Low shedding dogs are fast becoming a popular choice for allergy sufferers.
In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know if you’re an allergy sufferer but still want to own a dog—there’s a lot of inaccurate information out there.
What exactly causes allergies? And what does hypoallergenic really mean?
Some confusion exists surrounding dogs and allergies, mainly in relation to two distinct ideas:
Firstly, do some dog breeds actually not shed any fur at all?
Secondly, can the label “hypoallergenic” be applied to dogs?
Finally, we’ll take a look at some of the breeds that know as low shedding dogs.
Are There Actually Dogs That Don’t Shed?
Shedding refers to hair or fur that naturally falls off of your dog.
While a quick internet search for “dogs that don’t shed” brings up thousands of results, the idea that any dog does not shed at all is, in fact, inaccurate.
Certain breeds do shed less than others though, so it’s perhaps much more accurate to talk about low shedding dogs as opposed to dogs that do not shed at all.
So do all dogs shed? The answer is most definitely yes.
What About Hypoallergenic Dogs?
Many dog breeds are now marketed as “hypoallergenic” and are purported to be perfect for those with dog allergies that still want to own a dog.
But what does the term hypoallergenic actually mean?
In the general sense, hypoallergenic is used to describe something that is less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
With regards to dogs, this term is frequently used to describe purebred or mixed breeds thought to be suitable for allergy sufferers.
Despite the popularity of this term, a large number of scientific studies have found a lot of misinformation in relation to this topic.
Let’s dig into this a little bit deeper.
Studies on Hypoallergenic Dogs and Dog Allergens
Most studies are based on the main dog allergen known as Canis familiaris allergen 1 or Can f 1.
One study compared dog allergen levels of apparently hypoallergenic and non-hypoallergenic breeds.
However, no statistically significant difference between dog allergen levels was observed.
But what does that mean?
Well, basically breeds considered to be hypoallergenic do not actually release fewer allergens into the environment than other breeds.
Another study found that levels of Can f 1 in samples taken from the floor of homes with a variety of different dogs were lower than homes with Labradoodles
The Labradoodle is often considered to be a hypoallergenic breed.
However, no differences were found between samples of any other breed—hypoallergenic or not.
Interestingly, the same study also found that hair and coat samples of hypoallergenic dogs had significantly higher levels of Can 1 f than those of non-hypoallergenic dogs.
Importantly though, increased levels did not result in higher levels of allergens in the surrounding environment.
But wait, there’s more!
A study investigating allergies in relation to the time a dog spends in the house found that in homes in which dogs spent most of their time outside had lower levels of Can f 1.
The study also suggests that spayed or neutered dogs produce increased levels of allergens, although further investigation is still required.
These scientific studies highlight the fact that there is actually no evidence for “hypoallergenic” dogs.
But if the terms non-shedding and hypoallergenic are not applicable to dogs, is there a solution for those of us with allergies who would truly love to own a dog?
The good news is, yes there is! First, let’s take a closer look at exactly what causes allergies to dogs.
Dogs and Allergies
Many people automatically assume that allergies to dogs are caused by the dog’s hair. Although dog hair can trigger allergies, it’s generally not the primary cause.
There are a number of other factors to consider. Let’s take a look at those now.
First, microscopic protein molecules in the saliva and urine of dogs are also found to be responsible for causing allergies.
The second cause of allergies is dander, the scientific term for microscopic pieces of skin regularly shed by dogs.
Both protein molecules and dander can become airborne and travel throughout your house.
If you have an allergy, your immune system is more sensitive to these molecules and responds by attacking them—leading the all but too familiar symptoms of an allergy.
But what if you already have a dog? Is there any way of reducing the number of allergens?
Yes, there is.
One study found that washing your dog reduces the levels of Can f 1 from both dog hair and dander, however, this needs to be carried out at least twice a week.
Evidence also suggests that Can f 1 levels vary within a wide range from breed to breed.
But What About Poodles?
It’s a common misconception that certain dog breeds, such as Poodles, don’t shed any hair at all and are therefore the most suitable breeds for people with allergies.
Whereas Poodles may be better for allergy sufferers, this, in fact, boils down to a combination of reasons.
Instead of fur, Poodles have hair that is constantly growing, because the hair is continuously growing until it falls out, it does shed less.
Poodles tend to shed every 21 days, rather than every few days like many other breeds of dog, which also means that the amount of dander they shed is reduced.
Moreover, the hair and dander that does fall out tend to become trapped within the Poodle’s distinctive curly coat, often leading people to believe that poodles don’t shed.
Now that we know a little bit more about allergies and shedding, let’s take a look at some of the most popular low shedding dogs.
Dogs That Shed the Least
There are certainly a range of low shedding dogs breeds, and a variety of reasons why you may want to think about selecting one of these if you have an allergy.
Here, we’re focusing on breeds that shed the least, which means the amount of dander should be reduced as well.
But remember, if you see an advert for “non-shedding” dogs, there’s no such thing.
Light shedding dogs are definitely a good idea for those with allergies but bear in mind that grooming routines can be more time-consuming.
Their hair is much more likely to need regular grooming sessions as well as clipping in some cases.
Whether you’re looking for large dog breeds that don’t shed or medium-sized low shedding dogs, we’ve rounded up a few of the most popular options, and some unusual ones too!
For each breed, we’ll take a look at their general qualities, history, and health.
Low Shedding Dogs – Small
Maltese are dogs that shed very little. They have a beautiful and distinctive long-haired coat and are generally quite playful and affectionate characters.
This can be combined with some stubbornness though, so rewards-based training works best with this small and charming breed.
The Maltese breed has a long history, having become popular in Malta as early as 1500 B.C and their beauty was famed.
Aristotle even mentioned the “perfectly proportioned” pup.
The Maltese were something of a status symbol in Rome, coming to represent loyalty. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the continuation of the breed actually passed to China.
In China, the Maltese were bred with Chinese toy breeds to become the dog we are most familiar with these days.
As with many pedigree breeds, there are certain health conditions that you need to be aware of if you choose a Maltese.
As a breed, they are prone to a congenital heart condition known as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and breeders should screen for this using a cardiac exam.
Maltese may also suffer from luxating patella (dislocated kneecap) so make sure to ask any breeder for a patellar evaluation for both parents and the puppy you’re interested in.
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
As with most terriers, the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier has tons of character and energy. Their name comes from the distinctive color of their soft coat, which is low shedding.
It can become easily matted though, so regular grooming will be a part of your routine if you choose this terrier.
The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier originated in Ireland where they were kept as farm dogs.
The Irish Kennel Club has records of the breed going back as far as 1937.
These terriers were first brought to the US in 1940 and breeding starting in earnest in the late 1950s.
Wheaten Terriers are prone to a number of disorders, so if you’re considering this breed be sure to ask for a full health check of parent and offspring from the breeder.
These terriers are prone to certain kidney and gastrointestinal conditions, as well as Addison’s disease and renal dysplasia.
A range of health tests is recommended by the breed club, including hip and eye evaluations, blood chemistry, and urinalysis.
Any reputable breeder will be happy to share these results with you.
Low Shedding Dogs – Medium-sized
This energetic and distinctive Schnauzer is protective of their family and very trainable. They don’t enjoy being left alone and would much prefer to be included in everything.
Standard Schnauzers have a double coat but are still considered low shedding dogs. Regular grooming is required but clipping will actually increase shedding.
The Standard Schnauzer originated in Germany, where their name means “whiskered snout” was bred as a versatile farm dog and has been around since the 15th century.
The larger Standard and smaller Miniature Schnauzers are derived from this breed and were later—in 1933—separated into two US clubs.
As a breed, the Standard Schnauzer is free of many health concerns. The majority of breeders actively test for eye disorders, hip dysplasia, and heart disorders.
Breeders have also recently started using DNA testing to screen for cardiomyopathy. Any reputable breeder should be able to provide results of these tests.
The Lagotto Romagnolo is an unusual breed and currently number 114 out of 192 in the American Kennel Club breed rankings for popularity.
This affectionate and hardworking dog is well known in its native Italy as the “truffle dog” because they are used there and in many other countries to sniff out expensive truffles.
The intelligent and eager to please Lagotto breed has a rough coat of curly hair that requires regular grooming but sheds minimally.
The breed has a rich history, and it’s thought that all water dogs, including the Spanish and Portuguese versions, descend from the Lagotto Romagnolo.
Also known as the Romagna Water Dog, their original role was to retrieve waterfowl. Soon though, their exceptional sense of smell led them to truffles!
The Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America advises screening puppies for cataracts, benign familial juvenile epilepsy, and hip and elbow dysplasia.
It’s also advisable to test for a neurodegenerative disease known as storage disease.
Otherwise, the Lagotto Romagnolo is generally a very healthy breed and other disorders are rare.
A responsible breeder should be more than happy to discuss health screening results with you in more detail.
Low Shedding Dogs – Large
Of course, one of the most well-known breeds of large dog for people with allergies is the standard Poodle.
As mentioned above, poodles are a large dog breed that tends to shed the least but do require regular grooming to prevent their hair from matting.
Standard poodles are highly intelligent quick learners with great agility, who love to swim and retrieve.
The lineage of the Standard Poodles can be traced back to over 400 years in Germany.
Originally used to retrieve waterfowl, this is, in fact, where their distinctive “pompon” clip originated from to keep their chest, hips and delicate leg joints warm while swimming.
The poodle’s flamboyant nature then led them to become fashionable in many other countries.
And their popularity has definitely stood the test of time—the poodle currently ranks as the 7th most popular breeds in the US.
As with any breed, Standard Poodles are susceptible to certain disorders. Responsible breeders should be able to provide results for hip and ophthalmologist evaluations.
Poodles can suffer from hip dysplasia and a number of eye disorders and due to their size, Standard Poodles are prone to bloat.
Portuguese Water Dog
Also known as ‘Porties’, the breed became more well known when the Obama’s dog Bo—a Portuguese Water Dog—became First Dog in the White House.
Porties are easy to train and their eager-to-please nature makes them a great family dog.
However, they do shed more than some other low shedding dogs on the list so daily brushing is needed.
The Portuguese Water Dog was initially bred to help out fishermen in a number of different ways—retrieving lost tackle, taking messages from boats to shore, and even herding fish.
By the 1930s, they were in danger of dying out until a wealthy businessman rescued the breed. In 1981, they were accepted into the American Kennel Club.
Portuguese Water Dogs are a healthy breed, but it’s still best to ensure the breeder provides health screening for a number of potential conditions.
This should include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hip and elbow dysplasia, juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy (JDCM), and storage disease.
Low Shedding Dogs – Mixed Breeds
The number one spot on this list must go to the Labradoodle.
Many people consider them the best “non-shedding” dog for families. Just remember, they will shed at least some hair!
This cross between the Poodle and the Labrador originated in Australia in an attempt to breed a guide dog suitable for allergy sufferers.
The breed has now been split into the American and Australian varieties.
In general, Labradoodles are easygoing, intelligent, and affectionate.
Labradoodles can inherit a variety of coat types, which isn’t always easy to predict.
Read more about selecting a first, second or third generation labradoodle here.
Overall, Labradoodles shed less than many other breeds but do require regular grooming.
Potential health issues to be aware of include hip and elbow dysplasia as well as PRA.
Reputable breeders should provide test certificates as well as information on what generation of cross their litters are.
Some Final Thoughts on Selecting Low Shedding Dogs
If you’re looking for a dog that doesn’t shed at all, unfortunately, a lot of the information on the internet may point you in the wrong direction.
Remember, no dog breed is truly non-shedding.
It’s best to look for breeders who are happy discuss low shedding dogs and allow you to meet their parent dogs and puppies.
We hope this article has given you a better idea of what to look for when searching for a low shedding dog to add to your family.
Are you interested in low shedding dogs? Have you been looking at a particular breed? Let us know in the comments below.
References and Further Reading
American Kennel Club (AKC)
Nicholas et al. 2011. Dog allergen levels in homes with hypoallergenic compared with non-hypoallergenic dogs. American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy.
Vredegoor et al. 2012. Can f 1 levels in hair and homes of different dog breeds: Lack of evidence to describe any dog breed as hypoallergenic. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Hodson et al. 1999. Washing the dog reduces allergen levels, but the dog needs to be washed twice a week. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Ramadour et al. 2005. Dog factor differences in Can f 1 allergen production. Allergy.
Nicholas et al.2010. Dog characteristics and dog allergen levels in the home. Annals of allergy, asthma, and immunology.
Lockey. 2012. The myth of hypoallergenic dogs (and cats). The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.