Great Danes are known as the Apollo of Dogs for their regal and majestic bearing. Tall, slim, and elegant, this breed delights owners due to its mix of memorable good looks and loyal and patient personality.
Despite all these wonderful characteristics, however, Great Danes are unfortunately not hypoallergenic.
What does it mean when a dog is hypoallergenic?
Hypoallergenic is often used as a buzz word to signal that a dog won’t cause an allergic reaction in people who suffer from dog allergies. Small fortunes have been made since the rise of the “designer dog,” a concept that took place in the mid-20th century with the invention of the Cockapoo, which was a cross between the Cocker Spaniel and the Standard Poodle. However, the social status associated with designer dogs today is widely accredited to Wally Conron, the breeder who produced the first Labradoodle (Labrador x poodle).
The poodle cross grew in popularity when people started to believe that “hypoallergenic” was synonymous was “causes no allergic reaction.” In reality, a hypoallergenic dog is simply less likely to elicit an allergic reaction. No dog is 100% hypoallergenic, so a “hypoallergenic breed” is simply one that causes minimal allergic reactions.
Today, there are 37 crossbreeds with the Poodle, all done with the intention of being able to market and sell the puppies as “hypoallergenic.” While hypoallergenic dogs are indeed safer and more comfortable pets for people who suffer from allergies related to dogs, there is no such thing as a dog that is 100% hypoallergenic. The reason for this is rooted in the factors that cause an allergic reaction.
When you hear someone talking about how they or someone they know is allergic to dogs, the allergic reaction they’re referring to is in response to a dog’s dander or saliva. Although hair is often discussed as a source of dog allergies, this is technically incorrect. However, hair length does play a role in how much and how often dander is dispersed.
Dogs can have two types of coats, single and double. Great Danes have single coats, meaning that there is just one layer of fur. Dogs with a single coat shed less frequently than dogs with a double layer for a few reasons. Double-coated breeds such as Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds shed multiple times a year due to increased hair loss cycles and seasons. Single-coated dogs, on the other hand, typically only shed once a year in the spring, making the natural shedding that occurs throughout the year more manageable.
A dog that has more hair will also release more dander through natural activities such as brushing up against people or furniture, scratching or licking their bodies, and playing with other animals. While Great Danes are not big shedders in the technical sense, because they are literally big, they have the potential to disperse large amounts of dander, particularly when they are young and very active or elderly and releasing more dander as a result of greater hair loss related to weaker hair follicles.
What breeds create hypoallergenic dogs?
Bearing in mind that hypoallergenic (in theory) means that there is an extremely reduced amount of dander released by certain dogs, there is a certain breed that is known for this characteristic. Most readers probably know that I’m referring to the Standard Poodle, which is where the “-doodle” part of dogs that have been crossed with this breed derive the second half of their name.
Standard Poodles and their smaller relatives set the standard (get it?) for hypoallergenic potential in crossbreeds due to the very low amount of dander they produce. Thanks to their curly single coat, Standard Poodles do not release as many hair follicles, which in turn means they release less dander. After Wally Conron’s invention of the Labradoodle, breeders realized three things.
Firstly, there was genuine potential and value in Wally’s venture; his own wife had special needs and thus the crossbreeding was a genuine attempt to produce a dog that was suitable for their circumstances.
Secondly, there was genuine success in Wally’s venture; when done carefully, cross-breeding can be a great way to select for certain traits while mitigating other less desirable ones (for example, crossing a Golden Retriever with a poodle can produce an adorable teddy bear of a family pet that sheds and releases dander at a fraction of the rate of the Golden).
Finally, there was a lot of money to be made in this untapped market of designer dogs. While many people genuinely required hypoallergenic animals, others simply fell in love with the adorable crossbreeds, or merely wanted to stay abreast of current consumer trends. Thus, designer dogs came and still come with a high price tag, oftentimes one that is even higher than simply purchasing a purebred dog.
Introducing… the Great Danoodle
Great Dane lovers are probably dying to know whether there is a hypoallergenic option of their favorite breed. The good news is that yes, there is a crossbreed that exists! Great Danoodles are, as their name implies, a crossbreed with one Great Dane parent and one poodle parent. However, this crossbreed retains many of the normal health concerns associated with their purebred parents. In particular, Standard Poodles have similar confirmations to Great Danes that exacerbate their risk of developing a painful and potentially life-threatening condition called bloat. The breeds are also temperamentally similar, being affectionate and loving, but at risk of developing slightly neurotic tendencies related to anxiety or shyness. Proper, regular, and thorough socialization is absolutely critical to this crossbreed.
When crossbred correctly, the Danoodle is often slightly smaller than its Great Dane relatives, less stubborn (and therefore, more easily trained), and exceptionally sweet. There are many positives to crossbreeding a Danoodle, but one significant downside is that both Great Danes and poodles naturally suffer from high levels of separation anxiety, meaning that your Danoodle will almost certainly express this trait. Thus, it is not advised to bring one a Danoodle into your home unless you will be able to provide it with the near-constant companionship it requires.
The Great Conundrum: Danoodle or Dane?
Perhaps the better question to ask is: are you really allergic to dogs? If so, to what degree? Crossbreeds produced by reputable and responsible breeders will come with a significant price tag, so it’s best to ensure you have a thorough understanding of your own allergies so that you can make an informed decision based on your needs.
How to get tested for allergies
According to the National Institute of Health, somewhere between 10-20% of the population is allergic to dogs. If you exhibit allergic symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, red or itchy eyes and/or nose, or sneezing after coming into contact with a dog or item covered in pet dander (such as a couch), you may be allergic to dogs. Serious symptoms include skin reactions including hives on your face or chest, and people with asthma should be especially careful if they suspect they have a dog allergy.
Testing for dog allergies is quite simple if you don’t already own a dog. Your doctor will conduct a skin or blood test that can identify the allergen-specific reaction you experience. However, if you’re already co-habitating with a canine companion, your doctor may recommend separating from them for up to several months in order to get a good understanding of how allergic you are. The reason fort this is that dander buildup in homes takes a long time to disperse.
Due to the complicated literal and emotional logistics of separating from a beloved pet for a significant duration, many people often opt to manage their allergy symptoms. Fortunately, there are many options. Antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroids are all available over the counter to help reduce allergy symptoms.
Can you live with Great Danes even if you’re allergic?
If you suspect you may be allergic to your Great Dane, there are several steps you can take to minimize the amount of dander in and dispersed throughout your home. As noted previously, dander and saliva are responsible for causing allergic reactions. Urine is another source of allergies.
Regular grooming is essential to minimizing dander. While Great Danes are not considered heavy shedders, they do have the potential to disperse a lot of dander due to their size and penchant for spreading out on furniture. They are also a breed at risk of developing dry skin or skin allergies themselves. A twice-weekly brushing with a soft rubber brush is a great way to remove hair and dander build-up, and has the added bonus of being a bonding activity you’re your Dane. Additionally, regular bathing with a gentle shampoo can encourage the removal of excess hair and dander, and if your Dane suffers from dry, flaky skin, an oatmeal shampoo is especially useful.
Creating firm house rules for your Dane regarding furniture it is or is not allowed up on can be another useful strategy. Additionally, removing any excess carpet in your home can help ease allergy symptoms, as can vacuuming and washing your hands regularly.
If you feel like your Great Dane may be shedding excessively, it may be time for a trip to the vet for a checkup. Hair loss may signal a problem with diet or underlying health issue, both things that need to be carefully monitored in Great Danes.
Is a hypoallergenic dog for you?
If you are able to test before bringing a dog into your home and receive a positive result for dog allergies, a hypoallergenic dog may be your best option. However, due to the fact that breeding practices are still evolving in this area, and because no dog is 100% hypoallergenic, there can be a large variance in the amount of dander dispersed between puppies from the same litter. For this reason, it may be practical to consider adopting an older crossbreed from a rescue. You will have the opportunity to meet with and test your tolerance for a particular dog’s dander multiple times before making the lifetime commitment to bringing one home, and you will be making an informed and responsible decision based on what is mutually best for you and the animal.
Unfortunately, Great Danes are not hypoallergenic. They are single-coated, moderate shedders that typically experience one major shed a year, but their size makes them formidable dispersers of dander. However, there are several actions you can take to mitigate the effects of their dander, so it should be possible for mildly allergic people to live comfortably with a purebred Great Dane if they are otherwise in a position to do so. Moderately to severely allergic people could look into purchasing a Great Danoodle, but a smaller and more well-established crossbreed may be a better match for someone greatly affected by dog dander, saliva, and urine. Ultimately, background research and consultation with a medical professional can help you make the best decision for your particular circumstances.