Do your allergies act up around your puppy pals? You have plenty of company. About one in 10 people in the U.S. are allergic to dogs. Those allergies usually show up as:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Itchy, watery, red eyes
- Hives or a rash
If this sounds like you, you don't have to give up your dream of getting a dog. You may be able to find a canine companion that doesn't make you wheeze. You just have to know which breeds are best for you.
Before You Start Your Search
Plan to see an allergist before you hit the animal shelter or visit a breeder. You should make sure you're actually allergic. Allergists use a simple skin-prick test to see if dogs are the reason you're sneezing. They should know the results in 15 to 20 minutes.
A dog allergy isn't just a reaction to fur. Dog saliva, urine, and dander can set you off, too. Your body responds to a certain protein in these allergens.
Best Breeds if You Have Allergies
There aren't any dog breeds that are 100% allergen-free. But there are certain types of dogs that seem to cause fewer problems than others.
Narrow down your search to breeds that will have the least impact on your system. That might mean smaller breeds that don't shed much. A dog that loves to spend time outdoors could be good, too. That way, they leave some of those allergens outside the house.
The American Kennel Club labels over 270 breeds as "hypoallergenic." But these dogs seem to cause the least trouble:
Afghan hound. These midsize dogs are long-haired and reserved. You need to brush them every day.
American hairless terrier. No hair means a lower allergen load. They're energetic, good with kids, and don't mind apartment living.
Bedlington terrier. They have curly coats that look like a lamb's. These dogs are gentle and don't need much exercise.
Bichon frise. They're small, fluffy, playful, and don't shed at all, so they need regular haircuts.
Chinese crested. These very small dogs shed very little and show lots of love.
Coton de tulear. You need to groom these small, long-haired dogs every day. They get along well with other dogs and kids.
Schnauzers (giant, standard, and miniature). All three of these schnauzer breeds are good for people with allergies. They have different exercise and grooming needs, but all are smart and have similar coats.
Irish water spaniel. They have a double coat that repels water. They're playful midsize dogs.
Kerry blue terrier. These high-energy terriers need exercise. Their coat needs routine brushing and trimming.
Lagotto Romagnolo. This dog's coat is a lot like a poodle's. They do well with active owners and tend to be very happy.
Maltese. This small dog has long, silky hair. You'll need to brush it every day to keep it tangle-free.
Peruvian Inca orchid (hairless). Like other hairless dogs, Peruvian Inca orchids are a good choice if you don't want to deal with shedding. They have a lot of energy and come in different sizes.
Poodle. These curly-haired dogs come in all sizes and don't shed much.
Portuguese water dogs. This smart breed is best for a very active owner. They need daily workouts.
Soft-coated wheaten terrier. These dogs have lots of energy and are good with kids. They have a silky coat that needs attention to prevent mats.
Spanish water dog. This breed has a unique coat of wooly curls that you'll need to shave off once a year. They need lots of activity.
Xoloitzcuintli. The name might be hard to pronounce, but they are easy dogs to care for. They're calm and don't need much exercise or grooming. The toy, miniature, and standard sizes come in hairless or coated varieties.
Allergen-Reducing Tips for Your Home
Even if you find a breed that works for you, it's a good idea to cut down how much contact you have with dog allergens. Here's how:
- Keep certain parts of your house dog-free, like your bedroom or a guest room.
- Clean carpets and upholstered furniture often.
- Use a good-quality vacuum cleaner.
- Use an air filter in your home.
- Change your clothes after lots of contact with your dog.
- Put a nonallergic person on dog grooming duty.
- Wash your dog weekly.
- Keep your dog on an anti-inflammatory diet that meets its needs for essential fatty acids.
If you already love a dog that your body doesn't, talk to an allergist about whether allergy shots might help the two of you stay together.