If you have asthma or allergies you might feel concern about getting a dog, particularly if you've had past allergic reactions. That doesn't mean you're out of luck. Although allergy experts agree a wholly hypoallergenic dog does not exist, some breeds are less prone to provoke allergic reactions than others.
Causes of Allergic Reactions
It is commonly thought that hair shedding is the principle cause of people's allergic reactions to dogs. In fact, the real source of the problem is a protein in your dog's saliva or urine. This protein sticks to his coat and skin when he licks himself and stays attached to the flakes of dry skin, called dog dander. Dander falls on floors and furniture around your home.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dog breeds that shed little or no hair are considered hypoallergenic simply because they put less dander in the home. However, it would be wrong to think that any breed sheds no dander at all. The key to finding the right dog if you're allergic is to look for the breeds that shed less dander.
Poodle, Labradoodle and Goldendoodle
When it comes to recommendations for a suitable dog for an allergery sufferer, the poodle breed frequently tops the list. Toy, miniature and standard poodles have hair that doesn't shed or at least sheds minimally, and you have to take your poodle for a trim only about every six to eight weeks.
Similarly, the hybrid labradoodle and goldendoodle, which are cross-breeds of the standard or miniature poodle with the Labrador or golden retriever, are minimal shedders having inherited the poodle hair.
In general, smaller dogs tend to appear in lists of hypoallergenic dogs more often than larger breeds do. Yorkshire terriers and the Maltese have no undercoat and shed very little. The Shih Tzu, whether you keep him clipped or let his hair grow long, is another low-shedder and the Bichon Frise sheds even less, although his curly, white coat needs regular grooming to stop it from becoming a mass of tangles. Two of the more unusual breeds known to be low-shedders are the Hungarian Puli, which has a dreadlocklike long coat, and the Italian Bergamasco, whose similar cordlike coat requires only the occasional bath.
There can be few Portuguese water dogs more famous than Bo Obama. When the presidential family was considering a suitable dog breed, hypoallergenic status was an important consideration as the President's daughter Malia has a dog allergy. Water dogs, whether they are Portuguese, Spanish or the Italian Lagotto Romagnola, are all highly-rated for being low-shedders. Like the poodle, they all have curly coats that need to be trimmed rather than brushed to keep them in shape. The Portuguese water dog is one of the breeds recommended for allergy sufferers by the American Kennel Club.
Tips for Allergy Sufferers
There are a few additional steps you can take to minimize your exposure to dog dander in your house, even if your dog is hypoallergenic. Dr. James Li, allergy and asthma specialist at the Mayo Clinic, recommends keeping your dog outdoors if the weather is fine. He suggests you keep your dog out of your bedroom, and even out of all the rooms you use a lot, although that may be more difficult.
Carpets trap a lot of dander, so allergy sufferers living with a dog should have wood or laminate flooring, or should shampoo the carpets regularly. Also, a high-efficiency particulate air purifier (HEPA) filter will help reduce your exposure to airborne dander.
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.