Having a dog can provoke some pretty strong feelings in an owner: pride, love and affection. However, if a dog provokes sensations such as itchy eyes, sneezing and breathing difficulties, you have a problem on your hands.
Being allergic to dogs can pose a real problem to those who would like to own a dog themselves, or who have dog-owning loved ones. An estimated 5-15% of the UK population have a dog allergy of some kind.
Many people assume they are allergic to dog fur, but the cause is really a protein produced by the dog's skin. This protein is carried on hairs and skin cells (dander) which are distributed as the pooch moves around, circulating in the air and coating surfaces.
The good news is that these protein compounds vary with different breeds, so not all dogs affect sufferers in the same way. Dogs that shed less hair also spread less of the protein around, which also helps those with allergies.
You can minimise the likelihood of irritation for allergy sufferers by adapting your surroundings. Replace wall-to-wall carpets with easy-sweep hard floors, or swap heavy soft furnishings for window blinds and leather sofas so dander has nowhere to hide. It also helps to keep your dog out of the bedroom and to bathe it regularly.
Some of the most allergy-friendly dogs
1. Poodle Cross
The poodle is a gift to those with allergies. They shed very little, although they need regular clipping and brushing. Crossing a poodle with another breed results in a hypoallergenic hybrid: for example Labradoodles and cockapoos.
These sleek cuties have short, shiny fur that barely sheds at all. With an occasional bath or rub-down to keep them in good condition, the greyhound is a natural friend to allergy sufferers.
3. Bichon Frise
At first sight this dog looks like an allergic person's nightmare: it's like a little puff ball with long fur, even over its ears and face. Yet these sociable small dogs are suitable for allergic owners as they do not shed much, especially with regular brushing and grooming.
4. Portuguese Water Dog
These curly black-haired beauties are not just lovely dogs to have around. Bred to herd fish into nets for Portuguese fishermen, this breed has no undercoat, which substantially reduces dander. They also shed very little.
This fluffy but sturdy medium-sized dog is native to Siberia, where it was bred to herd reindeer and pull sleds. Its dander is hypoallergenic, meaning people with allergies can still usually enjoy this alert, thick-coated dog.
6. Bedlington Terrier
With a distinctive mop of curly hair on its head, the Bedlington Terrier is a non-shedding dog. While they are fairly energetic, they are also good-natured and cuddly, with deep fur that makes them look like a tiny lamb.
7. Chinese Crested
Let's face it, this petite dog with its long straggly hair and naked limbs is not to everyone's taste. It's a mistake to think hairless dogs are always hypoallergenic, but this companionable, low-maintenance dog is allergy-friendly, whether in hairless or hairy form.