18 Best Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds for Your Apartment (Small, Medium, and Large)
18 Best Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds
Although no dogs are truly free of allergens, some dog breeds are known as “hypoallergenic,” which means that their allergen levels are lower than other dogs because they shed very little or may even produce less dander. There is still a lot of controversy over this issue and some dogs, no matter what breed and despite being known as hypoallergenic, will still provoke allergic reactions in sensitive persons.
Although there are some good large and medium-sized dogs on this list, smaller dogs are less likely to cause allergic reactions because they are easier to bathe, brush, and groom. Be very selective when you search for your perfect companion no matter what the size, since not all hypoallergenic dogs are good in apartments. Here is a list of the best hypoallergenic dogs that will do well in a small environment.
Small Dog Breeds
- Apartment friendly: Bernese Mountain Dogs are laid-back pets that are not usually recommended for apartments because of their size and working background. Crossed with the Standard Poodle, a dog breed that often does well in an apartment, many of the Bernedoodle crossbreeds adapt well to a small mostly indoors home. Bernedoodles are quiet, relatively laid back, and do not shed much.
- Hypoallergenic: These dogs are a recent crossbreed and do not always follow the Poodle trait to be relatively hypoallergenic. If you get one of these dogs through a “hybrid” breeder, you need to have a signed contract that states that you can return the dog and receive a contract if the dog is causing allergy problems among your family members. DO NOT accept an oral contract or believe that all of the puppies will be of the non-shedding type.
- Behavior issues: Like many dogs, the Bernedoodle is very social and does not do well if left alone for a long period of time. They are also a happy-go-lucky dog and are not suspicious enough to become a good guard dog.
- Health issues: There is a lot of debate on whether a crossbred dog will have fewer inherited diseases than his parents; some vets believe that the dog will be susceptible to problems from each of his parents´ breeds. If that is the case, the Bernedoodle will suffer a lot because Poodles are susceptible to hip dysplasia, bloat and eye problems and Bernese are also susceptible to bloat, hip dysplasia, and inherited eye diseases.
If you want a large hypoallergenic dog, your apartment allows a large breed dog, and you do not have any experience around dogs, the Bernedoodle is a good choice. Since the type is so new there is a lot of individual variation but the average lifespan is about 12 years+ and they weigh about 70 or 80 pounds.
2. Standard Poodle
- Apartment friendly: This can vary but in general most of the dogs do very well. Poodles are one of the most intelligent breeds and if bored may do more than just sit around. Despite their reputation, they are a hunting breed and do require adequate exercise.
- Hypoallergenic: Poodles are the breed with which most hybrid dogs are based, and the reason they are crossed is because of their non-shedding coat and relatively low production of dander. (Because of that non-shedding coat, they do need to be groomed about every 6 weeks.)
- Behavior issues: Barking can be a problem but it is usually when the family first arrives home and the dog is excited. If you are going to be away from home all day and do not have anyone able to visit and walk your dog, the Standard Poodle may not lounge around. They are not nearly as destructive as Labradors, Goldens, and some other hunting/working breeds but they do get bored if not exercised.
- Health issues: There are several serious problems that need to be considered when choosing your dog. Parents should have their hips certified because of hip dysplasia, their eyes examined prior to purchase, and since dogs can be subject to bloat/gastric torsion they need to be managed to prevent that problem.
- Apartment friendly: This dog breed is often on the lists for best apartment dogs despite their size. They are usually content to relax and sleep during the day and will wait patiently for their exercise. Greyhounds also do not bark much.
- Hypoallergenic: Greyhounds have short hair but are not totally free from shedding. They are usually clean dogs, but all large dogs tend to be bathed less than the small breeds. (They are relatively easy to wipe clean with a moist cloth though and can be kept clean in that way.)
- Behavior issues: Retired racing dogs are already crate trained and will be happy to lie around your apartment. When trained on the track, it is not unusual for them to be confined for most of the day. When out for a walk, however, they can only be let loose in a confined area because they will run off.
- Health issues: These large dogs can be prone to racetrack injuries and may develop secondary arthritis later in life. Most of their other problems (like dental disease) are common in many breeds. A little less than a third of the dogs do have a blood disorder and they may be more prone to develop tick-borne diseases because of that.
4. Portuguese Water Dog
- Apartment friendly: Although a working breed, this dog is often recommended for apartment life because they are not too big (only 40 to 60 pounds) and do not shed much. All working dogs need to be adopted with some caution, however. They do much better in a home with a yard. If you do not have someone willing to take the dog out for long walks several times a day this is not a good choice.
- Hypoallergenic: These dogs do not shed much. Former US President Barak Obama purchased one of these dogs because his daughter was allergic and this is the most hypoallergenic dog they could agree on. Since they do not shed, they do need to be groomed periodically, about every 5 weeks.
- Behavior issues: They are one of the breeds known to be good with kids. (Some breeders do not recommend them for families with very young children, however.) Like many working dog breeds, they do not do well if left alone all day—6 hours is probably the maximum time.
- Health issues: PWDs are prone to develop hip dysplasia so be sure and ask the breeder about the parents' x-rays and certification before signing up on a waiting list for one of these dogs. Retinal atrophy and eyelid problems are also common genetic problems.
These dogs live about 12 years and are usually obedient and good pets. The main problem with PWDs is still their relative scarcity and expense. Finding a dog is going to take a lot of work.
- Apartment friendly: The French water dog is an outdoor breed, bred to be a waterfowl hunter, and is not ideal for an apartment. If they are going to be an indoor dog they will need plenty of exercise.
- Hypoallergenic: This dog has short and curly hair that does not shed. Since most allergens are spread through shedding, this is an important quality.
- Behavior issues: Most Barbet owners are pleased with their dog´s “happy-go-lucky” attitude. Dogs are good with kids. They are easy to train but the commands need to be reinforced throughout life.
- Health issues: Some lines are prone to hip dysplasia so pre-breeding x-rays need to be done. Before finalizing the purchase of your puppy you should have him examined by a vet to be evaluated for undescended testicles and any other genetic problems. Other problems like elbow dysplasia or epilepsy will not show up until later.
Like the Portuguese Water Dog, their French cousin is still fairly rare and puppies are expensive.
- Apartment friendly: This dog breed is the smallest of the medium-sized apartment dogs (around 20-25 pounds) so they are a lot easier to handle than some of the larger dogs. They are clean and easy to housetrain but still a hunting dog and do have to be exercised but usually do okay while waiting. The Basenjis´ greatest recommendation as an apartment dog will probably come from your neighbors: they do not bark. (They do make a yodeling sound and some people do not like it.)
- Hypoallergenic: Unlike many short-haired dogs, they barely shed. They have cat-like cleaning behavior and are a lot less likely to drag allergens into your house than other breeds. Basenjis can also be kept clean between baths by wiping the dog down with a moist cloth.
- Behavior issues: This dog breed is not easy to train and has significant exercise requirements. Because of their stubbornness and independent behavior they are not recommended for first-time dog owners.
- Health issues: Although these dogs are the best of the medium-sized hypoallergenic breeds for an apartment, they do have some serious health problems. A significant number (maybe up to about 30%) of the dogs are affected by Fanconi syndrome, a disease of the kidneys. Some have eye problems like retinal atrophy and they can also be prone to less common diseases. A Basenji-specific intestinal disease, enteropathy, affects less than 5% of the dogs.
- Apartment friendly: These dogs are very small (usually less than 10 pounds) and do fine in a small apartment as long as they are taken for a walk every day. They do make good watchdogs since they are alert and will bark at anything unusual.
- Hypoallergenic: These wiry little dogs are considered hypoallergenic since they do not shed much. They are also easy to bathe since they are so small, and if kept clean will spread less allergens than some other dogs.
- Behavior issues: Since some of these dogs are excitable, it is important that they be well socialized as pups so that they not develop fear aggression later on. Almost all of them are fine with their families but some have high prey drive so may not get along with cats and small pets.
- Health issues: Like many small dog breeds, the Affenpinscher can be prone to dental problems, luxating patellas (bad knees) that may need to be surgically corrected, heart disease, and fractures since they are so small and fragile. Some of the lines are also prone to hip dysplasia and another bone disease called Legg-Calve-Perthes. Make sure that your dogs' parents have had their hips certified before breeding, and take your puppy in to your regular veterinarian for an exam before finalizing purchase.
Dogs can be expensive and hard to find, so expect a waiting list if you cannot find an adult through a shelter or rescue group. If you have decided that you do want to make this cute little monkey-face breed part of your home, however, be sure to treat this dog with as much respect as you would a larger dog. Obedience train him, socialize him, and do not spoil him or encourage “small dog syndrome” behaviors like growling, snapping, resource guarding, or food aggression.
- Apartment friendly: Dogs are a lot sturdier than the tiny breeds (they weigh up to about 20 pounds) but are still considered very small according to most apartment leases. They do need exercise, like most breeds, but are clean and if kept brushed will bring in few allergens from the outside.
- Hypoallergenic: Besides not shedding very much, the Bichon is a very social dog and families who have one of these dogs tend to keep them clean and groomed. Grooming and bathing remove the allergens that cause a lot of people to suffer so they tend to be one of the most hypoallergenic dogs.
- Behavior issues: These dogs are more affectionate than some breeds and as long as they are not spoiled and suffering from “small dog syndrome” they are usually happy-go-lucky and good with kids. Some people complain of housebreaking problems so they do need to be taken out periodically like any other dog. (They can be trained to use pads.)
- Health issues: Common small dog issues like allergies and patellar luxation are sometimes seen. Some less common genetic problems can be very serious, like hypoadrenocorticism, cataracts, liver shunts, autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) and orthopedic diseases like hip dysplasia and Legg-Calves-Perthes disease.
If you like the long hair, or are willing to have your dog groomed at least every 6 weeks and kept clipped short, the Bichon Frisé is a good choice for a family that needs a hypoallergenic dog.
9. Brussels Griffon
- Apartment friendly: A small dog breed that does not need a lot of outside exercise, the Brussels Griffon Is usually recommended as one of the better apartment dogs.
- Hypoallergenic: The wiry coat barely sheds. If you do not like the looks, there is also a short-haired variety available but they will shed and are not considered hypoallergenic.
- Behavior issues: Some breeders point out that these dogs are great watchdogs. That is because they do bark a lot. They can be stubborn during training and like all tiny dogs (they are usually less than 10 pounds) they are not recommended for homes with toddlers.
- Health issues: Like all small dogs, the Brussels Griffon can be prone to luxating patella, dental problems, and low blood sugar. They may also have some eye diseases like retinal atrophy but are generally considered healthy.
These dogs are expensive and relatively hard to find. When you find a breeder you will most likely be put on a waiting list.
10. Chinese Crested
- Apartment friendly: These small dogs are not very active and so do well in apartment life. They need to be taken out for daily exercise, like most breeds, but will do okay as soon as this is done. They are also one of the small dog breeds that does not bark excessively.
- Hypoallergenic: The hairless variety is not going to shed much, and to clean allergens off of their skin each day all you have to do is wipe the dog down with a moist cloth. Long hairs around the face will need to be kept clean.
- Behavior issues: If you are looking for an apartment dog that you can leave alone all day while you are at work, the Chinese crested is not the best choice. They tend to be more social than some breeds and are sensitive to their owners' mood swings so may develop neurotic behaviors.
- Health issues: Some small dog problems are present, such as dental disease. The main genetic problems are epilepsy, eye problems, and deafness.
- Apartment friendly: This dog is suited for an apartment. They are small, do not shed, easy to exercise, and are usually good with cats or other pets.
- Hypoallergenic: Havanese do not shed much and are small so likely to be bathed more often. Many new owners present their dogs with mats under a well-groomed outer coat, and those more experienced at grooming complain that this dog needs plenty of time. (You can give your Havanese a “puppy cut” and keep his hair short if a lot of daily brushing is not an option.)
- Behavior issues: Like many small dog breeds, these dogs do bark a lot. They may be difficult to housebreak and do not do well when left alone.
- Health issues: Some of the major concerns are small dog problems: dental disease, allergies, and luxating patellas. The genetic problems seen can include deafness, liver disease, and eye problems like a prolapsed nictitating membrane (cherry eye).
The Havanese is usually about 10-15 pounds so if you want a dog a lot like a Maltese but want your pet to be a little more robust, this is a great choice. They are less likely to be injured by children so are one of the best kid-friendly apartment dogs available.
12. Italian Greyhound
- Apartment Friendly: One of the lazy dog breeds that does not bark much, the Italian Greyhound has several advantages when living in an apartment. They are usually satisfied sleeping on a bed, couch, or in their own bed, but will need to be taken for exercise. This is one of the few dog breeds that is better off in an apartment than a house, where he is more likely to run out an open door.
- Hypoallergenic: This dog has very little hair and does not shed much. IGs do not drool much so allergens are most likely to be spread when the dog grooms. (This can be taken care of with bathing or even wiping the dog down daily with a moist cloth.)
- Behavior issues: Many IG owners have housetraining issues. The dogs do not do well if taken out in the cold and may “hold it” and relieve themselves when back inside. (They can be trained to use “puppy pads” inside the house.) If the household is loud, rambunctious, or has numerous active children the dogs may have nervous vomiting, diarrhea, and neurotic problems like excessive licking.
- Health issues: Fragile bones are a problem if your IG is handled roughly and dental disease is a problem if the teeth are not brushed daily. The most common inherited problems are epilepsy and some orthopedic diseases like luxating patella and Legg-Calves-Perthes disease. Permanent hair loss is a problem with dilute colored dogs.
If you like the look of these dogs, have adult children, and have someone to let your dog out so there are not many housetraining accidents, this is a great choice for a hypoallergenic person living in an apartment. Many of us think of hypoallergenic dogs as those with long coats that do not shed much, but since the IG is small and easy to wipe down they can be your best alternative.
- Apartment friendly: Even in a small apartment, these tiny dogs do not get in the way. They are clean, do not smell badly like some other breeds, and if you have other pets will almost always get along just fine.
- Hypoallergenic: Since these dogs are so small, they tend to be bathed more often than larger breeds and loose dander and allergens stuck to the coat are removed. The coat itself is a fine long hair, not the short hairs that are shed by some dogs, and if taken care of daily can be very clean.
- Behavior issues: Excessive barking can be a problem, especially in an apartment. Breeders will warn families with toddlers away from this fragile breed. Some people have trouble housebreaking this dog since the bladder is so small. This needs to be considered if the dog is going to be left alone during the day.
- Health issues: The most common problem is because of the fine coat. Daily brushing is a must to prevent matting. The teeth also need to be brushed daily since they tend to be shoved together in their small mouths. (When the puppy teeth fall out be sure to have your dog´s mouth checked to make sure no tooth is retained.) Maltese can also have low blood sugar, food allergies, collapsing trachea, and luxating patellas (trick knees).
Maltese are not cheap but are more popular than some of these breeds listed here so they are affordable. If you do decide to bring one of the wonderful dogs home, however, make sure that you can take him or her back if the allergic person in the household is reacting to the dog.
14. Miniature Schnauzer
- Apartment friendly: Although they are often recommended for an apartment, since they need plenty of exercise they are not the best choice on this list. Miniature Schnauzers are also recommended as a great watchdog, which means that they bark when they hear something different and want to alert.
- Hypoallergenic: They do shed but not much, and since the dog is usually groomed with short hair they are easy to bathe regularly. The hair around the face can get dirty so may need to be brushed out several times a day.
- Behavior issues: These dogs are smaller versions of farm-bred animals and still need more exercise than some dogs. They do not do well when left alone, and if ignored can develop neurotic behaviors like excessive barking, nervousness, and chasing after cats or other animals in the household.
- Health issues: Overweight dogs are prone to pancreatitis. Miniature Schnauzers are also prone to develop bladder stones, and some other genetic problems like eye problems, epilepsy, allergies, and some orthopedic diseases.
These dogs are excellent watchdogs, like the larger Schnauzer breeds, but are too small to be considered guard dogs. They are larger than some of the small breeds (10 to 18 pounds), fairly sturdy, and do well with kids. Miniature Schnauzers are often playful dogs and are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world.
15. Shih Tzu
- Apartment friendly: This small dog breed is known to do well in apartments. Small enough not to get underfoot (up to about 15 pounds, and sometimes half that size), they can be litter box trained and will do well if kept inside most of the time. The dogs are brachycephalic and do not do well when out in the heat so will appreciate just hanging out underneath the air conditioner.
- Hypoallergenic: These dogs have a long coat since they do not shed much. To keep your dog as hypoallergenic as possible, you can bathe his long coat or keep him trimmed in a “puppy cut” that will be easier to manage. Either option will prevent your dog from shedding as many allergens around your house.
- Behavior issues: Many of these dogs are not treated like a large dog and develop “small dog syndrome”. They will bark excessively, growl, bite strangers, and sometimes even attack their owners. If handled correctly, however, and trained and socialized, the Shih tzu is a sweet dog and a great pet.
- Health issues: Hip dysplasia is often found in larger dog breeds but it is of genetic origin and the Shih Tzu suffers from this disease. Since the dogs are often homebodies obesity can be a problem and arthritis can develop early. There are a few other serious genetic diseases (eye problems, ear infections, and allergies) but the most common problems are small dog diseases: dental problems, luxating patella, and collapsing trachea.
16. Toy Poodle
- Apartment friendly: Although tiny (5 to 10 pounds), Toy Poodles are descended from a hunting breed and since they have a lot of energy do need more exercise than some other small dogs. A lot of people manage these dogs in an apartment since they are so small but for optimal mental health they do need to be taken out for exercise.
- Hypoallergenic: This little dog is what most people are talking about when they speak of a hypoallergenic dog, and the Toy Poodle is often used in crossbreeding programs with other small breeds to create “hypoallergenic” designer dogs. They do not shed and may have less dander.
- Behavior issues: Excessive barking is a serious problem. These little dogs are smart and if they are exercised adequately and trained daily (including running through an agility course) there are usually no problems.
- Health issues: Some common problems are just due to stress, and may be taken care of by taking the dog out for a long walk more often. (These include nervous diarrhea, excessive barking, scratching, etc.) They are also prone to many genetic diseases exacerbated by inbreeding. Hypothyroidism, collapsed trachea, retinal atrophy, and epilepsy are only a few that have been identified.
17. West Highland White Terrier
- Apartment friendly: Small dogs are almost always good in an apartment, but the Westie has several characteristics that need to be considered. They only need normal exercise but they are terriers and if bored will dig in corners even when playing. They also tend to bark, which may become a problem with your neighbors, and have a typical terrier prey drive so do not do well with cats or other pets.
- Hypoallergenic: They do not shed much and if dirty can be bathed often with minimal hassle. They do need regular brushing and grooming to prevent matting.
- Behavior issues: Most of the problems people face are because this dog is a terrier. If you want a laid-back breed this is not the best choice. The Westie is more likely to bark, chase, and stubbornly sit in an area waiting for prey to appear.
- Health issues: These dogs are small (15 to 20 pounds), and in addition to the small dog problems (allergies, skin problems, luxating patellas) they have some serious inherited diseases like cleft palate and craniomandibular osteopathy. Dogs can develop inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease, and heart disease.
18. Yorkshire Terrier
- Apartment friendly: Tiny dogs often do well in apartments, and the Yorkie is no exception. They do not shed, are so small that they do not need much exercise, and are not usually in the way. Unfortunately, they can be hard to housebreak and do bark a lot.
- Hypoallergenic: There have been some reports of this dog causing allergic bronchitis, but in my opinion the Yorkshire terrier is no more allergenic than any other breeds on this list. This dog does not shed much and as long as your Yorkie is bathed regularly he will shed little skin into his environment.
- Behavior issues: These dogs do like to bark. Many are also prone to “small dog syndrome” because of never being treated like a regular dog. Pets with this syndrome will bark at strangers, bite visitor´s ankles since they are not told not to, and even bite their owners when guarding toys or food.
- Health issues: Although these dogs were bred to be workers hunting nests of rats, the modern dog is a lot more sensitive. Strange foods might lead to vomiting and diarrhea, and inherited diseases consist of dry eye, liver diseases, and eye problems like cataracts. Yorkies are prone to small dog problems like low blood sugar, dental disease, collapsing trachea, and about a fourth of them suffer from luxating patella.
If you need a hypoallergenic dog in your apartment which will you choose?
Tips to Help You Keep Your Dog Hypoallergenic
The allergy to your pet may be due to the dander shed in his skin, the dander that is on top of hair, and possibly even to the difference in properties of dog hair and human hair (pH, for example). Whether or not you have been able to pick a hypoallergenic dog breed for your apartment, there are a few things you can do to reduce the number of allergens in the house:
- Bathe your dog as often as possible. If your are using a mild shampoo (like colloidal oatmeal) and your dog is suffering from skin problems you can alternate with plain water baths. Try to do this twice a week.
- Brush your dog daily. Your dog will lick his hair and the saliva will be shed throughout your environment. By brushing your dog every day you can remove any hairs that would otherwise be distributed throughout your house.
- Wipe your dog's feet when he is coming back in after a walk. Some dogs will even accept the noise of a “dustbuster,” and if your dog is like this you should clean his feet of allergens each time he comes in the apartment. Short-haired dogs can also be wiped down with a moist cloth before entering the house.
- Use a vacuum to collect all dander and loose hair from where your dog sleeps. Better quality vacuums have a filter will pick up dander as well as dog hair.
- Use an air filter. There are many sites that list the “best” filter and most of them are adequate.
- Wash your dog bowls even if they are not dirty. Allergies are caused by proteins in all body fluids, including saliva.
- Wash the dog bed and toys regularly. Buy toys that can be washed without removing the stuffing, and buy a dog bed that has a separate cover that can be removed and thrown in the washer.
- Do not allow your dog to sleep with the allergic person. Dogs are very social and will want to sleep close to their primary family members but can always be trained to sleep on the floor on their own separate beds.
Where Can You Find Your Hypoallergenic Apartment Dog?
After you have chosen that perfect dog for your situation, the first step is to check with your local animal shelter. Animal shelters will sometimes have great apartment dogs that have been given up for reasons that have nothing to do with allergies and housetraining (the family moving to another country, for example) and you may find what you are looking for.
Do not let yourself be convinced that any dog is going to be suitable for your apartment. You do not have to purchase a purebred but most dogs available are not what you need. Also, if you do go to a shelter you need to let them know that there is an allergic person in the household and that the dog needs be taken home for a trial period. If the allergic person is suffering, and their health is affected, the dog will need to be taken back.
No luck with the shelter? Consider checking Petfinder.com. The site has purebred and crossbred dogs available for adoption in neighboring cities and states. If you are also looking for one of the purebred dogs from this list, you can also check to see if there are any rescues available. Just type in the breed name, your city, and the word “rescue” into your search engine and read the results.
Your next step should be a search for an ethical breeder. There are many good kennels and some may even be close, but some dog breeds are uncommon and breeders will require a deposit and will have a long waiting list. All good breeders will also interview their potential families. If you need more information on how to find a breeder look at this article on finding a reputable breeder.
Your perfect hypoallergenic apartment dog is out there but it may take you a year or more if you are interested in one of the types like a Bernedoodle or Basenji. Please do not give up easily and purchase from a pet shop or accept a puppy from one of the multi-breed internet sites. Pet shops are willing to sell to anyone because they are distributing dogs from puppy mills and unethical backyard breeders; multi-breed internet sites will even deliver puppies to parking lots so that you do not see the conditions in which they produce their puppies. Even if your new puppy can never be housetrained and causes severe allergic reactions among your children, they will never allow you to return him.
- Christina Breitenbuecher, Janelle M. Belanger, Kerinne Levy, Paul Mundell, Valerie Fates, Liza Gershony, Thomas R. Famula, and Anita M. Oberbauer, April 2016, “Protein expression and genetic variability of canine Can f 1 in golden and Labrador retriever service dogs” Canine Genetics and Epidemiology 2016 3:3, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4840867/
- Green, R.; Custovic, A.; Smith, A.; Chaoman, M. D.; Woodcock, A. January 1996, "479 Avoidance of dog allergen f 1 with the dog in situ: Washing the dog and use of a HEPA air filter". Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 97: 302.
- Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition, 2010. Wiley-Blackwell.
- Ryoko YAMADA,1 Sayaka KUZE-ARATA,1,2 Yasushi KIYOKAWA,1 and Yukari TAKEUCHI, August 2019, Prevalence of 25 canine behavioral problems and relevant factors of each behavior in Japan, The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 2019 Aug; 81(8): 1090–1096. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6715928/
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.