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Your Happy Pet: Best dog breeds for people with allergies

Original Publication Date: August 18, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

About 10 percent of Americans are allergic to dogs and have reactions ranging from itchy eyes to asthma attacks.

Dog dander is the primary culprit that sets off the allergic responses.

Although no dog is 100 percent hypoallergenic, several breeds shed little, produce less dander and are less likely to cause allergic reactions. That means dog lovers with allergies can have a heart hound in their life as a best friend.

Hypoallergenic dogs come in a variety of sizes, temperaments and energy levels. All need daily exercise, but some require brisk daily walks while a fun play time can serve as a workout for others.

Choose a breed whose temperament, exercise and grooming requirements fit your lifestyle.

Let's look at some of the medium breeds that fall into the hypoallergenic category because they shed little and produce little dander.

The energetic and athletic Portuguese water dog is obedient and affectionate but requires vigorous daily exercise. His thick, hypoallergenic coat sheds little, but regular grooming is recommended.

The poodle comes in standard, miniature and toy sizes. Standard poodles are known for their superior intelligence and can adapt to many living situations as long as they receive daily exercise. The hypoallergenic coat requires regular grooming.

The lively standard schnauzer is an excellent watchdog that requires brisk walks daily. His coarse, lightly shedding coat needs to be brushed regularly to avoid mats.

The Basenji, known as the "barkless dog" because he makes a noise that sounds like a yodel when excited is affectionate, alert, intelligent and full of energy and play. His short, odor-free coat requires minimal grooming.

Perhaps you prefer a lap dog. Smaller hypoallergenic breeds include the Bichon Frise, a happy, playful dog that loves activity and requires regular exercise. His hair grows continually and does not shed, so serious attention must be paid to grooming to prevent mats.

The Chinese crested, another small breed, is a lively dog that makes a playful, loving companion. The breed comes in two coat varieties, hairless and powderpuff. Both shed little to no hair and require minimal grooming. The little Havanese is a happy, outgoing dog with a friendly disposition that makes him an ideal family dog. The breed's hypoallergenic coat does not shed but requires regular grooming.

The gentle but playful Maltese is another toy breed. It has a coat of long, silky white hair. These little guys make great family dogs but must be brushed daily, and groomed often to prevent mats. Many pet owners trim Maltese in a "puppy clip" to reduce grooming time.

Do some research to find a dog whose temperament, energy level and grooming requirements fit your lifestyle. It is best to spend some quality time with a prospective pet to determine if he triggers your allergic reactions before taking him home. Happy puppy!

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at