The Australian shepherd — lovingly known as the Aussie — is an impressive dog breed. A hard-working, trainable, and intelligent dog, this breed’s coat comes in a variety of beautiful color patterns, including red, black, red merle, and blue merle. But will that beautiful coat trigger an allergic reaction, or are Australian shepherds hypoallergenic?
Australian shepherds are NOT hypoallergenic. In fact, these dogs have a thick double coat, which is one of the worst types of dog hair for allergy sufferers.
Below, we’ll explain why double-coated breeds are so bad for people with dog allergies. Plus, we’ll look at which coat types cause the least irritation, which breed of dog would be best for allergic Aussie lovers, and what allergy sufferers can do to successfully welcome a furry friend into their home.
Why Aren’t Australian Shepherds Hypoallergenic?
Australian shepherds shed — a lot. This shedding is very bad for allergy sufferers because it spreads dog dander and saliva all over your house.
Many people who have pet allergies believe they’re allergic to pet hair, but according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, it’s actually a protein in pet urine, saliva, and dander that triggers allergic reactions. Dogs lick their coats, which covers their hair with the allergens in their saliva, while dander is found on a dog’s skin. Dead skin cells flake off into a dog’s coat and cover the hairs.
When a dog sheds, it spreads the saliva and dander in its coat across your home. The more a dog sheds, the more allergens it spreads. So, dogs that are heavy shedders are worse for people with allergies than light to non-shedding dogs. The heaviest shedders are double-coated dogs, like the Australian shepherd dog.
Dog breeds with a double coat have a soft, insulating undercoat with a coarse, weather-resistant outer coat or top coat. Double-coated dogs, like the Aussie, shed their top coat all year long.
They also get a thicker winter coat and summer coat to protect them from the cold and the heat. (Yes, that extra thick coat insulates them from the heat, too, which is why you should never shave a dog with a double coat).
Double-coated dogs will then have heavier shedding seasons in the spring and fall when they shed their undercoat in addition to their top coat. This process is known as “blowing their coat,” and you will find tufts of hair blowing all over your house. Allergy sufferers can expect their dog allergies to get worse at this time of year if they’re around a double-coated dog.
In addition to the Australian shepherd, many other herding dogs and working dogs have double coats because this coat type naturally protects them from unpredictable weather. Retrievers, spaniels, huskies, border collies, Australian cattle dogs, Old English sheepdogs, and German shepherds are all popular dog breeds with a double coat.
Other Types of Dog Hair
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes nine coat types, and each one will affect allergy sufferers differently. We’ve already discussed the double coat — the type of coat that the Australian shepherd has. Here are the other eight types of dog hair:
- Wiry: This thick, bristly coat feels rough when you touch it. The coat is typically good for allergy sufferers. Wire fox terriers and wirehaired dachshunds sport this coat.
- Rough: The coat often looks soft but feels rough to the touch. This texture helps rain roll off the coat. Collies are the most recognizable breed with this coat.
- Curly: This tightly coiled hair that feels soft to the touch and needs regular grooming. These coats tend not to irritate people with allergies as much as other coats. Poodles and Portuguese water dogs are common curly-coated breeds.
- Hairless: Lacking fur, hairless dogs are completely or mostly bald. These dogs are usually a good choice for allergy sufferers. Breeds include the American hairless terrier and Chinese crested dogs.
- Corded: The ability to be rolled into tight cords gives corded coats the appearance of dreadlocks. This coat type is typically less irritating for people with allergies. Poodles can be styled this way. Pulis and komondors are also examples.
- Wavy: A wavy coat is not quite curly, not quite smooth, and has distinct waves down the length of the body. The Chesapeake Bay retriever and some border collies have this type of coat.
- Smooth: This short coat sits flat against the dog’s skin and is easy to maintain. Chihuahuas, boxers, and rottweilers have this type of coat.
- Silky: A silky coat is medium to long and feels soft when you touch it. Cocker spaniels and Irish setters sport this coat.
While wiry, curly, and hairless dogs tend to be the best for allergy sufferers, choosing a dog breed that is low to no-shedding is even more important. For example, while silky-haired dogs aren’t typically low-shedding, the Afghan hound is a virtually non-shedding, silky-haired dog that’s good for people with allergies. Some dogs' coats also fall into two of the categories, so it's possible to have a curly, double-coated dog, for example.
The Best Dog Breeds for Aussie-Loving Allergy Sufferers
Now, you have an idea of how your dog’s coat can affect your allergy symptoms and understand why the Australian shepherd is not necessarily the easiest family member for a household with allergy sufferers. While we understand it can be hard to not go after your dream dog, there are a lot of amazing allergy-friendly dog breeds waiting to join your family.
We’ve rounded up low-shedding options for people who love Aussies, and we’ve organized the breeds based on the traits they share with the Australian shepherd.
For a Medium-Sized Family Dog: The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
About the same size as an Aussie and with a happy-go-lucky attitude, the wheaten makes a loving addition to any family. Its look isn’t quite as frilly as a poodle, so this pup is also a good choice for people who like the Aussie’s farm dog appearance.
Not as eager to please as an Aussie, the wheaten will require a little more patience during training, but this pup is always ready for playtime and is very affectionate with its family.
Wheatens have wavy, silky coats and are virtually non-shedding, making them great for people with allergies.
For a Highly Intelligent Breed: The Poodle
The poodle is considered one of the most intelligent dogs and even ranks above Aussies in terms of trainability. This breed loves its family and is typically good with children and other animals. It’s considered the least allergenic of all the dog breeds, thanks to its non-shedding curly coat.
Because there are many different types of poodles, including miniature poodles, this breed also makes a good choice for people who love the mini Australian shepherd.
For a High-energy Exercise Companion: The Portuguese Water Dog
Some dog lovers are intimidated by the Aussie’s high energy levels, but if that draws you to the breed, consider the Portuguese water dog. This breed loves to swim, run, and play all day. It’s a great choice for anyone who’s looking for a jogging companion or wants to participate in dog sports like agility or flyball.
The Portuguese water dog can have a curly or wavy coat, and it's a very low shedder, making it a good companion for allergy sufferers.
For a Small Dog With Big Personality: The Miniature Schnauzer
While the Maltese and bichon frise are both lovable, intelligent dogs, they were bred to be lap dogs. So they don’t share the Aussie’s drive or working dog background. The schnauzer, however, is an intelligent family dog that’s easy to train, excels in obedience and agility, and is hearty enough to tag along on all your adventures.
This breed makes a great alternative for allergy sufferers who love mini Aussies because its wiry coat falls out like human hair rather than shedding in large clumps like dog hair.
What Every Allergy Sufferer Should Know Before Choosing a Dog
Although the breeds we’ve listed above are great choices for most allergy sufferers, there is no completely hypoallergenic dog breed. For people with extremely severe dog allergies, even a poodle can cause allergy symptoms.
Before you take home a new dog, try to spend a few days with that breed of dog in your home. You can work with a local rescue to foster a dog of this breed, you can pet sit for a friend who owns the breed you’re considering, or you can sign up for a pet sitting service to match with a current dog owner of that breed.
In addition to choosing a breed that’s good for allergy sufferers, you can make lifestyle changes to improve your allergy symptoms. Vacuuming your house regularly and training your dog to stay off the furniture can minimize your exposure to dander. Adding fish oil to your dog’s diet can also help reduce shedding.
Everyone deserves a furry friend. If you try these tactics and you still can't find a dog that doesn't trigger your allergies, talk to an allergist about your options.
So, Are Australian Shepherds Hypoallergenic?
Unfortunately, Australian shepherds are not hypoallergenic. These dogs have a dense double coat that sheds all year round with heavier shedding seasons in the fall and spring.
This type of coat is one of the worst options for allergy sufferers. Instead, look for hairless dog breeds or breeds that have wiry, curly, or corded coats. It’s equally important to choose a breed that is a low shedder because allergens, like dander and saliva, attach to dog hair and spread throughout your house when your dog sheds.
Our favorite breed of dog for Aussie lovers is the soft-coated wheaten terrier because it’s a fun-loving family dog of about the same size as a traditional Aussie. Poodles, Portuguese water dogs, and schnauzers are also intelligent breeds that make a good less allergenic choice for anyone who admires the Australian shepherd.
For more information on your favorite dog breeds, visit the Native Pet blog.