The soft coated wheaten terrier is a notoriously independent and therefore difficult dog to train.  Wheatens are extremely cheerful, energetic and sociable.  Plan on being at work all day while your wheaten is at home?  Think again.  Wheaten Terriers have been described as bouncy, puppies that bounce up and down in an attempt to lick (or sometimes bite) people’s faces.  This is all in good fun for the wheaten, but it can be major problem if not curtailed when young.  As mentioned, wheatens act as puppies for their entire lives.  Wheatens will greet strangers with the love of an old friend, however, their greeting typically involves jumping, licking and sometimes playful biting.  In order have yourself a well behaved and socialized adult wheaten terrier, you must make it a point to invest time into training them while puppies.  If you have yourself a brand new wheaten, between 8 and 12 weeks of age, you should be able to train him or her with these tips.

Dog Psychology – Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Training

Wheatens are an extremely sensitive and intelligent breed.  They are capable of learning complex requests, however, most tend to bore easily by repetitive tasks and can be stubborn with improper handling.  Your job as an owner of a soft coated wheaten terrier is to train your puppy to react in certain ways to given stimuli.  Adult wheatens that act out or are misbehaved do this as a result of poor training as young dogs.  Training your puppy is imperative to its growth and behavior as an adult.

Who’s The Boss?

Soft coated wheaten terriers are known for their alpha dog mentality.  They prefer to rule the roost, and will act as if they are in control of your household if not taught otherwise.  The concept of pack order is either misunderstood or not even considered by most dog owners.  Dogs require an alpha dog in their pack, and in doing so, they require a leader, one who must be obeyed.  As a pack animal, dogs look to their leaders for guidance.  If their leader does not, or can not provide guidance the dog will seek to become the alpha.  You must assert yourself as the alpha leader in your “pack.”  Dogs are direct descendants of wolves.  In a wolfpack, two alpha wolves exist, a male and a female.  These wolves hunt, they eat first, and they provide guidance and leadership.  So, how do YOU become the alpha?  Try the following exercises:

  • Avoid playing games that put you on the same level as your dog (think tug of war, wrestling etc.)
  • Never allow your male dog to hump you
  • Treats are only to be given when earned by respecting a command of yours
  • The bed is for humans, not dogs!
  • Lead your dog into and out of rooms.  You walk first!
  • Establish set feeding times
  • You and your family eat first, dog second

Praise & Punishment…with some correction mixed in

If you fail to become the alpha, you will lose the respect of your soft coated wheaten terrier.  Consistency is key here.  Using the same words, reacting in the same fashion to his actions and being stern are extremely important.  If you fail in one of these you may end up with an alpha dog that does not respect you as the leader.  If you find your wheaten acting in a way inconsistent with the commands you will learn below, you must correct him.  Correct him firmly with a solid “NO.”  Be consistent with your use of the word and ignore the puppy after bad behavior in conjunction with the use of “No.”

The Tools of The Trade

You will need a few basic tools to train your soft coated wheaten terrier.  You will need a basic leash (6ft. is the standard length for training, no retractable leashes), you will need a flat collar which can be found online or at any pet store as well as a slip collar.  Slip collars are also known as chokers and if used incorrectly can actually choke your puppy.  Always be sure to read the instructions on the package before training with a slip collar.  The slip collars should be used for only training exercises.

The Most Common Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Behavior Problems:

Digging – Digging is an instinct that is common throughout the terrier family.  They just love to dig.  The soft coated wheaten terrier is no different.  If you have a wheaten that digs like crazy you can curtail it in the following ways:

  • When your wheaten terrier starts to dig, step outside toward your dog and throw an object filled with loose coins (soda bottle, can etc.) into the hole.  Tell him “NO.”  The expectation here is that the wheaten will be startled by the sound and the correction word and will associate them with digging as he grows.
  • Another way to protect against digging is to collect your dogs fecal matter and fill the most recently dug hole with it.  This should change the association with digging in your wheaten terrier’s mind as he ages.

Biting – Puppies learn by mouthing.  They use their mouths to ascertain information about the world.  This can be useful for the puppy, but also dangerous if the biting extends to you or your family’s skin!  As an adult, a wheaten’s bite is extremely dangerous, and so the biting must be resolved as a puppy.  When the puppy begins his mouthing routine on your hand for instance, you want to lightly tap on your puppy’s nose with your finger and tell him “No Bite.”  If he continues to mouth after this corrective instruction you are to secure his lower jaw in your hand (lightly, this is not intended to hurt) and tell him again, “NO BITE!”  When you let go of the jaw and the puppy ceases his biting, reward him with a treat.  And reinforce by telling him he is a good boy/girl after accepting the substitute treat.  If the act of mouthing/biting continues simply repeat the steps above until your puppy associates biting with being tapped on their sensitive nose, and or grabbed onto.

Separation Anxiety – Soft coated wheaten terriers are notorious for their separation anxiety issues.  My wife’s wheaten Wesley would leave cleverly placed droppings throughout the home to alert his family that he was not happy with their departure.  Our new addition Andy howled in his playpen for hours on end when we left him home one day while my wife and I worked.  They love family, company and hate loneliness.  It is their big hearts that lead them to be so devastated by lonesomeness.  So what can you do?  You can start by not making a production of your departures.  Making a big fuss over leaving your wheaten alone will only make him more alert to the fact that your are gone and he is alone.  Try your best not to shower your wheaten with kisses when you return either.  You want to take the production value out of leaving and returning.  If you can master this, you will be 90% of the way there.  There are ways to train this type of behavior out of your wheatie.  You can start with small separation exercises.  Begin by leaving your wheaten in his crate in a room next to yours with a toy or bone.  Do not return until the whining and crying ceases.  Reward your wheaten for relaxing.  Repeat these steps with longer durations each time.  Your wheaten will learn that being apart from his owners is not only ok, but occurs frequently.

The Basic Commands

Ever wonder how some dogs are so adept at commands such as sit, heel, stay, come, down, etc.?   Well it’s no secret.  Training.  Every dog should know the five basics, sit, heel, down, come and stay.  If you can master these your dog will be well on his way to a well behaved and intelligent life.  So where do you start?  Teach your pup the heel position.  Everything should start from this position.

Heel Position – Pup on your left side, facing forward.  See, simple! This is the building block for the rest of your training so the heel command is extremely important to master.

How to Teach Your Wheaten to Heel

To get your wheaten into the heel position you want to start him out on your left side.  When he spends a few moments either sitting/standing or lying in that position give him a treat.  Consistency again is key.  Use “Heel” as the term to be identified with this position.  Lure your dog to the heel position by saying “Name, Heel!” and draw him to your left side facing forward.  Reward this behavior upon completion.  Only reward crisp completion of the heel command

Training your wheaten to heel while walking

Apply the training collar to your wheaten and have him assume the heel position.  Once there, with treat in hand, say “Name, Heel!” and begin pacing forward.  Walk with your left foot first so that he can see your movement.  If your wheaten begins to move faster or slower than you, show him his treat and pull him gently to the correct position.  Once there, praise him verbally or with the treat.  When you stop request that he assume the heel position and give him a treat when he does.  Always start walking left foot first!

Train Your Wheaten to Sit

With your wheaten behind you in the heel position, again with the training collar on, hold a treat over your dog’s nose just out of his reach and slowly move away.  With your free hand, lightly put downward pressure on his hind quarters and say “Name, Sit.”  Once his butt touches the floor, reward him with a treat and repeat.  Practice this often and always reward.

Train Your Wheaten to Lay Down

Again, in the heel position, hold a treat at your pup’s nose and in a quick motion draw the treat down the floor while simultaneously saying “Name, Down!”  He should follow the treat down to the ground.  Upon successful completion reward your wheaten with a treat.

Train Your Wheaten to Stay

Again, begin in the heel position and put him in a sit or down position.  Tell your wheaten, “Name, Stay!” and take a couple steps, right foot leading this time away from your wheaten.  Once you are a few steps ahead of him, turn around and face your wheaten.  If he tries to follow you, firmly state, “Name, No, Stay!”  And move him back to his original heel position.  This is one of the more difficult commands for a young pup to achieve so do not become angry and scold your pup.  Once your puppy stays for a few seconds and before he rises to move you want to praise him both verbally and with a treat.  You want to slowly repeat these steps and work your pup up to 10, 20, 30 seconds and so on.

Train Your Wheaten to Come

Start the come training by using the 6 foot lead attached to the puppies normal collar.  Have him start in the heel position, give him the stay command and walk yourself away to the end of the leash.  Give him the stay command as you walk away.  Once you are 6 feet away with the leash nearly taught, say “Name, Come!” and give a gentle tug on the leash.  If he resists, gently reel him in.  Clap your hands if he continues to resist.  Always give him a treat when he arrives at your feet.  Once your wheaten terrier has successfully mastered the 6 foot come command you can begin lengthening the distance between you.  Add a few feet each time, repeating the above process.  All of this initial training should be done in a comfortable area in your home with minimal distraction.  Once he has mastered 15 feet in a secure home environment you will then move outdoors to less secure and higher distraction venue.  Once your wheaten answers promptly with his leash repeatedly, you can begin training off-leash with only verbal/clap commands.

House Training a Wheaten Terrier

Good luck!  Just kidding.  Wheatens are smart and can learn anything, including using the bathroom outside of your home.  The key, as with any of the above training regimens is consistency, and you as the owner.  Your wheaten is more than capable of learning just about anything you throw at him.  It is your job to teach.  So how do you train your puppy to evacuate outside?  Crate training.  The concept here is that as pack animals, dogs consider any enclosed area to be their den.  Dogs instinctively do not want to ruin their den with excrement.  Since they try not to soil this area they will typically hold it until released.  There are a few things to remember regarding crate training however; Make sure the crate is the proper size for you puppy.  If it is too big, he will use a corner away from his sleeping area to relieve himself, thereby ruining the exercise.  If your cage is too large and is a wire type, consider using a divider to reduce the available square footage.  Do not put food or water in the crate with your pup.  As soon as you release your pup from the cage take him outside quickly.  Any time your puppy is not under direct supervision by you or your family members, he should be crated.  This may not sound fund, but it is imperative to his development, and your happiness.

How Long Can a Puppy “Hold It”

The general rule of thumb here is that puppies can hold it about an hour for every month they are old for their first year.  Puppies have been known to hold their bowels for up to 8 or 9 hours at ages as young as 9 weeks, but this should never be relied upon, or, expected of a young wheaten pup.

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