Hypoallergenic: Marketing Scheme or Truth?
By Kent Family Farms - Ashton Kent
This is the constant debate among breeders and the general public. Are Doodles hypoallergenic or it is just a big marketing scheme to sell more dogs?
Let’s start with the definition of Hypoallergenic. Hypoallergenic simply means it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Hypo meaning less or lower than. This is the place to start because many people are under the false idea that hypoallergenic means will not cause allergic reactions, when in fact it just means less likely to cause allergic reactions.
When comparing a Goldendoodle to a Golden Retriever for instance, the Goldendoodle is absolutely hypoallergenic because it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
There is a big problem with this though. We as breeders need to make sure that we are doing our very best to use terminology that is not only correct but is also understandable and widely known by the general public, so as to not mislead people whether it is intentional or not.
I personally talk to families specifically about allergies in their household and direct them to the litters that are more likely to be good for those with allergies. Many breeders do this by directing them to certain generations. This is also not entirely wrong, but there is a much larger picture to take into consideration that just generation.
Allergies we know are affected by many different genes and some of those genes are not yet identified, but we do have some genes to go off of that are very helpful in directing us to the most likely to not cause allergies.
The furnishing gene should always be our primary focus when it comes to allergies. Ideally if a family has allergies to dander you want to direct them to a dog with two furnishing genes.
Most Poodles carry two of these genes and all Golden Retrievers don’t carry the furnishing gene. Notice I said ‘most’. In rare cases we have seen some Poodles that only carry one furnishing gene. In these cases not only will they throw improper coats when bred to another dog that doesn’t carry two furnishing genes, but they are also more likely to shed, causing issues with allergy sufferers. We are going to assume any Poodle is tested and confirmed to have two furnishing genes for the following generations.
F1 generation all puppies will carry one furnishing gene, this is not generally recommend for families with allergies to dander.
F1b generation 50% will carry two furnishing genes, 50% will carry one furnishing gene, so if there is a moderate to severe allergy you can test the puppies to see which ones carry two furnishing genes. Families with mild allergies are usually okay with many F1b’s.
Once you have breeders that go past the F1b generation, it is essential that they are testing their dogs coats for whether they carry one or two furnishing genes, if they are going to be placing dogs in homes with allergies to dander.
I hear quite often from families contacting me that they heard that a multigen doodle would be the best fit for their family because they have dander allergies. This is a bit misleading because if the breeder doesn’t coat test, a multigen could be a terrible shedder and could also be terrible for allergies. On the other hand if the breeder coat tests and only keeps back dogs that have two furnishing genes, you could get whole litters of dogs with two furnishing genes and the structure, temperament, coat, etc. that we see in earlier generations without two furnishing genes.
More information on the furnishing gene:
The shedding locus is a new discovery that came out and it too can have an impact on allergies, but it has a lesser impact than that of the furnishing gene, as we do know that many Poodles carry two shedding genes, even though we don’t see shedding in those dogs. That being said with a family with severe allergies, this would be a gene I would take into consideration too.
More information on shedding and furnishing gene testing:
There is a lot of debate as to whether curl has an impact on allergies. Many believe that the curlier the Doodle the less shedding and the less allergies. From what we have seen a dog can have no curl gene and still be good for those with allergies, having little to no shedding. That being said, this is something that even geneticists are not 100% sure on because they do see some correlation with curl and shedding in many breeds. It is possible that the curl is just catching more of the dander that is causing allergy issues or it has no impact at all, but there is another gene that happens to be in dogs with curl that is causing the variation in dander and allergies. I personally would not take this gene into consideration when placing a puppy in a home with allergies at this point until we have more information to go on.
More information on the curl gene:
Long Hair Gene:
For breeds that carry a short hair gene, such a Labrador Retrievers, not having two long hair genes can also contribute to not only wirehaired coats instead of the traditional Doodle coat, but we have seen through breeder experience that if a dog does not have two long hair genes, there is an increased amount of shedding and potential for allergy issues. When breeding Doodles that start with a short haired dog, you also need to take into consideration the long hair gene and test dogs for this gene to try to eliminate it in future generations. It is important to note, that this is also based off breeder experience and I do not have a science based article to back that claim up. Breeder experience is very useful and should be taken into consideration and used, but is not as accurate as genetic proof of a claim.
More information on testing the long hair gene:
Predicting for allergies
Allergies are one of those things that we as breeders cannot at all guarantee. Every person is individual in how their allergies work and even if we use every resource we have we still cannot guarantee that someone will not react to a dog. It is important that everyone understands that. That being said we do have wonderful resources to help in directing people to puppies that will be better for allergies. Knowing each dogs furnishing and shedding results paired with the actual shedding we see in the parents of puppies, can give us very good indications as to what puppies will be best suited for each family.
It is important to also note that this is all referring to people that have a dander allergy, not a saliva allergy. Saliva allergies are not affected by the coats of a dog, but instead every breed will cause allergy issues with someone allergic to saliva.
If you are going to use the term hypoallergenic, no problem, just make sure you explain what you mean by that and that it doesn’t necessarily mean that the puppy will be good for those with allergies. If you are selling to those with allergies, please do yourself and them a favour and coat test your dogs. It is worth the piece of mind to know that you have done everything in your power to avoid any allergy issues. Consider using terms like ‘better for allergies’ ‘allergy friendly’ for the generations that are tested better for allergies, instead of just saying all your dogs are hypoallergenic. For the litters you know aren’t going to be good for allergies, make sure you are clear in your advertising and talking with families on that. Honesty as a breeder is of the utmost importance and being upfront from the beginning is going to be best for your puppies, best for the families buying your puppies, best for you and best for your long term success as a breeder.
Ask lots of questions of your breeder (you should always do this, but especially if you have allergies). Educate yourself on what to look for. Don’t fall for marketing schemes. You will know after asking lots of pointed questions of your breeder whether they know what they are talking about or not.