Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Published Dec. 4, 2023
soft coated wheaten terrier walking in snow against a blue sky

In This Article

General Care

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a friendly, outgoing, and loyal breed that originated as a farm dog in Ireland. According to the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America (SCWTCA), these terriers share a common background with the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Terrier, though precise details of their history aren’t clear.

Full-grown Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers stand 17–19 inches tall and weigh 30–40 pounds. As their name suggests, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers have a beautiful silky coat and a distinguished beard.

Caring for a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is an energetic breed with an endless supply of love to give to their people. They are low-shedding but do require extensive coat care to avoid matting. Before bringing home a Wheaten Terrier puppy, make sure you have the time to keep up with at-home grooming and the budget for regular trips to a professional groomer.

The Wheaten is an intelligent breed and often has a mind of their own. Positive reinforcement and patience are needed for training.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Health Issues

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is generally a healthy breed with a typical lifespan of 12–14 years—about average for a medium breed.

But as with all dogs, Wheatens have a predisposition for developing a handful of health conditions pet parents should be aware of. Pet insurance may be a good idea for Wheaten Terrier pet parents, as some of these conditions require extensive diagnostics and long-term treatments.

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease is a condition in which the adrenal glands don’t produce enough glucocorticoid steroids (cortisol) and/or mineralocorticoid steroids (aldosterone). The initial symptoms often wax and wane and may be subtle. The signs include:

Dogs with these symptoms should be examined by a veterinarian right away. In cases of extremely low adrenal hormones, these symptoms may result in an Addisonian crisis, in which the dog collapses.

For dogs with this condition, long-term monitoring and treatment is usually necessary. In most cases, treatment includes oral glucocorticoid supplementation (prednisone) and injectable mineralocorticoid/aldosterone supplementation (Percorten®, Zycortal®). Another option is a pill called Florinef® (fludrocortisone acetate) that supplements both glucocorticoid and aldosterone hormones.

Renal Dysplasia

Renal dysplasia is a hereditary disease seen in several dog breeds, including the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. In this condition, the kidney develops abnormally in utero, and kidney function rapidly deteriorates. This type of kidney disease is often diagnosed in Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppies. Symptoms include increased thirst, increased urination, decreased appetite, slow growth, and eventually kidney failure.

Blood tests and abdominal ultrasound findings may point toward this diagnosis. However, a biopsy is necessary for a definitive diagnosis. There is no cure for renal dysplasia, but supportive treatment can prolong a dog’s quality and length of life. As this is a heritable condition, dogs with renal dysplasia should not be bred.

Protein-Losing Enteropathy (PLE)

Protein-losing enteropathy (PLE) is a condition in which protein is lost in the gastrointestinal system.  PLE is frequently accompanied by diarrhea, and sometimes by weight loss and vomiting. The loss of protein through the GI tract causes a drop in the amount of protein in the blood, which can cause fluid to build up in the chest and abdomen or may lead to edema. There is a familial form of PLE found in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers that can lead to severe illness and may even be fatal.

Protein-Losing Nephropathy (PLN)

Protein-losing nephropathy is a disease that causes protein to be excreted through the kidneys into the urine. In normal dogs, there should be little to no protein in the urine. Many dogs with this condition will also have increased thirst and urination. 

As with PLE, the loss of protein through the urinary tract in PLN causes a drop in the amount of protein in the blood. This can cause free fluid to build up in the chest and abdomen or may lead to edema. There is a genetic basis for PLN found in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, and PLE and PLN are often found together in this breed. Both can cause serious disease and are often fatal.


Hypothyroidism is a condition that causes the thyroid gland to be underactive. The thyroid gland controls metabolism. In hypothyroidism, the body either attacks its own glands or the gland is replaced with fat.

Signs of hypothyroidism in dogs include weight gain, lethargy, brittle coat, and skin infections. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed through blood work. Hypothyroidism is treatable with a lifelong thyroid hormone replacement medication called levothyroxine.

What To Feed a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Feeding a commercial kibble or wet food that’s compliant with the recommendations from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a good way to ensure your Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier receives a complete and balanced diet. Wheaten puppies should be fed a diet formulated specifically for puppies or designated for all life stages.

How To Feed a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier does best with two measured feedings per day. Wheaten Terrier puppies should eat three to four meals per day on a regular schedule to help maintain stable blood sugar.

How Much Should You Feed a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier?

The recommended caloric intake for a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier varies from dog to dog and depends on their physical size, metabolism, neuter status, and activity level. The best way to determine portion sizes is to talk with your veterinarian, who can calculate specific caloric needs.

Additionally, the feeding guide label on dog food packaging provides valuable information for pet parents. Be careful to not overfeed your Wheaten, and remember that calories in treats add up quickly!

Nutritional Tips for Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers require a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to stay healthy and lean. They will get all of these and other necessary nutrients by eating an AAFCO-compliant food.

They may benefit from the addition of omega-3 fatty acids into their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in skin and joint supplements, fish oil, and in some specially formulated dog foods. These fatty acids act as natural anti-inflammatories that help support the skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart.

Behavior and Training Tips for Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Personality and Temperament

close-up of a soft coated wheaten terrier
Photo credit: Lisa Gray/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is an intelligent, playful, and affectionate furry family member. They are exceptionally affectionate and usually well-behaved with children and other dogs when supervised, trained, and socialized from puppyhood. They are active dogs that, according to the breed club, stay energetic their entire life. Wheaten Terriers benefit from exercise and mental stimulation, as all breeds do.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Behavior

Most Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers bond quickly with humans and dislike being left alone for long periods. Pet parents can expect their bearded buddy to follow them closely.

Due to their breeding history as farm dogs, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers may bark when new people approach their home or family. Early socialization and consistent training can help correct this behavior, and they are generally quieter than other terrier breeds.

Their history also means Wheatens can have a high prey drive, so they may be tempted to chase smaller animals, such as cats and rodents. Early socialization and proper introductions can help a Wheaten Terrier live well with smaller pets.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Training

While the Soft Coated Wheaten is intelligent and usually wishes to please their humans, they can be strong willed. A Wheaten is easier to teach using training games and positive reinforcement. Early obedience training is crucial to achieve a well-mannered Wheaten Terrier. 

Fun Activities for Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Grooming Guide

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, as their name implies, have a wheat-colored, silky, and soft coat. Their single-layer coat doesn’t shed much, but it does require a lot of brushing, detangling, and trimming. 

This breed has a reputation for being a hypoallergenic dog. While no pet is 100% allergen-free (as they all produce allergens in their skin, saliva, and urine), Wheaten Terriers may be a good fit for some people with dog allergies. Before bringing home a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy, spend time with the breed to see how your allergies react. 

Skin Care

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier should be bathed about monthly to remove dirt and debris. But don’t overdo it: Bathing a dog more than twice a month may strip the skin of healthy oils that act as a barrier against allergens. Using gentle, dog-specific shampoo is best.

Coat Care

The Wheaten’s soft, single coat is prone to matting. This breed should ideally be brushed every day and no less than twice weekly. Using a de-matting, spray-on conditioner is helpful for breaking down tangles.

Many pet parents elect to have their Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier’s hair trimmed short. But whether the coat is kept long or short, this dog needs professional grooming every four to six weeks.

Eye Care

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers may develop tear staining in the corners of their eyes. Rinsing the eyes with a gentle eye wash once daily helps to prevent staining. If squinting or discolored eye discharge is noted, take your dog to the vet, as these can be signs of more serious eye conditions.

Ear Care

Wheaten Terriers tend to have a lot of hair in their external ear canals. Whether plucking this hair increases or decreases ear infections is not clear and should be discussed with your veterinarian.

However, cleaning your dog’s ears every one or two weeks will help prevent ear infections. Redness, odor, and/or debris in the ears are signs that an infection may be present. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.

Considerations for Pet Parents

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a happy dog that can fit well into almost any family—if that family is able to meet the breed’s needs. Wheatens need daily walks, regular playtime, lots of attention, and daily grooming upkeep.

While usually gentle with children and other pets, early socialization and training are imperative for Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppies.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier FAQs

Are Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers high-maintenance?

Grooming is a big part of caring for a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, which can make them high-maintenance. They need daily brushing, monthly bathing, and trips to a professional groomer every four to six weeks.

Do Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers bark a lot?

Like most terriers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers have a reputation for barking, so pet parents must train them to quiet down at an early age. Increasing activity levels often helps decrease excessive barking.

Are Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers good family dogs?

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers can be wonderful family dogs because of their energetic and loving personalities. Though they may be tempted to chase smaller animals, Wheatens can live well with cats and other pets when socialized early and with proper introductions. They are typically gentle with children, but all interactions between kids and any dog should be supervised.

Do Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers shed?

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers have a single coat that does not shed very much. However, in addition to professional grooming, their silky coat requires daily brushing.

Featured Image: Adobe/Alexander Kladov

Virginia LaMon, DVM


Virginia LaMon, DVM


Dr. Virginia LaMon graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. She completed her clinical year at Auburn...

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