Monday, March 17, 2014


Well, today is St. Patrick's Day, and you know what that means:  time for another blog entry about an Irish dog breed!  So this year the chosen breed is Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers.

This is a breed that has been around for a long time.  For at least 200 years, Wheatens were bred as all-purpose farm dogs who did things like herding, guarding the livestock, and killing vermin.  According to Anna Redlich in The Dogs of Ireland, William III decreed in 1698 that "only persons owning an estate of freehold of the yearly value of 40 pounds, at least, or a personal estate of 1,000 pounds shall keep any hound, beagle, greyhound, or land-spaniel other than whelps under the age of twelve months."  So that meant poor people could not have fancy hunting and sporting dogs.  But they could have "ordinary" dogs such as terriers.

Two other "poor man's breeds" were the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Terrier.  These two terriers are related to the Wheaten and may have descended from Wheatens.  The Irish Kennel Club did not recognize the Soft-Coated Wheaten breed until 1937.  The British Kennel Club followed suit in 1943.  A woman named Lydia Vogel had the first Wheaten Terriers exported to the U.S. in the 1940s, but there was no serious interest in the breed for the next 10 years or so.  The American Kennel Club finally recognized them in 1973.

Wheaten Terrier puppies are usually dark brown or red when they are born, and they may have ears and muzzles that are black or dark brown.  The puppy coat grows out to be almost white, and then it turns a wheaten color by the time the dog is 2 years old.  American dogs have a coat that is heavier than the thin, silky coats of Irish and European Wheatens.

The average Soft-Coated Wheaten is 17" to 19" tall and 30 to 45 pounds in weight.  Wheatens need regular grooming to keep their coats from getting matted.  They can also be clippered.  Health issues include a couple of protein-wasting diseases, renal dysplasia, inflammatory bowel disease, Addison's disease, and cancer.  Most Wheatens live to be 12-15 years old.

Wheaten Terriers are happy, playful, spirited, energetic, and intelligent.  They greet people enthusiastically by jumping up on them.  They are not as scrappy as some terriers, but they are still very active dogs.  If they haven't grown up with cats, they may use their strong prey drive to chase them.  Wheatens are very protective of their families and will bark to alert them to the presence of strangers.  In general, this breed is good with children, but they might get excited and noisy while playing.

Another thing Wheatens like to do is dig holes, but my theory is that the reason they do that is because they are looking for a leprechaun's pot of gold!

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