Learning that you or a family member is allergic to pet dander can be incredibly disappointing. Of course, you want to feel your best — no one wants to get bogged down by allergy symptoms, which can sometimes be severe — but the thought of foregoing the love of a furry friend may be too much to consider. In some cases, adopting a hypoallergenic dog may be the solution to your problems.
But it’s important to understand that these breeds, while less problematic than some, may still not be suitable for everyone who suffers from dander allergies. Here’s what you need to know about hypoallergenic dog breeds.
It would be amazing if you could adopt a dog that was guaranteed not to inflame your allergies, but unfortunately there’s no such thing.
“No dog is 100% hypoallergenic, but there are dogs that can cause fewer allergic reactions. These breeds usually don’t shed excessively and usually have fur that is much thinner and silkier than non-hypoallergenic breeds,” Dr. Courtnye Jackson, DVM, a veterinarian and the founder of The Pets Digest, says.
The thing is, dog (or pet) allergies are usually related to pet dander, hair, saliva or urine. Dander is the major culprit, and it’s actually dead skin cells attached to the fur that shed from the pet when the hair sheds that sets off allergies. So if you have a dog breed that sheds less, there’s less of a chance you’ll be negatively affected by the hair or dander.
But she adds that minimal shedding won’t change the fact that you might have a reaction to the dog’s saliva or urine. There’s also no guarantee that your low-shed dog won’t still leave some fur and dander around to kick up your allergies.
When you’re looking for a “hypoallergenic” dog breed, you’re really looking for a low-shed dog breed. Jackson points out that some of the most common dog breeds that shed less include:
● Yorkshire Terriers
● Bichon Frises
● Chinese Cresteds (which are hairless)
These breeds aren’t the only options out there, but they tend to be popular because they’re mostly smaller dogs and well-known breeds. Some mix breeds like labradoodles (lab, poodle mixes) and goldendoodles (golden retriever, poodle mixes) shed less too due to being part “hypoallergenic” — but there’s no guarantee that a mixed breed will maintain the low-shed fur. Any mixed breed may maintain the genetics of either breed, so it’s important to pay attention to every individual dog’s shedding when considering adopting one of these mixes.
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Many hypoallergenic dog breeds are considered to be great family dogs, as testified by the popularity of goldendoodles, labradoodles, poodles (standard and miniature), Yorkshire Terriers and maltese. That said, you still need to pay close attention to the known temperament of the hypoallergenic dog breed you’re considering.
“As with all dogs, each breed has its own particular traits and characteristics. West Highland Terriers, for example, are extremely loyal, but due to their hunter instincts they are less suitable for families with young children, whereas poodles are [usually] both loyal and comfortable around kids and adults,” John Woods, a professional dog trainer and the founder of All Things Dogs, says. “In general, though, with many of the hypoallergenic breeds being smaller- to medium-sized dogs, they are well-suited to city living and households where space may be at a premium.”
Woods specifically points to poodles and their mixes (Irish Doodles, goldendoodles, miniature goldendoodles, whoodles, labradoodles, and miniature labradoodles), Portuguese Water Dogs and Samoyeds as being great, kid-friendly options for hypoallergenic dogs. On the other hand, he states that the West Highland Terrier and the Italian Greyhound, while both also hypoallergenic breeds, may be less suitable for families with children.
If you are looking to adopt a hypoallergenic dog, we encourage you to check out our shelter partners.
The best hypoallergenic dog for you or your family will come down to many details: what size dog do you want? Do you want a playful dog, or more of a low-key dog? Do you want to be able to travel with your pet (larger dogs may not be able to fly in the cabin of a plane with you)? Do you want or need a dog that requires lots of exercise?
When looking for a hypoallergenic dog, consider the breed characteristics as much as (or more than) the fact that it doesn’t shed much. These are the breeds you should research before making a decision on adding a hypoallergenic family member:
● Shih Tzu
● Airedale Terrier
● Wirehaired pointing griffon
● Poodle (and all its crosses)
● Miniature schnauzer
● Bichon frise
● Soft-coated wheaten terrier
● Portuguese Water Dog
● Scottish Terrier
● Cairn terrier
● Italian Greyhound
● Chinese Crested
● Giant schnauzer
● Border terrier
● Wire fox terrier
● Brussels Griffon
● Irish Terrier
● Welsh Terrier
● Irish Water Spaniel
● Afghan Hound
The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.
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Photo by Fredrik Öhlander on Unsplash