The Best Dog Breeds for People with Allergies
Though all pups have some potential to trigger a reaction, the kinds that shed less—including poodles, schnauzers, and terriers—may be safer choices. Plus, veterinarians and immunologists share tips for managing pet allergies at home.
If encounters with Fido send you into a fit of sneezing or coughing, or leave you congested, itchy, or short of breath, there's a good chance you're allergic. "This type of reaction is caused by the development of IgE antibodies in response to pet proteins," says Princess Ogbogu, director of allergy and immunology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. That's right, Spot's hair or fur isn't necessarily at fault: The most common culprit is dander—skin particles released as part of normal cell turnover, which carry allergy-causing proteins from the dog's saliva and urine, says Heidi Cooley, veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital.
That said, the troublesome dander often attaches itself to a dog's hair or fur—so, if he sheds a good deal, this can swiftly spread the allergens all over your home. As a result, choosing a breed that's less prone to shedding can limit the potential for frequent or serious reactions. Also consider whether the dog is a size you can comfortably groom and bathe, says Cooley, and plan to do so regularly, only brushing your pup outside (to minimize the amount of pesky airborne dander in your home) and treating his coat with an anti-shedding conditioner.
To breathe easier on a daily basis, take additional steps to allergy-proof your environment, too, says Laurie Millward, assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: "Vacuum often using a machine with a HEPA filter, install a furnace filter made specifically to trap airborne allergens, and wash your bedding and your pet's bedding in a hot cycle on a weekly basis." Also, maintain an allergen-free zone in your bedroom by making this space off-limits to your dog, suggests Ogbogu.
If you know you have a dog allergy, it's smart to consult your doctor before adopting to determine the best approach and discuss medication or treatment options like immunotherapy. Then, consider bringing one of these lovable breeds—all of which tend to shed less or less often—into your home.
These pretty show dogs come in three sizes—miniature, standard, and toy—and across all types, their hair grows in a single soft layer. Though Poodles are infrequent shedders, their curly-cue coats require daily brushing and combing to keep them from matting near the roots, says Millward.
Consider the Yorkshire Terrier: This friendly lap dog is blessed with silky-soft, human-like hair, which can either be grown out fully (until it reaches the floor)—in which case you should brush it daily—or kept short by visiting a groomer for clipping on a regular basis.
A small dog that doesn't mind spending most of its time inside, the Shih Tzu is great for apartment dwellers. Its long, eye-catching coat is perhaps the only high-maintenance thing about it: Brush daily to avoid knotting, and don't forget the hair near its eyes. Shih Tzus are prone to eye conditions like cataracts, retinal problems, and corneal dryness, adds Millward. Gently clean the eye corners whenever you brush and stay on top of yearly veterinary exams.
This affectionate toy dog is surprisingly athletic for its size, though they take well to reward-based training. In the Maltese, its characteristic straight white hair calls for daily brushing to steer clear of tangles. Another area to look out for: its teeth. Without regular dental care, this breed tends to contract tooth or gum disease, especially at an older age, says Millward.
American Hairless Terrier
No hair, no problem: You won't have to worry about brushing with the completely hairless type of this breed, and for the kind with a short, shiny coat, you can easily maintain it with a soft bristle brush just once a week. The lack of hair, however, does make the American Hairless Terrier susceptible to sunburn and sensitive to cold weather, says Millward: "Protection from exposure to prolonged direct sunlight, as well as outerwear for cold winter days are essential."
This happy-go-lucky fluffball of a breed is typically considered hypoallergenic because most shed hair will remain trapped within its undercoat—rather than dispersed throughout your space. Brush a Bichon Frise frequently (at least two to three times a week) to remove the shed hair and take it to the groomer for clipping every four to six weeks.
The Scottish Terrier, otherwise known as Scotties, are dual-coated, sporting a long, wiry outer layer with a dense undercoat, and as a result, they should be hand-stripped (rather than clipped) starting when they are young and about once a month. This process involves pulling dead strands out from the root, rather than just cutting off their top portions—the follicles in wire-coated canines let old hairs release easily—and ensures that a healthy, shiny coat is able to grow in.
Whether giant, standard, or miniature, Schnauzers are recognizable for their long beards, distinct eyebrows, and almost human-like inquisitive expressions. Like Scottish Terriers, they have a double coat, with a harsher, wirier outer layer that is typically water- and dirt-resistant. To keep it that way, as with the Terriers, it's a smart idea to hand-strip, rather than clip the pet, and brush two to three times a week.
Fun, devoted companions, Havanese are great city dogs, says Millward, as they're fine spending time in small spaces, so long as they get sufficient play and attention. You can trim down their soft coats to cut the need for constant grooming, but generally, they'll need brushing two to three times a week.
Portuguese Water Dog
This breed's single coat of tight, low-shedding curls keeps most of its dander from infiltrating your airspace. The Portugese Water Dog can be groomed with the "lion" clip, where the coat is clipped to the skin on just the hindquarters and muzzle, or the basic "retriever" clip, where the full coat is an even one inch in length. Either way, daily brushing and regular baths are necessary to prevent matting.