Are PWD Hypoallegenic?
Short answer - NO - there is no such thing, but read on for detailed advice:
Many people are looking for a dog that will not trigger their asthma and allergies. It took us many years to find a dog we could live with and we have successfully managed to balance life with PWD, allergies, asthma, and medication. However, PWD can not be considered to be the answer and solve the issue of allergies and dogs.
To say that a dog is hypoallergenic indicates that it is considered to cause a greatly reduced level of reaction (or allergenic trigger) in a person who is often affected by allergies to dogs. But it does not mean that a hypoallergenic pet has no cause or reaction. Hypo simply means low cause of allergens rather than no cause. Some allergy sufferers swear that certain dogs or types and breeds of dogs do not trigger their allergies, or that they suffer from a greatly reduced reaction to them. For many people, PWD is a breed with which they can live. However, we meet some people who severely react even with a PWD.
Much research indicates that there is no scientific evidence that any breed or type of dog is truly hypoallergenic and that there can be no logical reason for an allergic person failing to react or reacting less severely to a given dog simply because it is labeled as 'hypoallergenic.'
Whether or not a dog can be considered to be truly hypoallergenic is still rather contentious. There is a lot of misinformation published online and presented as fact about apparently hypoallergenic dogs, and the veracity of any statement regarding a dog being hypoallergenic should always be carefully considered. No dog is scientifically considered to be free from all allergens, and the way any individual person reacts to any individual dog will vary greatly from case to case.
What causes allergies?
The usual allergen triggers caused by dogs and other types of animals are due to specific protein chains found in
the dander (shed skin cells)
the saliva of animals.
Contrary to popular belief, the actual hair of a dog itself is not the cause of the allergy, but rather the surface skin cells which are attached to the hair and are naturally shed as part of the body's normal cell renewal process. Because of the misconception, it is often said that hairless dog breeds such as the Chinese crested dog are a good choice for allergy sufferers. However, these dogs still shed dead skin cells, or dander, in the same way as humans and other dogs and are no more or less hypoallergenic than any other type of dog.
Breeds of dogs, including PWD, who do not shed hair excessively are the most likely to be considered to be hypoallergenic. This is because the shed skin cells (which can trigger allergies) remain stuck to the hair, and as the hair sheds less they don’t spread around the home as much as shedding breeds. But - be under no illusions, PWD do shed hair but at a far reduced rate when compared to say a labrador.
PWD have a single layer of hair, just like a human, rather than fur which has a second or lower layer of hair, closer to the body. This second layer constantly sheds along with the dander & skin protein. This probably caused the belief that some dogs are hypoallergenic, and why PWD may make more suitable pets for allergy sufferers than others.
But it must also be noted that different breeds of dog and even variations from dog to dog within the same breed will produce less or different proteins that trigger allergies. This means that you can react to one dog and not react to another dog of the same breed.
If the proteins in a dog's skin, saliva and urine are the same and you react to the dog then you may find that having a dog is not for you. If your reaction is limited we tend to find that it may be easier to live with and overcome the protein in dander rather than the protein in the saliva and urine. If you are allergic to the protein in saliva it must be remembered that it will be constantly present on the dog’s hair where they have licked/groomed themselves and on all surfaces, door handles, objects around the home. The protein in urine will also be constantly on the dog's feet and coat. There may be more ways to reduce the allergy to dander but fewer ways to minimise the allergy to saliva and urine.
There are ways of Minimising Allergens
As bathing a dog washes away shed skin cells and saliva/urine on the coat and the associated proteins/allergens that may be present within it, dogs that are bathed regularly are less likely to trigger allergic reactions in people with sensitivities. PWD do not always like being bathed.
Limit where your dogs goes. Keep your dog restricted to specific areas and never allow them in the bedroom or up on the furniture.
Some people use an air cleaner/fan with a HEPA filter to clean the air of dust particles, pollen, hair, dander etc. These are readily available on Amazon.
Keep up with your medication. One thing to consider is whether your asthma medication is up to date? When did you last have a full asthma review at the GP. There are often specialist trained asthma nurses who will review your condition and management / treatment. This review would also apply to your medication for allergens such as house dust mite and pollen / hayfever.
Limit a dog licking your hand or face. Wash your hands and don't touch your face and eyes.
Remember that if you are also allergic to pollen & house dust mite then they will also be present on the dog which could mean it is the pollen / dust mite you may be reacting to and not the dog.
As mentioned, different dogs affect different people in different ways, so it's important to consider any pet on its own individual merits and spend some time around it to see if it negatively affects your allergies or not. Some people may react to one dog or one breed line but not react to a dog from another breed line. Never give up hope as you may find a dog where your reaction is at a low enough level you can manage it. There is also some suggestion that, over time, people get used to their dog and build up some level of immunity.
If you are considering getting a PWD with a view to reducing the likelihood of triggering an allergic reaction in yourself or a member of your family we always encourage you to spend some time (morning or day) with our PWD dogs in our home. This will help you see how you react. It may be worth visiting a couple of times, once without any medication (so you can see the extremity of your reaction) and once again with medication (asthma inhaler and antihistamines) to see if you can cope with the dogs in your life. It may be worth visiting several breeders from two distinct breed lines.
A good breeder may choose to not home a PWD with a person/family where the reaction is severe as it only increases the likelihood of the dog requiring rehoming at a later date.
So how did I find a PWD?
Wendy & I had both been brought up with dogs but when I was young, they were probably a major contribution to my allergies. When around dogs that shed my reactions were strong irritating my eyes, nose and chest. The result was that I believed we would never have a family dog. One boring Boxing Day I did a Google search for "Hypoallergenic dogs" and up came the usual list, including PWD. I thoroughly did my internet research - they looked beautiful - and contacted a local breeder. I secretly went to visit them so I didn't raise the hopes of Wendy and the children. Can you imagine my disappointment when I came back from the first breeder with very itchy hands, itchy eyes and short of breath? I admitted to Wendy where I had been and gave up the thought of having a family dog.
For some reason (and I don't know why) I contacted another breeder and went to visit - and this time my reactions were far less. No itchy hands, no itchy eyes no shortness of breath. I wondered why - possibly reaction to different breed lines? or the difference between the breeders.? One was a far more commercial breeder with many dogs, the second was an immaculately clean family home. Who knows?
I took the risk and asked to go on the list for December at the end of the year - but the bitch didn't mate so I had t wait for another 8 months - a total of 18months. It was worth the wait and Chester was the start of four family PWD.
To manage it now I make sure my asthma medication is up to date and annually reviewed. During the summer I already take an antihistamine for hayfever so that reduces any potential reaction to the dogs. And if needed I take an antihistamine in the winter. I don't let the dogs lick my hands and face and wash my hands if they do. The dogs don't go in the bedroom (but sometimes they do sneak in!) and they are brushed daily and regularly groomed and washed. The house is kept tidy and the floors regularly washed and hoovered.
I have noticed that with the arrival of Rafferty in 2019 I reacted quite differently and it affected me far more than the other three dogs. He shares a similar breed line to the other three but his father was a Norwegian breed-line new to the UK. Perhaps this proves how you can react differently to the protein in different dogs. Interestingly it seems to have become worse over time - especially as he reached maturity.
UPDATE Spring 2020 A recent US research article highlighted how the protein in the urine of non-castrated dogs causes a greater reaction. Interestingly Chester is neutered and Rafferty is not. I will follow with interest.