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Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier: Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

Written by: Matt Jackson

Last Updated on May 20, 2024 by Dogster Team

brown soft-coated wheaten terrier dog laying on a sofa

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier: Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier originally comes from Ireland. It is a friendly and relatively easy terrier that is even considered a reasonable dog for first-time terrier owners, although experience with training is generally recommended.

They can adapt to life in an apartment but the coat does need plenty of grooming. They benefit from a good amount of exercise, and can be a little challenging to train for first-timers. It is a lively breed and, as with any terrier, you will need to try and find ways to offer mental stimulation as well as physical.

Breed Overview


17–20 inches


30-45 pounds


12–15 years


Beige, gold, brown

Suitable for:

Active owners with time to dedicate to grooming


Affectionate, intelligent, lively, playful, energetic

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a skilled working dog that was bred to hunt vermin, but this all-purpose pup was used by farmers to aid with herding, guarding livestock, and more. Today, they are more likely to be kept as companion pets, but they do retain many of the characteristics that made them such efficient working dogs.

While you might not want to put your Wheaten to work, you will need to offer outlets for your dog’s energy and mental acuity. Long walks will be well received by this breed, but it will also benefit from more intense forms of exercise and the Wheaten can do well at agility and other canine sports.

Taking part in these sports provides exercise, can assist with socialization, and will help build a bond between you and your new dog.

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Puppies

The Wheaten is not a particularly popular or common breed in the U.S. and is rare in other countries, too. With that said, you can find breeders that specialize in breeding Wheatens. Ensure that the parents have been screened for dysplasia, as this breed is known to be susceptible to elbow dysplasia.

Meet the puppy and its mother and pay particular attention to how the puppy reacts when first meeting you. It should be confident enough to want to approach but shouldn’t be so confident that it bounds right up to you. Puppies should still look to their mothers for social guidance, so you can get a good idea of how a Wheaten puppy will interact with you by how the mother interacts.

The scarcity of the breed means you might end up paying a little more for a Wheaten, especially one with good parents. The highest prices are typically reserved for those with award-winning lineage.

The breed can be a bit of a challenge to train and it does have high energy and grooming requirements, which means that some unexpecting owners may find the breed too much for them. As such, Wheaten Terriers can end up in shelters, allowing you to adopt rather than buy.

When adopting, you don’t have as much control over the age of the dog, and despite the rescue’s best efforts, you can never be entirely sure of the character of the dog when you take it home. Meet any dog you are considering adopting, before taking it home. Ask to take the dog for a walk and have it meet any existing dogs you already own.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier dog puppy
Image By: Picture-Pets, Shutterstock

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Origin & History

While hounds like Beagles and Irish Wolfhounds could only be kept by nobility in ancient Ireland, terriers were kept by peasants. As such, there aren’t many records of the Wheaten Terrier but it is believed they have been bred and kept in Ireland for centuries.

They were bred to perform a variety of tasks on farms by landowners: tasks that included hunting vermin, herding, and protecting livestock. Despite a seemingly long history, the breed was not recognized by the Irish Kennel Club until 1937. Less than 10 years later, in 1946, the first Wheatens made their way to the U.S., and the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1973.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

The Wheaten is a good working dog that can take to many tasks, but being a guard dog is not one of those tasks. Although he might bark if strangers approach, it is more likely to be a bark of excitement and encouragement than one of warning. This is a friendly breed that will usually get along with everybody, whether they are family, friends, or delivery people. This makes for a great pet, but don’t expect a guardian. The desire to please also makes the Wheaten a good choice of companion dog, although it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy to train.

The terrier in the Wheaten means that the breed is lively and energetic, as well as playful. It will enjoy walks but would prefer to be off the leash chasing around with other dogs. Terriers are lively and they are always looking for something to do. Having been bred for many different tasks, the breed is clever and it will need mental stimulation, or it will make its own fun.

Although moderately sized for a terrier breed, and lively, the Wheaten can adapt well to apartment living, as long as it gets enough exercise and is given plenty of time to smell and socialize outdoors. In fact, this is a generally adaptable and amenable dog: characteristics that likely stem from their multi-function breeding.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The friendly Wheaten makes an excellent pet, and it is a good choice for individuals, couples, and families with children. Although care should always be taken with young children and any dogs, the Wheaten is a hardy little pup that loves to play and is very affectionate, which means it can do well in a family with kids.

You will need to teach ground rules, especially regarding whose toys are whose, or your Wheaten is likely to try and steal your child’s toys and may potentially worry them to bits. They aren’t aggressive dogs and aren’t typically overprotective of family, which means your child can safely have friends around to play, even if the games get a little rough, and there shouldn’t be any reactive behavior.

Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier dog sitting in grassy ground and looking at camera
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

As well as getting on with children, adults, and strangers, the Wheaten can also do very well with other dogs. It will enjoy socializing outside the house and can also form close bonds with other family dogs, especially if they are willing to join in with the Wheaten’s fun and games.

The breed can also live with cats, although introductions should be made when both animals are as young as possible and taken gradually. However, the dog’s history as vermin control means it has a high prey drive and it cannot be trusted around smaller animals like rats, gerbils, or potentially even birds. This is true in the house, but is also true while out walking, and you will need exceptional recall if you intend to let the Wheaten off the leash while out.

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Things to Know When Owning a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier:

The Wheaten Terrier is a working breed but is now more commonly seen as a companion dog, rather than a farm dog. They enjoy spending time with their humans, will get along with most people as well as dogs, and can live in multi-pet households.

It makes a good choice of pet dog for a lot of owners, but it is quite high maintenance. It needs a reasonable amount of exercise, requires mental stimulation, and its coat does require ongoing maintenance to prevent it from getting matted and becoming uncomfortable. Below, we look at some of the factors you need to consider before taking on one of these dogs to help determine if it is the right dog for you.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The high energy level of the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier means that the breed does need a reasonable amount of food to fuel its fire. If you are feeding a high-quality dry kibble, feed approximately two cups per day, split into two or even three meals. If you feed treats, these should not account for any more than 10% of your dog’s daily calories, and you should reduce the amount you feed accordingly.

With canned food, follow the guidelines on the packaging, and weigh your dog to ensure you feed an appropriate amount of food. It is also possible to feed a combination of dry and wet food. Dry food is complete food, which means it meets your dog’s daily nutritional requirements, and it has a longer shelf life than wet food. However, some dogs find wet food more palatable.

You can feed half your dog’s daily dry food allowance and half its wet food allowance. You will still meet nutritional requirements while offering your dog variety in a well-balanced diet.

Exercise 🐕

The energetic Wheaten Terrier does need moderately high levels of exercise, and it is an athletic breed. Walk your dog for a minimum of 60 minutes a day, ideally up to 90 minutes, and look for other, more engaging ways to exercise the breed.

The Wheaten can do very well in agility-based events, as well as herding and other canine sports. These offer a great release of physical energy which can prevent the terrier from getting bored, reduce unwanted behaviors, and offer a fun activity for both of you to enjoy. Even a game of fetch will prove popular with this breed, which will also enjoy games like tug and chase.

Try to create games that engage the dog’s brain, as well as its muscles.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier dog having fun running and playing in the snow
Image Credit: Jeff Smith – Perspectives, Shutterstock

Training 🎾

Training is somewhat unpredictable with the Wheaten Terrier. It is an intelligent breed that generally likes to please its owner. This is the ideal combination for training purposes. But it is a terrier, and it can get bored of training if you don’t make it fun and exciting. Start training from a young age and use games to keep your dog engaged.

Start attending puppy classes when your dog is young. You can use the opportunity to socialize with other dogs and people while also learning the basics of dog training: a useful start that can help set you up for a life of pleasurable dog ownership, rather than difficulty.

Recall will be an important part of training a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier because this lively dog will want to chase any small animals it sees, as well as items that look a bit like small animals. Other than that, you should concentrate on basic commands like sit and stay. These can help get you out of a lot of tricky situations.

Grooming ✂️

One of the most challenging aspects of owning a Wheaten is keeping that coat in check. The breed only has a single layer of coat, which means it sheds less than other breeds, but it will still shed. Brushing helps control shedding by removing dead hairs in a controlled manner. Daily grooming will not only get rid of dead hairs but enable you to give your Wheaten a soft, well-groomed look.

You will need to trim the facial hair to help keep it under control, and the beard will need a lot of cleaning. Food and other debris will gather in the facial hair, and this can make it a very challenging aspect of Wheaten ownership.

You will also need to trim nails, typically every 2 months, and brush your dog’s teeth three times a week to help reduce the likelihood of dental disease.

Health and Conditions 🏥

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a generally hardy dog, but the breed is prone to some illnesses and conditions. One of the more common ailments is that of elbow dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia typically occurs when the bones that meet at the elbow joint are not aligned or grow awkwardly. It can cause lameness and, eventually, lead to arthritis.

Catching it early means it may be possible to operate and correct the problem, but you should ensure that the parent dogs were both screened for dysplasia. Dogs that are found to have dysplasia should not be used for breeding.

Minor Conditions
  • Addison’s Disease
  • Allergies
  • Cataracts
  • Elbow Dysplasia

Serious Conditions
  • Kidney Problems
  • Protein Wasting Disease

Male vs Female

The male Wheaten will grow a little bigger and heavier than the female. While individual character, as well as socialization and training, are more likely to determine the character of a dog, some owners do claim males are more likely to be territorial, more prone to wanderlust, and more playful.

Females are less likely to try and escape but they can be moodier.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier dog outdoors
Image Credit: furry_portraits, Pixabay

3 Little-Known Facts About the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

1. They Were Once Known as the Poor Man’s Irish Wolfhound

In Ancient Ireland, only landowners could own hounds, including the popular Irish Wolfhound. As such, other classes owned terriers like the Wheaten Terrier, and its popularity with the lower classes earned it the nickname of the poor man’s Irish Wolfhound.

2. They Used to Have Docked Tails

At this time, owners would also dock the tails of their Wheaten Terriers because this showed tax collectors that they were not liable to pay the dog tax that some breeds attracted.

3. They’re Born with Dark Coats

Although they are known for their pale beige coats as adults, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are born with dark coats. By the time they reach approximately 2 years of age, the coat has lightened to the color of wheat.

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Final Thoughts

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a fairly uncommon breed in the U.S., where it was accepted by the AKC in 1973. The breed was raised as a working dog in Ireland, where it was used to perform multiple tasks on farms, including vermin hunting, herding, and protecting livestock.

They are friendly and playful in nature, as well as loving and loyal with their owners, making them a good choice for a family pet, but they do have quite high energy and grooming requirements which means they certainly aren’t a low-maintenance choice.

Most Wheatens can be trained well, however, and it is considered one of the easier terrier breeds to keep as a family pet.

Featured Image Credit: Joseph Hendrickson, Shutterstock

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