There are more than 7.5 billion people in the world, and up to 20% are allergic to dogs. It’s among the cruelest of realities that’s up there with broccoli being healthier than donuts. Fortunately, “dog” is a generic term with 195 recognized AKC breeds as of January 2020 (along with countless, lovable mutts). Within that diversity are dozens of “hypoallergenic” dogs with which allergy sufferers can thrive.
Let me be clear, however, and say that there isn’t a breed that’s 100% hypoallergenic – that would be a stuffed animal.
People who suffer from pet allergies are particularly vulnerable to dog dander, tiny skin particles (dandruff) that can trigger an allergy attack, asthma, and even skin rashes. These airborne allergens are worse when dogs shed and can adhere to just about anything, so low-shedding or non-shedding breeds can drastically reduce dog allergies.
There are three kinds of dog coats – single, double and hairless (although hairless isn’t really a “coat”). Single coats are simply one layer of hair that can grow to any length, while double coats have two layers with a dense bottom layer of short, woolly hairs and an outer layer of longer “guard hairs.” Double coated dogs are usually the biggest shedders and often the worst for allergies, but some are actually hypoallergenic. There’s no hard and fast rule here.
Confused yet? Let’s look at the top 12 hypoallergenic dog breeds and understand that there’s a bit of randomness as to why some are better at this than others. Of course, this list is far from comprehensive as there are over 50 hypoallergenic dog breeds.
Among the most popular breeds in America, the Poodle is very smart, friendly and easy to train. In fact, it’s considered the second most intelligent dog breed after the Border Collie. Three sizes are available – large (standard), miniature and toy – all of which are hypoallergenic.
With either German or French origins (disputed), these water retrievers have single, curly coats that continually grow, requiring regular trimming. The “Continental Clip” is the infamous grooming style resulting in puffballs at the feet and tail with naked legs, good for retrieving in cold water, and, of course, dog shows – but don’t embarrass the poor things otherwise!
Related: Poodle dog breed info & characteristics
As the name implies, this breed traditionally worked for fishermen. It’s a relative of the Standard Poodle with comparable hypoallergenic traits, so there’s no shedding of the single coat. There are two coat types – fairly tight curls or longer waves – and like the Poodle, there are multiple grooming styles.
This breed is very friendly and adaptable, even making good apartment dogs with proper exercise (and they rarely bark). If it looks familiar, President Obama had two while in office, Sunny and Bo, and rumor has it they still have German Shepherd secret service protection.
Related: Portuguese Water Dog breed info & characteristics
If you’re getting a Schnauzer, get a giant one! They’re intelligent working dogs originating from German farms (not always the best with small children). The coat is dense and comes in either black or a greyish “salt and pepper” variety, and like the Poodle, three sizes are available – giant, standard and miniature. This breed is prone to boredom, which can lead to destructive behavior, so exercise and stimulation are essential.
Square and strong with a beard like my uncle, the Giant Schnauzer looks like the Monopoly dog piece, but alas, that’s the Scottish Terrier.
Related: Giant Schnauzer dog breed info & characteristics
The largest of terriers, this English breed looks a bit like a Giant Schnauzer in junior high – no beard and less distinguished. It’s smart, obedient, and excellent with people, but unfortunately not the best with other pets (and forget about cats).
However, they’re loyal, fun and make excellent watchdogs. This is a double-coated breed with a rough, wiry outer coat and softer undercoat, but hypoallergenic nonetheless. Actually, they don’t shed at all, so frequent brushing and clipping are needed. If it all sounds like a high maintenance girlfriend, well… Just remember the good times.
Related: Airedale Terrier dog breed info & characteristics
Couldn’t help the nerdy art reference. If you are a Westie fan and don’t know it, click here for a little video on Jeff Koons.
I grew up with a Westie and a very allergic sister, and this small breed rarely made her sneeze. It’s not one to be confined indoors, preferring to run and get dirty. It’s also not a breed that likes to be held and carried much – a toy dog it’s not.
Originating from Scotland, this is another double-coated breed with a tough white outer coat and softer undercoat. Bred to hunt rodents, they have a high prey drive and may not be good with cats. The Westie is a bit of a wild child with some diva thrown in, but provide early training, and you’ll have an amazing, hearty breed.
Related: West Highland White Terrier dog breed info & characteristics
If you want a Westie, but also a cuddly “carry me around” dog, the Maltese is it. This is a smaller toy breed with a long, white single outer coat that can (tragically) resemble Dumbledore or Gandalf. Their appearance at dog shows often brings out this dynamic, but many owners prefer to keep the coat relatively short (and I concur). The breed is great with both dogs and cats, and can happily exist in a small apartment.
Despite its toyish appearance, the Maltese goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans with Greek philosopher Aristotle writing about one around 370 BC. I hope you like noise as these dogs are serious, sometimes incessant barkers. But just look at that wise, wizard face and buy some earplugs.
Related: Maltese dog breed info & characteristics
If the Maltese is just too loud for you, the Basenji doesn’t bark at all. Considered a sighthound, the breed originated in the Congo Basin and was bred to hunt small game. They’re active and in some ways cat-like, and although barkless, they can and do make noise – squeaks, yodels and howls.
Basenjis have short, curled tails and are square breeds, meaning they’re the same length and height. Going back to being cat-like, they tend to get attached to one person, like to climb, dislike water and rain, are reserved around strangers and considered the second least trainable dog (next to the Afghan Hound). But they’re fun, unique and curious companions!
Related: Basenji dog breed info & characteristics
Toto, the dog that sniffed the wicked witch after Dorothy melted her with water (so she apparently never showered, but I digress). One of the earliest terriers from Scotland, they were bred to hunt small game around the cairns of the Scottish highlands (hence the name, although the breed existed prior as Skye Terriers).
Playful, intelligent and full of energy, this breed has been a TV and movie favorite for decades. From The Wizard of Oz to I Love Lucy to Mr. Robot, odds are you’ve seen one on screen. Another double-coated hypoallergenic breed, it’s closely related to Westies, and as such, white ones must be registered as West Highland White Terriers by the AKC.
Related: Cairn Terrier dog breed info & characteristics
Don’t try to pronounce it, just go with Mexican Hairless (or Xolo). Usually completely hairless, this breed looks like a stone statue, which is fitting as they go back to the ancient Aztecs (over 3,000 years ago). Three sizes are available – standard, miniature and toy – and they’re among the original AKC breeds, first registered in 1887. Some dogs have recessive traits and are born with hair, and both types can share a litter.
Puppies are energetic, but adults are notably calm and rarely bark. They’re also very social and do best with other dogs around. They may look odd, but see and especially feel one in person, and you just might get hooked. Oh, and it’s pronounced show-low-its-queen-tlee.
Hairless dogs are a little weird in general, but the small Chinese Crested might be the weirdest of them all. Mostly hairless with a puff of hair on the head, tail and paws, they’re funny looking and one was even voted the ugliest dog in the world for several consecutive years. In spite of this, I think they’re super cool, and like the Mexican Hairless, some come with full coats called Powderpuffs. Interestingly, the non-hairless variety has a full double-coat. All Chinese Crested pairs can have Powderpuffs, but two Powderpuffs can never have a hairless pup.
The breed didn’t actually originate in China (likely Africa) but were used on Chinese ships to kill rats. They tend to bond with one person and are the ultimate lap dog, so if you want a living, fuzzy pencil topper from the 1980s, this is your breed.
Related: Chinese Crested dog breed info & characteristics
This is a relatively new breed with an interesting backstory, descending from a Rat Terrier in 1972 in Louisiana. It was initially considered a hairless Rat Terrier but has since become its own breed. However, coated varieties are common (which would then be a Rat terrier?). If you shave a Rat Terrier, is it an American Hairless Terrier for a day? So many questions.
Active and intelligent, it shares behaviors with the Rat Terrier but isn’t suitable for hunting with its lack of fur. The prey drive is intact, however, so cat owners beware. If you’re looking for a Rat Terrier that’s unique, perhaps spliced with an alien, this is a solid compromise.
By far, the rarest hairless breed on the list (perhaps only 1,000 exist), this one comes from Peru and is the national dog with small, medium and large varieties. The name translates to “naked dog,” and these sighthounds are active and great hunters, and often have a tuft of hair on their heads like mohawks. Their wrinkled faces sometimes resemble a Mystic from The Dark Crystal.
This ancient breed is depicted on pottery from well over 1,000 years ago, so it’s a bit of a surprise that their numbers are so low. They’re relatively unknown, mostly remain in their native Peru and just aren’t popular enough for more active breeding. And that’s a real shame.
Note: Rescue Pop is committed to providing accurate information to pet parents. That being said, while the breed characteristics and traits mentioned here may be commonly associated with the breed, each animal is unique and may exhibit very different tendencies. Dogs and cats are individuals whose personalities vary. Please talk to the foster parent or adoption organization for details on a specific pet before bringing your new family member home.
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