The Irish terrier and the soft-coated wheaten terrier each have their own distinctions among terrier types. The Irish terrier is the only terrier whose coat is entirely red. The soft-coated wheaten terrier is the only terrier with a dense but single coat covering his whole body. Of course, that coat appears in the golden brown tone known as wheaten.
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Both of these breeds originate from Ireland. There's no such breed as an American wheaten terrier -- it's actually a pejorative term used for certain soft-coated wheaten terriers who have woolly, rather than silky, coats. While these dogs make perfectly fine pets, they aren't permitted to compete in conformation classes as soft-coated wheaten terriers since they don't meet the breed standard.
At maturity, the Irish terrier stands 18 inches tall at the shoulders, with male dogs weighing about 27 pounds and females slightly lighter at 25 pounds. The male soft-coated wheaten terrier is just a little bit bigger, with an ideal height of 18.5 inches, although the acceptable range is 18 to 19 inches. The female soft-coated wheaten terrier stands between 17 and 18 inches high. While similar in height, the soft-coated wheaten terrier is much heavier, ranging between 35 to 40 pounds for males and 30 to 35 pounds for females.
The American Kennel Club refers to the Irish terrier as "bold, dashing and tenderhearted." The organization describes the soft-coated wheaten terrier as "happy, friendly and deeply devoted." Both breeds are extremely loyal to their people, but the soft-coated wheaten terrier is more likely to get along with other canines than the Irish terrier. Neither get along with cats.
Of the two, the soft-coated wheaten terrier is easier to train than the headstrong Irish terrier. Both dogs are good with kids. They make good pets for older, active children, because these dogs require a lot of exercise and general tiring out. Because they're naturally territorial, both breeds make good watchdogs, although they can overdo the barking.
Genetic issues in the Irish terrier include:
- eye disorders, including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy
- muscular dystrophy
- and hyperkeratosis, a thickening of the footpads.