Issue: The dander from your friend’s cat or dog is driving you―ah-choo!―crazy.
What to do: Pet allergies are generally reactions to a cat’s or dog’s dander (tiny flakes of skin that can get into carpeting and upholstered furniture) or saliva (which dries on the fur after the animal grooms itself). If you live with the pet’s owner, try taking antihistamines or getting desensitization shots. And if the animal is a dog, suggest that he be bathed weekly. “Try keeping the animal out of the bedroom at all times so there is less dander or hair where you sleep,” says Brevitz. You can also purchase an air cleaner or try a rinse such as Allerpet ($11, amazon.com), which is applied to the pet weekly to reduce dander. If it’s simply an acquaintance’s pet, let her know you’re allergic and arrange to meet her at a restaurant.
As for those lists of supposedly hypoallergenic animals, most experts agree this is erroneous terminology. “There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog,” says Gina Lash, assistant executive secretary of the American Kennel Club. “But some breeds can be better for people with allergies, including poodles and Portuguese water dogs.” (For the AKC’s full list of breeds that usually produce less dander, go to akc.org.)
Issue: Your neighbor’s dog barks loudly during the day―when she’s not around.
What to do: Your first course of action should be to gently alert her. “Leave a polite note if you’re not comfortable talking about it face-to-face,” says Quasha. She suggests writing something like: “Dear Sally, I’ve noticed recently that Angel has taken to barking when you leave your house/put her outside to play by herself. The noise is distracting, and I was wondering if you could do something about it. Let me know if I can help.” In case your neighbor does ask you for help, keep the number of a local dog trainer handy.
Issue: It’s your pooch that’s having the barking fits.
What to do: Make sure your dog is comfortable when you’re away, says Zawistowski: “Give her a good bit of exercise at the start of the day. Most dogs just need a walk in the morning, breakfast, a chew toy, and blankets, and they’ll probably spend most of the day sleeping.” And don’t ignore a comment that your dog was barking, he says. Find out when, then consult with a trainer, who may suggest such strategies as giving the dog a treat whenever you leave the house to help ease his separation anxiety. You can also leave a radio or a TV on, says Valerie Angeli, senior director of public information and special projects for the ASPCA. “Sometimes background noise can alleviate the stress of silence,” she explains. If all else fails, Brevitz says, consider taking the dog to an animal day-care facility.