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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Friends of mine asked me to keep my eyes open for an older dog with some training. They have twins age 15 months and another child 4 years old. Their Mother is allergic to dogs.

They have just moved into a new house they built out in the woods and "want" a dog. She is scared of Wildlife and wants something to alert bark.

The problem is, if I find a dog, I wonder if the dog will have to be returned within a few days due to allergies. They asked me about "hypo allergenic" dogs and I could not really think of much... MAYBE a Poodle.. but there really are no hypo allergenic dogs.

The husband is not thrilled with poodles. He would prefer a "dog like mine." I told them a dog "like mine" is 5 years old with a ton of training... he did not come this trained "out of the box."

IMO (and I have stated this) they should wait until the children are all older... but none of that will fix the Mom's allergies.

I looked at allergy treatment.. depending on the specific allergen the treatment can be unpleasant (mostly consisting of immunosuppressants which can lead to other health problems).

Other than the dog being "outside" (I am not helping them find a dog that has to live outside) does anyone here have any suggestions?

Thanks!
 

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Not sure if you're looking for my opinion, but I have bad allergies to furry animals and they are no fun. We get by with "hypoallergenic" dogs that don't shed, but then there's dander and saliva. You could take a chance with a poodle mix, but it's hit or miss whether they get the non-shedding coat. Portuguese water dog... Everyone is different. Sounds to me your friends need to better understand the work that comes with training a dog like [yours] too. Seems like expectations are a bit unrealistic.
 

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I'm allergic to dogs. Also cats and many, many other environmental allergies. Thankfully my dog allergies are not one of my worst ones, or I wouldn't be able to have dogs at all, but I do still need to make accomodations.

The best thing you (I'm going to use a general 'you' here) can do is work with an allergist. They're most likely to have up-to-date information about medications and treatment methods, and are best able to help you navigate which choices are best for you/your lifestyle. Different medications are going to be necessary depending on the allergy symptoms - for example, mine aggravate my asthma, so finding an effective inhaler was important as part of my management, but for other people they may need something more targeted towards itching or sinus problems. There are dog allergy shots now, but they're a long-term process (it can take up to three years to reach peak effectiveness), and they don't work for everyone. There's also the risk they'll work temporarily, but the allergies will return months or years after stopping the shots. An allergist will help you navigate those choices and weigh the risks/benefits.

I've so far only lived with "hypoallergenic" breeds, and do find that I have less intense reactions to them. Part of this is because their hair is not getting everywhere the way it does with a high shedding breed - including being suspended in the air. Dog hair also picks up lots of other allergens (like dust and pollen, both of which I'm allergic to as well), so it can become a vector for multiple allergies if it's flying around everywhere. It also helps that hypoallergenic breeds are supposed to be bathed regularly, which also reduces the allergen load. However, not everyone responds to any given "hypoallergenic" breeds the same way - it's important for allergic persons to spend time with adults of the specific breed they're thinking of getting to get an idea of how badly they set off their allergies. Some people can't handle poodles, but are okay with smooth coated, low shedding breeds like rat terriers.

As for lifestyle stuff, there's a lot you can do, though much of it is a lot of work and/or expensive. Vacuum cleaners with HEPA or better air filters being used at least a couple times a week, air purifiers in rooms the dog is spending a lot of time, more frequent cleaning and laundering of the dog's space and bedding, restricting the dog from being allowed on hard to clean furniture like couches and beds, being extremely on top of the dog's grooming (which may include the cost of professional groomers) to minimize shedding and dander buildup (there's also grooming products that claim to reduce allergens), etc. I do some of this, but not all of it, but it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what worked best for me and my boys. Some people will need to do all of it to feel comfortable.

As for breeds, if they're looking for a large dog then poodle is the obvious choice for a "hypoallergenic" coat that minimizes allergy symptoms for many (but not all) allergic people. You could try sharing poodles in "doodle" clips with the husband to help him understand that he doesn't HAVE to keep a poodle in pom-poms and topknots, and that there's styles out there that look more "macho". They might also look at dog breeds that have very thin, light single coats, like greyhounds. These dogs are also often "low shed" and may work for some allergy sufferers. Unfortunately, many other large low-shed breeds are some combination of high energy and/or drivey and intense, which doesn't work for many inexperienced families. Giant schnauzers come to mind as a dog that might have the right "look", but may not suit this family's lifestyle. This "low shed large family dog but not a poodle" is one of those awkward niches that a lot of doodle breeders are trying to fill - and don't get me wrong, most do it poorly so it's probably not worth the effort to try to find an ethical breeder. But if this family is open to looking at rescue, there may be a low-shed mixed breed out there of the more scruffy, wirey variety (so less frou-frou than a poodle) who fits their home. I'd just recommend working with the shelter to do a "trial period" so they can return the dog with no judgement if it triggers allergies too badly, or otherwise doesn't fit their household.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
IMO (and I have expressed this) a 4 year old and twins 15 months old are right there "too much" with a new dog too. The other wrinkle is the husband/Father is away quite a lot. She is afraid of bears and they are around here. I got my big game license but there is no guarantee a bear will show up during the season OR be "that bear" that has habituated itself to this area (I have seen it.. young male Black Bear). They also do not understand that most dogs will not engage a bear and they most certainly are not ready to have a Plott Hound!

The 4 year old is quite willful and might do the wrong behavior with a dog and not listen and end up bitten.

I sent them a link about allergies and dogs. It was pretty comprehensive. Allergen Fact Sheets

I am not allergic to much of anything (mean people??? Haha!), so it's an area I know little about.
 

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You're lucky. One of my major allergies is, unfortunately, dust, so I have to make lifestyle changes and take medicine regardless of whether I have dogs or not, so making a couple extra accomodations (mostly involving grooming) wasn't a big deal to me. If dogs are a major allergy and the person doesn't have any other allergies they need to deal with, it's going to be a much bigger adjustment.

If she's only looking for an alarm system, she should try geese. They will absolutely not be quiet about intruders, and would be about as effective at actually chasing a bear off as most dogs. Eg: if a bear is going to run away from loud noise, barking or honking won't make a difference, and if a bear isn't... most dogs won't be able to do anything about it, and neither would most geese (I hesitate to say "all" because there's some truly MEAN birds out there).

But really, if there's a serious aggressive bear risk and it's legal where they are, the adults should get firearm training and maybe a motion detection camera system around their house so they can be warned of bear activity before anyone wanders outside. If a warning shot doesn't scare off a bear, they were going to need more than a dog to chase it off anyway. I would be surprised if it's illegal to shoot a bear in self defense, even outside bear season, so definitely look into that - having cameras could help prove that they really did need to defend themselves. If they can't/won't legally use a firearm, bear spray is the only other thing I can think of, and even that needs some practice to be really accurate with (and isn't legal everywhere).
 

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Be honest, if you were running a rescue and these people came to you -- allergic mother, 15-month-old twins, "willful" 4-year-old, father gone a lot, want the dog because mother's afraid of the woods where they just chose to build their new house, would you adopt a dog to them? I wouldn't. Sometimes the answer is no.

I'd try to redirect toward some of DaySleepers' suggestions about motion detecting devices, geese, etc., but friends or not, I wouldn't be complicit in getting them a dog.
 

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If mom is scared of wildlife, why on earth did they move into the woods? I mean, that's where you're pretty gosh darned likely to find wildlife... I don't know where in the country you are, but feral pigs are more of an issue than bears or mountain lions here in SETX.

If they want a "living alarm system" then DaySleepers' suggestion of geese is a good one, along with Guinea fowl. As a bonus, they wouldn't have to buy eggs at the store.
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
This is in upstate NY... She is suburban from LI.. he actually is from this area.

I am not sure I could convince either of them to have a firearm.. and it's NY State where the city folks in NY make the laws and know nothing of rural life... The laws are so ridiculous that Revolutionary War Re-Enactments have been cancelled because Flintlocks with blanks are illegal in the State Parks where they are held. These bring in large tourist numbers and much income to upstate rural towns.

I like the idea of Guinea Fowl though mean geese and little kids is probably not a good idea.

My part in this is to gently get THEM to realize a dog "at this time" is probably not a great idea. It's much more effective than saying/doing nothing or saying I cannot help them and they end up going out and getting a dog they can't deal with (or a kid gets bitten).

I had other friends who did not listen.. they rescued a German Shepherd and returned it in 48 hours as it was not little kid tolerant... and then, in tears, called me saying they wish they had listened.

I just wanted to investigate the allergy angle as a stepping off of getting them to decide not to get a dog right now.
 

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Feel free to play up how much of a pain it can be to get allergy medications right. You often need to try one for a while before you know it's working consistently well for you, but it's not uncommon to need an adjustment after a couple years. Allergists are specialists and therefore expensive, sometimes with long wait lists, and not all insurance will cover an appointment for a luxury like "I want a pet" rather than "I can't breathe/function in daily life". If an allergy med doesn't work out, there can be annoying side effects like drowsiness that impair your ability to function normally.

I absolutely think allergists and medication are wonderful and a real life changer for allergic people in most cases. But it honestly isn't always worth it for something like wanting a dog not to have a dog, but to serve a function that could realistically be replaced with technology.
 

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She is afraid of bears and they are around here.
OK, I'm in another country so this may be totally ineffective but I'll spitball it anyway.

At home, we have a problem with deer running into the roads at night and causing car crashes. We can get a device that emits a sound (inaudible to humans) that deters them and keeps them well away.

Is anything like that available to them?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
OK, I'm in another country so this may be totally ineffective but I'll spitball it anyway.

At home, we have a problem with deer running into the roads at night and causing car crashes. We can get a device that emits a sound (inaudible to humans) that deters them and keeps them well away.

Is anything like that available to them?
The ones for deer don't work.

Bears are another matter. As Apex Predators there is not much they fear. Bears habituated to people because they leave bird feeders and trash cans out are a whole different can of worms. That is the issue. They DON'T always run away at noise. They have heard it before. The one that showed up here at my pond I chased away.. and even then he "sauntered" off. Not really scared; just didn't want to deal with a psychopathic yelling woman and her equally yelling dog.
 

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I agree that the correct answer here is "no dog."

If they are absolutely dead set on a dog and are going to get one anyway, maybe a standard schnauzer? A really well-bred, well-trained one? They're more easygoing than minis or giants, they're territorial and will alert bark, they're about as trainable as you get with a terrier, and they have a coat type that's more commonly tolerated by people with allergies, even better than poodles IME (poodle coats kind of act like a swiffer, I think) particularly if stripped rather than clipped for grooming. Also, they're uncommon enough that there aren't a lot of garbage breeders out there, and there are a lot of schnauzer-specific rescues that would be delighted to get some variety from the parade of minis, so if they do give up on the dog it has a good chance at a soft landing back with the original breeder or a good rehoming.
 

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I say this as the biggest softie in the world about wildlife, and someone who actually believes that bears etc. have more right to be here than we do: if you live in bear country, and you have livestock, outdoor pets or children, it's irresponsible not to have a bear gun and know how to use it.

A woman in my town had to watch her husband be eaten alive by a bear a few years ago. Can you imagine living with that? Being prepared is an absolute necessity in when you live in an area where you are not the apex predator.

A dog is not a substitute for a weapon. A normal housedog cannot take out a bear and is unlikely to scare them off. Many bears have learned that pet dogs are a good food source. The thing a dog is good for is alerting, which is very useful as bears can be sneaky, but you have to be able to call them off the bear. And if you do sic them on the bear, you have to be aware that you're basically trading their life for buying humans some time to get to safety. That's a tough call for some people and something a dog owner in bear country really needs to think about ahead of time.
 

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When I first starting dating my future wife, she was violently allergic to dogs - as in oxygen at the ER and severe asthma allergic. I had a really nice Irish setter that I adopted off the street in Santa Barabara and brought to Wisconsin with me. I remember telling my two roommates, "If I have to decide between Diane and Brandy, Diane had better watch out."

Fast forward a couple months, Brandy went to live with my parents 50 miles away, Diane and I were married, and she started years of allergy shots. It took 17 years, but we eventually got a 116-pound black lab - the antithisis of hypoallergic. We have not been dogless since then.

She still has mild dog allergies, as do I, but she does well with dogs she is around a lot. Three smaller dogs sleep in our bed and they are not real respectful of personal space. (If you wake up without a dog butt in yoour face, it's an exceptional night.) When we have dog guests, it sometimes doesn't go as well.

So, yeah, it's possible, but not fast or cheap. Someone has to be highly motivated to go through all of that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
@parus that is quite a story. I have no issue with bears until they become habituated to bird feeders and trash (people ARE stupid) or the population becomes too great to be sustained.

Around here bears were never seen, but over the years we have added thousands of acres to State forests, wildlife management areas and do forth (my job b4 I retired). We no longer do much clear cutting for timber. Instead timber is selectively cut and harvested sustainably so the cuts come every 20 years or so.

The result is we have increased viable wildlife habitat tremendously and the wildlife is breeding. Couple this with a decline in the numbers of hunters.. us oldsters are aging out and youngsters have no interest (I always say there is no app for hunting). Deer have become over populated to the point of damage to the forests so.their very sustainability is threatened due to the browsing off of young trees. Bears are soon to be in the same boat, though they are a problem in the damage they do to human property in their constant quest for food. It takes a LOT of food yo maintain a bear!

While the bear issue is the reason they want a dog.. and the reasoning is misplaced. Most dogs won't scare a bear off. They might chase but the minute the bear stands up and turns most dogs turn and run and go behind the human. That fog that DOES engage a bear has a good chance of dying or being so injured death is the result.

I have said these things...
Like I said, making 'not getting a dog' THEIR idea is the best answer and what I am working on.
 

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Good! Thanks for the update 😊

I could be wrong, but the biggest thing bothering me with this was I felt they wanted a dog for a specific purpose and didn't really think about what they could offer a dog. I have many allergies and agree with all the other allergy sufferers, it really takes a lot of tweaking to figure out what works for each individual suffering with allergies. It's not an easy task to live with.

I do not have kids, but IMO the kids can't properly enjoy the dog, parents would likely be so busy with two 1.5YOish twins and feel they and the dog would get so much more out of things if they wait.

Use other methods to alert of wildlife.
 
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