About the Breed

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The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier



The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier (SCWT) is probably the oldest of the four native terriers of Ireland. While not officially recognised until 1937, after some difficulty finding an appropriate name, written references to “soft coated” terriers suggest they have existed in some form for at least 200 years.

Irish farmers used Wheatens, as they are often called, as all-purpose farm dogs: large enough to work stock, hunt badgers, otters, foxes and other vermin, even acting as hunting dogs, but small enough to live in the house, provide companionship to the family, and act as a watchdogs without having large food requirements. Their ability to hunt silently also contributed to their reputation as an ideal dog for poachers.

In Australia

Confusion about the name sometimes occurs. Australian Wheatens are bred to the ANKC standard adopted from the UK where they are Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers. Although very similar it is not exactly the same as the country of origin standard where they are known as the Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. This FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) standard is also used in Europe.  The United States, Canada and New Zealand also use the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier name although the American standards are slightly different.

The first Wheatens arrived in Australia in 1979 but it was some years before the breed became established. These days there are breeders in most states but it is not unusual to wait several months before a quality pup becomes available. It is rare for an older Wheaten to be rehomed.


The breed standard aptly describes the Wheaten. They are good-tempered, spirited and game, full of confidence and humor; a delightful, affectionate, intelligent companion. Because historically SCWT were not kept outside in packs, but lived with the family, these characteristics were important and make them very suited to the modern family who can exercise them properly. Like most dogs they will defend themselves if required but are known as ‘the least terrier like of all the terriers’.



The Wheaten is a medium-sized dog 46-49 cms at the shoulder weighing 16-20.5 kg with bitches slightly smaller. SCWT are covered with a profuse, soft, non-shedding wheaten colored coat ranging from pale honey to warm gold, although this color may change slightly throughout the life or the dog.  Wheatens are full of character, an active happy dog, strong and well built. They have an overall square appearance with traditional dog skeletal construction that contributes to their versatile physical abilities. Coat aside they are moderate both in temperament and physical attributes, not exaggerated in any way.


The coat and grooming

The soft silky coat should flow and fall naturally with loose waves or large, light, loose curls, and be neither woolly nor wiry. Some bloodlines have heavier coats with less wave, some have a higher degree of sheen. As long as it meets the breed standard it is a matter of personal preference however the heavier coat usually requires a more disciplined approach to grooming. There is no seasonal change in the length or texture of the mature coat.

Pups are rarely born with this soft wheaten coat, some are darker, some reddish and harsher but this will clear. Pups and young dogs can show big differences in coat, from coarse, sparse and straggly to wooly and abundant with the coat often not fully mature until 24-36 months.  It can be difficult to predict adult coat from the puppy coat. For showing over trimming or stylizing is penalized however there are range of excellent grooming ideas and guides for companion Wheatens available on international club websites.

Whilst this beautiful coat is amazingly resilient it does require proper attention to remain healthy. Unlike wire coated dogs clipper trimming does not affect the long term quality of the coat but neglected coats become matted which is painful and can lead to skin problems. Even trimmed Wheatens need to be brushed then combed out weekly but this can be a nice bonding time when dogs are properly initiated as pups. It is import to have the easy technique explained to prevent knots that can develop close to the skin. The coat is best regularly washed and conditioned but this is a small concession for the lack of dog hair on clothes and furniture. Whilst some owners choose to use a professional groomer it can be fun to learn to trim the coat. The breeder should be helpful here and there is quality guidance on the web.


Exercise & Training

Like all breeds it is important to maintain socialization from the time pups leave their littermates, exposing pups to a full range of experiences in that critical first 6-month developmental period. This is an outgoing social breed that is very responsive to people and quick to learn given proper, consistent, positive reinforcement training. There are numerous quality publications to guide new owners and explain the benefits of the right training. Utilizing the skills of a properly qualified professional trainer will help to develop the Wheatens wonderful temperament. Some people like to accept that jumping up and other over excited behavior are a part of the temperament, however they are merely an indication of the importance of proper and consistent early training. 

Their farm origins means Wheatens are very working-dog-like, by the time they are adults they will need a good walk each day. Their size and structure also means they enjoy running with more athletic owners. Properly exercised Wheatens will happily curl up at your feet or beside the fire and are less inclined to get up to mischief or develop unwanted habits. Wheatens also benefit from the mental stimulation of learning tricks as well as manners. Owners are amazed at their cleverness. They have been listed as a herding breed for ANKC competition and their intelligence and can-do attitude makes them very adaptable for performance sports such as agility, tracking and obedience trails.



The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is basically a very healthy dog with an average lifespan of 13 years. Like most dogs cancer is a major killer but many like pure breeds with traceable pedigrees Wheatens can be identified as more susceptible to some specific inherited disease; Protein-losing nephropathy (PLN) and protein-losing enteropathy (PLE), Addison's Disease also occurs and renal dysplasia (RD).

PLN kidney disease remains the most significant health issue for Wheatens. 2012 was very important because after years of fundraising and research a DNA test was released for identifying the PLN-Associated variant genes. This extra more definitive tool now makes for better breeding decisions, although this disease had been relatively well controlled in Australia by reputable breeders through pedigree management. The Soft Coated Wheaten Club of America and the Wheaten Health Initiative (UK) websites provide good information on health and health testing as well as good criteria for selecting a quality breeder who is health testing responsibly.


Contact Details

Margaret Gray
Saphyr's Run, Sunbury, VIC, Australia
Phone : 0418 410017
Email : [email protected]