Are Labs hypoallergenic? Labrador Retrievers are not considered a hypoallergenic breed. In fact, Labs can be heavy shedders all year round! The Labrador Retriever is a popular family and working dog. It comes in three official coat colors – black, chocolate, and yellow. But, all three colors will have the same dense, double-layered, and heavy shedding coat. Labradors usually aren’t a great choice for owners that suffer from dog allergies. But, you might find that some Labs trigger your allergy symptoms less than others! Today we’ll look at how to deal with dog allergies when you own or want a high shedding breed.
The Labrador Retriever Coat
Though Labradors are common as family companions, they originated as working dogs. Labs excel in a number of working roles, but one of the earliest was retrieving – as their name suggests! The earliest Labrador ancestors retrieved in water, alongside fishermen. And, their coats were perfectly suited for this role.
Labradors have a dense, double layered coat. The outer layer is sometimes called the guard layer, or top layer. This part of your Labrador’s coat will feel coarse, perhaps even slightly wiry to the touch. In contrast, the layer beneath (the undercoat) is much softer, and very dense.
Your Labrador’s coat is perfect for protecting them from the weather, as well as any potentially harsh environments. Their coat produces oils that make it water resistant. But, that dense undercoat will also work to keep your Labrador well insulated against extreme temperatures – both hot and cold!
What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?
Now that we know a little more about Labrador fur, let’s take a closer look at the term hypoallergenic. Hypoallergenic simply means something won’t cause allergy symptoms, or is very unlikely to cause allergy symptoms. So, when someone asks “are Labs hypoallergenic?” they’re asking how likely it is that a Labrador will trigger allergy symptoms.
Dog allergies are surprisingly common. Symptoms of dog allergies can include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes, watery eyes
- Itchy or congested nose
- Facial pressure or pain
- Chest tightness
- Wheezing and difficulty breathing
If you suffer from these symptoms around dogs, it’s only natural to seek out a breed that won’t cause these problems.
What Causes Dog Allergies?
Before we take a closer look at whether Labradors are hypoallergenic, we need to find out what causes dog allergies in the first place. It’s a common misconception that dog fur causes dog allergies. The protein that actually triggers an allergic reaction is found in your dog’s saliva, dander, sweat, and even their urine. This allergen is known as Can f 1.
Dogs groom themselves, so saliva can transfer to shedding fur. But, dander can also fall around the home. And, if your dog has any soft bedding or toys, the proteins in their sweat and saliva will easily transfer to these places.
Do Hypoallergenic Dogs Exist?
All dogs have the proteins that can trigger allergy symptoms. So, technically, there is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog. However, some people will use the term hypoallergenic to describe dog breeds that are low shedding. Or, dog breeds that are less likely to trigger allergy symptoms.
There are a huge number of studies that have looked into dog allergies. And most of them provide quite mixed results. Some suggest that ‘hypoallergenic’ dogs have lower levels of the protein in their saliva. Some find no noticeable difference between hypoallergenic and non-hypoallergenic breeds. And, others find that there’s a noticeable difference from one dog to the next – even within the same breed!
Are Labs Hypoallergenic?
So where does the Labrador Retriever fall in this scale? And does color make a difference? Are black Labs hypoallergenic – or chocolate ones?
Labs are not considered hypoallergenic dogs. In fact, they’re considered high shedding dogs. They will shed moderately all year around and heavily during shedding seasons. So, it’s likely that Labradors will leave lots of dander and saliva-coated hairs around your home.
However, it’s worth noting that studies have found a difference in allergen levels, even among the same breed. Factors that can influence Can f 1 production can even be the dog’s sex, according to one study. So, it’s entirely possible to find a Lab that triggers your allergy symptoms less than others.
How to Manage Labrador Shedding
Labs are heavy shedders. So, they aren’t necessarily the best choice for owners that suffer from dog allergies. However, there are ways to control the spread of allergens around your home. Primarily, setting up and sticking to a good cleaning routine and a thorough grooming routine!
As a general rule, Labs are a wash-when-needed breed. Bathing your Labrador more frequently can help to control shedding fur, but you should not do so too often. Washing your Labrador too frequently can cause damage to their coat, stripping away the oils needed to keep it shiny and to protect them against extreme weather or environments.
Brushing is less problematic – and can be a great way to bond with your Lab! Most Labs don’t need much more brushing than once a week. But, if you’re looking to control their shedding fur, you might want to up this to as much as once a day. Brush them outside to stop that shedding fur and dander from falling in your home. And, if you suffer from extreme allergies, see if another family member can help you out by brushing the dog so you don’t have to!
Controlling Allergens in the Home
Though studies have shown the best way to reduce allergens in the house is by not having a dog at all, a great cleaning regime is the next best solution. Hoover your floors regularly, particularly in rooms where your Lab spends a lot of time.
More important than this, make sure you are regularly washing any of their soft toys and bedding. Remember, allergens are present in canine saliva and sweat. So, if your Lab has lots of soft toys that they chew on, or if they sweat through the night, those allergens will spread easily to the soft material.
Should I Shave My Labrador?
As a general rule it’s not a good idea to shave your Labrador. Shaving a Lab won’t actually help you control the spread of allergens, because the protein that causes an allergy response is not found in dog hair. As we already know, it’s found in dog saliva, urine, dander, and sweat.
On top of this, shaving your Lab can pose a number of problems. Your Labrador’s coat protects them from extreme temperatures, weather, and different environments. Without their fur to protect them, they can easily overheat, or become too cold. They are at a higher risk of sunburn, and small injuries like scratches and cuts when they’re playing outside.
Your veterinarian may need to shave part or all of your Lab at some point if they have a health issue, or if they need surgery. But, shaving a Lab is not an effective way to stop an allergic reaction to them. And, it can cause more problems than it solves.
Labrador vs Labradoodle
The Labradoodle is a relatively modern breed that combines the Labrador Retriever with the Standard Poodle. Labradoodles are the earliest, and one of the most popular, ‘Doodle’ dogs. A major appeal of these mixes is their low shedding coat. They’re often advertised as hypoallergenic.
People that suffer from dog allergies may find that they cope better with a Labradoodle. This is because their curly fur is more likely to catch shedding dander and any shedding saliva-coated hairs. However, traits like fur type are unpredictable in mixed breed dogs. A Labradoodle with a Lab-like coat could be just as problematic as a purebred Labrador for an owner with allergies.
Ultimately, it will come down to the specific Labradoodle. Just like Labradors, allergen levels can vary from one mix to the next. So, one Labradoodle might trigger allergy symptoms a lot more than another.
Low Shedding Breeds
If you’ve experienced allergy symptoms around Labradors, you might want to consider a low-shedding breed. But, be aware that it’s likely not the dog hair that you’re reacting to! Low shedding breeds will still have the proteins that cause an allergy response. Some popular low shedding breeds for owners with allergies include:
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Bichon Frise
- Lots of terrier breeds
- Afghan Hound
The best way to see if an individual dog triggers your allergy symptoms is to spend some time with them before committing and bringing them home. But, good cleaning and grooming routines can also help to control the spread of allergens in your home.
Are Labs Hypoallergenic?
Labradors are not considered hypoallergenic dogs. They’re heavy shedders, but you might still find a Lab that doesn’t trigger your allergy symptoms as much as others. Alternatively, there are plenty of similar breeds you can consider that shed a lot less than the Lab.
What are your top tips to control Labrador shedding? Let us know in the comments!
Readers Also Liked
References and Resources
- Ramadour, M. (et al), ‘Dog Factor Differences in Can f 1 Allergen Production’, European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2005)
- Burnett, E. (et al), ‘How Much is that Doodle in the Window? Exploring Motivations and Behaviors of UK Owners Acquiring Designer Crossbreed Dogs (2019-2020)’, Canine Medicine and Genetics (2022)
- Davila, I. (et al), ‘Consensus Document on Dog and Cat Allergy’, European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2018)
- Miller, R. ‘Differentiation of the Can f 1 Allergen in Hypoallergenic Dog Saliva Compared to Shedding Dog Saliva’, Murray State’s Digital Commons (2021)
- Chan, S. & Leung, D. ‘Dog and Cat Allergies: Current State of Diagnostic Approaches and Challenges’, Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research (2018)
- Nicholas, C. (et al), ‘Dog Allergen Levels in Homes with Hypoallergenic Compared with Nonhypoallergenic Dogs’, American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy (2011)
- Vredegoor, D. (et al), ‘Can f 1 Levels in Hair and Homes of Different Dog Breeds: Lack of Evidence to Describe Any Dog Breed as Hypoallergenic’, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2012)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website