Scratch Dog or Not – Are Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers Hypoallergenic

The number of people suffering from pet allergies in America is on the rise. Allergic reactions happen when a person's immune system reacts over-zealously to a particular substance which can include food, dust, chemicals, pollen and the proteins found in pet saliva, dander, and urine.

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Certain dog breeds are considered hypoallergenic because they shed less, have low protein chains, produce less dander and don't drool and while no dog is completely allergy-free, many sufferers find, that with certain precautions, the hypoallergenic Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier can co-exist with those who suffer from asthma and allergies.

Is It True, Are Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers Hypoallergenic?

The truth is, reactions vary and no breed of dog is completely allergy-free even the hairless breeds, but the good news is; Yes, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is classed as hypoallergenic and is much less likely to trigger a bout of sneezing, itchy rash or congestion than many other breeds.

What does hypoallergenic actually mean?

There is a lot of controversy over this word and what it actually means. Most of us presume it describes a dog that is allergy-free and will be perfectly safe for allergy sufferers, unfortunately, this is not the case. Hypoallergenic cosmetics may be perfectly fine for many with sensitive skin, yet, bring others out in a nasty rash and this also is the case with dogs. A Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier may be a perfect sniffle-free addition to some households and not others. Hypoallergenic means a reduced risk, not, no risk at all.

3 Reasons why the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a choice breed among allergy sufferers

Although all terriers are inclined to bark, the Soft Coated Wheaten is not as yappy as some, this means his saliva is not being sprayed around the home, good news as the proteins in saliva can trigger an allergic reaction.

This breed has a merry disposition, gets on well with children and is not as scrappy as some of the terriers making it an ideal family pet.

Soft Coated Wheaten has a single coat which is hair rather than fur, therefore like humans, they shed only a few hairs a day.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers and allergies - What should I do?

Even though the hypoallergenic Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is classed as non-shedding, reactions can still occur, so it is essential to do your research and spend time with your dog of choice before bringing them into your life.

Many families find they can live with mild to moderate symptoms by taking a few precautions or medications, However, if you have young children with an allergy or someone who suffers severe respiratory problems, you should discuss the possibility of owning a dog with your allergist and you may need to accept that your home needs to be kept pooch-free.

  • Contact the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America they will happily put you in touch with regional clubs or provide information about events or fun days in your area, this will enable you to spend some time with the breed, determine if the experience is allergy-free and talk with owners to see if the breed is compatible with your lifestyle.
  • Ask neighbors, friends, even the vet or local dog groomer, if they can put you in touch with any owners nearby, it may be possible to arrange a visit.
  • Go online and talk to owners who are in a similar situation, while all allergies vary you will get a good idea of whether the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has caused problems for certain people or if they have been the ideal choice.

5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of An Allergic Reaction from Your Pooch

  1. You spend over a third of your life in the bedroom so, keep this space dog-free. Soft furnishings and bedding are prime spots for those pesky particles to accumulate.
  2. Wipe down surfaces daily with a damp cloth, using a little fabric conditioner or dryer sheets is great as they stop dust and dander settling.
  3. Vacuum regularly with a cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter this will help to get rid of allergens that have settled on the floor.
  4. Single coated dogs like the Soft Coated Wheaten need regular professional grooming, but brushing them at home daily will prevent matts, tangles and keep allergens low. Preferably get someone else to do this outside or, if you need to do it yourself invest in a dog grooming mask.
  5. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer after touching your dog, their toys, and bedding.

All about the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier - Origin of the Breed

The Soft Coated Wheaten is the oldest of the Irish Terrier breeds dating back hundreds of years, it is thought to be the ancestor of both the Kerry Blue and Irish Terrier. An all-purpose dog, for many years they were the breed of choice for farmers and crofters throughout the Emerald Isle.

The breed has many excellent qualities they can retrieve, herd, hunt, guard and keep vermin under control. Their cheerful disposition and affectionate nature also made them great for the typically large Irish families. For many years, only the gentry was allowed to keep hounds, spaniels and hunting dogs so Terriers were the poor man's dog and the Soft Coated Wheaten was not recognized as a breed in its own right until 1937.

The first Wheatens were introduced to the United States during the 1940s, but it wasn't until ten years later that serious interest in the breed began to develop and they were finally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1973.

It is currently ranked at #50 on the AKC list of popular breeds and with the number of Americans suffering from allergies increasing, this medium hypoallergenic breed could rise even further.

General Appearance

A medium sized dog the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier size ranges from 17-20 inches at the shoulder with males weighing between 35-45 lbs and females slightly less at 30-40 lbs. They have a square outline with a rectangular head and dark almond shaped eyes the ears should be small, level with the skull and drop forward slightly.

They are deep chested with a compact body and level back, the tail carried high and straight. The major feature which sets the Wheaten apart from most terriers is its single soft wavy coat, there are two variations of this;

  • The Irish coat consists of soft curls and is much glossier, the coat of a puppy can be rather coarse, making him look a bit shaggy before he fully grows into it, which can take three years or more. This is the original coat type, and photos dating back hundreds of years show dogs with this type of coat.
  • The American coat is much denser and although it still retains the soft curls or waves it lacks the sheen of the Irish coat. The heavy-coated puppy grows into this mature look much quicker than the Irish Soft Coated Wheaten and resembles a cute teddy bear.

The colour should be Wheaten although this can be various shades, puppies are often darker often with shades of mahogany or red but should grow into their adult coat between 2-3 years of age. There are no purebred black Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers so avoid adverts stating they have either this colour or a white Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier for sale, they will be a crossbreed and for allergy sufferers, this could result in a lot of money being wasted on a dog which may not be hypoallergenic.

Temperament

The Soft Coated Wheaten Temperament is quite complex, playful, energetic and headstrong they can also be extremely sensitive and do not respond well to harsh training methods, they have many terrier traits, they love to chase things and dig yet are not as scrappy as most terriers. They are cheerful and love to be with their family and this is often shown in the way they greet people, the "Wheaten Greetin" as it is known is typically jumping up and licking your face.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier gets on well with children and is sturdy enough to cope with a bit of rough and tumble without having the need to defend themselves. They are very energetic and require plenty of exercise along with mental stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored. With fair and consistent training, they can excel at agility and make good therapy dogs.

Source: Wikimedia.org (Megan Sterrett)

Health

Like many terriers, the Soft Coated Wheaten is a hardy dog with a lifespan of around 10-13 years, they are not susceptible to many genetic conditions or illnesses, but there are some you should be aware of including:

  • Allergies - The hypoallergenic, Soft Coated Wheaten can conversely be prone to allergies both environmental and food related and the skin disease atopic dermatitis is quite common in this breed.
  • Addison's Disease - Wheatens have a higher than average propensity for this disease which affects the adrenal glands.
  • Renal Dysplasia - This genetic disorder used to be extremely common in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers but breeders are working to eliminate the condition and it is something to be discussed with the breeder.
  • Protein-Losing Nephropathy (PLN) - A condition where protein is wasted via the kidneys, more often seen in females, potentially fatal but can sometimes be managed with prescribed medication and dietary changes.
  • Protein-Losing Enteropathy (PLE) - like PLN this condition causes protein not to be fully absorbed by the digestive tract and again can be extremely serious if not diagnosed early on.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) - Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers have been shown to have a genetic preposition to this condition which is inflammation of any part of the digestive tract including the colon, stomach or intestines.

A reputable Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier breeder will be happy to discuss any concerns have about the health of the breed, should be familiar with these conditions and have taken steps to reduce the chances of their litters being affected.

Food

The Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier often suffers from allergies so you may need to feed it one of the specialist hypoallergenic dog foods and take care what treats you include in their diet.

Whatever food you decide on, it is important to keep an eye on their weight. A dog which does not have sufficient exercise can easily become overweight, which can lead to serious health problems. Most owners feed their Wheatens twice a day and as with all terriers, it is advisable not to free feed as they can be protective of food.

Source: Flickr.com (cc image by Katie)

Finding A Good Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Breeder

So, you have come to the decision that the hypoallergenic Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is the right breed for your family. You can now either search for Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppies for sale or adopt a Soft Coated Wheaten. If you decide on a puppy there are some important things to look out for before parting with your money.

Both health and temperament are important, so it is important that you do your research. Don't ever buy puppies from a pet store or puppy mill.

Good Wheaten breeders will usually belong to the SCWTCA which enables them to keep abreast of modern breeding practices, new developments, regional events etc. This shows an interest in the breed, not how much money they can make.

Talk to as many people as possible, either online or visit a local event in order to find recommendations for a good breeder. It may take time and patience but your new pooch will be a part of your life for 10+ years, so it's important to get it right.

3 Red Flags to Look Out for When Searching an Wheaten Terrier Breeder

  • Avoid breeders that make misleading statements on the website or advert, no breed is perfect and a good breeder should be happy to talk about any issues you may have.
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    Do not entertain any breeder who is willing to rehome a pup before they are 8 weeks of age.
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    Do not pay an excessively high deposit, if anything goes wrong (which is a possibility if you suffer an allergic reaction) you will probably not get the money back.

Adopting a Wheaten from a Rescue or Shelter

While you probably won't find a purebred Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier at your local shelter (You could possibly find a Soft Coated Wheaten mix) there are full-grown dogs and puppies that come into breed specific Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier rescue organizations across the country every year.

Some regional rescues can be found here. Many are looking for volunteers to help with the charity, which is a fantastic way to become involved with the breed before you commit to owning one of these lovely dogs.

How Much Will a Wheaten Terrier Set You Back?

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy price will differ from state to state, depending on the conformation lines and sex of the dog. For a quality purebred puppy, you will be looking at parting with around $600-$1500.

For this price, you should receive a well-adjusted puppy, information on diet, socialization, health and vaccination records, plus a pedigree and sales contract.

Adopting a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier dog is a cheaper option, where you can expect to pay anything from $75-$350. You will also have given one of these happy dogs a second chance in life.

Source: Flickr.com (cc image by Ned Berman)

It's a Wrap

These confident, smart, affectionate dogs are always full of life and need lots of exercise and mental stimulation. They are quick to solve problems, excel at agility, obedience, but like many terrier breeds can be a bit headstrong so need consistent training.

They make good watchdogs but are less aggressive than many terriers and love a cuddle, properly socialized they can get along fine with other animals and love playing with children.

Their hypoallergenic single coat is high maintenance and requires regular brushing to prevent tangles, they are usually not a "scratch dog" for their owner, but as they are susceptible to allergies, they can get a bit itchy themselves.

The bottom line is; for an active family with one or more members suffering from asthma or allergies the hypoallergenic Soft Coated Wheaten is a winner!

John Devlin
 

Husband, father and avid dog lover. Currently the proud owner of George a pedigree Golden Retriever that barely leaves my side. However, cute this sounds a little break from the dog hairs every now and then would be nice!

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