Can a Dog Really Be ‘Hypoallergenic’?

Maisy, a black standard poodle, sits
Why get a cross when you can have an actual Poodle?

Dr. Stanley Coren, a noted psychologist and dog expert, recently wrote a column about the doodle craze. His take on the popularity of these “designer mutts” that are all some other breed crossed with a poodle, is that people believe all poodle-cross pups to be “hypoallergenic,” or “having little likelihood of causing an allergic response.” His focus is that not all poodle mixes are low- or non-shedding dogs, and therefore there’s really no guarantee that they will be hypoallergenic.

I want to take that argument a step farther and argue that, for many individuals with dog allergies, no dog will be hypoallergenic.

People may be allergic to dog fur or dander; they may also be allergic to components of dog saliva or dog urine. Even a bald dog still has those so … for some people, shedding or not, furry or hairy, any dog will induce an allergic reaction.

Of course there is a huge range in the symptoms and severity of allergic reactions, and a dog with much-reduced shedding, and who is groomed and bathed often and lives in a home that is vacuumed and dusted very frequently, may cause few or no symptoms in many allergic individuals. So there are good reasons for people with mild dander / fur allergies who love dogs to look to non- or low-shedding breeds.

But poodle crosses are not the only or most reliable option. To Dr. Coren’s point, without testing your individual pup against your individual allergy, you won’t know. And several breeds do not shed or shed minimally, starting with actual poodles and including large and small dogs of all temperaments.

When choosing a dog, it’s important to do your homework, whether you’re buying a puppy or adopting a shelter dog, and whether your concern is allergies, temperament, health, or all of these.