Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds: Separating Myth from Fact
You’ve heard of hypoallergenic products, but hypoallergenic dogs? Seasonal allergy sufferers are all too familiar with the watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, possibly itchy skin, and general misery allergies bring on. Pollen is often named the culprit but sometimes the family dog is the problem. Where human suffering reaches a crescendo, difficult decisions often must be made about whether the dog should stay or go.
If you suffer from dog allergies, take heart: there are things you can do to rid or ease your symptoms without banishing the beloved family dog. And some dog breeds seem less likely to stimulate an allergic reaction in humans than others; you may be able to avoid draconian measures after all.
Am I allergic to dogs?
The human immune system is pretty smart: it’s designed to know when something is bad and get rid of it, stat. Occasionally, though, it mistakes a foreign substance as a toxin even when it’s innocent: pollen and pet dander are classic examples. So when an allergic person inhales one of these substances his immune system kicks into high gear and produces inflammation in the nasal passages or lungs instead of allowing the tiny offender to mind its own business. With prolonged exposure to the allergen, the problem can evolve into a chronic condition.
Where dog allergies are concerned many folks mistakenly believe hair is the problem. But the irritant is actually a protein found in the dog’s dander—the loose scales on her skin—and in her saliva, urine, and sweat. It even has a name: Can F1. Dander in particular is a problem because it can remain airborne for a long time, eventually clinging to clothing and upholstery. The Can F1 protein in your dog’s saliva can also adhere to household textiles, and once dried may become airborne as well. Allowing dust or pollen to accumulate in her hair can make bad matters worse.
Facts (and Fiction) About Being Allergic to Dogs
Are there hypoallergenic dog breeds?
Strictly speaking, no. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, while some dogs may be less aggravating to allergy sufferers, all of them (even hairless ones) possess the capacity to induce an allergic reaction: there is no 100 percent allergy-free furry animal in the world.
But some breeds appear to be better than others for allergy-suffering humans; these tend to be low dander-producing, low-shedding dogs. And looks can be deceiving—many of the best dogs for allergy sufferers come with copious amounts of hair.
The Best Dogs for People with Allergies
We’ve compiled a short list of our five favorite “hypoallergenic” dogs, but there are many, many other low-dander dog breeds.
1. The Standard Poodle
The high-energy Poodle got her start as a sporting dog for French duck hunters; she is exceptionally smart and excels in obedience. Her coat requires regular professional grooming, but she sheds very few of her curly locks, which means dander is more likely to stay put.
2. The Bichon Frisé
Looking for all the world like a powder puff, the Bichon Frisé is a naturally gentle, playful dog. A bonus: he’s a love sponge, cultivating his reputation as a cuddly lap dog.
3. The Schnauzer
How could you not love that bearded face? The noble Schnauzer is an excellent dog breed for allergy sufferers in any of its three size varieties (miniature, standard, and giant), but the Miniature Schnauzer in particular adapts well to any living arrangement.
4. The Maltese
Small, brave, fearless. The Maltese is an excellent family dog: this little guy is full of energy and playfulness, but is also known as one of the gentlest small breeds.
5. The Portuguese Water Dog
She is an athletic gal who requires daily vigorous exercise; she’s also smart and responsive to obedience training. Her thick coat requires regular maintenance, but may be groomed in the “lion” clip (hind quarters and muzzle are clipped to the skin) or retriever clip (the entire coat is cut to an inch and follows the dog’s contours) to simplify your life and hers.
As a footnote, the sportsman you love who suffers from dog allergies might enjoy the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Weighing in at about 60 lbs., this breed possesses a wiry coat with some of the same characteristics as his fellow “hypoallergenic” canines, and is capable of hunting, pointing, retrieving, and tracking. He sheds only minimally, is moderately easy to train, and makes an excellent watchdog. He loves cold, hates heat, and is known to be playful, energetic, and affectionate around kids.
Finally, know you needn’t spend a fortune on a highly pedigreed pooch: there are thousands of low-dander and low-shedding dogs, including poodles and terriers, awaiting adoption at shelters across the country.
If you or someone in your household suffers from non-life-threatening dog allergies, the family dog may still be able to healthfully coexist with you. And for many, the benefits of living with a dog simply outweigh the drawbacks of dog-induced allergies. Find a low-dander dog breed suitable for your home environment, keep her and your house as clean as you can, and enjoy your life with a dog.