If you want big personality and big brains in a small dog, then the Jack Russell terrier (or JRT) could be the perfect choice for you. But, what if you suffer from allergies? Are Jack Russell terriers hypoallergenic?
Unfortunately, no. Jack Russell terriers shed and are not considered hypoallergenic dogs. But, since different JRTs have two distinct types of coats, some shed less than others. So, people with mild-to-moderate dog allergies may find that the lower-shedding variety triggers fewer allergy symptoms than other dog breeds.
Here, we’ll explain what triggers your dog allergies, why some Jack Russells’ coats trigger fewer allergy symptoms, and how to welcome a dog into your home when you have allergies.
What Causes Dog Allergies?
Many people think that pet hair is the source of their allergy symptoms. But, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, pet allergies are actually triggered by a protein found in the animals’ salvia, urine, and dander.
However, when a dog licks its coat, the protein in saliva spreads through the dog’s fur. Plus, dander attaches to dog hair in the form of dead skin cells. When dogs shed their loose hair, it releases these allergens into your home, triggering an allergic reaction.
So, the loose fur around your house isn’t an allergen in and of itself, but it does spread allergens. This is why non-shedding and hairless dogs are the best dogs for allergy sufferers. Low-shedding dogs, like some varieties of Jack Russells, can be a good choice for people with mild-to-moderate dog allergies, but they’re not a good choice for people with severe allergies.
So, Are Jack Russell Terriers Hypoallergenic?
Even though there is a lower shedding variety of this dog breed, Jack Russell terriers are not hypoallergenic dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC), which is the authority on purebred dogs in the United States, doesn’t include either of the two breeds that are popularly known as Jack Russell terriers on its list of hypoallergenic dog breeds.
And yes, the Jack Russell terrier is now classified as two different dog breeds — neither of which is officially known as a Jack Russell. The AKC split the Jack Russell breed into two distinct breeds in the early 2000s. One type of dog is called the Parson Russell terrier, while the other is simply called the Russell terrier.
The Parson Russell terrier is slightly larger and has a smooth, double coat. However, you can find Russell terriers with two types of coats: a smooth coat or a rough coat. Russell terriers with a rough coat are wire-haired and are better for allergy sufferers than those with the smooth coat, but both coat varieties have the potential to cause an allergic reaction, especially in people with severe allergies.
The Jack Russell’s Coat Types
Here’s how much you can expect the Jack Russell’s different types of coats to shed and trigger allergies:
- The Parson Russell terrier’s coat: This smooth coat sheds moderately year-round with two periods of heavier shedding in the spring and fall. This amount of shedding is enough to trigger an allergic reaction in most pet parents with allergies.
- The Russell terrier’s smooth coat: Dogs with this smooth coat will shed about as much as Parson Russells, so they’ll have a similar effect on allergies.
- The Russell terrier’s rough coat: Also called a broken coat or wire-haired coat, this type of fur will shed about as much as the smooth coat, but because of its texture, a lot of the loose hair will stay in the coat. So, it will spread less dander around your environment and be easier to control the shedding with frequent brushing.
What If You Have Allergies and Want a Jack Russell Terrier?
If you have allergies but also have your heart set on a Jack Russell terrier, then the first step is to turn all that loving energy toward a wire-haired JRT. This coat type will be best for your allergies, but it may still trigger symptoms. Trying these lifestyle changes can help you test the waters and further reduce your risk of an allergic reaction.
- Do a test run: To decide if this is the right breed for you, try pet sitting or fostering a wire-haired Russell terrier in your home for a few days to a week to see if the dog triggers your allergy symptoms. You may be able to work with a local breeder or a breed-specific rescue organization to arrange this test run.
- Invest in robot vacuum cleaner: Vacuum daily is a big commitment, but it’s the best way to remove loose hair and dander from your environment. Use a robot vacuum to make the process easier, and wear a face mask and gloves when you empty the vacuum filter.
- Brush your JRT daily: You can remove loose hair from your dog’s coat before it sheds in your house by brushing them with a wire-bristle slicker brush. Depending on the severity of your allergies, you may need to wear a face mask and gloves or take an allergy pill before you do this.
- Give your JRT a fish oil supplement: An all-natural fish oil for dogs is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They help to keep your dog’s coat healthy, which can reduce shedding and prevent health issues related to the skin and coat.
- Feed high-quality dog food: Dogs may shed more when they don’t get solid nutrition. Find dog food that features meat as the first ingredient and includes whole-food vegetables and fruits in the ingredient list to keep your dog healthy and help reduce shedding.
- Train them to stay off the furniture and out of the bedroom: You can reduce your exposure to dander by keeping dog hair off your furniture and out of your bedroom where you spend about one-third of your day. Give your dog its own bed so it has a comfy spot that isn’t your furniture.
- Cover your bedroom air vents: Central AC can spread shed hair throughout your house. To turn your bedroom into an allergen-free zone, cover the vents with cheesecloth and change these covers a few times a year.
Which Breeds Are a Solid Choice for Allergy Sufferers?
If you’re disappointed by the answer to your question — Are Jack Russell terriers hypoallergenic? — take heart. There may still be a perfect dog for you.
While there’s no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic dog (any dog can cause problems if a person’s allergies are severe enough), there are non-shedding and hairless dogs. We’ve rounded up eight dog breeds that are similar to Jack Russells but are less likely to trigger allergies in would-be dog owners.
Allergy Sufferers: ‘Rustle’ Up Some Tissues
Allergy sufferers should know that Jack Russell terriers are not hypoallergenic dogs. Smooth-coat Jack Russells (which includes all Parson Russell terriers and some Russell terriers) are moderate shedders that will trigger an allergic reaction in most people with pet allergies.
Wire-haired Russell terriers will spread less dander around your house, so they’re a better — but still not perfect — option for allergy sufferers.
People with mild-to-moderate dog allergies may be able to live comfortably with wire-coat Jack Russell terriers, especially if these dogs are trained to stay off the furniture and out of the bedroom. Frequent vacuuming and an omega-3 supplement for dogs can also help reduce your exposure to allergens from this breed.
But, for most people with pet allergies, it will be easier to live with a non-shedding or hairless dog breed, like a miniature poodle, Yorkshire terrier, bichon frise, or Chinese crested. Whichever breed you choose, make sure to try do some pet sitting to see if the breed triggers your allergies before you commit to adoption.
For more information on dog breeds for allergy sufferers, visit the Native Pet blog.