Small dog, big heart. The Yorkshire terrier, or "Yorkie," has consistently made the American Kennel Club's top 10 list of most popular dog breeds in the U.S. And as if that accolade isn't enough: While not 100 percent "allergy free," Yorkies are a great breed for people suffering with allergies.
A Caveat About "Hypoallergenic" Dogs
Word up: There is no such thing as a "hypoallergenic" dog. As long as dogs (and other animals) shed and produce dander -- skin flakes -- people have the potential to have an allergic reaction. According to the American Lung Association, even saliva and feces can trigger allergies in sensitive owners. However, some dogs, like Yorkies, produce less dander and don't shed as much as other breeds, making them a good choice for allergy sufferers.
The Mighty Yorkie
Just ask their owners: Pound for pound (Yorkies are supposed to weigh less than 7 pounds) this toy breed stacks up to any larger-size dog. Besides having adorable faces, they are very social animals and easily bond with their people. They also have a strong resolve and spunk, which make them ideal candidates for obedience training, and as "terriers," they're "territorial," making them excellent guard dogs who won't hesitate to bark at strangers.
Grooming a Yorkie is Not Optional
Even though allergy sufferers often choose Yorkies for their non-shedding coats, these prepossessing pooches are anything but maintenance-free. Keeping your Yorkie looking good takes considerable time and attention. The Yorkie's long, silky coat, which can easily tangle and mat, requires regular upkeep, either by the owner or a professional groomer. Bathing and brushing is also necessary to help prevent dander from entering the living space. A weekly bath using a dander-reducing shampoo is recommended.
Since purebred Yorkies don't shed and have less dander, they are a good breed for allergy suffers. However, not all Yorkies are created equally. While most designer Yorkies -- the result of purposeful breeding between a Yorkshire terrier and another breed -- are said to be hypoallergenic, be careful. Designer dogs are a combination of breeds. Therefore choose a hybrid whose breed backgrounds are both considered allergy-friendly, such as the Yorkie-bichon or Yorkie-poodle mixes.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.