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Airedale terrier good for allergies

By far the most frequently asked question that we get has to do with Airedales and their ‘hypo-allergenic’ quality. In reality our experience is that this is less of a question and more of a statement as to why someone has selected the breed for their household. This always leads to a lengthy discussion as to the meaning of hypo-allergenic and how to determine if an Airedale will work for the individual with the allergies.

Where and how the Airedale was placed on the list of hypo-allergenic dog breeds I am not sure. There are certainly breeders who will and do advertise the hypo-allergenic quality of the Airedale. We, however, are not among those people. The frequency of this question has dramatically increased since the Obama’s search for an allergy friendly dog for their kids. Perhaps their quest as motivated those who might otherwise chosen to live without a dog to seek an alternative.

First of all, there is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog. Every dog and every breed of dog has potential to cause allergy symptoms in someone who is allergic. I am unaware of any scientific proof that supports the claim of specific hypoallergenic breeds.

All dogs produce the protein which is the cause of allergies among humans. This protein is found in any dog’s dander, saliva, and urine. Dander consists of dead skin cells and has nothing to do with the dog’s fur or amount that they shed. Regular grooming and bathing can help to remove excess dander.

The following is a list of dog breeds from the AKC that some people with allergies can do well owning:

Bedlington Terrier
Bichon Frise
Chinese Crested
Irish Water Spaniel
Kerry Blue Terrier
Poodles (Toy, Miniature, Standard)
Portuguese Water Dog
Schnauzers (Miniature, Standard, Giant)
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

The AKC qualifies this list by saying that these breeds seem to produce less dander. However, if you look closely at the list, 9 out of the 11 listed breeds are coated breeds that require regular and frequent grooming on the order of 6-8 weeks which could possibly be a reason why they have less dander. If an allergic individual came in contact with one of the breeds that had not had regular grooming would they in fact become symptomatic? I mention this only because too often we see these lovely breeds brought into our own grooming shop on order of once a year or less, often due to financial reasons, which is not good for the dog and certainly might be a problem for someone with allergies. If you plan to purchase a dog, especially if you have allergies, you need to consider the financial aspect that these long coated breeds will require grooming which costs money. Failure to provide proper regular grooming may result in increased allergic symptoms.

Even within breeds that are widely accepted as hypoallergenic, each individual dog and each individual person need to be considered on a case by case basis. Just because a person has no reaction to a dog of a particular breed does not mean that they will have no reaction to all dogs of that breed. Some people with mild allergies may find many dogs that produce few symptoms, while those with a more sever allergy will find that they are allergic to many more dogs.

Getting back to the Airedale specifically, yes, they do tend to be a low shedding dog (they do shed some, but by no means on the scale of the golden/shepherd type breeds). As stated above, shedding is not an indicator of hypoallergic properties. Yes, the Airedale requires regular grooming which may lessen the amount of excess dander and cause less symptoms in a mildly allergic person, but that does not make them hypoallergenic.

In our experience those with allergies to dogs have symptoms to Airedales. That being said, you need to do your own homework on this as you need to with any breed that you are considering. First, you need to know exactly what symptoms the allergic person has and how long it takes for those symptoms to occur. If you know that the allergic person starts sneezing after 20 minutes with a dog they are allergic to then you have a good measure to start out with. Is the person allergic to only the dander or are they allergic to saliva and urine also? You need to find that out.

Next, the allergic person needs to come in close contact with as many examples of the breed you are considering as possible. Measure the allergic reaction against the standard you have already set with other dogs, but don’t stop there. If it generally takes 20 minutes to show signs then you need to spend longer than that amount of time to be sure the breed isn’t just producing less severe symptoms compared to no symptoms. The reason you need to do this repeatedly with different examples of the breed is that the allergic reaction can vary in between even examples of the same breed. After you are relatively certain that the breed is going to work for you the next step is to test out the mother and father of the puppy that you might purchase. However, this still is not a guarantee that the person will not have an allergic reaction to the puppy.

In the end, even with all this preparation, there is no guarantee that the dog you get will not cause allergic reaction to the individual. Meeting dogs outside your own home is no substitute to what might happen once you have the dog living with you for several days or weeks.

You must have a worst case scenario plan and you must make this plan known to the seller of the dog you intend to purchase in advance. If in the worst case scenario the allergic person has serious reaction to the dog (or puppy) what will your course of action be? Is the allergic person willing to consult with an allergy specialist? (If so, this should be done before purchasing a dog and if not, then you should reconsider the purchase of a dog.) Is the allergic person willing to take on-going medication to reduce their symptoms? Will allergy medication even work for the allergic person or are their symptoms too severe? Will you return the dog if it produces allergy symptoms? Are you willing to live with the fact that you cost this puppy a large chunk of their critical socialization and training phase so that you could test out whether the allergic individual could manage to live with a dog? These are all questions that you need to have answered now before you even consider purchasing a dog, regardless of that dog’s hypoallergenic quality.

In our experience the Airedale is not truly a hypo-allergenic dog breed and in fact many people with allergic reaction to other breeds will have symptoms with the Airedale. Do your own research and make an informed decision.