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Ten Great Dog Breeds for Allergy Sufferers
Hypoallergenic Dogs: A Success Story
When I was a little girl I wanted nothing more than to own a dog. Year after year I remember dragging my parents to the pet store, begging them to buy me a cute, cuddly puppy, but I was always met with the same answer: "No, Katie. You know that your mother is allergic." Although I fully understood how serious my mother's allergies were, it still broke my heart to know that I would probably never have a dog.
Then one Christmas my aunt bought a Shih Tzu for her son. My mom, brother and I all went over to her house to see the puppy, and by the end of the visit we had all noticed something amazing. My mom had had no allergic reaction to the puppy whatsoever. What's more, my mom had actually enjoyed playing with the puppy, commenting that she wouldn't mind having a Shih Tzu of her own. Hearing this was about enough to make my ten-year-old self die of happiness.
Several months later, my dad gave in to our pleas and bought us a Shih Tzu pup. We named her Bridgette. She is still with us 11 years later, and to this day I believe that adopting her was one of the best decisions that we ever made as a family.
I am here today not just to tell you my happy story, but also to share some of the knowledge that I have acquired over the years on hypoallergenic dog breeds so that perhaps one day you, an allergy suffer, may also be a proud dog owner despite your condition. Before I begin, however, there are just a few things that I want to say about pet allergies, including a very important disclaimer that applies to all of the so-called "hypoallergenic" breeds on this list. In short, some of these dogs might prove to not be so hypoallergenic after all--at least, maybe not for you.
Why People Are Allergic to Dogs
In most cases it is not so much the dog itself that a person is allergic to, but rather the dander that the animal sheds. It is also possible to be allergic to dog saliva or urine. These alleged "hypoallergenic" dogs that I am about to share with you are all breeds that are known for having very little dander. Consequently, they tend to trigger very few (if any) of an allergy sufferers symptoms..
Now before you rush out and adopt one of these cuddly cuties, please, please keep in mind that no dog is completely hypoallergenic. People with severe allergies may still experience itching, watery eyes, runny nose and other symptoms while in the presence of these animals. Therefore, I strongly advise that you interact with the dog you choose and make sure that you are not allergic to it before bringing it home. This way you can be assured that both you and the dog will be healthy and happy together.
And so without any further ado, here you have it: Ten Great Dog Breeds for Allergy Sufferers.
The Shih Tzu is a member of the toy group, usually weighing no more than 10-18 lb. The breed is thought to originally have been a cross between a Lhasa Apso and Pekingese. The Shih Tzu's coat is very easy to maintain (almost effortless) so long as it is kept short. In general the Shih Tzu is an active, friendly and independent breed--a great choice of pet for almost any family. I would not, however, recommend getting a Shih Tzu if you have young children, as I know first-hand that these dogs are very fragile and can be easily injured.
The Airedale is the largest of the terrier breeds. Active, outgoing and non-aggressive, this dog makes an excellent family pet. Generally weighing around 44-50 lb and standing 22-25 inches tall, there is no fear of this animal being stepped on or injured by young children. It is important to keep in mind, however, that an Airedale's coat is thick and wiry and will require weekly brushing and regular visits to the groomer.
The Bichon Frise is a friendly little dog with lots of energy. A member of the toy group, the Bichon is one of the smallest breeds, weighing between 7-12 lb and standing no more than 9-11 inches tall. As with the Shih Tzu, if you decide to keep your Bichon's hair cut short the coat will need very little care. If, however, you opt to let the hair grow out it will require daily attention. This breed is great for apartments and small living spaces and will be happy no matter where you decide to live. That being said, a Bichon still requires daily exercise and is not recommended for families with small children.
The Yorkshire Terrier, like the Bichon, is among the smallest of breeds, weighing normally no more than 7 lb. Yorkies are known for having long, shiny coats that are quite beautiful if properly cared for. Naturally, however, most Yorkie owners choose to keep their dog's hair cut short so that the coat is more manageable. This breed's temperament is alert, friendly and energetic--great for apartment life so long as they are exercised daily. Recommended for families with children over 10 years old.
Look familiar? This breed starred as "Toto" in The Wizard of Oz. Said to be the easiest of the terriers to train, the Cairn is fearless, highly intelligent and assertive. Sometimes prone to aggressive behavior, the Cairn is not recommended for families with small children. If, however, you are looking for a smart little dog with a mind of its own and lots of love to give, then this breed might be right for you. Obedience training courses are advised, as the Cairn is very independent. Height is 11-12 inches and weight is around 14-16 lb.
A small yet sturdy breed, the Havanese is a friendly and affectionate dog that loves to be around people. Unlike most toy breeds, the Havanese is not particularly fragile and would make a good pet for families with children of just about any age. The coat of a Havanese, when kept short, is relatively easy to manage, but requires daily attention otherwise. Height is 9-11 inches and weight around 7-13 lb.
The Maltese is an alert, even tempered dog that loves to run and play. Like most toy breeds, the Maltese is very tiny, weighing around 4-6 lb and standing no higher than 10 inches tall. The coat is manageable so long as it is kept short. If kept long, however, it must be brushed daily so that it does not become matted. Great for families with older children.
The Schnauzer is a sturdy, active breed with a playful disposition. Available in various colors and sizes, Schnauzer lovers have many options when it comes to selecting a dog. Standard Schnauzers are normally around 18 inches tall and weigh between 30-45 lb. Miniature Schnauzers are around 10-12 inches tall and weigh roughly 14-20 lb. Finally, Giant Schnauzers are about 24 inches tall and weigh 55-80 lb. Although prone to stubbornness, any one of these Schnauzers could make a great family pet so long as it is trained and socialized properly.
Like Schnauzers, the Poodle is a breed that comes in many different sizes, including the Standard Poodle (15-18 inches tall) the Miniature Poodle (11-15 inches tall ) and the Toy Poodle (under 11 inches tall ). Despite their elegant, almost glamorous appearance, Poodles are actually believed to be one of the most intelligent of all dog breeds. They are also said to be one of the most hypoallergenic. Of course, when we hear the word "Poodle" we normally think of a dog with thick, fluffy fur (pictured below) that appears very difficult--if not impossible-- to maintain. While this look is desirable for show dogs, most typical Poodle owners keep their dog's hair cut short, giving the animal a cleaner, much more ordinary appearance. Poodles are great with kids and will easily fit in to just about any family.
My advice? If you have pet allergies and are serious about adopting, consider a Poodle before all else. I say this not only because they are supposedly more hypoallergenic than most other breeds, but also because they are smart, fun and (typically) quite easy to train.
West Highland Terrier
The West Highland Terrier (better known as the "Westie") is an active, high-energy dog that requires lots of attention and daily exercise. Originally bred to hunt small animals, Westies have strong chasing instincts and are notorious diggers. Although rather small (height 11-13 inches, weight 15-22 lb ) the Westie is not a delicate breed. In general, they prefer to stay active and are not likely to want to sit around on the couch all day. Recommended for families with children over 10 years old.
All of the numbers in these descriptions come from my trusty book The Complete Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds by Juliette Cunliffe. I have provided the link for this book below. Anyone who is even half as obsessed with dog breeds as I am ought to have it (or something similar to it). Of course, you can also always head over to the AKC's website and research dog breeds there. I'll provide that link as well.
I hope you find your furry new friend very soon. Happy searching!