Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, affectionately nicknamed Wheaties, are fluffy, fun-loving dogs. This guide will explain how to breed Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, as well as outline a general breed profile.
Want to learn about the origin of Wheatens, their key characteristics, lifestyle requirements, and common health problems? Let’s go!
Background of Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Breeding
A look at the background of the Wheaten Terrier.
The Wheaten is a pure-breed terrier that originated in Ireland, in which they were originally called the “poor man’s wolfhound”. They are the oldest breed of Irish terrier and have a history spanning over 200 years.
They were bred to be all-purpose farm dogs, which means their duties would include watching, guarding, and herding livestock, as well as hunting vermin.
Despite their long history, they were not formally recognized by the Irish Kennel Club until 1937, or the British Kennel Club until 1943. Wheaties were exported to the United States during the 1940s and became popular in the 1950s. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America was established in 1962 and the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1973.
The Modern Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Nowadays, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are commonly kept as beloved pets and work as therapy dogs because of their bubbly personalities. They also often compete in dog competitions for obedience, agility, tracking due to their incredibly versatile background and intelligence.
As of 2021, they rank 53 out of 197 in popularity in the US, so are they not overwhelmingly popular, but not unpopular either.
Related Breeds and Variations
Wheatens are the ancestors of the more modern Irish dog breeds the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Terrier, who are their closest living relatives. The breeds are sometimes cross-bred. There is also the American variety of the Wheaten Terrier, which has a thicker, more wooly coat.
The three breeds have similar personalities but different appearances. All three dogs have a similar build and bearded faces, but the Wheaten is a light, creamy color with a soft, silky, wavy coat. The Kerry Blue Terrier’s coat is wooly and a distinguished blue-grey color, whilst the Irish Terrier is distinctively red, curly, and wiry to touch.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has a fairly short snout, dark eyes, and a dark nose. Their ears are small, floppy, and triangular, and they have a sweet beard and “mustache”, as well as eyebrows that may need trimming to stop them from growing over their eyes. Their bodies are quite square, with short legs that are covered in feathery fur and pointed tails.
Size and Weight
On average, a male Wheatie stands at 18-19 inches tall and weighs 35-40 pounds. The average female stands at 17-18 inches tall and weighs 30-35 pounds.
Coat & Color
Wheatens typically have one of two coat types; Irish (short-coated) or American (heavy-coated). The Irish coat is silky and wavy, whilst the American coat is thicker and fuller. Both are known as Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, but the heavy-coated variety is less common.
Although as puppies they may have dark coats of red or brown, their fur will gradually grow out to a creamy white color by the time they are 3 years old. Guard hairs may have a dark tinge to them, and their muzzles and ears may be dark brown or black. Injuries that remove fur or require vets to shave the fur may grow back dark at first, like their puppy fur, but will eventually go light again.
Wheaten coats do not shed like other dogs’ coats. Their fur just continues to grow and occasionally has fall-out, like human hair, and similarly to Poodles. This means they are hypoallergenic and perfect for people with allergies to dog hair.
Wheaties are the only Irish terrier breed with a coat of such texture and color, and their fun “facial hair” is very distinctive.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are spirited, energetic, and playful. They are very faithful, loving, and affectionate with their families.
Despite their background in watching and guarding, they are very friendly towards strangers, although they can be vocal in letting you know of their presence. They are also gentle with children and other animals and are not known to be aggressive.
Wheaties are intelligent, obedient, and highly trainable. Like all dogs, for the best results, they should be trained and socialized as early as possible. Training should be concise, consistent, positive, and fun to avoid boredom.
Owners should brush a Wheatie’s coat daily with a medium-toothed comb to avoid tangles and remove loose fur. Wheatens also need around an hour of exercise every day, as well as lots of companionship and fun.
They do not do well being alone for hours on end and need lots of social interaction, as well as mental stimulation, or they can turn to boredom-related destructive behaviors. A big family and lots of toys and games are highly recommended for Soft-Coated Wheatens.
Common Health Issues When Breeding Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
With an average lifespan of 12-14 years, Wheatens are generally a healthy breed. That said, all breeds of dogs have certain conditions they are naturally more susceptible to. These are the conditions most likely to affect Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers.
Kidney diseases such as Renal Dysplasia, Nephropathy, and Enteropathy are common in Wheaten dogs. The kidneys work to balance the nutrients in our bodies and filter out waste. If they are failing, it can create all sorts of problems for your dog’s entire body.
Kidney problems can be acute or chronic. Acute failure happens quickly, whilst chronic failure happens over time. Acute failure is usually the result of poisoning and can be fixed if the owners act quickly. Whilst chronic failure is caused by kidney disease and is irreversible.
Kidney disease can be genetic or caused by old age and sometimes environmental factors, such as medication. Dental disease is also linked to kidney problems.
Symptoms of kidney disease include:
- Changes in thirst and urination
- Toilet accidents in the home
- Unexplained weight loss
- Stomach upsets
- Blood in urine
- Pale gums
- Mouth ulcers
- Loss of vision
Dogs suspected of having kidney disease must be seen by a vet as soon as possible. Vets can test a dog’s blood and urine for kidney disease. Whilst there is no cure, chronic kidney disease in its early stages can – and must – be treated to prolong the dog’s life and quality of life for as long as possible.
Treatment may include dietary changes, medication, fluid therapy, and in severe cases, dialysis. When caught in the early stages, dogs with kidney disease can live normally and happily for years.
Addison’s disease is a complicated disease that is easy to treat. That said, it can be fatal if left untreated, so it’s important to know the signs. It occurs when the adrenal glands don’t produce the hormones that the body needs to function properly. It is an auto-immune disorder but can sometimes be caused by trauma, an infection, or a cancerous tumor.
Clinical signs of Addison’s disease are usually vague, non-specific, and come and go, making it hard to diagnose. So keep an eye out for the otherwise unexplained symptoms listed below.
Symptoms of Addison’s disease include:
- Stomach upsets
- Increased thirst and urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Shaking episodes (less common)
Once diagnosed with blood and urine tests, vets can treat Addison’s disease by injecting them with desoxycorticosterone pivalate, also known as DOCP, once every 3-4 weeks. Owners can be shown how to administer the injections at home. There are also oral medication options for dogs that don’t like injections.
Addison’s disease that is caused by other things such as infections can usually have the underlying cause treated.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are common in Wheaties. These are congenital conditions that make the hip or elbow joints grow abnormally, causing them to become loose, wobbly, and eventually lead to arthritis.
Symptoms of hip and elbow dysplasia include:
- Licking the affected joints
- Loss of muscle mass
- Limited range of movement
- Bunny hopping
- Inability to get comfortable
- Low mood and irritability
Dogs showing these symptoms should be examined by a vet as soon as possible. Treatment for dysplasia depends on the severity of the symptoms. Mild dysplasia may just require lifestyle adjustments, non-surgical therapies, and pain medication, whilst more severe dysplasia may need surgery. That said, a dog’s life expectancy should not be greatly affected.
Breeding Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
There are a few elements you need to consider before breeding a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. We have labeled what you need to know below. Pregnancy to birth issues all need to be considered before you pursue this path.
The average litter size for a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is 5-6 puppies, although they have been known to have as many as 8. Puppies will live on their mother’s milk for the first month of their lives, before transitioning to dry food.
Common Birthing Problems
Thankfully, Wheatens are not prone to any specific birthing problems. That said, it is not uncommon for Terriers to undergo cesarian sections. All breeders should be aware of the signs of dystocia which include strong contractions for more than 30 minutes with no delivery.
The average Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy costs $800-$1500 in the US.
Owning an adult Wheaten dog costs on average around $1135 annually. This includes $460 for health care, $145 for food, and $530 for grooming, toys, and more.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Breed: FAQ
Wheatens are ideal family dogs. They are happy, lively, and playful, as well as extremely faithful and affectionate, and are not known to be aggressive. Despite their background as guard dogs, they are very friendly and gentle towards strangers, children, and other animals.
All dogs’ coats shed somewhat. However, Wheatens are minimal shedders and their coats do not shed like other dogs’ coats. Their fur just continues to grow and occasionally has fall-out, like human hair.
No dog is totally hypoallergenic, but Wheatens are very close. They are ideal for owners who are allergic to dog hair, due to their low shedding coats.
Wheaten Terriers are sort of a “jack of all trades” breed of dog. They can do a lot of things due to their versatile history, and that includes swimming! Most Wheatens love to go swimming and it can be a struggle for owners to get them out of the water.
Like other farm dogs, Wheaties are very intelligent and highly trainable. Training should be concise, consistent, positive, and fun to avoid boredom, and it should start as early as possible.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are the perfect family dogs. Are you thinking of getting a Wheatie? What do you love the most about them? Let us know in the comments down below.