Are Hypoallergenic Dogs Just a Myth?

The Dog Trainer discusses the reliability of various methods of dealing with allergies to dogs. One study suggests that hypoallergenic dogs might not be the best solution after all.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

Are Hypoallergenic Dogs Just a Myth?

Do a web search for “hypoallergenic dogs,” or for that matter go right to a seemingly authoritative source such as the American Kennel Club website, and you’ll find lists of breeds that “produce less dander” and so should, theoretically, not reduce your allergic partner or kiddy or grandma to fits of sneezing.

Alas, it looks like the hypoallergenic dog may be found right next door to the delicious nonfat ice cream and those high-return risk-free investments.

Charlotte Nicholas and her colleagues took dust samples from the floors of one-dog households and tested them to find out how much canine allergen the dust included. The researchers divided the dogs into four groups plus subgroups: (1) dogs belonging to breeds frequently cited in search results as hypoallergenic; (2) purebred and mixed-breed dogs with at least one “hypoallergenic” parent, versus purebreds not cited as hypoallergenic; (3) purebred and mixed-breed dogs with at least one “hypoallergenic” parent, versus purebreds and mixed-breeds with no known “hypoallergenic” relatives; and (4) AKC-identified “hypoallergenic” dogs versus all other breeds and mixed-breeds.


Then the data were controlled for factors such as the dog’s size, the kind of flooring, how much time the dog spent indoors, and so on. Aaaaand, drumroll: There was no statistically significant difference between any of the groups, “no evidence for differential shedding of allergen by dogs grouped as hypoallergenic.”

Now, all studies have their weaknesses. This one could have been bigger, and the researchers accepted the breed IDs the dogs’ guardians gave them. (Not that the guardians had any apparent incentive to lie.) All the same, I was left thinking it looks an awful lot like I’m not getting that guaranteed 20% return I was hoping for, plus if I really want some ice cream I might as well get the Ben & Jerry’s I craved in the first place.

As for having a doggy companion if someone in your home is allergic: Vacuum often. Keep Dogalini well-groomed. (Take her to the park to brush her, maybe? A nice outing for both of you.) Have her sleep somewhere other than the pillow of the most allergic person in the household. Immunotherapy might be worth considering -- hey, it worked for our dog Izzy, who was allergic to, you guessed it, human dander.

 Dogs photo from Shutterstock.

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).