Hypoallergenic dog breeds are perfect for people who love dogs but don’t love fur all over the house. Hypoallergenic dog breeds are also ideal for people who suffer from dog allergies. If you’re interested in a small hypoallergenic dog, it’s important to understand what to expect (and not expect) from a hypoallergenic breed; first of all, there is no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic dog. But there are several breeds that are less hypoallergenic than most others, including the Yorkshire terrier, Maltese, poodle, Bichon Frise, and Chinese Crested.
What does hypoallergenic mean?
People who are allergic to dogs usually react to proteins found in a dog’s saliva, fur, or dander, which is dried bits of skin. Different dogs create different amounts of dander. This varies according to the size of the dog (smaller dogs will have less dander) and the breed. And individual dogs of any breed might naturally have more or less dander.
Many people think the term hypoallergenic refers to a dog that will not trigger an allergic reaction, but that is not accurate. “Hypo” means less, or below average and a hypoallergenic dog is one that sheds less and so is less likely to cause an allergic reaction in someone sensitive to dog fur and dander.
Most hypoallergenic breeds are non-shedding or low-shedding. Some are hairless. Allergic people may react to the hair itself, as well as the dander contained in the hair follicles. When the dog sheds hair, the dander goes with it, and is spread throughout the house. Less hair leaving the dog means less dander in the home. Hypoallergenic dog breeds usually require regular professional grooming and consistent brushing to keep the coat tangle-free. This frequent bathing and grooming further reduces shedding of fur and dander into the environment and can decrease the risk of allergic reaction from humans with dog allergies.
It’s important to note that no dog breed or individual dog is guaranteed not to cause a reaction in an allergic person. People with severe dog allergies may not be able to tolerate any dog, even a hypoallergenic one. If you are considering getting a breed in the hopes you will not be allergic to it, spend time indoors with adult dogs of the breed to see if you react before committing to a puppy. No dog is truly “allergy free,” and all dogs have the potential to shed a little, even “non-shedding” breeds, but people with allergies might find they can live comfortably with the following small hypoallergenic breeds:
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The Affenpinscher is small but bold, something that’s not surprising once you know the breed’s original purpose was hunting and killing rats and other pesky rodents. If you aren’t completely won over by the Affenpincher’s adorable “monkey face,” you’ll be entertained by its comical personality. The low-shedding wiry coat needs twice-weekly brushing and trimming every two or three months.
HEIGHT: 9 to 11.5 inches at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 7 to 10 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Short face; wiry and shaggy coat; comes in black, gray, silver, red, black and tan, or beige
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American Hairless Terrier
While some American Hairless Terriers actually do have hair, most are hairless, so no need to worry about shedding. This playful, spunky, and smart dog has the energy level typical to terriers. These small dogs are very devoted and affectionate with their families, including young children, but don't always get along well with other dogs. Like other hairless breeds, the American Hairless is prone to sunburn, so you'll need to apply sunscreen before heading outdoors in the summer.
HEIGHT: 12 to 16 inches
WEIGHT: 12 to 16 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Athletic and typical terrier, but without hair. The skin can be a wide range of colors and color combinations.
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Bedlington Terriers look—and feel—just like sweet little lambs. Don’t let the Bedlington’s appearance fool you into thinking they are timid or pampered creatures. They were originally used to dispatch rats and other troublesome vermin on farms and deep in in coal mines, and have retained their tenacity and prey drive. At home they are gentle and loving companions. The oh-so-soft coat does not shed much, but Bedlingtons need professional grooming every few months.
HEIGHT: 15.5 to 17.5 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 17 to 23 pounds
Physical characteristics: Graceful, lithe and well-balanced. The crisp coat, which is a mixture of hard and soft hair, comes in blue, sandy, or liver, sometimes combined with tan.
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Outgoing and playful, the adorable Bichon Frise looks and feels like a soft, fluffy cloud. In France, they were first bred as companions where the small white dogs enjoyed an easy life as pets to the wealthy, but later found a new profession as delightful circus dogs. Gentle, affectionate, and friendly, Bichons love people of all ages. The fluffy white coat does not shed but needs regular professional grooming.
HEIGHT: 9 to 12 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 7 to 12 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small yet sturdy with a fluffy curly coat that is always white (the coat may have traces of apricot, buff, or cream)Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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These adorable, fluffy dogs are not high energy or rambunctious, but they are playful and affectionate with their family. The Bolognese is an intelligent and serious breed that can be prone to separation anxiety if left alone for too long. While they shed very little, their long, cotton-like fur does need regular brushing to prevent tangles or mats. Calm and easy-going, this is a good breed for people in apartments, seniors, or anyone who doesn't want a dog that requires a great deal of exercise.
HEIGHT: 10 to 12 inches
WEIGHT: 6 to 10 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Somewhat longer than it is tall. Long, soft white fur with a texture like cotton.
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Playful, affectionate, and a bit silly, the Chinese Crested is mostly without fur, other than tufts at the feet, tail tip, and top of the head. These dogs are very graceful and elegant in their movements, and are devoted to family, fond of cuddling, and not overly energetic. When taking your Chinese Crested for a walk, it should wear a jacket when it's cold and sunscreen in sunny weather. Beyond that, little is needed in the way of regular grooming.
HEIGHT: 11 to 13 inches
WEIGHT: 8 to 12 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Graceful and compact. Most have pink skin covered with a variety of spots and blotches in darker colors, along with tufts of hair on the head, tail, and feet.
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Coton de Tulear
The Coton de Tulear’s dense, cottony coat is long and luxurious. The so-called Royal Dog of Madagascar is the ultimate companion dog, wanting nothing more than to devote its life to you all day, every day. In addition to professional grooming, the low-shedding coat needs daily brushing with a coat conditioning spray to keep it tangle free and protect from breakage. Or if you prefer, keep your Coton in a shorter pet clip, which requires less maintenance.
HEIGHT: 10 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder (males); 9 to 10 inches (females)
WEIGHT: 9 to 15 pounds (males); 8 to 13 pounds (females)
Physical Characteristics: Small, yet sturdy. The long coat is always pure white (a few slight shadings of light grey or light tan are permitted on the ears).
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The Havanese stands out in a crowd thanks to its beautiful, long silky coat. The breed originated in Havana, Cuba, more than 300 years ago, where they were cherished lapdogs of the wealthy. Smart, energetic, and outgoing, the Havanese loves to play, explore, and meet new friends. The breed gets along well with people of all ages, including gentle children. The low-shedding coat needs daily brushing to prevent mats. It can also be kept in an easier short style.
HEIGHT: 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 7 to 13 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small, sturdy and slightly longer than tall; the coat can vary drastically from silky straight to very wavy with ringlets; the breed may have one or two colors including, but not limited to, black, silver, white, cream, tan, fawn, gold, sable, and red.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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The Löwchen’s thick, soft coat is often kept in a lion trim with shaved hindquarters and a longer mane on the neck and head, giving way to the breed’s nickname of Little Lion Dog. Likely originated in Germany or the Mediterranean, Löwchen have been around for centuries. In Pre-Renaissance Europe, Löwchen were popular companion dogs of ladies of the royal courts. Löwchen are excellent family dogs, happily playing with respectful children and enjoying all aspects of family life. The coat sheds a little, but not much, especially if you brush it regularly.
HEIGHT: 12 to 14 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 10 to 18 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small, compact and balanced. The long, thick, soft, slightly wavy coat comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and is often cut into a distinctive lion clip.
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The silky-coated Maltese is one of the oldest breeds of dog, with Mediterranean roots going back more than 2,000 years on the island nation of Malta. Extremely affectionate and people-oriented, Maltese are perfect for those who want a cuddly lap dog. Lively and playful, they are small enough to easily accompany you everywhere—something they would much rather do than stay at home alone. The snow-white, long, silky coat doesn’t shed, but it needs professional grooming and daily brushing with a pin brush or comb to prevent tangles and breakage. Some Maltese owners prefer a low-maintenance “puppy cut.”
HEIGHT: 8 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 4 to 7 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small and compact. The long, silky single-layer coat is pure white.
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The Miniature Schnauzer is the smallest of three related Schnauzer breeds, including the Standard Schnauzer and Giant Schnauzer. All share similar backgrounds as farm dogs and rat hunters, and all have wiry, low-shedding coats trimmed to leave a shaggy beard, mustache, and eyebrows. Though small in size, Miniature Schnauzers have plenty of energy and spirit. They love to play and need moderate daily exercise. Miniature Schnauzers need professional grooming every few months. Brush out the longer hair on the legs every few days.
HEIGHT: 12 to 14 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 11 to 19 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Sturdily built, nearly square in proportion, with plenty of bone. The wiry double coat may be salt and pepper, black and silver, or solid black.
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Peruvian Inca Orchid (Small)
There are three sizes of this hairless breed, with the smallest being toy sized. The Peruvian Inca Orchid is a lively, alert dog that is affectionate and playful with its family, but wary of strangers. This is an energetic breed that does well at canine sports such as rally or agility. Their bare skin can be a solid color, or more often, covered with various spots and blotches. Like other hairless breeds, your Peruvian Inca Orchid needs sunscreen on sunny days and a jacket when it's cold.
HEIGHT: 9.5 to 15 inches
WEIGHT: 8.5 to 17.5 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Elegant, long, thin build. Bare skin is any solid color, or any color of spots and blotches.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Poodle (Miniature and Toy)
The Poodle is one breed that comes in three size varieties, one large (standard) and two smaller (miniature and toy). The Standard Poodle was bred in Germany as a water retriever; the miniature and toy varieties were bred down in size and were mainly companion dogs. Poodles are smart and lively, but tend to be calm in the house. The curly, non-shedding coat is high maintenance, requiring professional grooming every one to two months and regular brushing to prevent mats. Poodles with longer coats may need daily brushing and combing; shorter clips need much less brushing.
HEIGHT: Toy: 10 inches tall at the shoulder or less; Miniature: 10 to 15 inches tall
WEIGHT: Toy: About 4 to 6 pounds; Miniature: about 10 to 15 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Squarely built, well-proportioned and smoothly muscled. The harsh, dense, curly coat comes in many solid colors, including but not limited to white, black, silver, brown, and apricot.
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The sweet Shih Tzu originated in China centuries ago where it was a cherished lapdog of Chinese nobility. Adorable and charismatic, the Shih Tzu loves to play and gets along great with people of all ages, including respectful children. The long, flowing double coat sheds very little, so the breed is often compatible with people with mild allergies. The Shih Tzu needs professional grooming every few months and daily brushing if the coat is kept longer (less if you choose to try a shorter puppy clip).
HEIGHT: 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 9 to 16 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Compact and solid, carrying good weight; the long, dense, double coat may be nearly any color, most commonly in black, white, blue, gold, liver, or combinations
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Although Yorkshire Terriers were originally used as ratters, today, these tiny dogs are more likely to be found warming a lap and amusing their human family with their adorable antics. Yorkies are lively but so small that one or two daily walks, or even a few sessions of indoor fetch, will take care of their exercise needs. When Yorkies are born, the puppies are black and tan, but as they grow the color fades into blue and tan. The soft, silky coat needs daily brushing if kept long. Many owners keep their Yorkies in a short pet clip for easier maintenance.
HEIGHT: 8 to 9 inches
WEIGHT: 5 to 7 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Compact and well-proportioned. The long, straight, and silky coat is blue and tan.