If you suffer from pet allergies, finding the right dog breed can seem daunting. You’ve been reading pet adoption profiles and Googling “best dogs for allergies,” “non-shedding dogs” and “managing pet allergies.” But understanding what the word hypoallergenic really means and which low-shedding dogs are right for you can help you in your search.
An estimated 30 percent of people with allergies have a reaction to dogs and cats (that said, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America notes that cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies), so it is important to be sure that welcoming a dog into your family isn’t also inviting awful allergy attacks.
Hypoallergenic Dogs: Do They Exist?
You might think that adopting a non-shedding dog (or a dog with no hair like the Chinese Crested) means you won’t have allergies. But it’s not dog fur that’s the issue: allergies are an immune response to the proteins that are found in a dog’s urine, saliva and dander, not their fur.
“All dogs have allergenic proteins,” says Dr. Courtney Jackson Blair, owner of Allergy and Asthma Associates, P.C. in Virginia and president of the Greater Washington Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society. “’Hypo’ just means less, not zero.”
In fact, research found that there are no differences in the level of dog allergens in homes with hypoallergenic breeds and homes with dogs not considered to be hypoallergenic. Even the American Kennel Club notes that no dog is 100 percent hypoallergenic.
Although finding a dog that doesn’t shed won’t make your allergies go away, there are dog breeds that do shed less and can cause fewer allergic reactions; these breeds are often called hypoallergenic.
What Makes a Dog Hypoallergenic?
Dogs breeds that are considered hypoallergenic have fewer allergenic proteins in their saliva, urine and fur than non-hypoallergenic breeds, Blair says. In other words, the length of a dog’s coat (or if they have no hair) has no impact on whether it will trigger allergies in a particular person.
While there are no guarantees that a dog, even a hypoallergenic breed, won’t have allergens, there are a few traits that tend to make dogs less prone to triggering allergic reactions:
- Reproductive status. Blair says that neutered male dogs and female dogs (both in-tact and spayed) tend to be less allergenic than intact male dogs. The reason: hormones affect levels of allergenic proteins.
- Size. Smaller dogs tend to be more hypoallergenic than larger dogs. “The bigger the dog, the more surface area and the more potential to shed allergens,” Blair says.
- Yappiness. If you have allergies, skip the breeds known to be big barkers. Blair says that yappy dogs tend to spray more saliva, which is a source of allergens.
19 Hypoallergenic Dogs That Don’t Shed (Much)
When it comes to allergies, dogs that don’t shed or shed less tend to trigger fewer allergic reactions. And low-shedding dog breeds come in all sizes, colors and temperaments, from petite Yorkshire Terriers and Miniature Schnauzers to Afghan Hounds and Irish Water Spaniels.
Here are the 19 best dogs for allergies:
Small Dogs That Don’t Shed Much
Weighing in at under 10 pounds, the affable Affenpinscher has a medium-length coat. While these active, outgoing toy dogs do shed, their wiry coats are considered hypoallergenic.
American Hairless Terrier
A hairless breed seems like a natural fit for a home with pet allergies. The American Hairless Terrier requires almost zero grooming but will need a coat if you live in colder climates.
This uncommon breed might be worth searching out if allergies are a concern. Bedlington Terriers have curly coats made up of a mix of long and short hair that is crisp, not wiry, and low shedding.
Although it looks like a fluffy cotton ball, the Bichon Frise has a white, curly coat that’s considered low shedding and hypoallergenic. Be prepared to devote time to grooming to keep their coats looking good, however.
The Bolognese might look like it has a bad case of bedhead but its long, wavy coat is silky smooth and considered hypoallergenic, making it a good choice for small dog breeds that don’t shed.
With their hairless bodies and smooth skin with just a few tufts of hair on their head, ankles and tails, the Chinese Crested is a low-shedding breed with a punk rock hairdo that requires regular grooming.
Coton de Tulear
These sturdy little dogs were named for their abundant white coats that are as soft as cotton. The breed does shed and requires frequent grooming but their wavy, double coats are considered hypoallergenic.
With a name that means “little lion” in German, these low-shedding dogs have long, soft coats with lots of waves that are often cut in a lion clip (short on the body with a “mane” and puffs of hair around their heads, legs and tail).
When it comes to small dog breeds that don’t shed much, the miniature Maltese tops the list. There is some grooming required to maintain their long, straight, silken coats, but it is worth the effort.
The toy breed is known for its glossy, floor-length coat that is both low shedding and high maintenance. Fortunately, these sometimes-feisty lap dogs will happily sit for grooming sessions.
Medium Dogs That Don’t Shed Much
With their smooth, short coats, independent natures and high energy levels, these hound dogs are a great choice for active families.
Kerry Blue Terrier
These terriers have medium-length, wavy coats that come in shades of blue, from light blue-grey to deep slate. The Kerry Blue Terrier’s dense coat is also surprisingly soft.
Portuguese Water Dog
In addition to being smart and eager to please, Portuguese Water Dogs have medium-length coats made up of tight, dense curls. These medium-sized dog breeds don’t shed, making them ideal for families with allergies.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
These pretty pooches live up to their names: they have a medium-length, wavy coat that is low shedding and feels like velvet. That said, be prepared for a lot of upkeep as their coats can get matted without regular brushing.
Big Dogs That Don’t Shed Much
With their long, flowing coats, an Afghan Hound might seem like an odd choice if you have pet allergies, but they shed surprisingly little and tend to have low dander. Just remember: It takes a lot of grooming to maintain those gorgeous coats.
All of the “doodle” breeds, like the Goldendoodle and the Labradoodle, were bred (and gained popularity) as hypoallergenic dogs. Like their poodle relatives, doodles have long, curly, low-shedding coats that are easy on allergies.
This large-breed working dog is a frequent shedder and requires regular grooming, but their medium-length, wirehaired coats tend to be easy on allergies. The miniature Schnauzer is also a good choice if you prefer a smaller version of this gentle giant.
Irish Water Spaniel
The Irish Water Spaniel is a large dog breed that doesn’t shed much. They’re known for their trademark medium-length, waterproof curly coats that are perfect for swimming.
The Poodle is often the first breed that comes to mind when it comes to hypoallergenic dogs. Toy, miniature and standard Poodles are all low shedding and their long, curly coats can be groomed to achieve the traditional “poodle cut.”
How to Cope With Pet Allergies
Since there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog, it’s important to consider how you’ll cope with pet allergies if your dog causes a reaction. Consider the following:
Maintain boundaries. Keeping dogs out of the bedroom (and off of the bed) can help minimize allergens in your sleeping space, therefore minimizing the risk that you’ll spend all night sniffling and sneezing.
Install a filter. In addition to your furnace filter, Blair suggests purchasing a free-standing high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your home. “It removes fine dust and allergens from the air, including pet allergens,” she says.
Schedule a dog spa day. Regular baths can remove allergens from your dog’s fur, Blair notes. Just make sure not to bathe your dog too often.
Talk to your doctor. A board-certified allergist can recommend the right medications to control your allergies. The options range from over-the-counter nasal sprays and antihistamines to prescription steroid medications and allergy shots.
Consider staying pet-free. Blair understands the joys of having a four-legged companion but, for those with severe allergies or asthma, she suggests reconsidering adopting a dog. “It’s not worth sacrificing your health,” she says.