Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Written by: Jamie
Updated: November 25, 2020

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is one of Ireland’s popular ratters. Check out today’s guide for the latest information on this amazing breed.

Irish soft coated wheaten terrier

Height: Male 18-19 inches, female 17-18 inches
Weight: Male 16-18 kilos, female 14-16 kilos
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club

Positives and Negatives

Below are the pros and cons related to the Soft-haired Wheaten Terrier:


  • Adaptable to different living styles, including apartments
  • Ideal for first-time owners
  • Intelligent and easy to train
  • Playful and friendly, great family pet


  • A tendency to wander off on an exploration
  • Doesn’t like being left alone
  • Can’t tolerate the cold very well
  • High exercise and grooming needs


The Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier is an Irish canine, bred to hunt vermin and guard farms. This pooch is one of the kinder members of the Terrier family. Highly intelligent and easy to train, the Wheaten Terrier is an ideal choice for a first-time owner.

Wheaten Terriers are adaptable and despite their high energy levels, they’re apartment friendly. These dogs are playful, affectionate, and loyal. They don’t like being separated from their family and could develop separation anxiety if left alone consistently.

Irish soft coated wheaten terrier resting on grass

The Wheaten Terrier size is around the medium range, yet they still have high energy needs that must be met. A lack of activity will lead to boredom and bad behaviors including destructiveness. This breed, like many others in the Terrier family, does have a stubborn side. An owner must dedicate their time and patience in order to overcome this.

Wheaten Terriers don’t have an undercoat and barely shed their fur. This is an ideal feature for allergy sufferers however, frequent brushing will be needed. The Irish Wheaten Terrier has a silky smooth and wavy coat, clearly described by their name! American Wheaten Terriers have a fuller, denser coat and are slightly smaller in size.


For over 200 years the Wheaten Terrier has been bred as a working farm dog. They are thought to be the oldest Irish breed of Terrier. Wheaten’s share a similar ancestry with the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Terrier. The breed wasn’t popular amongst the higher social classes and was nicknamed ‘the Poor Man’s Wolfhound’.

Working life for this pooch would consist of protecting the farm and hunting vermin. It was common practice for the breed’s tail to be docked to avoid paying tax on the dog. Whilst tail docking is now illegal in Ireland, some exemptions are allowed for working dogs. Today, only veterinarians may perform this procedure.

In the early 1900s, the Wheaten Terriers’ numbers began to decline. It was thanks to the dedication and work of Dr. Gerard Pierse that this breed didn’t become extinct. As the years went on, other enthusiasts helped distinguish the Irish Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier as a pure breed. In 1937 they were finally recognized by the Irish Kennel Club.

The Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier Club was established in the United Kingdom by the Kennel Club in 1957. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed much later in 1973. Today the Wheaten Terrier is mostly used as a companion. They are also seen participating in dog sports such as agility, tracking, and obedience.

Related: Learn all about the Wire Fox Terrier breed.


Wheaten Terrier Temperament:

Independent, confident, and affectionate, the Wheaten Terrier might be more friendly than other Terriers, but they certainly don’t lack in bravery. This breed is loveable and affectionate and whilst they are known for their independence, they despise being away from their owner.

You’ll never have a dull day as the owner of a Wheaten Terrier! These pooches are packed with personality and spirit. They can be defensive of those they love but this doesn’t form into aggression. A Wheaten Terrier is too friendly to be a guard dog!

Is the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier Good with Strangers?

Yes, this breed is friendly towards strangers. Whilst they make fantastic watch dogs, quickly alerting their owner to anybody approaching their territory. They won’t become aggressive. Wheaten Terriers are very people friendly, so if the owner is accepting of the new person, they will be too.

woman and her Irish soft coated wheaten terrier

Is the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier Good with Children?

Yes, Wheaten Terriers make excellent playmates thanks to their high energy levels. The breed loves receiving attention from children and their size is suitable for their excitable nature. Smaller children may feel their energetic personality is a little overwhelming. Homes with older children are best.

Is the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier Ok with Other Dogs?

Generally, the Wheaten Terrier is friendly and playful with other canines. Dogs of the same sex, however, could ignite some tension. Early socialization should be able to prevent this. The breed can also live with other dogs but cats should be avoided. Unless introduced together from a very early age.

Recommended: Discover more about the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in this guide.


Wheaten Terriers need up to one hour’s worth of exercise each day. Adult dogs are content with longer, but some may prefer two hours in a day as a one-off. A Wheaten Terrier puppy shouldn’t be over-exercised as this could damage their growing joints.

The breed holds a strong prey drive and won’t hesitate to start a chase. Small and toy-sized breeds could be mistaken for prey. To prevent this, a Wheaten Terrier should be leashed unless in an enclosed space.

Irish soft coated wheaten terrier running on grass

Interactive games are a great way to encourage exercise alongside mental stimulation. Strenuous exercise will be needed a couple of times a week. Activities such as swimming are one form of this however not all Wheaten Terriers like the water.

Dog sports are great for mental stimulation and also physically challenging but be sure to avoid any obedience trials! Their stamina allows them to easily keep up with other breeds. These canines aren’t strangers to the show ring and frequently participate in competitions.


Below are the breed-related health issues affecting the Irish Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier:

  • Hip Dysplasia- Poor development of the hip joint leads to lameness, pain, inflammation and swelling in the affected area. Arthritis will eventually follow.
  • Atopy- A hereditary skin disease causing itchiness and inflammation.
  • Addison’s Disease- The most common cause of Addison’s Disease is the destruction of the adrenal glands. Symptoms aren’t often noticeable to the owner.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy- The deterioration of the photoreceptor cells in the eye will eventually cause blindness. This is a degenerative disease.

Protein related diseases can also affect the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier.

Intelligence & Training

The Wheaten Terrier is highly intelligent. Unfortunately, their stubbornness and lack of listening skills can hinder them from reaching their full potential. Time, patience, and consistency will be needed if you want this breed to listen to you. Remember they are still members of the Terrier family, despite their mellow attitude.

Independence is another trait that doesn’t match well with training. If you want this pooch to listen, positive methods will be the only way forward. A people-orientated dog like this loves pleasing their owner. Positive reinforcements such as food treats and cuddle rewards will work like a charm!

Wheaten Terriers aren’t excessively dominant, so it won’t take very long establishing owner leadership. Respect training is still important but obedience will need a lot more practice. Correct any bad behaviors immediately to prevent these from turning into habits. An owner will need lots of patience to teach the Wheaten Terrier.

Activity alongside training is highly important. If a dog isn’t receiving their daily exercise, bad behaviors will certainly form. A canine with lots of energy is easily distracted. Be sure to walk your pooch before trying to train them. Sessions should last around 10-15 minutes, taking place in different locations.

Puppy classes have always been an ideal way to teach your dog obedience. It’s also a great way to socialize them with other canines and people. Wheaten Terrier puppies can begin training from 8 weeks old.

Recommended: Learn all about the Pomsky.


The silky smooth coat of the Wheaten Terrier has been loved for hundreds of years. Their name shows just how their coat has defined the breed. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier shedding is minimal, but the coat does tangle quickly. Daily brushing is needed to prevent this. Slicker brushes and metal combs will work best on their fur.

closeup of Irish soft coated wheaten terrier

Baths should be given every 4-6 weeks, within this time aim to trim or file their nails. Be sure to thoroughly remove any shampoo from staying on the skin as this could cause dryness.

Ears must be checked weekly and cleansed from debris. Infections can form quickly if the ears aren’t being monitored. Pluck any excess fur that may be blocking the canal. Vets recommend teeth are brushed daily, so this should be done at least 3-4 times a week.

Some owners will be guilty of never brushing their dog’s teeth. Preventing bacteria from forming into infections and mouth diseases is incredibly important.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Jamie! I've always been around dogs and now writing about them is an absolute joy.
Read more about my story here.
Reach me at or connect with me on LinkedIn below.

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