We have a few long-term rescue dogs, the newest of which is our first wheaten, maybe 5 to 7 years old. Apparently he's been through some hard times, but you'd never guess it from his happy-go-lucky, affectionate, fun-loving, eager-to-please attitude. If I had to recommend a people-friendly, family-friendly dog based on the individual dogs we've helped over the years, it would be this wheaten, hands down. This guy's never shown a hint of people aggression that we know of, not with his original owner, nor his interim short-term rescue home, certainly not with us. He's great with neighborhood kids, which is usually where you'll find him when he escapes. He takes off bouncing and bounding away, but never goes further than the nearest person who'll pet him. He acts overjoyed to see us when we locate him, comes bounding right back to us. (Of course, he plays innocent, pretends he didn't hear us calling him for the past 15 minutes.... )
Our inexperience with terrier training showed, at first, but once we figured out his training buttons, he turned out to be the most compliant dog we've worked with. The key was his almost obsessive desire to please (us), and to receive the treasured "good boy". The best approach, for us, was to walk over and stand directly in front of him with an approving but serious work-time attitude, adopting a work-time command-voice which was distinctly different from our happy-play-time voice, and giving him no physical avenue of escape (if he tried, we'd step sideways and block -- but he was never stubborn about this). We'd make eye contact, and patiently maintain a calm, serious but ALWAYS approving attitude until he became calm and compliant. Once he calmed down, we kept the sessions simple and short, and always ended on a good note (asking him for something easy, praising any effort, correct or not), then a final "good boy" with a great big hug.
Once he realized that he was pleasing us in these work sessions by following commands, he became a humorously obsessive command follower -- any time, any place -- we can't come up with enough of them! Yes, there is the occasional command which he doesn't care for, for example, if he's in the middle of a fun activity and we command him to stop, or if we command him to stay while we leave him alone, and especially anything to do with the dreaded B-A-T-H. He still obeys, but he doesn't jump to action quite as fast, and he makes a really funny little pouting sound.
For all his mischievousness, he's incredibly obedient regarding house-rules when we're away from him. He's the only dog we have whom we can trust to sleep in the room next to the kitchen at night without trying to raid the kitchen. We always greet him next morning with a "good boy".
THE DOWN SIDE: Cats. I couldn't recommend this breed around cats. We're also having a problem with aggressiveness toward our other male dogs, but in retrospect, this is probably more our fault than his. He's always been considerate and submissive around our aging half-blind Lhasa Apso male. He was around other dogs in his interim short-term rescue home with no problems, and went to the dog park regularly while there. We're pretty sure that we missed two of the large young hounds, a female and a male, ganging up on the wheaten while out in the yard together. The three had previously gotten along in the yard and in the house, but this time he went "terrier". Afterward, we could still put him in the yard with the female, but anytime he sees the male hound, there's going to be a fight, so we keep them separate.
We're wondering if this situation developed because we were careless about socializing the wheaten with the hounds, while we were consistently watchful and firm about his behavior around the old Lhasa (whom we're protective of since he's old and small and no longer able to defend himself).
THE INCIDENT: One night a mouse ran across the den floor, under the book case. The wheaten flew after it, and when we went to bed, he was still trying to dig under the book case. We laughed and shrugged, "Terriers." When we got up the next morning, the floor was littered with over a hundred books and a fallen, broken book case; there were scratches on the baseboard behind it. He was lying on the floor staring at the scratched-up baseboard, apparently waiting for the varmit to return. Terriers...
We don't know if our wheaten is typical for the breed, but he surely is pure delight. If you have a sense of humor. rebecca