DESCRIPTION AND CHARACTERISTICS
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier (SCWT) is a working, sporting terrier. The breed originated in Ireland as an all purpose farm dog that performed a variety of tasks: rid the farm of vermin, herd and guard sheep, hunt with his master, protect the family and farm. Sometimes referred to as the poor man’s Wolfhound, the SCWT had to do it all because “early in Britain’s history, ‘Laws of the Forest’ allowed only freemen and landowners to own hunting dogs. The poor tenant farmer and fisherman could not legally own any animal worth more than five pounds sterling.”
The ability to meet this demand for versatility is still evident in today’s SCWT. A continuum of temperaments and tendencies can be found among puppies from the same litter. This is not so astonishing, as children born of the same parents and raised in the same environment can be polar opposites in many characteristics. And as with humans, it is difficult with SCWTs to ascribe a characteristic tendency to a particular gender.
Consequently, a cookbook description does not apply for all SCWTs. They can be devoted companions or aloof co-inhabitants. Some are keenly interested in chasing squirrels and rabbits, while others could care less. During off leash walks with their family, SCWTs have been known to circle their humans with apparent intent to keep the flock together. Others dart ahead tracking or hunting with no interest in checking back, let alone gathering the flock. There are SCWTs that enjoy nothing more than a brisk jog with their owner and some must be persuaded to leave the couch for a leisurely walk.
Their own agenda is paramount for many SCWTs. Others defer first to their master, then proceed with their own agenda. After all, SCWTs are terriers. Unlike the Golden or Labrador Retrievers that seem intent on pleasing their humans, the tenacity of terriers renders them more inclined to march to their own drummer and attempt to convince their human to pursue that agenda as well.
Given this wide diversity in temperaments, it is important to work with a responsible breeder to select the right puppy. The responsible breeder spends lots of time with their puppies and the prospective owners in order to recommend the best match.
No matter the individual dog’s innate tendencies, SCWTs are generally a happy- go-lucky, exuberant, fun loving dog. To help the SCWTs become model pets and companions, socialization and training should begin early and occur often throughout their lives.
Puppy Kindergarten or Socialization classes are highly recommended to expose young SCWTs to dogs and people of all shapes and sizes. It is important to frequently expose the SCWT youngster to all sorts of people, places, and pets, in and out of the home. As puppyhood turns to adulthood, many owners participate in performance classes to enhance socialization and discover what most interests their SCWT. There is a vast array of activities that family members can enjoy throughout life with their SCTW: agility, flyball, herding, obedience, therapy, tracking, tricks, to name only a few.
SCWTs are considerably easier to live with, especially as puppies and youngsters, when exercised daily. Preferably this includes providing, in a safe area, the opportunity to run full speed and explore unencumbered their surroundings. For this reason many breeders highly recommend a fenced yard for families considering a SCWT puppy.
The SCWT is a single-coated dog and as such does not shed. Instead the coat grows long and will reach the floor if not trimmed. To keep them mat free, clean and comfortable, regardless of the desired coat length, it is imperative to brush and comb the SCWT every week, and more frequently when they transition from puppy to adult coat.
Trimming the SCWT can be little to severe. For those who prefer a SCWT look like a SCWT, trimming is required to foster the essence of the breed as described in the SCWT Illustrated Breed Standard and Amplification:
• Coat: soft, silky, waving, flowing, warm wheaten color.
• Silhouette: square, medium-sized, neck moderately long.
• Head: rectangular long, in proportion to the body; ears small to medium, level with the skull and point to the ground. Grooming guides are available at www. scwtca.org/pubs.htm#groom.
In summary, the SCWT is a joy to live with. Their versatility adds spice to life and many exude a youthfulness that lasts long into their senior years. With a SCWT around, dull moments are rare. To learn more about SCWTs, the best single source is www.scwtca.org.
There have been some really great dogs and many devoted breeders since 1947 when Lydia Vogel imported the first Wheatens into the US. Ten years later the O’Connors imported a dog from Maureen Holmes, an Irish breeder who was one of those responsible for saving the breed from near extinction in Ireland. On March 17, 1962, the O’Connors, Ida Mallory, the Charles Arnolds and a few other devotees, including Patricia Adams founded the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America.
During the next ten years a handful of enthusiasts traveled to dog shows across the USA promoting the breed to the public and to the American Kennel Club until finally in 1973 the day arrived when the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was eligible for championship points. A national specialty held on Montgomery County Weekend in October of 1973 marked the beginning of championships for this newly accepted Irish breed. CH Abby’s Postage Dhu of Waterford finished his title that first weekend surprising everyone since he was owner-handled by Marjorie Shoemaker, and was competing against some of the top terrier handlers of the time. Benmul Belma, an Irish Champion imported by Carol Carlson and Emily Holden, fought it out with Innisfree Annie Sullivan, owned by Gay Sherman (Dunlap). Belma was handled by Peter Green and Annie by Roberta Krohne. Belma finished first but Annie went on to make breed history by becoming the first Best in Show Wheaten. She also contributed significantly in the whelping box.
CH Stephen Dedalus of Andover, owned and bred by Jackie and Cindy Gottlieb, finished quickly and proved to be a stud dog who influenced the breed in a major way. He was the sire of CH Abby’s Postage Dhu of Waterford who, bred to Annie Sullivan, produced CH Gleanngay’s Goldilock dam of the watershed dog of the breed in the United States, CH Gleanngay Holliday. Before Doc (Holliday), type was undetermined in the breed. There had been a few imports from Ireland in the early 1970s but CH Holmenock’s Halpha, imported from Maureen Holmes by Brian and Mary Lynn Reynolds, was the only one bred to produce a line of dogs. Before Doc, the breed looked like one breed in the East, another in the Midwest, and yet another in the West. Doc’s extensive use as well as the relocation of Andover, Jackie and Cindy Gottlieb, now Cindy Vogels, to Colorado, began the solidification of an American type that allowed the breed to look more alike in the Montgomery County Wheaten Specialty Ring.
The late 1970s were dominated by CH Gleanngay Holliday and CH Briarlyn Dandelion, owned by Lynn Penniman (Carothers). A Doc son, CH Andover Song ’N Dance Man, walked away with the SCWTCA national specialty four times, once from the veteran’s class. He is also the only Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier to win the group at Westminster Kennel Club and that took place on Valentine’s Day in 1989.
There were many really handsome males during the late 80s and 90s. Two of the top winners were CH Wildflower Stardust, owned and bred by Janet Turner (Dalton) and CH Gleanngay Bantry Bay Kashmir, owned by Candy Way. Both were stallions and owned the ring whenever and wherever they were shown. Other very deserving dogs that defined type were CH Doubloon’s Master of Illusion, owned by Cindy Vogels and Jackie Gottlieb, CH Shar D’s Let the Games Begin, owned by Shari Boyd and Dee Boyd, CH Paisley After Midnight owned by Kathy and M.E. McIndoe, CH Legacy Wild West Wildflower, owned by Robert Hale and Jon Caliri, and CH Kaylynn’s August Moon owned by Kay Baird.
It seemed for a few years that there was not going to be another stallion type Wheaten and then along came Kovu! Kovu, CH Caraway Celebrate Life, owned by Betty Chapman and Beth Verner, broke many records in the breed and after winning the breed from the classes at Montgomery County Kennel Club under breeder judge Gay Dunlap, he proceeded to win gain a group three. He and handler Shari Boyd-Carusi topped it off by winning the terrier group at the prestigious Crufts Dog Show, held in Birmingham, England. He was exciting to watch in a way that was reminiscent of CH Wildflower Stardust, who appears on both sides of Kovu’s pedigree. The breed had a new hero!
Since a breed depends upon strong bitches, Wheatens have been well blessed. Starting in the 1970s CH Gleanngay Goldilock, CH Andover Antic of Sunset Hills, CH Cloverlane’s Connaught, CH Amaden’s Rainbow’s End, and CH Legenderry’s Ainlee produced many great dogs or great producers. Many lines come down from these bitches. Some of the more famous are Bantry Bay, Bendacht, Bonney, Clanheath, Kairi, Legacy, Shandalee, Westridge, Wildflower, and so many more. Elena Landa, Doubloon Wheatens, has had some lovely bitches in the ring during the past few years as have the kennels mentioned above. Elena has been a consistent winner and does the breed proud by being the Terrier Breeder of the year for the Eukanuba Classic in 2011.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America and the regional clubs have been known for being mentors and for welcoming newcomers. Jackie Gottlieb edited an Owner’s Manual in 1979 with the help of many club members and with some minor changes it has been the guide for the breed ever since. There is a very active public education committee, now chaired by Connie Kohler of California. The breed has recently acquired certification for herding and all the performance events are very popular with Wheaten owners. The dogs are very bright and enjoy the work and the activity of those events.
HEALTH & BREED TYPE
During the mid 1980s it was discovered that a significant percentage of the breed was suffering from an illness that was caused by loss of protein. Dogs were dying from intestinal or renal issues and it was obvious to the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America that something needed to be done. A Health Committee was formed, research began at North Carolina State University and the University of Pennsylvania. Wheatens lost some well-known breeders due to the devastation of certain lines and the fear that went with it. The illness appeared to be a wild card seeming to show up any time and any place.
Many breeders began to import dogs from Europe in an effort to water down the gene pool. Some are breeding pure Irish dogs with thinner, shiny coats, while some of the imports look very much like the American bred dogs but are perhaps a bit longer due to the FCI standard and the differences from the SCWTCA standard. For the past several decades, the breeders only tool to breed away from what appeared to be a genetic problem was the information of pedigrees of affected and non-affected which were listed in a voluntary national registry.
Finally, a DNA test which identifies genetic mutations associated with PLN (Protein Losing Nephropathy) was announced at the University of Pennsylvania in May, 2012. Breeders have been quick to have their SCWTs to be tested and are making better informed breeding decisions based on these results. However, it is important that while breeding to improve the overall health of the breed, that breed type does not get overlooked… and judges need to help with that. Knowing that this breed is a happy, charming dog that is not the tough terrier in the ring helps, as does recognizing that beneath the silky coat should lie a square terrier that moves in true terrier tradition.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is to be viewed and judged in the United States by the AKC Standard. This is not the same as the FCI or international standard. For example, while undocked tails have been recently accepted to accommodate the imports, many of which have natural tails, docked tails are preferred.
The National Club has provided many aids to help insure the maintenance of breed type. In the early 1990s an exceptional Illustrated Standard was developed by Gay Dunlap with artwork drawn by Jody Sylvester. It is a timeless piece and available free of charge to all judges. A judges’ education program was developed first by Cindy Vogels. Gay Dunlap and Gary Vlachos have created a very strong judges’ education DVD that is used across the country in Judges’ symposia. These people have worked tirelessly to assure that judges should be able to pick out the correct type of a Wheaten Terrier. It is not a working dog nor a sporting dog, but a long legged Terrier that should be compared to the Kerry and the Irish Terriers.
Given the new DNA information now available, it might be tempting for breeders to be so focused on health issues that preserving type in the show ring is forgotten, but the history is proud and needs to be honored.