It can be hard to say no to children desperate to have a dog, but it can be necessary when someone in the house has an allergy.
Dog allergies are serious, and the decision to have a dog in a house where someone also has a dog allergy should never be taken lightly.
However, it is a decision that some households take due to the love, joy, and happiness that a dog can bring into the home.
If you do decide that you want to give it a go, then the best thing to do is to get a hypoallergenic dog that is least likely to trigger allergies. Combine this with a few simple rules, and you can make the situation work.
But what exactly is a hypoallergenic dog?
In this article we will go through what exactly causes dog allergies, and therefore, what qualifies as a hypoallergenic dog.
We will share with you a list of the seven best hypoallergenic dog breeds, and also some tips for how best to manage allergies when sharing a home with a dog.
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What Are Dog Allergies
So, what exactly does it mean to be allergic to dogs?
Often you will hear people say that they are allergic to dog hair (and usually cat hair as well), but that’s not quite right.
Basically, it means that you have a highly sensitive immune system that has identified harmless proteins in pet urine, saliva, and skin cells as dangerous, and it goes into overdrive when you come into contact with these substances.
Obviously, when you come into direct contact with a dog, you come into direct contact with the allergens they give off.
But just being in the vicinity of a dog can also be triggering. This is because of dog hair. While individuals are not generally allergic to dog hair, dog hair will carry skin cells (dander) and traces of saliva, leaving these allergy inducing proteins all around the surrounding area.
Pet allergies are actually pretty common, with between 15 and 30 percent of Americans being affected. People are twice as likely to be allergic to cats than dogs, but dog allergies usually come along with cat allergies as well.
As well as allergies, these substances, in particular skin cells, can also exacerbate asthma symptoms. This can be both dangerous and irritating in its own right.
Fortunately, dog allergies are rarely life threatening (unlike, for example, nut allergies), but they can cause a lot of discomfort. Symptoms include:
- Coughing and wheezing
- Congested nose and sneezing
- Itchy, red eyes
These symptoms can appear within a few minutes of coming into contact with the offensive materials or can take a few hours to develop.
This does mean that people do not always realize that the dog in the house is the source of their allergy. A skin or blood test is the best way to know for sure.
Top 7 Hypoallergenic Dogs
So, what are hypoallergenic dogs?
In theory, they are dogs that do not set off allergy symptoms. Since all dogs shed hair, not to mention drool and pee, there is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog, but there are some that are less problematic than others.
In general, these are the dogs that shed less.
This means that if an allergy sufferer gives a dog a big hug, they are still going to have issues. But they have less problems sharing a home with a dog as allergen-carrying hair is more likely to stay on the dog, and less likely to make its way to other areas of the home where it can cause problems.
There are also some dogs that have different types of hair, which is more like human hair, and therefore, less likely to trigger allergies in general.
Which dogs are hypoallergenic?
Below is our list of the seven best hypoallergenic dog breeds.
Poodles are often called non-shedding dogs, though they are more accurately light shedding dogs, that don’t tend to shed as much hair as other breeds.
Much of the hair they do shed also gets caught up in their fury coat, and remains on the dog rather than around the home where it can stimulate allergies.
Dead hairs can be removed during grooming.
Poodles make great pets for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are highly intelligent and easily trainable, so you can get them retrieving the newspaper or simply not peeing in the home in no time.
They also make great companions as they are highly sensitive to the needs of their owners, which means that the man-dog bond forms quickly.
However, you need to be prepared to spend both time and money on a Poodle.
They are very active dogs and really need about an hour of exercise each day.
They also do need fairly regular grooming, preferably by a professional if you suffer from allergies, which can get expensive.
It is for their “hypoallergenic” hair that Poodles are often bred with other dogs to create Labradoodles and Goldendoodles among others, which share the same hypoallergenic coats.
Basenji are almost as good at grooming themselves as cats (and better than some cats I have personally encountered).
The breed has soft, short hair that leaves behind less dander than other dog breeds.
Basenji are often recommended as dogs because they also don’t bark, so there is no need to worry about a ruckus every time someone passes your house.
They can produce a distinctive yodeling sound that does not really sound much like any other dog.
However, beware, self-grooming is not the only way that Basenji are like cats.
They are also highly independent, which makes them very difficult to train. Even teaching the basics will require a lot of patience and a lot or treats.
This doesn’t mean they are stupid; they are very intelligent dogs and they may use that intelligence to escape.
3. Kerry Blue Terrier
Most dogs shed some of their coat every day, making them nightmares for allergy sufferers (and neat freaks).
The Kerry Blue Terrier, on the other hand, only sheds about every three weeks. This means that it is much easier to keep allergy causing hairs out of the home.
Kerry Blue Terriers are the kind of friendly and playful dogs that you will fall in love with right away and will earn their fair share of admirers at the park. However, they can be hard work.
They need a lot of attention, and won’t be happy unless they are fully fledged members of the family. Leaving them alone in the house or yard all day is a recipe for mischief as they act out their frustration.
While we never recommend punishment as a form of training for any dog, this is especially the case for Kerry Blue Terriers, which tend to be sensitive souls and will not respond well to any kind of punishment or even rough handling.
These are rewarding but complex dogs, and might be a bit much for first time dog owners.
While Havanese look adorably fury, they also don’t tend to shed much, despite having a thick coat. But their shedded hair tends to get caught up in their coat and stays on them rather than drifting around your home.
This means that dead hair can be harmlessly removed on grooming day.
Havanese make excellent family dogs because they are affectionate and responsive.
They are friendly, are unlikely to bite or bark in response to play and are small enough that there is no chance of them accidentally injuring smaller children during play.
They are good dogs to have around the house as they are intelligent and easy to train, so you will have them peeing in the right place and leaving your favorite shoes alone in no time.
Affenpinschers and Bichon Frises have similar coats where shedded hair tends to stick to your dog and can be removed periodically when they are being groomed.
This makes them good choices when looking for hypoallergenic dogs as well.
5. Shih Tzu
Rather than having traditional dog hair, Shih Tzus have the same type of hair as humans, which means that they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
However, just like you hair, they need very regular grooming.
Shih Tzus are a great choice for smaller living situations. They are small enough not to feel claustrophobic in an apartment, and they also don’t tend to be barkers, so you won’t be dealing with complaints from the neighbors.
However, they are not as fragile as some other small dogs, which means they are better when it comes to fun and games.
Shih Tzus also tend to be relatively difficult to house train, so prepare yourself for the hard work. They also need to be groomed regularly, which can be a time commitment but also a bonding activity.
BONUS: Yorkshire Terriers also have human-like hair that is less likely to set off dog allergies than the hair of other breeds. Along with Shih Tzu’s they are worth considering as potential hypoallergenic dogs.
6. Hairless Chinese Crested
Obviously, the less hair a dog has, the less hair there is for them to shed and irritate your allergies.
The Hairless Chinese Crested can have almost no hair and so can be the perfect dog choice for allergy sufferers.
These dogs are incredibly loyal and love being around their owners day and night. This is great if you are looking for a companion dog.
While they are small enough to be kept inside without being stifled, they tend to be difficult to toilet train.
This is partially because they have small bladders, and therefore, need to go regularly and partially because both male and female Hairless Chinese Crested have a tendency to want to mark their territory.
They make great companions, but can also be a little needy.
The rastafaris of the dog world, Komondors grow a double coat, a wooly undercoat and a curly outercoat.
The outer coat naturally develops into cords that kind of resemble dreadlocks. This keeps your dog’s hair on your dog and they shed entire cords, which are easily cleaned up rather than individual hairs.
Komondors are less family dogs and more property dogs. They need a lot of space to move around in and also tend to be noisy, barking quite a lot and quite loudly, especially at night.
While they will be very loyal to family, they aren’t good with strangers and their protective instincts can kick in too soon.
This makes them great guard dogs, but not ideal for neighborhoods where they are likely to encounter lots of strange children (or mailmen).
BONUS: Pulis have a similar coat that cord and dread and may offer relief to allergy sufferers. Dog allergy sufferers that like Komondors might also want to consider them as potential hypoallergenic pets.
Managing Dog Allergies
As a note of warning. Don’t assume that if you force yourself to cohabit with a dog for a while, you will simply get used to it.
Allergies don’t work like that, and if anything, if not managed properly, allergies tend to get worse rather than better.
While the best way to manage dog allergies is not to share a home with a dog, if you do find yourself sharing a home with a dog, there are a few things you can do.
First, you can manage your symptoms with an over the counter medication.
Antihistamines, such as the type used for hay fever, can provide effective relief to congestion, as can decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine and nasal steroid sprays such as those used to treat asthma.
Allergy shots are another option, but they are not always effective and treatment can take a number of years, so this should really only be considered if you are making a long-term commitment to living with a dog.
Start taking your medication a few weeks before the dog enters the home, as it is better to manage symptoms before they emerge, rather than play catch up once you are having a full blown reaction.
Choose The Right Dog
The next step is to choose the right dog. Which of the hypoallergenic dogs on our list is right for you depends on circumstances.
If you have asthma that is triggered by allergies or you plan on having very limited contact with the dog, which will mainly be cared for by other members of the household, then any dog that doesn’t leave much hair around the house is a good choice.
If you want to have a relationship with the dog yourself, you will be better off choosing a dog with human-like hair so that you are less likely to set off your symptoms when you come into direct contact with the dog.
Designate Dog-Free Zones
If the plan is for the allergy sufferer to have as little contact with the dog as possible, then there should be areas of the house to which the dog does not have access, which can, therefore, be dog hair-free zones.
These rooms should include sleeping areas, the kitchen, and the bathroom, as well as any place where the allergy sufferer spends a lot of time.
Avoid Dog Hair Traps
Different types of home decor are more likely to pick up and hold on to dog hair than others, and you will want to choose pieces that don’t hold hair and are easy to clean.
Carpets and upholstered furniture are dog air traps and should be avoided.
If changing the furniture is not an option, cover furniture and floors with throws and rugs that can be washed in hot water to remove the offensive proteins.
These should be washed regularly and the clothes of the allergy sufferer should never be washed with items that are likely to have come into contact with dog hair.
Clean, Clean, Clean
When dealing with dog allergies, cleanliness is key.
Regular cleaning is the best way to stop dog hair from spreading throughout the home.
Vacuum, sweep, and mop regularly, and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, as the filters on other vacuums may not be fine enough to capture the offensive particles.
With a poor quality filter, vacuuming can actually release the offending particles into the air, making the problem worse.
Groom Your Dog
All dogs need regular grooming, but upping your grooming schedule will also minimize the likelihood of dog hair contaminating the home.
You can also use specialist products such as dander removing shampoo.
This is a cleanser that removes the problematic protein from a dog’s coat and also moisturizes and conditions the skin to minimize shedding.
It has been shown that using products like this can reduce allergy symptoms by up to 90 percent.
Obviously, whoever in the household has a dog allergy should not be given responsibility for caring for the dog.
They need to avoid touching the dog as much as possible and being responsible even for tasks like feeding that can put them into unnecessary contact.
Unfortunately for other household members, allergy sufferers also should not be asked to clean up a dog’s “business,” as urine also contains the triggering protein.
There are certainly things that can be done to make it possible for a dog allergy sufferer to share a home with a dog, along with choosing a hypoallergenic dog that is least likely to trigger allergy symptoms and a few simple household rules can minimize the discomfort and danger to the allergy sufferer. But is it worth it?
Anyone who has grown up with dogs will probably answer with a resounding YES.
The love and companionship that a dog can offer is hard to find elsewhere, and dogs also offer several health benefits.
According to studies, dog owners tend to be fitter with stronger hearts, be less stressed and depressed, and have greater satisfaction in life.
While it is not a good idea for someone with a dog allergy to have a dog for themselves, finding a way to let the household have a dog, especially a household with kids, certainly feels worthwhile.
If this is the plan, choose a hypoallergenic dog, like a Poodle or a Shih Tzu, and implement basic household rules that ensure that everyone can coexist happily.
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