If you or a family member suffers from allergies, a low-allergen dog might be the perfect solution. But before you bring home one of these 'hypoallergenic' pups, learn what exactly causes dog allergies and why certain breeds might be a better fit than others.

By Tracey L. Kelley
August 24, 2020
Advertisement

People who sneeze, itch, and sniffle around their canine companions are often eager for more information on hypoallergenic dogs, believing this group of pets won’t cause allergic reactions. 

However, studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicate “there is no evidence to classify certain dog breeds as hypoallergenic.” This is because all dogs naturally produce a series of proteins that potentially aggravate a person’s immune response, especially if they’re already prone to allergies. The most common protein is Can f 1, often found in dog saliva, urine, and skin debris known as dander. 

Jerry Klein, DVM, is the chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club (AKC). “Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a true, completely hypoallergenic dog,” he says. “Different breeds cause different reactions. Some people may respond strongly to one breed and less so to another.” Additionally, many people who are allergic to dogs also have reactions to cats. 

He also notes that low-shedding dog breeds, including the rare hairless canines, “tend to be associated as less reactive for allergic people, since less dander is present at any one time.”

Best ‘Hypoallergenic’ Dogs 

Klein strongly recommends spending time with a pooch that catches your fancy before bringing her home. “At the AKC, we want the decision to get a dog to be thought out and not impulsive. Finding the right match is imperative to create a lifelong home.” To find the best dogs for allergies, first foster an animal, visit a breeder or a friend with a pup you like, or attend a local dog show. 

As you search for the dog who’s a perfect fit for you, you might start with these 'hypoallergenic' dog breeds, who generally inspire lower levels of allergic reactions. 

Ekaterina Gorokhova / Getty

Affenpinscher

With a nickname like “monkey dog,” she must be a lot of fun, right? Frisky and fearless, the rare affenpinscher (or just “affen”) has wiry fur that’s easy to care for without a lot of shedding, but you have to brush her often.

raywoo / Getty

Afghan Hound

Her regal bearing and silky flowing hair make an Afghan hound a beauty to behold. As a single-coated breed, this sensitive and loyal pooch is less likely to shed,. But her long locks need frequent grooming, so if you’re the person most allergic in the family, ask someone else to help.

nickpo / Getty

American Hairless Terrier

Bright-eyed, intelligent, and protective, the American hairless terrier is a delightful playmate for both children and adults. There are two varieties: hairless and short-coated, both of which produce some dander, but the hairless may be a good choice for people with mild allergies. 

Photographs by Maria itina / Getty

Basenji

This native of the African Congo is a fastidious breed that doesn’t slobber a lot, so your overall exposure to Can f 1 might be less with her than other dogs. The basenji is a feisty, active companion who loves to run, trail, and chase—just wipe her down with a towel afterward.

Getty

Bedlington Terrier

With a glance, this precious pooch almost looks like a lamb, considering her long, fuzzy ears and soft curly coat. Devoted Bedlingtons love to romp and cuddle and are one of few breeds which seem to produce less dander than others.

Getty

Bichon Frise

If you want a cute, fluffy pup that doesn’t shed, the happy-go-lucky bichon makes a wonderful pal. She has hair that continually grows instead of shedding, so while she needs regular grooming to look spiffy, she’s also less likely to produce airborne dander.

Kseniya Abramova / Getty

Chinese Crested

Both the hairless and the coated “powderpuff” toy Chinese cresteds are absolute delights! They’re unusual, fun, and super affectionate—wanting to be wherever their humans are at all times. Since they hardly shed at all, they might be one of the best dogs for allergy sufferers.

Bigandt_Photography / Getty

Coton de Tulear

A true loyal family pet, a coton de Tulear has long wisps of snow-white hair that require daily gentle brushing, but she rarely sheds. She’s a hearty, animated breed that loves to dash about with children and other dogs. 

Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish water spaniel sports soft, tight brown curls as part of her thick double coat. She’s another breed considered “low-dander,” so hopefully people with dog allergies won’t have trouble grooming her weekly. Funny and curious, she’s a great addition to an active, outgoing family. 

VKarlov / Shutterstock

Kerry Blue Terrier

Because her sleek, wavy coat doesn’t shed, a Kerry needs regular brushing and clipping. Fortunately, she produces little dander. She’s an energetic, loyal, happy dog that loves to have tasks and hang out with her human companions. 

Getty

Maltese

This dainty and affectionate cutie sweeps the floor with her luxurious silky white coat. Oh sure, you’ll have to primp a Maltese, but she doesn’t shed much or give off much dander, so hopefully your sneezes are replaced by giggles at her playful antics.

katamount / Shutterstock

Peruvian Inca Orchid

Also known as a Pio, she can be hairless or short-coated, resulting in less floating dander, which is why she’s considered a hypoallergenic dog. Whether you choose a small, medium, or large variety, she’s a loving companion, quite smart, and spry.

ivanastar / Getty

Poodle 

Poodles are often the first breeds considered when people search for the best hypoallergenic dogs, especially since the toy, miniature, and standard sizes all have curly, tightly-woven coats less prone to shedding and dander release. These pups are highly intelligent, athletic, and entertaining. 

Ines Arnshoff / Getty

Portuguese Water Dog

With her agile mind and pleasing disposition, a Portuguese Water Dog is easy to train and eager to do whatever her humans ask. She’s often in high demand as one of the favorite hypoallergenic dog breeds for families because of her low dander production and curly dense coat that rarely sheds.    

yummyarts33 / Getty

Shih Tzu

For people who desire a sweet, elegant lapdog that’s no dummy, a shih tzu is the perfect choice. After a massive shedding once she leaves puppyhood, there won’t be a lot of her hair floating around, but you’ll need to set up a regular grooming routine.  

LottaVess / Getty

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

Another top allergy-free(ish) possibility for folks who like friendly, active working dogs is the wheaten. Her coat is actually longer and more wavy than other terriers, so keep a brush and comb handy. 

Lunja / Getty

Schnauzer 

Any type of schnauzer—be she miniature, standard, or giant—will fit the requirements of a protective, loyal, and energetic watchdog who’s good with children. All three varieties also produce less dander and shedding than other breeds. Bonus!

SerhiiBobyk / Getty

Wire Fox Terrier

Spunky, amusing, and high energy, the wire fox terrier might be appreciated by an active and experienced dog owner with mild allergies. She has a thick, wiry outer coat and a fine undercoat but doesn’t shed much with consistent grooming.

TaynaPanova / Getty

Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless)

You have many choices with the Xolo: toy, miniature, or standard sizes; as well as coated or hairless varieties; and numerous color combinations! She’s quiet, thoughtful, and attentive, and doesn’t need much grooming except for the occasional bath, brush, or sunscreen. 

Getty

Yorkshire Terrier

With a whole bunch of feisty personality packed into a pint-sized body, bubbly Yorkies are quite popular. Unlike other terriers with wiry fur, they have silky coats that resemble human hair, so they need a little more grooming, but it keeps shedding to a minimum. 

Consult an allergist about specialized testing to see just what type of protein you’re reacting to, which might ultimately influence the pup you choose.