Dogs give us laughter, joy, and beautiful memories, but they can also give us allergic diseases like hay fever, dermatitis, or asthma. This leaves many pet owners pondering, what are the best dogs for people with dog allergies? To answer this question, we have compiled a list of dog breeds considered to be “hypoallergenic”. Along with this list, you will find out what makes these dogs “hypoallergenic” and what can help you if you begin to develop allergies to your dog. However, before we go over this, it can be helpful to know what causes humans to have allergic reactions to dogs in the first place.
What Are Allergies?
Allergies are caused by an immune system that has become hypersensitive to outside substances which are basically harmless. In essence, cells in your immune system encounter a substance in your body or on your skin, determine that it is dangerous when it is actually harmless, and then initiate an inflammatory response in order to “protect” you. That inflammatory response produces the symptoms we see as an allergic reaction, and the substance that causes the allergic reaction is known as an allergen.
An allergic response may include any of the following symptoms:
Common Allergic Reactions
- Eye and nasal cavity irritation
- Rashes or itchiness all over the body
- Chronic coughing or sneezing
- Congestion in the sinuses (runny nose)
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Serious swelling of the tongue or throat (in anaphylaxis)
- Low blood pressure (in anaphylaxis)
- Anaphylactic shock or death
Many people have a consistent allergic response to the same or multiple allergens and suffer from a chronic allergy. This is usually hereditary and is generally a condition that a person is born with. These people generally require treatments for their allergies, which include medications and avoiding the allergen(s) as much as possible.
What Does It Mean When a Dog is Hypoallergenic?
Dogs can cause allergic responses in certain people. There is a common misconception that the dog’s hair is the allergen. In fact, it is a group of protein in the dog’s skin (or dander), saliva, and urine called canine familiaris allergen (or Can f) that causes the allergic reaction. These allergens are spread along the dog’s hair coat when it grooms or licks itself, and they can get into the environment when the dog sheds its hair or dander. As a result, the areas in your home with the highest concentration of these various Can f allergens include:
- Bedding – This is essentially anywhere that dogs lay, sleep, or lick themselves.
- Upholstered furniture – The allergens found in dogs’ saliva and dander will become attached to any fabric.
- Carpet – Long fibers like the ones found in carpeting can act as natural reservoirs for dog dander and saliva.
Hypoallergenic Dogs Shed Less
A landmark study from 1988 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology demonstrated that every dog produces various Can f allergens. Various studies have shown that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog.
So if all dogs produce Can f allergens and no dog is truly hypoallergenic, what does it mean to have a dog that is called “hypoallergenic? There is some evidence that certain dog breeds may produce less of these allergens than other breeds. For example, a 2005 study in the publication Allergy demonstrates that Labradors, on average, produce less Can f 1. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), hypoallergenic dogs are breeds that shed minimally or not at all. Some may even be entirely hairless and will only shed small amounts of dander. The less hair and dander the dog sheds the more hypoallergenic the breed is for people with allergies.
However, it is important to know that even within a dog breed, there will be individual variation in how much allergen there is on each dog’s skin. The bottom line is, there just no predicting whether a dog, purebred or not, is going to cause problems to someone with allergies.
21 Hypoallergenic Dogs for People With Allergies
Each of these dogs is considered hypoallergenic and could be a good option for people with dog allergies. Like all dogs, they produce Can f allergens, but they shed less fur and dander so that these allergens may accumulate less over the home, especially if you are proactive with measures to reduce hair and dander build-up.
Remember that some people may still be allergic to “hypoallergenic” dogs, so consulting with a physician is a good idea prior to adopting any dog. Also, if you have a severe dog allergy, especially if it’s complicated by asthma, bringing a dog into the household is not a good idea. But for people with milder allergies, it may help to get a dog on a trial basis (such as finding a shelter or breeder who can take the dog back after a few weeks if things don’t work out).
Of all the various dog breeds, the terrier breed has multiple variations that are considered hypoallergenic. The AKC describes all terriers as being “feisty and energetic” as they were bred for hunting and ratting (vermin control). This makes them excellent watchdogs, but they also have the capacity to dig, bark, and sniff around endlessly.
Hypoallergenic Dogs (Terriers):
This terrier breed boasts the nickname title “The King of Terriers” because it is the largest of the terrier breeds. They are large dogs, weighing between 50 to 70 pounds.
As the name states these small terriers, originally from Louisiana, can be hairless, but there are versions with short shiny coats as well. Both versions are considered hypoallergenic.
This small silky haired terrier was developed around Sydney in the 19th century. Its ancestors include the Yorkshire and the Australian Terrier.
This is a midsize English terrier. They sport a coat which can resemble sheep’s wool.
This is a midsize terrier with an “otter shaped” head. They were originally a country breed but adapt well to rural and city areas.
This breed sports the nickname “American Gentlemen,” probably because their coat can resemble a tuxedo. These terriers grow to the height of 15-17 inches and weigh no more than 25 pounds.
This terrier breed was originally bred to hunt small prey like foxes. They are small dogs with thick wiry coats. They love to be outside and dig.
These are fun dogs who enjoy being independent but also make confident companions. Their high spirits earn them the nickname “The Die Hard”. This is a staple of Britain’s terrier breeds.
This terrier breed is called the “Holy Dog of Tibet” and has a long association with Buddhist monasteries. They have long silky hair, resembling their smaller cousin, the Lhasa Apso.
West Highland White
You can refer to them as “Westies” for short. This little hunter is probably the most popular breed of terrier. They grow to about 10 inches in height and sport a thick all-white coat.
These terriers are famous for their long silky coats which resemble human hair and can reach the ground. These short dogs (8-9 inches) were originally developed as ratters to help catch vermin in mines and mills.
Hypoallergenic Dogs (Non-Terriers):
Portuguese water dog
President Obama famously had one named “Bo” because of his daughter Malia’s allergies. It may be obvious from the name of the breed that they are excellent swimmers that love being outdoors.
These are dogs are toy size. They are completely covered in white silky soft hair that keeps growing to the ground unless you groom it.
This is a small, friendly, and loving breed that is particularly good with children. However, they tend to suffer from separation anxiety and do not always adjust well to being in a kennel.
These are related to the Bichon Frise and are also companion dogs that are especially loving, affectionate, and attached to their owners.
These dogs are one of the most popular breeds on the planet and come in three sizes: miniature, standard, and toy. Crossbreeds like the Labradoodle (Labrador plus poodle) are also potentially hypoallergenic.
The AKC initially classified this German breed as a terrier but changed the classification in 1945. They were bred as ratters, watchdogs, and hunters and come in three sizes.
This is an ancient breed that was originally bred for Chinese royalty. Today, we especially prize them for being good with kids.
This breed was created in Belgium 200 years ago. They are excellent watchdogs and supremely intelligent.
This is a very unique-looking dog. It has a coat of lengthy dreadlocks from head to toe! This Hungarian breed was created for herding livestock and is known for being loving with family but wary of strangers.
Pronounced “show-low-eetz-kweent-lee”, this hairless dog is an ancient breed that was created by the Aztecs to serve as a guide and prophet to the underworld. Nowadays, we prize them for their calm and alert demeanors.
Additionally, allergies can be unpredictable. They can come and go at random throughout your life with no warning or reasoning. You may not be allergic to dogs your whole life and then all the sudden you can develop dog allergies. So what can you do to stop dog allergies if you begin to develop any?
How to Reduce Your Dog Allergies?
Allergies can be unpredictable. They can come and go at random throughout your life with no warning or reasoning. You may not be allergic to dogs your whole life and then suddenly become allergic. Exposure to an allergen is a major reason for worsening allergies, so if you develop dog allergies, it is important to speak with your physician about what you are experiencing. You could also take the following precautions to help reduce your allergies:
- Keep the dog out of the bedroom, especially for anyone who has asthma.
- Close the air ducts in the bedroom.
- Always use an air cleaner or HEPA filter. Be sure to service it or replace it regularly.
- Never allow the dog on furniture that has upholstery.
- Vacuum the house and carpets regularly (including any fabrics the dog may have laid on or touched).
- Wash the dog regularly (no more than once a week), but be sure to use shampoo specifically created for dogs and not regular soap, so as not to dry their skin and cause an increase in dander.
- Regularly clean your home and not allow dust to accumulate.
- Take an over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication like fexofenadine (Allegra), loratadine (Claritin), or diphenhydramine (Benadryl).