There are lots of pragmatic reasons for wanting to know which breed of dog sheds the least. For me, once I’d narrowed down a shortlist of healthy hounds with the right kind of temperament and exercise needs, I don’t mind admitting that how much extra vacuuming their coat would create was a significant consideration! Poodles are probably the most famously low shedding breed, but there are a range of alternatives with a nearly identical coat type to consider, if they’re not for you.
In this article I’m going to showcase the best of the barely-molting breeds. But, if you’ve been led to believe that the least shedding dog will also be the most hypoallergenic, then I have important information about the real source of their allergens, and how to actually avoid them.
- Why do some dogs shed less than others?
- Does a completely non-shedding pup exist?
- Pros and cons of dogs that shed very little
- Does low shedding mean hypoallergenic?
- Which breed of dog sheds the least?
- More pedigrees that are practically non-shedding
There are lots of ways of categorizing dogs’ coats: curly vs straight, long vs short, and of course, shedding vs non-shedding. But molting isn’t as simple as ‘on or off’. In reality, dogs can be heavy, moderate, light, or low-shedders. And that means that at one end of the spectrum, there must be a group of dogs that shed the least. Let’s see why!
Why Do Some Dogs Shed Less Than Others?
How much or how little a dog breed sheds is influenced by the presence or absence of several genes, only some of which researchers have been able to locate and identify so far. For example, changes in a gene called RSPO2 are known to be responsible for wirehair coats and facial furnishings (bushy eyebrows and mustaches) and also to disable shedding. Another gene, called the MC5R gene, controls the function of hair follicles, and variations in its structure reduces molting in pedigrees like Poodles.
Genetics are one thing, but here’s what’s actually happening at an anatomical level when one dog breed sheds less than others.
All dog hairs go through a life cycle of growth (getting longer), rest (just being there), and death (falling out). After the dead hair falls out, a new one grows in its place. This cycle of replacing old hairs with new helps to maintain good overall coat condition. In low shedding dogs, each hair spends much longer in either the growth or rest stage of the cycle. So, each individual hair is being shed and replaced less frequently – but exactly how infrequently varies from breed to breed.
A long hair cycle results in low shedding, but differences in coat texture can also affect how much we perceive a dog to shed. For example, when a low shedding pooch with a straight, silky coat loses hair, it’s going to slide straight out and hit the ground (or couch, or bed). Whereas curly and wiry coats tend to trap lost hairs until they are dislodged by washing or brushing. So even among breeds that have similar length hair cycles, it appears as if there are differences in how much they shed.
Does A Completely Non-Shedding Dog Breed Exist?
The straightforward answer to this is no. The hair cycle is just that: a continuous process of death and regeneration. All dog hairs eventually complete their life cycle and fall out, even if it takes a long time. So puppies advertised as non-shedding are really just low-shedding, even though the distinction may seem like splitting hairs to some people(!)
Pros And Cons Of Dogs That Shed Very Little
Low shedding dog breeds are massively popular. This is partly because they make tidy house guests who leave little evidence of their presence on the floors or furniture.
Low-molt coats have practical advantages when it comes to vacuuming and dusting, but they should not be mistaken for low-commitment. Quite the opposite in fact – many low shedding dogs need daily brushing to remove dirt, debris and tangles from their coats. Dogs with long non-shedding coats need frequent clipping, which you’ll either need to master yourself, or pay a professional for. And most naturally short non-shedding coats need stripping instead – manually dislodging dead hairs that are being held in place by the texture of the surrounding hairs.
However, possibly the most oft-repeated advantage of low-shedding dogs is that they are hypoallergenic. Unfortunately, this is a myth.
Does Low Shedding Mean Hypoallergenic?
The idea that non-shedding dogs are hypoallergenic is widely pervasive. Even American presidents aren’t immune from falling for it: in 2009 Barack Obama told journalists that his family were looking for a non-shedding, hypoallergenic puppy.
Unfortunately, dog allergenicity has nothing to do with how much they shed. Allergies are the result of someone’s immune system mounting a misdirected attack against something that isn’t actually dangerous. In the case of dog allergies, the immune system is attacking a type of protein called Can f 1. Can f1 proteins are present in dogs’ saliva, and to a lesser extent their urine and sweat, but not their fur. Can f 1s are released into the home environment when saliva on their coat dries and the tiny protein particles become airborne. Or, when old dead skin cells with dry saliva on them are lost as part of the natural skin cycle.
Researchers have not found any evidence that the amount of Can f 1 protein produced by non-shedding pedigrees is any less than in shedding pedigrees, or that homes with non-shedding dogs have any less environmental Can f 1 protein in them. On the contrary, since owners of pups that molt are more likely to vacuum frequently, the proteins are more likely to be consistently removed from the environment. And, since canines with non-shedding coats generally require more brushing and grooming, owners are more likely to come into direct contact with Can f 1 proteins deposited on their fur.
Why Don’t Some Dogs Trigger Allergies?
So how is it that some people with allergies manage to keep non-shedding dogs? Well, canine chemistry is complicated. The structure of the Can f 1 protein in their saliva is not exactly identical from one pedigree to the next, or even between individuals of the same pedigree. It seems likely that some individuals produce Can f 1 proteins which are less allergenic than others, and that the differences are inheritable, so they tend to cluster in specific breeds. But at the moment, there’s no evidence that they are directly linked to coat type.
Which Breed Of Dog Sheds The Least?
Over the years, more than 60 breeds have been included on one list of low shedding dogs or another. At the time of writing, there’s no way of measuring how much a particular pooch sheds, or saying that one breed is demonstrably the least shedding. However, we’ve seen what factors contribute to shedding levels, and there’s a combination which probably achieves the most hair-retaining results:
- A hair cycle with a long growing or resting phase.
- And a curly texture, which traps loose hairs until they are washed or brushed free.
Some breeds which have this coat type are:
- Standard Poodles
- Miniature Poodles
- Toy Poodles
- Portuguese Water Dogs
- Spanish Water Dogs
- Irish Water Spaniels
- American Water Spaniels
- Bichon Frise
At first glance, that seems like a disparate bunch. They range from 4 to 70lbs, and there are representatives of the toy, sporting, non-sporting, working, and herding groups. But actually there is something really interesting that unites them all. They were all originally bred for, or descended from dogs bred for, working in water. Specifically, retrieving things like ducks for hunters. When they get wet, their tightly curled coats trap a layer of air next to the skin that provides warmth and buoyancy. Some of them haven’t done that kind of work for hundreds of years, but their fur is still a lasting legacy of their origin stories.
More Breeds That Are Practically Non-Shedding
These next dogs might not be the least shedding, but the amount of fur they lose is still hardly noticeable. And importantly, considering them too increases your chances of finding a pet whose temperament and activity needs are the perfect match for yours.
- Hairless dogs
- Wirehaired terriers
- Pulis and Komondors
- Yorkshire Terriers
Crossing Poodles with other pedigrees has given rise to a generation of Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Cockapoos, and other hybrids, known collectively as ‘the Doodles’. Their popularity has been driven by their potential for a non-shedding coat combined with desirable traits from their other parent breed. However, a low-molt coat is not guaranteed in first generation crossbreeds. How much hair a Doodle actually loses will only become apparent when their adult coat comes through, sometime after 4 months old.
To secure a higher likelihood of a low-shed coat, some breeders produce ‘backcrossed’ litters, with one Doodle parent, and one pedigree Poodle parent. I think it is telling that coordinated attempts to establish Labradoodles as a breed in their own right have produced a dog which is genetically very close to being a Poodle again!
It stands to reason that you can’t shed a coat you don’t have. These hairless breeds will hardly trouble you at all with hairs on your carpet, but their bare skin has its own special grooming needs, including needing protection from irritation and sunburn.
- American Hairless Terrier
- Chinese Crested
- Peruvian Inca Orchid
Pulis and Komondors
Pulis and Komondors are rugged Hungarian herders, made famous worldwide by their naturally cording coats, which earned them the nickname ‘mop dogs’. Their coat sheds very little, and what does fall out at the roots remains caught in their dreadlocks. Despite this, looking after a corded coat is not for the faint hearted. It requires hours of effort every week to make sure new hair growth integrates with the existing cords, and to pick out bits of leaves and twigs and environmental debris. When they get wet, care must be taken to dry them right down to the skin, or trapped moisture becomes a breeding ground for fungi, bacteria, and funky odors.
Wirehair terriers and Schnauzers
Wirehair terrier breeds and Schnauzers all owe their non-shedding coat to a specific variation of the RSPO2 gene mentioned earlier. In fact, Schnauzers are technically a breed of wirehair terrier themselves, although we don’t tend to think of them as such. Other examples of wirehair terriers are:
- Irish Terriers
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
- West Highland White Terriers
- Wirehair Fox Terriers
Their every day grooming needs are typically more swift than any of the other breeds we’ve looked at so far. They need daily brushing, but their hair doesn’t grow as long or tangle as quickly. However, since their coat texture tends to trap dead hairs rather than letting them fall loose, they do need carefully hand stripping several times a year.
Now for a low shedding dog who is neither curly nor wiry. The silky Yorkie’s coat can reach the floor thanks to its long growth phase, and the fact that a Yorkie is very short! To keep tangles to a minimum, most owners choose to keep their Yorkie in a puppy clip, which requires trimming every 6 to 8 weeks. The result is a coat which sheds very little, and needs minimal daily care.
Maltese belong to the Barbichon (literally ‘little Barbet’) cluster of pedigrees, like the Bichon Frise and Bolognese. But their minimal shedding coat is long and straight rather than long and curly. Other Barbichon breeds with straight or wavy low shedding coats are:
- Shih Tzus
- Coton de Tulears
Which Breed Of Dog Sheds The Least – Summary
Canine shedding is controlled by several factors, such as variations in hair cycle and coat texture. Lots of breeds shed very little, but some of the breeds which shed least are those with long curly coats descended from old water dogs – most famously the Poodle. However, it’s a mistake to assume that a low shedding dog will also be minimally allergenic. Mistaking low shedding for hypoallergenic is one of the leading reasons for dogs to be relinquished to an animal shelter, because it’s simply not the case.
For my part, I ended up choosing a Whippet – a normally shedding breed, but one with such as short coat that his hair hardly shows around the house. I’d love to hear what canine pal you choose too – let us know in the comments box down below!