Although 48 dog breeds are listed (with detailed information on each breed) as “good for allergy sufferers” on www.dogbreedinfo.com/allergy.htm, the site also notes that individuals will react differently to individual dogs.
That means, according to Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, head of the Asthma and Allergic Disease Center at the University of VA, that individual dogs within a breed can cause a reaction among allergic individuals. (Wiki)
Dr. Platts-Mills says that the actual allergens are the protein within a dog’s dander and saliva. Thus, no dog is actually allergy-proof.
Some hairless and non-shedding breeds are definitely “safer” than the shedders. Ten of the best-known purebreds are listed alphabetically from the site, followed by details on those selected breeds drawn from The Little Guides: Dogs.
Dr. Platts-Mills suggests some things that families with allergy sufferers can do to make things more pleasant for those family members.
Bathe the dog frequently – even twice per week – can help get rid of excess dander.
Vacuum frequently. If you restrict the pet to specific, more easy-to-clean areas like non-carpeted areas, you will be able to keep down the dander and allergens the dog might bring in on its body from the outdoors. Some dogs will allow you to vacuum them, if you teach them when they’re young enough to accept the noise and feel of a vacuum.
Use an air cleaner (and vacuum) with a HEPA air filter. This might help, especially in the areas where the dog spends most of his time or in the allergy sufferer’s bedroom at night.
Allergic people who are very-determined to become pet owners might be willing to undergo allergy testing and desensitization procedures by getting “allergy shots.” Once he/she is tested for specific allergens, the person can be injected with small doses of those substances over, usually, two or more years.
The more-common and easier-to-obtain “hypoallergenic breeds” include the American Hairless Terrier (AHT). According to dogbreedinfo.com, this breed does not have body hair nor does it produce dander. The AHT is considered to be less allergenic than even Poodles, Yorkies, Bichons and Wheaten Terriers.
Allergy sufferers who have quick reactions to allergens should visit a particular dog before adoption or purchase. An individual can react differently to different dogs from the same litter. Since the pet may live for 10 to 15 years or more, play it very safe, rather than sorry.
Ten breeds are listed below with information about temperament, description of the breed, grooming and exercise needs, and general size.
1. The American Hairless Terrier is an affectionate, lively, intelligent, playful dog; good with children; fairly-territorial, but usually friendly with strangers. They are good watchdogs; they are not good swimmers; and their skin is susceptible to sunburn. They love to dig; do not drool; and need sweaters outdoors in wintertime. They will “break out in a sweat when hot or scared.” Height: 7 to 16 inches (18-41 cm); weight: 5 to 16 pounds (2.5 to 7 kg). (dogbreedinfo.)
2. Bichon Frise. Charming, playful; needs extensive grooming; ideal for apartments; sociable; good watchdog. Good for first-time owners. These look like white puffballs. Height: 9 to 11 inches (23-28 cm.); weight: 11 to 16 pounds (5-7 kg).
3. Cairn Terrier. Plucky; intelligent; easily trained; needs regular grooming; good watchdog; good for apartments. Good with children. Comes in several colors. Height 10 to 13 inches (25-33 cm); weight 14 to 18 pounds (6-8 kg). (Remember Toto in “Wizard of Oz?)
4. Maltese Terrier. Affectionate, even-tempered, intelligent; easy to train. Silky, white coat touches the ground and needs daily grooming. Ideal for apartments; adequate watchdog. Better with older children. Height: 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm); weight: 6 to 10 pounds (3-5 kg).
5. Miniature Poodle. Also comes in standard and toy sizes. Many color choices. Highly intelligent and fun loving. Miniatures may be more sensitive and demanding. Should be combed and brushed daily. Good watchdogs and apartment dogs. Height: 11 to 15 inches (28-38 cm); weight: 15 to 17 pounds (7-8 kg).
6. Miniature Schnauzer. Comes in three sizes. Bearded dogs with bushy eyebrows. Salt-and-pepper colored, or black and silver, or solid black coat needs daily brushing. Playful, stubborn, can be barky. Great watchdogs and apartment dogs. Usually enjoys children and other animals. Height: 12 to 14 inches (30-36 cm); weight: 11 to 18 pounds (5-8 kg).
7. Shih Tzu. Friendly, loyal, feisty. Not quite as barky or snappy as other small breeds. All colors. Lapdogs need extensive grooming. Ideal for apartments; adequate watchdog. Height: Up to 11 inches, weight: 10 to 18 pounds (5-8 kg).
8. Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. (ASPCA description) Golden wheat color. Playful; loves gentle children; needs daily exercise; not yappy. Should be brushed and groomed daily and trimmed every three months. Good watchdog. Height: 17 to 19 inches; weight 30 to 40 pounds.
9. West Highland White Terrier. Perfect companion, intelligent, friendly, sturdy. Needs daily brushing; ideal for apartments, but needs regular exercise. Good watchdog. Likes to bark and dig. Height: 10 to 12 inches (23-30 cm); weight: 15 to 18 pounds (7-8 kg).
10. Yorkshire Terrier. Silky, steel blue and tan coat falls to ground. Brave, alert, affectionate, intelligent. Needs daily combing and brushing. Excellent watchdog and apartment dog, but needs lots of exercise. Height: 9 to 10 inches (23-25 cm); weight: 8 to 18 pounds (4-8 kg).
Many “designer dogs” are cross bred with these purebreds to create non-shedding mixes like cockapoos, malti-poos, schnoodles, labradoodles, etc. but be aware that they don’t always turn out as expected for grooming or temperament.
As always, choose a dog that fits your lifestyle and expectations. For allergy-sufferers, the search could be harder, but with so many to choose from, there may be a dog for you.
“Dogs considered good for allergy sufferers” and “Hypo-allergenic dogs” from http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/allergy.htm. Basic list of dog breeds. Retrieved 1-30-10.
Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, Head of the Asthma and Allergic Disease Center of the U. of VA. Allergy information. http://en/wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypoallergenic_dog_breeds. “Background.” Retrieved 1-30-10.
Dog breed descriptions from The Little Guides: Dogs. Consultant Editor, Paul McGreevy, Ph.D. Fog City Press, CA., 1999.
ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs “Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier.” Sheldon L. Gerstenfeld, V.M.D. Chronicle Books, 1999, p. 284.