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Low-Shedding Dog Breeds: Size, Tips, and Lifestyle Fit

Whether you’re hoping to reduce allergies or don’t want to deal with lots of dog hair on your furniture, there are many reasons why low-shedding dog breeds can be appealing. But when deciding on a dog based on these characteristics, it’s important to manage expectations. Adopting a low-shedding dog doesn’t mean you’ll have a fur-free or allergy-free home. Let’s explore what low shedding and hypoallergenic really mean and which breeds send the least amount of fur flying.

Understanding shedding in dogs

Many myths and misconceptions circulate the internet about “non-shedding dogs,” so let’s start with the facts — all dogs shed. There are no dogs that don’t shed, even the hairless varieties, which, despite what they’re called, can have small amounts of hair and still shed. While all dogs shed, some shed more than others. Dog breeds are typically measured on a scale of low- to high-shedding.

Low-shedding dog breeds typically have a single coat of hair, known as a top coat or layer of guard hair. Examples of single-coated dog breeds include chihuahuas and greyhounds, as well as some curly-haired breeds like poodles, which are well-known for their low-shed coats. High-shedding dog breeds typically have two layers of hair: an undercoat of soft, insulating fur and a top coat of guard hairs. Examples of double-coated dog breeds include Labrador retrievers and German shepherds.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Some single-coated breeds, like Doberman pinchers, are known to shed quite a bit, while some double-coated breeds, like the bichon frise, shed very little. Ultimately, the amount that any dog sheds will be determined by genetics, coat type, health, environment, and grooming routine.

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But what about hypoallergenic dogs?

You may have heard of certain dog breeds advertised as hypoallergenic, but unfortunately, this is not completely true. For those who suffer from pet allergies, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic. Some dogs may trigger allergies less than others, and this is where low-shedding breeds might make a difference, but no dog can be allergen-free.

It’s a common misconception that people are allergic to dog hair, but dog allergens are spread through dander (skin cells) and saliva. Since dog hair can be a carrier for dander and saliva, dogs that shed a lot tend to trigger more allergies. Dogs referred to as hypoallergenic can still spread allergens, but since they shed less, they release less of them into the environment.

Low-shedding dog breeds

There are many dog breeds that are considered low shedding, let’s take a look at a few of the most common and examine some of their characteristics.

most common low-shedding dog breeds
  1. Bichon Frise. Originating in France, the Bichon Frise is known for its small size, plush, curly coat, and friendly nature. Bichons are highly intelligent and trainable and known to make good family pets, but they do need a moderate amount of exercise. While their coats shed very little, Bichons need frequent brushing and grooming. They also need a good dental care routine to avoid dental disease, which can be common in the breed.
  2. Poodle. Available in three sizes — standard, toy, and miniature — the poodle is known for its intelligence, grace, and low-shed curly coat. Despite being the national dog of France, poodles originated in Germany as hunting dogs. Standard poodles, in particular, are very active and have moderate to high exercise needs. Toy and miniature poodles, while still needing some activity, do live up to their “lap dog” reputation and can be clingy with their owners. They can also be quite vocal. Poodles of all sizes need frequent brushing and grooming, often requiring special haircuts, known as poodle cuts, to maintain their signature curls.
  3. Maltese. A small, peppy pup with ancient origins in Malta, the Maltese is known for its charming personality and long, silky coat. Malteses are generally easygoing dogs and don’t need a ton of space or exercise, making them a popular choice for apartment living. While they don’t shed much, their coats can grow quite long and need lots of maintenance, including frequent brushing, haircuts, and conditioning treatments. They also need a good dental care routine, as these pups can be prone to dental disease.
  4. Portuguese water dog. Originating in Portugal as a “fisherman’s helper” dog, the Portuguese water dog is a medium-sized, fun-loving pup known for its signature curls and love of swimming. Portuguese water dogs are playful and athletic and make great pets for active owners. Similar to the poodle, Portuguese water dogs have a curly coat that sheds very little but does require frequent brushing and grooming.
  5. Yorkshire terrier. Small, spunky dogs originating in England, Yorkshire terriers are known for their feisty, fun-loving ways and soft, silky, low-shed coats often compared to human hair. Yorkies are quite adaptable and can make good companion dogs for various owners, but they require a rigorous brushing, grooming, and dental care routine. They are also known to be a vocal breed, so potential Yorkie owners should be okay with a little, or sometimes a lot, of barking.

While these are just a few of the most popular, other common low-shedding dog breeds include schnauzers, Shih Tzus, and Wheaten terriers.

Mixed breeds that are marketed as “designer dogs,” like Labradoodles and Goldendoodles, are also commonly advertised as “non-shedding hypoallergenic dogs,” but this is not always the case. Furthermore, the popularity of these breeds can sometimes lead to unethical breeding practices and misleading claims about their health, temperament, and grooming needs. Due to some of these factors, animal shelters are reporting increases in “Doodle”-type dogs.

If you’re considering a “designer dog” breed, especially if allergies are a concern, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with your veterinarian to determine if they are the right breed for you.

What about hairless dogs?

Hairless dogs, such as the American hairless terrier, xoloitzcuintli, Chinese crested, and Peruvian Inca orchid, are also low-shedding but are rarer to come by. You may need to search for a special rescue or breeder to obtain one.

While hairless breeds are among the lowest-shedding dogs — most still have some hair — they are not without grooming needs. Hairless dogs can require specialized skincare. Some can have dry skin and need moisturizing products, while others can have oily skin and need frequent bathing. Hairless dogs also typically need sun protection when outside.

Final considerations on low-shedding dogs

While a low-shedding breed might be high on your list due to allergies or wanting to keep a tidy home, when choosing a dog, it’s important to consider all of its characteristics. A dog is a lifetime commitment, so ensuring you’re prepared for its health, exercise, and grooming needs is vital.

There’s a common misconception that low-shedding dogs are low-maintenance, but this is not always the case. Many of these breeds have high-maintenance coats that need frequent, and sometimes expensive, grooming; others can be very energetic and need an owner committed to plenty of walks and playtime. Some breeds can be prone to costly medical conditions, although pet insurance can help with this.

Overall, low-shedding dogs can make great companions for allergy sufferers, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be completely allergen-free. But the future's looking bright for dog lovers with allergies. There’s lots of scientific research into dog allergy vaccines for humans, so we may see other forms of relief in the near future.


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