Dog lovers who are allergy sufferers rejoice! We are blessed with a range of hypoallergenic dogs! No more sneezing, itching, watery eyes, or rashes!
Sounds too good to be true?
That’s because it is.
While we’d love to tell long-time allergy sufferers that their plight is over, the reality is, there is no real allergy-safe dog.
Before we leave you with that statement, we’re going to cover some of the general misconceptions around hypoallergenic dogs. We want to help clear the blurry line between allergy-safe dogs and those dogs generally less likely to cause a reaction.
What does hypoallergenic mean?
The first misconception lies in understanding the term hypoallergenic; by definition, it means less likely to cause a reaction for people with allergies.
They are simply dogs that are less likely than others to cause an allergic reaction.
What causes allergies?
The second misconception is that humans are allergic to dog hair – so if they don’t have much of it or don’t touch it, you won’t react.
Humans are allergic to a protein found in the urine and saliva of dogs. When dogs groom themselves, it is transferred to their fur, which humans then touch, which is why most humans react after touching a dog.
This fur or hair also is shed into the environment, on the sofas we sit on and the beds we sleep in, so the allergy-causing protein finds its way everywhere.
Regular brushing helps reduce the risk of shedding.
Are low-shedding dogs hypoallergenic dogs?
So surely if a dog is low-shedding, they are hypoallergenic?
Technically, this idea is somewhat accurate. Again, hypoallergenic means less likely to cause a reaction. If a dog is low-shedding, there is less fur or hair in the environment to potentially cause a reaction. But dogs still drool and urinate, so they continue to share the allergy-causing protein.
Hypoallergenic dogs tend to have a tight curly coat. The tight curls trap hair and dander, again limiting its presence in the environment. Due to the nature of the coat, these dogs are usually groomed more regularly, so the frequent bathing and brushing remove the protein from the skin and coat.
This is why most people think breeds mixed with a poodle are allergy-safe, but this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Improve your odds
Suppose you are mating two low-shedding, curly-coated, technically hypoallergenic dogs to produce a litter. In that case, you stand a good chance of getting a puppy with a hypoallergenic, low-shedding curly coat. Consider the Goldendoodle; however, this dog is the result of mating a Golden Retriever with a Poodle.
The Golden is a renowned shedder!
Most owners have tumbleweeds of hair floating around their home year-round! With a first-generation Goldendoodle, you have no idea if you’ll end up with more Golden than Doodle or vice versa. You could have a Goldendoodle with a Poodle coat, but you stand an equal chance of having one with a Golden coat! The same is true for the Labradoodle.
Labradors are excessive shedders too! Later-generation puppies are slightly more predictable, so if you need a more hypoallergic dog, it will pay to search for second-generation or later pups.
Popular low-shedding dog breeds or hypoallergenic dog breeds include Cairn Terrier, Airedale Terrier, Dachshund, Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Chinese Crested, Bichon Frisé, Poodle, Shih Tzu, Afghan Hound, American Hairless Terrier, Portuguese Water Dog, Bedlington Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, and Irish Water Spaniel.
Are dogs with hair safe for allergy sufferers?
The other question often raised is the difference between hairy and furry dogs.
Hair and fur are often used interchangeably when describing dogs. Generally, hair describes a dog who has a single coat. Fur is used to describe a breed with a double coat.
With this in mind, allergy sufferers would generally be better with a dog with hair.
That’s because furry breeds shed excessively (think German Shepherd, Malamute, Labrador, etc.). It’s also worth mentioning the Hairless Chinese Crested – despite its name, it still has hair, and, more importantly, it has skin.
Remember, humans are allergic to a protein found in the dog’s urine and saliva. When they groom themselves, the protein will attach to the skin. Dead skin cells fall off into the environment. So even hairless dogs still pose a threat.
Studies have shown that there is no breed-specific difference for allergies – that is, if you’re allergic to dogs, you’re allergic to all dogs.
But if you are an allergy sufferer, you stand a better chance with a hypoallergenic dog as they are less likely to cause a reaction.
It also is essential to keep your home clean and regularly wash bedding/blankets or any soft furnishings where the dog spends time.
Regular grooming can also keep the allergy-causing protein at bay. Investing in air purifiers and vacuums with a HEPA filter also will be beneficial.
Above all else, check with your health care provider if you suffer from allergies and are considering bringing a dog into your life.
John Woods is the founder and director of All Things Dogs, a graduate in animal behavior and welfare, and a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He founded All Things Dogs in 2018 to educate 40 million pet parents on how to care for their dogs using force-free positive reinforcement training methods.