The American Kennel Club estimates 10 percent of Americans are allergic to dogs. Although some experts argue there is no such thing as a "hypoallergenic" dog, certain breeds are excellent choices for people who may suffer allergic reactions, like itchy eyes, asthma and breathing problems due to pet hair or dander (the skin flakes in a dog's fur or hair).
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A white puffball with tons of personality and a loving nature—that's the bichon frise. Although this breed has thick, curly hair, the bichon does not shed, making it the perfect dog for those allergic to pet dander. However, due to its heavy coat, owners will need to provide the bichon with regular groomings (trimming, brushing and bathing) every four to eight weeks to keep loose hair and dander from contaminating the environment.
The Chinese crested comes in two varieties: hairless, hairy hairless, and powderpuff. In all cases, the Chinese crested sheds little to no hair. The hairless variety has soft, smooth skin, but the head, tail and feet may still have some hair. The hairy hairless is completely hairy except for its stomach, which is hairless. The powderpuff is covered with a soft, straight double coat, but its skin is very soft so there is little dander.
The Havanese comes from the bichon family of the Mediterranean and is similar in size to the bichon frise, with a wavy rather than a curly coat. Longhaired Havanese do not shed and are therefore hypoallergenic (Shavanese, a type of Havanese with a short coat, does shed and is not hypoallergenic). Because the coat is full-flowing, it requires much grooming to keep it from tangling. Some owners clip the coat for easier care.
The Maltese is a small dog with silky white hair. The coat can be kept long and groomed, as seen in show dogs—hanging over the sides of the body almost to the ground—or given a short puppy cut for easy care. The Maltese should be brushed every day or every other day and haircuts are needed every few weeks. This breed sheds very little, which makes it a good choice for allergy sufferers.
Who doesn't love a poodle? Whether toy, miniature or standard size, these dogs are affectionate and smart companion animals. They are also great choices for dander-sensitive noses. With curly, dense fur, poodles do shed some, but the tightly-curled coat traps dander and dead hair so that the animal releases less of it into the environment. Also, since this breed requires frequent grooming, the accumulation of dander and dead hair in the home is less likely.
Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese water dog, or PWD, is a breed of working dog with a curly or wavy coat that is single-layered and does not shed. The breed also has webbed toes for swimming, and these dogs were once taught to herd fish into fishermen's nets and generally work around water. Owners must maintain the PWD's ever-growing hair to keep it from matting and causing skin and eye problems. PWDs are a high-maintenance breed requiring frequent grooming.
Schnauzers—miniature, standard or giant—are friendly, loving dogs and a great choice for allergy sufferers. With The schnauzer has a soft undercoat and wiry top coat. Stripping the undercoat (plucking the loose, dead hair) causes the top coat to grow in fuller and more wiry. Schnauzers are also sometimes shaved, leaving a soft undercoat. Since schnauzers shed less than most dogs, they are considered a hypoallergenic breed.
The shih tzu is a small, fun-loving dog with a pleasant personality. Its size makes it a good choice for people who live in apartments and urban areas. The shih tzu has a flowing coat that comes in a variety of colors and doesn't shed much, making it a natural choice for those wanting a hypoallergenic dog. An excellent family pet, the shih tzu requires frequent grooming to maintain its soft, long and silky hair.
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
Energetic and playful, and protective of its family, the soft-coated wheaten terrier originated in Ireland as an all-purpose farm dog. The "wheatie," as it is sometimes called, is a single-coated dog—which means it has hair, not fur. This breed sheds very little, which makes it an ideal companion for the allergy-prone. Because its hair continues to grow, however, owners must have the Wheaten terrier groomed frequently.
The Yorkshire terrier is a small playful dog of the toy group that can range in size from a few pounds to about 10. For this reason Yorkies are ideal dogs for people who live in urban areas. Yorkies have hair, not fur, and therefore shed very little, which means little dander will be released into the environment. The typical Yorkie's hair is fine, straight and silky and needs recurrent grooming to keep it maintained.
By Debra Levy
About the Author
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.