According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, about 10% of the population in the U.S. is allergic to dogs. You’re not alone if you suffer from dog allergies. However, technically speaking, you’re not allergic to the dog. You’re allergic to the proteins found in the saliva, urine, and skin flakes, and the dander that is attached to the dog. It’s these proteins or allergens, not the dog itself, that cause an allergic reaction to the dog. These allergens are harmless, but they can and do trigger your immune system which causes sniffling, sneezing, itchiness, hives, and watery eyes.
Dogs who have hair, rather than fur, produce less dander. Thus, pet owners with these “hypoallergenic” dogs tend to have fewer issues with allergies. There is no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic dog. They may be called hypoallergenic, but all dogs produce dander, skin flakes, and urine. Depending on how severe your allergies are, you may or may not have any fewer issues with a so-called hypoallergenic breed. The lower dander count and prepping your home for keeping that dander down will help, but not prevent allergy attacks.
Tips for Prepping Your Home for Dog Dander
If you have animals, whether cats or dogs, you’re going to have dander. The trick is to make sure you keep dander counts as low as possible. You can do this by:
- Wash your pet’s bed often, and by itself. Run the bedding through a couple of cycles on the washing machine to ensure the dander is washed and rinsed out. Run your washer empty after washing your pet’s bedding to ensure any remaining dander is washed out and doesn’t get on your clothing.
- Don’t let your dog sleep on your bed.
- Train your dog to stay off of upholstered furniture. Every time they hop on the couch, bed, chair, or footstool, or groom themselves, they leave flakes of skin and dander behind.
- Allergic dander in cats and dogs is not affected by the length of their hair or fur, nor by the amount of shedding.
- Remove any carpeting, drapes, or coverings that can trap dander.
- Bathe your dog regularly, or have a professional do so, and keep up with their grooming, combing, and hair trimming.
- Have someone who doesn't have allergies brush the pet regularly—outside, not indoors.
- When vacuuming, use a double or micro-filter bag in the vacuum to reduce the amount of pet allergen present in carpeting that leaks back into the room air.
- Use HEPA air cleaners and air purifiers. They can be a big help in removing unwanted allergenic particles from the air.
- Keeping the dog outdoors will help, but the dander they produce will still be carried into the house on people’s clothing and shoes.
- Rather than dust with a dry rag, use a damp rag.
Best Small Breed Dogs for Allergy Sufferers
Even if you think you will do well with a hypoallergenic dog, consider “testing” before buying a dog. Find a breeder who has the dog you think you want, and spend a half hour or so around the dog. Most people who are going to be triggered are usually triggered in the first 15-to-30 minutes around the animal. If you aren’t triggered, then it’s time to try a week to two-week trial with the puppy or dog. You’ll not only get a sense of the animal’s personality and needs; you’ll quickly know for sure if the two of you can live together. There are many breeds of all sizes of hypoallergenic dogs, but these are the small breeds most suitable for seniors, and city dwellers.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 106 of 192
- Height: 12-16 inches
- Weight: 12-16 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 14-16 years
Are you a raving extrovert who loves people and gets along with most everyone you meet? You’ll love the American Hairless Terrier. Not only are they a lively, friendly, and intelligent companion one-on-one. They also adore people, especially children. They have minimal exercise needs. They do need regular walks and indoor playtime, but you won’t need to find them a farm where they can herd cattle from dawn to dusk. Like all dogs, they also need regular bathing and nail trimming.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 138 of 192
- Height: 15-17.5 inches
- Weight: 17-23 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 11-16 years
Think baby lambs. The Bedlington Terrier is known for its curly, wooly coat that resembles a lamb, but their personality is lamblike as well - generally quiet, gentle, loving, and friendly. Regular playtime and daily walks will keep this dog happy.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 45 of 192
- Height: 9.5-11.5 inches
- Weight: 12-18 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 14-15 years
Are you more active? Maybe you like to run or jog, or you have children, a big fenced yard, or lots of visitors. Consider a Bichon Frise. They are naturally gentle, happy, and playful and often used as companion animals, or therapy dogs because they love activity and people. The Bichon’s hair doesn’t shed, but it does grow. You’ll need to become handy with scissors or have a regular grooming appointment with a professional groomer to keep their flowing locks from matting.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 77 of 192
- Height: 11-13 inches
- Weight: 8-12 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 13-18 years
The Chinese Crested is an alert, playful dog that thrives on human companionship. They are small and do well in families with gentle children. Cresteds shed little to no hair. There are two varieties of Chinese Crested - the Hairless with hair only on the head, tail and feet and the Powderpuff, completely covered with hair.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 80 of 192
- Height: 10-11 inches (male), 9-10 inches (female)
- Weight: 9-15 pounds (male), 8-13 pounds (female)
- Life Expectancy: 15-19 years
The Coton de Tulear is one of the most happy-go-lucky dogs of the small breeds. They’re always happy, upbeat, eager to please, and loyal to their owners. They get along well with other dogs and children. Be warned, their long coat requires daily grooming.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 114 of 192
- Height: 17-19 inches (male), 16-18 inches (female)
- Weight: 28.5-35 pounds (male), 24-31 pounds (female)
- Life Expectancy: 15-17 years
The Lagotto Romagnolo is a small to medium breed. They’re energetic dogs with tons of energy. They need lots of daily activity, and are best suited for owners who have a running or exercise regime as these dogs love to run. They’re very friendly and affectionate and devoted to their owners. They require trimming and regular brushing to prevent matting of their fur.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 33 of 192
- Height: 7-9 inches
- Weight: under 7 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
The Maltese is your classic “big dog trapped in a small dog’s body!” Known for being brave, playful, and fearless, most think they’re the king of the house. Most Maltese owners agree - they are the kings and queens of their domain. Their best feature is their long, silky white hair. It’s beautiful, but it needs to be brushed daily to prevent matting.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 17 of 192
- Height: 12-14 inches
- Weight: 11-20 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
What is it about small dogs that gives them huge hearts and protective, loyal to owner attitudes? We’re not sure, but the Miniature Schnauzer, like the Maltese and most other small dogs, has a naturally protective nature that makes it a great watchdog. Pros: besides being regal and sort of royal looking when properly groomed and cut, Miniature Schnauzers are also smart and cheerful and make excellent companions. They adapt well to different living environments, whether tiny homes and condos, to sprawling ranches. Their double coat requires clipping, but they generally love the attention that requires.
- Height: 9.75-15.75 inches (small) 15.75-19.75 inches (medium) 19.75-25.75 inches (large)
- Weight: 8.5-17.5 pounds (small) 17.5-26.5 pounds (medium) 26.5-55 pounds (large)
- Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
The Peruvian Inca Orchid can be hairless or coated — the hairless variety. If you have dog allergies, the hairless is obviously the better choice. Their grooming needs are minimal at best. The Orchid comes in three different sizes small, medium, and large. The breed is loyal and protective of its family. They’re not really senior/retirement friendly as they have a great deal of energy. They need regular activity - generally more than a couple of walks around the block each day.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 7 of 192
- Height: 10 inches & under (toy), 10-15 inches (miniature), over 15 inches (standard)
- Weight: 4-6 pounds (toy), 10-15 pounds (miniature), 60-70 pounds (male standard), 40-50 pounds (female standard)
- Life Expectancy: 10-18 years
Like many popular dogs, the Poodle comes in three sizes — Standard, Miniature, and Toy. If you couldn’t tell just by looking at them, their coats require professional grooming. Originally bred as hunting dogs they’re incredibly smart, easily bored, and love activity, including daily exercise. They’re very self-aware, and carry themselves with pride and attitude, making them delightful companions.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 139 of 192
- Height: 10-14 inches (toy), 14-18 inches (miniature), 18-23 inches (standard)
- Weight: 10-15 pounds (toy), 15-30 pounds (miniature), 30-55 pounds (standard)
- Life Expectancy: 13-18 years
The Xoloitzcuintli not only comes in three sizes — toy, miniature, and standard, they also come in two varieties — hairless and coated. Like the Afghan Hound, they can be aloof, but don’t mistake their aloofness for disinterest. They’re calm, tranquil, and attentive, with a personality suited for a retiree, a college professor, or a more sedate and inactive owner. They have moderate grooming and exercise needs. The hairless Xoloitzcuintli has a smooth, tough, protective skin and the coated has a short, flat coat.