Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Breed At A Glance


Sweet-tempered, friendly and active

Life Expectancy
13-14 years

Average Height
Males 18-20 inches; Females 17-19 inches

Average Weight
Males 35-45 lbs; Females 30-35 bs

Coat Color
Wheaten or white

Coat Length/Texture
Moderate length, silky and slightly wavy

Shedding Propensity
Little or not at all if properly groomed

Also known as Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Irish Softcoated Wheaten Terrier, Wheaten Terrier, Wheaten

General Temperament

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are often described as having the alert intelligence and stubbornness of a Terrier coupled with the even-tempered eagerness-to-please of a working dog. They are an athletic and energetic breed that will enjoy being part of an active family. The devoted and faithful SCWT makes a wonderful watchdog, although it rarely barks if not given a good reason (such as the approach of strangers). They are highly intuitive, often reflecting the moods of those around them. They even make excellent therapy dogs.

Unlike some of the more temperamental terriers, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is usually very loving towards children, as long as kids are taught to appropriately respect the dog. But since SCWT’s maintain their puppy nature throughout their life, they can sometimes be overwhelming for smaller children. With proper socialization during puppyhood, they will get along well with other dogs. But due to their natural instincts, they are prone to hunting smaller house pets such as cats or rabbits.

Establishing and maintaining your dog’s role in the household pecking order is essential when training the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. They are very intelligent and independent-minded, and if the dog does not see you (and other family members) as above him on the hierarchy, he will not follow your commands. Once his place is understood, the SCWT is willing to please. On walks, they tend to pull on the leash, dragging their owner behind them – be sure to get them accustomed to appropriate leash behavior very early in life to minimize this tendency in your strong adult dog. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier can just straight up into the air, and though this may not be terribly bothersome in smaller Terriers, it can be quite a nuisance in this medium-sized breed. Early training may reduce this tendency, although it can be tough to control it completely given the dog’s happy and energetic nature.

SCWT’s are highly adaptable and can be just as happy in an apartment as a more suburban or rural home, as long as they are given enough exercise. This breed tends to give chase to everything from cats to cars, so it is essential to keep the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier on a leash whenever they are not in a well-fenced area. Above all, this breed needs an involved owner who is willing to spend time both on training and general affection in order to be happy. They are not good pets for the sedentary or apathetic owner.

Breed History

A native of Ireland, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier (SCWT) is believed to be an important ancestor of the Kerry Blue Terrier. It is known to have existed for at least the last 200 years or so, although exact breeding records were not kept as this dog was bred primarily for it’s working ability rather than to keep to a specific standard. As was the case for many working breeds, only the most quick-witted, strong and courageous specimens proliferated. The SCWT evolved as an all-around farm dog, it’s duties including herding and guarding livestock, as well as hunting & killing vermin.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was given it’s first breed recognition by the Irish Kennel Club in 1937, and was admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1973.

Body Structure and Composition

The medium-sized Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a strong and compact dog, with a body that is equally proportionate in height and length. This breed’s head appears rectangular when viewed in profile. The eyes are rimmed in black and the ears are small, set at the corners of the skull and folded forward towards the cheeks. The strong neck blends smoothy into the back. A SCWT’s chest is deep, allowing for expanded lung capacity during it’s herding and hunting work. The forelegs should be quite straight and hind legs should be conversely well-bent. The tail is customarily docked in the United States for confirmation purposes, although tail docking has been banned in many other countries.

The silky, wavy coat of this breed distinguishes itself from that of all other Terriers. Puppies are generally born with a darker and straighter coat that becomes more wheaten and wavier as the dog ages.

Medical Information

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is, generally speaking, a long-lived breed, but this does not exclude them from being susceptible to a few potentially fatal hereditary diseases. The most prominent of these diseases include Protein-Losing Enteropathy (PLE) and Protein-Losing Nephropathy (PLN). As their names indicate, both diseases cause a loss of protein, although this loss occurs at different points off the body with each disease. PLE is typically caused by inflammatory bowel disease, the protein loss occurring in the intestine or bowl, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and fluid retention (edema) in the abdomen (known as “ascites”) or in the pleural space surrounding the lungs (known as “pleural effusion”). In PLN, the protein loss occurs in the kidneys, making it more difficult to diagnose as it is often confused with other liver, kidney or glandular diseases. Symptoms of PLN include listlessness or depression, decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss, edema (including ascites and pleural effusion), increased water consumption, increased urination, and hypertension. Screening tests are available from your veterinarian and it is recommended that they be performed on an annual basis. Individuals who are known to have exhibited either of these diseases should not be bred.

Renal Dysplasia (RD) is also know to occur with higher frequency in the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier than in other breeds, primarily in European dogs, although it’s incidence in American specimens has increased over the last few years. This disease is characterized by abnormal growth of the kidney, which can fatally result in early renal failure. Symptoms include increased water consumption, increased urination (and dilute urine), decreased appetite, vomiting, and recurring urinary tract infections. Annual screening is also available (and recommended) for RD, and once again, individuals who have shown signs of this disease should not be bred.

Addison’s disease (also known as Hypoadrenocorticism) is present in some Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier lines, and causes an insufficient production and secretion of hormones by the adrenal gland cortex. Dogs with Addison’s show symptoms including listlessness or depression, decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss, inability to handle stress, sudden collapse and slow heart rate. Like PLE, PLN, and RD, annual screening for Addison’s is recommended, and is available from your veterinarian.

There is some incidence of Hip and Elbow Dysplasia in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, although with much less frequency than many other breeds. These conditions occur when the head of the bone degenerates and no longer fits into the cup provided by the joint socket, resulting in lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) provides certification of breeding stock shown to be free of these diseases (among others), and responsible breeders should be able to provide this information to potential puppy buyers upon request.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is prone to flea allergies, so be sure to use preventative medicines year-round.

Intensive grooming is an important part of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier’s life. They require daily combing to keep their coat clean and free of mats, and this process should start during puppyhood in order to train your dog to behave during grooming sessions. The SCWT has no undercoat and therefore does not shed seasonally, although they do lose a minimal amount of hair throughout the year.

Anecdotal Information

Details Coming Soon

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