The Wheaten was bred in Ireland for over 200 years to be an all-purpose farm dog whose duties included herding, watching and guarding livestock, and vermin hunting and killing.
Puppies have dark coats of either red, brown, mahogany or white. Their muzzles and ears may be black or dark brown. The dark puppy coat gradually grows out to nearly white before maturing into a wheaten-coloured coat as they get older. The adult coat may contain black, white, or darker brown “guard” hairs in addition to the lighter wheaten-coloured hair. If adults ever have skin injuries, the resulting hair growth will be the dark color of their puppy coat before it eventually grows out to the wheat color.
The Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier is a medium-sized dog in weight. The breed has a square structure and is well built. Its hair does not shed like most dogs; like human hair and Poodle hair, it keeps growing; they do need trimming and should be brushed and combed once a day to avoid mats. They are very smart dogs, and are easy to train. They love people, and they rarely have aggression issues.
The Irish coat tends to be thinner and silkier than the American variety. The Irish coat has a devoted following in Ireland and Europe. Breeders of the pure Irish type believe this is the original working terrier coat. The coat is not thin – breeders of the Irish type consider the American heavy coat to be “bouffant”, not that of the original working terrier type. There are a few breeders of the Irish type in the US and Canada. In the AKC conformation show ring, the judges do not always accept the Irish type well. The Irish is well received in the UK and Europe. The “Heavy Irish” coat is usually a result of cross breeding between coat types – American/English coat with an Irish type. The Irish coat still requires daily brushing to stay free of matted hair.
The Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier is an energetic and playful dog. It requires patience and consistent positive training. Harsh methods will often result in fear and/or aggression. A positive, even-handed approach works best with this intelligent yet headstrong terrier. It is an enthusiastic greeter, and will often jump up to lick a person’s face, commonly referred to as the “Wheaten greetin”. Wheatens are considered less scrappy than other terriers, but they are true terriers and will be more active than many other breeds. For this reason these dogs do best when they are exercised regularly. They are cool weather dogs and can become easily overheated in hot weather. If socialised with cats and puppies, they may get along fine with them; if not, care should be taken in introducing them to cats, as the breed has a very strong “prey drive” because of its vermin-hunting origin. Wheatens can get along well with other dogs if properly socialised. They are extremely friendly and loving pets. Wheatens are very protective of their families and, although they may bark an alert at strangers, they rarely get aggressive. Many Wheaten owners thus say they make great watch dogs, but poor guard dogs. Wheatens are a great dog for kids and are generally friendly towards them.
Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers are generally a long-lived breed. Other Wheaten health issues are renal dysplasia, inflammatory bowel disease and Addison’s disease . Some Wheatens can suffer from food allergies.