My husband has allergies. Lots of them. In fact if it has feathers or fur then he is allergic to it. And he has asthma!
But here's the thing. We REALLY wanted a dog. So first we did some research and came up with a shortlist of pure and cross breeds that were known for their hypoallergenic properties….
For the sake of completeness we also looked at cats but in the end it looked like even those that were less allergenic (like the Russian blue) were not really hypoallergenic and certainly not enough for my husband to survive the experience! Some interesting reasons why Cats are Worse than Dogs for Allergies can be found in this article on livescience.com.
The top 10 pure and cross breeds that we identified from various and very varied sources were:
Let's be clear here though, hypoallergenic means less likely to cause an allergic reaction, it does not mean non-allergenic. From what we could find there is no such thing as a non-allergenic pet (a good explanation can be found in the article The Myth of the Hypoallergenic Dog) unless you go for something with scales and that was never going to happen! Apparently it is not really about the fur, but about the dander and the proteins that get transferred from skin and saliva, fur just seems to be a really good place for it to stick around and get transmitted.
So back to the list. As you can see, six of the ten are cross breeds of the poodle. This is no coincidence. The poodle usually makes the top few spots on lists of hypoallergenic dogs (such as the American Kennel Association list and this excellent list of non-shedding dogs.) due to it having hair instead of fur and the fact that it does not shed, so no hair on the couch or rugs… Also, the poodle makes an excellent cross-breeder due to it coming in different sizes: toy (small) miniature (small/medium) and just plain standard poodle (medium/large). They are also very intelligent and have good temperaments which was important for us with young kids. More on Poodles can be found on dogtime.
So, having armed ourselves with the list and with a healthy amount of printed materials from an unhealthy amount of googling, the kids and I set about the case for a dog. Now while I make light of this it is no small thing for someone with allergies to even consider doing something like this (in fact your doctor may well not recommend it). Luckily I am married to a wonderful husband so he listened and then did a bit of digging himself. He wanted to give the kids the experience of having a pet that he didn't have. To our amazement he was comfortable with it and came back with his own game plan and a list of breeders of puppies which came from a variety of the breeds on our list!
So we made a few appointments to spend some time with the breeders. We decided not to take the kids because we did not want them to get too excited if it was not going to work. We warned the breeders that we would be spending more time with the puppies than perhaps is usual because we really had to test whether my husband would react. All of the breeders were great at this and I really recommend taking this approach.
First visit was to see a Cavachon.
The puppies were sooo adorable! I wanted one instantly. All seemed to be going well and I found myself thinking "which one should we take home right now"??? But when I looked over, after being there for about 10 minutes or so, my husband was starting to scratch. Ah, maybe we should leave? So we did….not really a success story….
So I thought "oh well" we'll have to tell the kids it's just not going to work. But instead he said "right, which one is next on the list"? So we moved on to the next, a Cockapoo. Did I mention that my husband is great? Better result this time, but still a reaction so that was a "no go" too. After a few attempts we came to the conclusion that as cross breeds take properties of each pure breed but in an unpredictable combination the hypoallergenic aspect could seriously be diluted by having a non-hypo breed in the mix. So we decided to focus only on breeds that were crossed with both parents being known for being hypoallergenic. The results were much better and the reactions were very minor, so minor that we had a "maybe" list. The problem was that we could not be sure that the reaction or non-reaction would happen when the puppy actually lived with us….
Eventually we managed to find a breeder who had a litter of Poochon puppies. For those not aware these are bichon frise / poodle crosses. Sometimes called Bichpoos. These were toy poodle crosses so on the smaller side, growing to about a foot tall. So we went to see them. And boy were they cute! So adorable! We spent the afternoon with them and…no reaction. Nothing. I won't lie, it was really exciting and I allowed myself to get a little bit carried away. Was this the break through? One of the puppies, a beautiful little girl with a little pink spot on her nose and lightly tanned ears kept coming over for cuddles. I felt this is the one. But I didn't say anything to my husband.
So we went home and there seemed to be no reaction, but he understandably was a bit sceptical which was understandable after going years of never being able to be in the same room as a dog to considering living with one!
With an evening of nothing happening we arranged to go back and see the puppies again. This time he was a bit more adventurous. He stroked the puppies, had cuddles, sniffed their hair (?), let them lick his hand. Basically he just stopped short of using one of them as a loafer! And…same result! No reaction.
The rest as they say is history. When we went to collect Abbie (the cutest dog in the world, with a little pink spot on her nose and lightly tanned ears) my husband was still worried. He purchased six months supply of antihistamines! He took pills for the first two weeks "just in case".
It took him a while to bond too as he was just not comfortable. The kids and I had no such problems, we went into super cuddle mode instantly and haven't stopped since. Now, as Abbie is getting ready for her first birthday her daddy is very comfortable cuddling her and she is just another one of the kids, just a bit more hairy….x♥x