TO TRIM OR NOT TO TRIM? That is the Question! By Sue Goldberg
I n the late 1960s, we were living on Long Island and looking for a non-shedding dog in addition to our Pixiecroft-sired miniature Poodle. Attending the Westbury Kennel Club show, watching the Miscellaneous Class, we fell in love with what was then called the Soft Coated Wheaten. Note that the word “terrier” was omitted from the name. Good thing. We had two young sons—we would never consider a TERRIER! Billed as a minia- ture sheepdog, these were shaggy, happy, fun-loving, medium-sized and non-shed- ding. Perfect for a young family. After nearly three years of follow- ing the breed, we finally acquired our first Wheaten: Legenderry’s Iollann the Fair, ROM, pick of the first litter sired by Jackie Gottlieb’s Ch. Stephen Dedalus of Andover (“Sweeney”), who was to become the watershed sire of our breed. He was personality-plus crowned with a glorious, untrimmed, silky golden coat and I was hook, line and sinker in love. I told my husband if I ever left him for another male, it would be for this dog! Sweeney’s pretty, golden sheepdog look changed the course of Wheatens at the
time as it had great appeal to the meticu- lous housewife and stay-at-home Moms and that’s what most of us were. My “mentors” in the breed were in it maybe two or three years longer than I. None of us were “dog people”, coming to Wheatens from other breeds. We were a bunch of PTA Moms learning as we went. AKC recognition was a distant goal; for now, we’d show in Miscellaneous, get our ribbon and go home. We proudly wore our t-shirts that read “I Love Wheatens NATU- RALLY!” and aimed for the Non-Sporting group to allow us to retain the untrimmed look. Meanwhile, across the Delaware Riv- er, in Pennsylvania, lived our arch enemies: “ Th e Trimmers”! Th e Trimmers believed these were ter- riers and thus these heretics trimmed the coats and docked the tails to a length more in keeping with a handle of a vermin-hunt- er—rather repugnant to Non-Trimmers who worshipped the long, flowing locks of our pretty house pets. We docked the tails quite short—á la Sheepdog—and the length of the tail alone revealed on which side of the Delaware the dog had been bred. Judges said they looked like two di ff erent breeds.
In 1973, recognition came and we were assigned to the Terrier Group. While most of us were figuring out Reserve Win- ners, the race to finish the first Champi- ons began. Jackie turned Sweeney over to the venerable Cli ff Hallmark to handle; Cli ff picked up his scissors and turned our mascot into a TERRIER! Th e halcy- on days were over. Th e two factions made peace and reluctantly, we began to trim and, with many variations along the way, eventually developed the look of today: six hours of studied naturalness! Fortunately, from our original Stan- dard to the current, the mantra remains the same: Th e Wheaten is a natural dog and must so appear. Our Standard states, “Coat: A distinguishing characteristic of the breed which sets the dog apart from all other Ter- riers. Th e Wheaten is presented to show a terrier outline, but coat must be of su ffi cient length to flow when the dog is in motion.” It adds, “Dogs that are overly trimmed shall be severely penalized.” We count on the judges to preserve that distinction. We’ve come a long way since then, and a square Wheaten with a bang-up tail and a silky flowing coat is a joy to behold. I must confess, however, that when I see a five-month-old untrimmed puppy with that mini-Sheepdog look, my heart still melts. BIO Sue Goldberg, Wheatens of Shandalee, is a Breeder of Merit with 70 Champions, Group and Specialty winners and 3 of the breeds Top Producers to her credit. She co-authored the SCWTCA Owners’ Manual, Code of Eth- ics , and the Breed Standard . She has been a keynote speaker at numerous seminars, a Delegate since 1988 and judges the Terrier and Sporting Groups , half the Non-Sporting breeds, Juniors and BIS. She judged Wheat- ens at Montgomery in 2010; two National Specialties inCanada; multiple Regional Spe- cialties across the US, plus numerous Terrier and Sporting Specialties; as well as assign- ments in Europe and China.
By 1990, we had achieved and accepted the trim we see today: a square terrier outline yet leaving enough coat to flow when the dog is in motion. Note that tails were nowdocked longer.
The ‘mini-Sheepdog’ look that put the breed on the map on the East Coast. The year is 1971. Note the length of the tail.
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