrick’s Day. It was then recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1943.

New Lease on Life

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier came to the US in 1946 on a freighter traveling from Belfast to Boston in November. A Lydia Vogel from Massachusetts took two of them and she went on to show them and breed them. It took a while though for a breed club to form. In 1962 the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America was formed in Brooklyn with its first meeting occurring of course on St Patrick’s Day. In 1973 the breed was recognized by the AKC and today it ranks the dog’s popularity at 47th.

The Dog You See Today

This is a medium sized dog weighing 30 to 45 pounds and standing 17 to 20 inches tall. It has a compact and squared body that is quite sturdy with a longer rectangular head, short muzzle, black nose and almond shaped brown eyes. It has ears that are V shaped and fold forwards and a tail that is set high and can be docked or natural depending on the country you are in.

The coat is single, thick, wavy, long and silky and common colors are wheaten, red, white and black. Often puppies actually start off dark brown and then lighten as they grow older, coming to their final colors around the age of 2 years. There are two coat types, the Irish which is thinner and more silky and the American. In Ireland and Europe the Irish is preferred and is seen to be the original coat type. In the US there are fewer breeders of the Irish coat type and more American types.

The Inner Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier


The Wheaten or Wheatie is an affectionate and loyal dog, very friendly and social and also very playful and cheerful. It is a dog suitable for new owners and it is alert so can also be a good watchdog. However while it will bark to let you know of an intruder it is not likely to act in your defense. As well as being lively and spirited it can have a puppy like attitude for much of its life. It has a lot of confidence, is very sweet and it bonds very closely to its family. It does not bark excessively

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers bond closely with their family. They seldom bark unnecessarily but they can be overly enthusiastic when greeting people, licking and jumping up, so training will be needed to control it. It is a steady and congenial dog who gets along well with everyone.

Living with a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

What will training look like?

Wheaties are moderately easy to train so while training is not going to a super smooth and quick thing it is also not going to terribly painful either. Results will come but gradually. This is because while the Wheatie is smart it is also hard headed sometimes and sensitive. Avoid being harsh or impatient, keep things positive, use praise, rewards and treats to encourage it and be consistent. You need to be firm too so it knows you are the boss.

It is easier to get the training right when you start from a young age and at the same time you also need to socialize it. Make sure it is used to different people, situations and places. It is a dog that likes to jump up at people in greeting so training will need to control that. It may also need leash training as it has a high prey drive and has a tendency to try and chase after moving things when out for a walk.

How active is the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier?

This is a fairly active dog so it will need regular daily exercise to keep it in shape and happy. It can live in an apartment as long as this happens. Access to even just a small yard is something it would be very happy with though where it can play. Make sure the yard is well fenced as this is an agile dog that can jump surprisingly high. Taking it somewhere it can run free, socialize and play with you is also a great idea, somewhere like a local dog park for example.

It does have a high prey drive and will want to chase after strange cats, squirrels and birds so leash training will be important. If it does not get at least 30 minutes a day in the form of two 15 minute walks, along with some play time outside it could become restless and destructive and hard to control.

Caring for the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Grooming needs

Wheaties may only shed a low amount and have a single coat but they are still fairly high maintenance when it comes to their grooming. This does mean though that is is suitable for people with allergies. It will need regular visits to a professional groomer for trimming or stripping and daily brushing to keep the tangles at bay and remove debris and such. It is best to actually use a comb rather than a brush though as brushing can leave its silky coat looking fuzzy. A medium tooth comb should do a great job. It will need it eyes and around them cleaned daily too and the hair around the eyes and ears trimmed regularly.

Bathing is only needed when it really is dirty or smelly. Bathing too often damages its natural oils which leads to skin problems. Its ears should be checked weekly for infection and given a wipe clean using a cotton ball and cleanser. Brush its teeth at least three times a week to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Its nails will need to be clipped when they get too long. If you know care has to be taken with dog nails it is something you can do yourself. Otherwise have the groomer do it for you.

Feeding Time

How much any dog eats is dependent on its size, age, metabolism, activity level and build. In general Wheaties will need to eat about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day. This amount though should be divided into a couple of meals at least.

How do they get on with children and other animals

This is a dog who can be excellent with children with socialization, it plays with them, runs around with them, cuddles with them and generally adores them. It is sturdy enough too to handle younger children though they should still be taught how to play with and stroke it safely. Because it is less territorial than most other terriers it can live with other pets and even get along with them when raised with them. However it does have a high prey drive so it will want to chase smaller animals it sees when walking or in the yard. It can have issues with same sex dogs though again less so than other terriers. Otherwise it is pretty good with socialization with other dogs too.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Wheaties can live between 12 to 15 years and while generally healthy there are some health issues they are prone to, two of which are protein wasting conditions, PLN (a loss of proteins through the kidneys) and PLE (a loss of proteins though the gastrointestinal tract). These can be fatal conditions, there are no cures but if caught early enough can be managed with a good diet and medication. Other health issues include skin problems, Addison’s disease, Renal Dysplasia, IBD and cancer.

Biting Statistics

When looking at statistics that cover serious attacks on people by dogs over the last 34 years, in Canada and the US, the Wheatie is named in 3 incidents that did bodily harm. 2 of those were maimings where the victims were left with permanent scarring, disfigurement or loss of limb. 1 victims was a child. There have been no deaths reported. Even a great dog like the Wheatie can snap or become aggressive given certain situations. Any dog can, no matter their size or history. What helps though is for owners to get a dog that is right for them, one they can give enough exercise and attention to, when they socialize and train.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy from a good breeder of good pet quality is going to cost somewhere around $825. If you are looking for a dog of show standards from a top breeder you are going to be paying around the $2000 mark, possibly more. There are people that will sell them cheaper than this, you can find local ads, places online. But be very careful of such breeders. Many are backyard breeders or puppy mills, something you really do not want to be funding. If you are happy about having either a puppy or an adult you could do a great thing and offer a dog a new forever home by looking at rescues or shelters. The cost is a lot less, $50 to $250 and you get medical procedures done for you.

Those medical procedures if not done by the shelter or breeder is something you will have to pay for when you have your puppy. Take it to a vet and have it checked over, blood tests done, dewormed, given vaccinations, neutered or spayed and micro chipped. This will cost about $300. You will also have some gear to get, food bowls, a crate, carrier, leash and collar for example. This will cost another $200 or so.

Annual medical costs will of course depend on whether your puppy or dog is healthy or not. Costs can really vary. For basic care like flea and tick prevention, check ups at the vet, shots and pet insurance you can expect a starting figure of $460 a year.

Food costs will vary according to what you opt to feed it. Based on a good quality dry dog food along with some treats a yearly figure would be around $145. Other costs like license, basic training, grooming, toys and other miscellaneous costs are going to be about $530 a year.

This gives a base annual cost of $1135 a year to take care of your Wheatie.


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The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a very happy dog, social and friendly, energetic and lively. While it will be happy to have fuss and cuddles it is not a dog that will want to spend all day on your lap, it needs some stimulation and it needs daily exercise and play. It does like to jump up at people in greeting so training will be needed to control this. It also does have a high prey drive. Watch out for its stubbornness too and it will not like being left alone for long periods of time.

Popular Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Mixes

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and Poodle Mix
General Information
Size Medium
Height 12 to 20 inches
Weight 20 to 45 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Quite sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits




Soft Coated Wheatzer

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and Miniature Schnauzer Mix
General Information
Size Small to medium
Height 13 to 18 inches
Weight 20 to 40 pounds
Life span 10 – 15 years
Touchiness Quite sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits



Can be


Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.