In Ireland, the terrier was the poor man’s dog, a versatile farm dog who could rid the place of vermin, do a little hunting, and help guard the property against intruders, both animal and human.
Much of the Wheaten’s early history wasn’t recorded, but he probably shares a common ancestor with the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Terrier. They also share a sign that they were working dogs: a docked tail, which told the tax collector that they were exempt from the tax on dogs.
The Wheaten wasn’t recognized as a breed by the Irish Kennel Club until 1937, on St. Patrick’s Day. To win a championship, he was required to qualify in field trials, with rats, rabbits, and badgers as prey, a rule that’s since gone by the wayside.
The first Wheatens arrived in the U.S. in November of 1946. A Boston Globe Post report listed seven of them among the cargo of the freighter Norman J. Coleman, which docked in Boston after journeying from Belfast. Two of the pups went home with Lydia Vogel of Springfield, Massachusetts. Vogel showed them the next year at the Westminster Kennel Club show, and they produced 17 puppies.
It wasn’t until 1962, however, that the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America was founded in Brooklyn. Naturally, the first meeting took place on St. Patrick’s Day. Attendees included three canine pioneers of the breed: Holmenocks Gramachree, Gads Hill, and Holmenocks Hallmark.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1973, and Holmenocks Gramachree became the first Wheaten to be registered by the AKC. Today, the breed ranks 62nd in popularity among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. The moderately long head is rectangular in appearance and in proportion with the body. The strong muzzle is relatively short compared to the skull and has a defined stop. The black nose is large for the size of the dog. The teeth meet in a scissors bite and the lips are black. The wide-set eyes are almond shaped and come in a reddish brown to a medium brown color. Light or yellow eye color can occur but is a breed fault in the written standard. The V-shaped ears fold forward and are level with the skull. The medium-length neck gradually widens into the body. The back is straight, forming a level topline. The front legs are straight and the paws are compact and round with black toenails. The high-set tail is either docked or kept natural. Note: docking tails is illegal in most parts of Europe. Dewclaws are usually removed. The single, wavy coat comes in shades of wheaten. Puppies are born dark brown and lighten to the final adult wheaten color by age two. There are two coat varieties, the American and the Irish. The Irish coat tends to be thinner and silkier.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is strong, agile and well-coordinated. It is a happy, playful, spirited and friendly terrier. Alert, it makes a great watchdog and barks at the arrival of guests. It is usually very loving with children and gets along reasonably well with other dogs. An unsocialized dog with a meek owner who does not know how and when to correct negative behaviors may end up with a dog-aggressive dog. Some of these dogs that were not raised with cats may not get along well with them. All it takes is some fast movement on the part of the cat, and the dog’s instincts will take over and he will chase them. The dog needs to be corrected right before it takes off after the cat. These dogs have a puppy attitude that remains with them throughout their lives. They are sweet-tempered, docile and self-confident. This breed needs to be taught, preferably when young, but older dogs can learn what is and is not acceptable behavior. It is very intelligent, so it will generally grasp quickly what is required of it. It has a straightforward nature and needs to be handled in a straightforward manner. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers bond closely with their family. They seldom bark unnecessarily. The Soft Coated Wheaten should be well socialized with other dogs while it is a young puppy, but adults can learn what is unacceptable behavior if they have an owner who properly communicates with them. In order to have a well-behaved Wheaten, you must be firm, but calm, consistent and confident with the dog. Meek owners will find the dog will easily take over the home and will be hard to control. Do not allow this dog to jump on humans. Jumping dogs are not “greeting” the human. Jumping is a respect and a dominancy issue.
Height: Males 18 – 20 inches and Females 17 – 19 inches
Weight: Males 35 – 45 pounds and Females 30 – 40 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 15 years
Health: Prone to protein wasting disease and flea allergies.
Exercise: Wheaten Terriers are very active dogs they need to go on daily walk.
When grooming the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, the object is to achieve a natural look, and brushing can make the soft coat fuzzy. So using a brush is not recommended. Instead, frequent, even daily, combing of the long, profuse coat with a medium-toothed comb is recommended to keep it free of tangles—beginning when the dog is a puppy. Clean the eyes and check the ears carefully. Bathe or dry shampoo when necessary. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier does not shed in the spring and fall, but loose hair should be combed out of the coat from time to time. A well-groomed dog will shed very little. This breed is good for allergy suffers.