About Wheaten Terriers

by Rose Kivi

Named after the beige color of their coats, Wheaten terriers originated in Ireland and were used as farm dogs. In 1973, the breed was first recognized by the American Kennel Club and has since become a welcome addition to many households around the world. Wheatens are attractive dogs with fun personalities, but they're a little strong-minded at times. Learn more about Wheaten terriers to find out if they're a good match for your household.

Breed Description

Wheaten terriers are medium-sized, hardy, square-framed dogs with long rectangular heads and small ears. Adult males weigh about 35 to 40 pounds and are 17 to 19 inches at the withers. Female adults weigh approximately 30 to 35 pounds and are 16 to 18 inches at the withers. Wheaten terriers have an abundant single-layered, soft, wavy coat that doesn't shed, making the breed a good option for allergy sufferers. The coat coloring can be any shade of wheaten, and some dogs may have a bluish-gray coloring on the face. Puppies are born with darker coats that lighten to a wheaten shade between 6 and 12 months of age.

Temperament and Disposition

A happy, intelligent and inquisitive breed, Wheatens are calmer than most terrier breeds, but they exhibit many terrier traits. Unlike most terriers, they aren't prone to excessive barking, though they will let you know when strangers are present. Wheaten terriers are energetic and approach life with much exuberance. They love to jump up, like to play a lot and have a high prey drive. These dogs will chase anything that moves, including small household pets. Wheatens are quite dominant and will try to lead the household if given the opportunity to do so. Their stubbornness combined with their highly sensitive nature makes them a challenge to train. Owners must use a firm but gentle hand when training these dogs. They're good dogs for older children, but generally aren't a wise choice for households with small children.

Care

Wheaten terriers require regular grooming, exercise, training and a balanced diet. Wheatens' long coats should be combed daily to prevent matting. Clipping the dog's coat short can reduce daily grooming requirements. Because Wheatens are so energetic, burn it off with daily exercise such as walks or games of catch. In addition to exercise, owners should spend 10 to 30 minutes a day doing obedience training with their Wheaten terriers, even if the dogs are already trained. Daily obedience training is the key to reinforcing and maintaining good behavior in this dominant breed. Feed Wheatens a high-quality, balanced, age-appropriate dog food and keep fresh water available at all times.

Health Problems

Overall, the Wheaten terrier is a healthy breed. However, they are genetically predisposed to certain diseases, particularly protein-losing nephropathy (PLN) and protein-losing enteropathy (PLE). Wheaten terriers may also be susceptible to Addison's disease and renal dysplasia (RD). PLN and PLE are two similar genetic diseases that cause protein loss through the kidneys with PLN and through the stomach with PLE. An estimated 5 to 15 percent of Wheaten terriers are afflicted with PLN or PLE, according to canine geneticist George Padgett, DVM. Clinical signs of the diseases typically show up at 6 to 8 years of age, but can occur in younger or older dogs. Affected dogs may experience fluid retention, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and lethargy. There is no cure for PLN and PLE, but supportive treatment such as a bland diet is sometimes effective. Addison's disease causes an insufficient production and secretion of hormones. The disease is not very common in Wheatens, occurring in only 0.6 percent of the breed, according to a survey conducted by the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America. Addison's causes symptoms such as lethargy, depression, appetite loss, vomiting, weight loss and a slow heart rate. Left untreated, Addison's is fatal. With hormone replacement treatment, most Wheatens can live a normal life. RD is the abnormal development of the kidneys in utero, which may lead to renal failure later in a dog's life. The frequency of RD in Wheaten terriers is unknown. Symptoms of RD include increased water intake, increased urination, decreased appetite, vomiting and frequent urinary tract infections. Treatment for the disease consists of supportive therapy to keep the dog comfortable and to aid kidney function. PLN, PLE, Addison's and RD are difficult to diagnose. The SCWTCA recommends that owners have their Wheaten terriers annually tested for the diseases by a licensed veterinarian. Treatment is most effective when begun in the early stages of the diseases.