How to Care for Wheaten Terriersby Jo Chester
Like many terriers, the progenitors of today’s soft-coated wheaten terriers were farm dogs used to eradicate vermin, such as rats, and to hunt small game, such as badgers and rabbits. The earliest history of the breed is unrecorded, but records of the breed extend back to more than 200 years ago .The little that is known tells us that the breed was developed to be attractive, brave and quick-witted. Described by their breed club as being “exuberant” and “people-oriented,” wheaten terriers make fine family pets.
Choose the type of diet you will feed your dog. Like most dogs, healthy soft-coated wheaten terriers can eat a variety of foods. While many pet owners choose to feed kibble for their convenience, some wheaten owners may also choose to feed their dogs raw food or food they have prepared for the dogs themselves.
Recognize food sensitivities. Some soft-coated wheaten terriers are prone to conditions known as protein-losing enteropathy (PLE) and protein-losing nephropathy (PLN), both of which may result in skin problems or allergic skin disease. In addition, these dogs may exhibit other problems, such as nausea, weight loss, internal blood clotting and high blood pressure. While not all wheatens are prone to these illnesses, you should be aware of the symptoms. Feed PLN-affected dogs a diet moderately reduced in protein and PLE dogs a hypoallergenic diet.
Feed your dog an appropriate amount of food for his condition and weight. Feeding guidelines, whether for healthy dogs or those affected by PLN/PLE, are only approximate. You may choose to feed your dog once or twice daily, or even place a bowl of food on the floor and allow him to nibble. You must, however, be prepared to alter your feeding method if your dog becomes too fat, too thin or if the condition of his skin or coat deteriorates. Because dogs with PLE/PLN are prone to weight loss even when they are eating, monitoring your dog’s food intake against his body weight is extremely important in terms of your wheaten’s health. Very young puppies should be allowed to eat their fill, several times a day. Puppies will begin eating 1 1/2 to 2 cups of dry food, twice daily, when they are between 2 and 3 months of age. Your puppy should continue eating this quantity of food without experiencing extreme changes in weight gain or loss until he is about 6 months of age.
Inspect your dog’s coat daily for any indication of dirt or debris. Even the slightest amount of debris left in his coat can begin a mat or a tangle.
Spray your dog’s coat lightly using water or a spray conditioner/detangler. Separating your dog’s coat into sections will facilitate the grooming process and will prevent the spray from drying before that area can be groomed.
Use a slicker or pin brush to brush out your dog’s coat. Line brushing, holding back a section of hair against the grain of the coat and brushing small amounts of hair toward the body with each stroke, will help you identify mats and remove them with minimum pain for your dog. Repeat spraying the coat and brushing as needed until the dog’s entire body has been brushed.
Follow brushing out with a thorough combing. According to the Soft Coated Wheaten Club of America, the most important part of brushing is combing. A comb that moves unimpeded through the brushed coat ensures that there are no hidden mats. Brush the entire dog, including the hanging “beard” and “mustaches” on the dog’s face, between the dog’s elbows and the chest, and all four legs.
Begin socializing your puppy immediately. As soon as your puppy has had his second series of shots, start bringing him to meet new people to experience new things. Socialization ensures that your puppy will be unafraid when confronted with new experiences later in his life.
Begin basic obedience training. The soft-coated wheaten terrier is a stubborn breed that may show some sharpness toward other dogs, so early training is essential. By the time your puppy is ready to take classes, he should at least know his name and how to sit and go to bed on command.
Provide early crate training. A crate-trained puppy is easier to housebreak and may experience less separation anxiety than if he’s allowed complete freedom while alone. Feed your puppy inside the crate and supply him with interactive toys and comfortable bedding to help him relax while confined.
Teach your dog how to walk on a leash. You are unlikely to have an obedience trial champion if you own a soft-coated wheaten terrier. However, your wheaten should be able to walk on a loose leash when you are out for walks. Even if he does not stay in a perfect heel position, he should recognize the command to heel, as he should understand how to sit, lie down, come and stay.
Provide daily physical exercise. Soft-coated wheaten terriers are high-energy dogs that require a lot of activity to keep them in good health and in good spirits. Left to his own devices in your fenced yard, your wheaten will chase squirrels and other animals, but regular walks and games together will aid in the bonding process.
Find your wheaten a “job.” Because wheatens are intelligent dogs, your puppy will enjoy his exercise more if it has a purpose to it. Just because your dog will never be a competition obedience star, it does not mean that he will not enjoy structured exercise. By playing with your puppy and observing his actions, you may be able to get an idea of where his interests lie.
Train your dog in his new task daily. Agility training and herding exercise your dog’s mind and body at the same time. Your dog will be happier and a better canine citizen if you exercise both his mind and his body on a regular basis. Never push your wheaten beyond his physical and mental capabilities, but be aware that he will thrive on all kinds of exercise that challenge him.
- The coat behind your dog’s ears is particularly prone to matting. Feel behind his ears on a daily basis to ensure that mats are not growing there.
- Brush and comb your dog’s coat either daily or every other day. Brushing and combing will remove debris from his coat and prevent tangles or mats from forming.
- Attempting to cut a mat from a coat may result in cutting the dog. Break a mat by spraying it liberally and gently removing hairs a few at a time until the mat is gone.
- A dog at a healthy weight carries only a thin layer of fat over his body. If you cannot feel your dog’s ribs by applying a small amount of pressure with your fingers on each of his sides, then he is too fat. If you can fit your fingers between your dog’s ribs, then he is too thin.
- Put your puppy’s food all the way to the back of his crate to encourage him to enter the crate himself.
- Mats can tighten against your dog’s skin, causing him pain. Mats that sit very tightly against his skin can cause tissues to break down, leaving sores known as hot spots.
- Unless you are familiar with using the tools needed to clip or trim your dog's coat, it is best to have your soft-coated wheaten terrier professionally groomed. Unskilled use of electric trimmers can burn or cut your dog.
- Wheaten terriers like to bounce and play, making them a challenge to focus during training. However, they are great people-pleasers, making clicker training and other positive training methods useful for training them.
- American Kennel Club: Meet the Breeds: Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.
- North Carolina State University: Soft coated wheaten terrier PLE/PLN Research page
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America: Brushing and Combing
- Dog Owner’s Guide profile: The Wheaten Terrier
- Maddox Wheatens: Caring for a Wheaten Terrier Puppy
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers: Complete Pet Owner’s Manual; Margaret H. Bonham