Spring for dog owners isn’t just about turning the clock forward; it’s about a lot of brushing. This is a great time, if not the best time to start saving dog hair!
For double-coated dogs, even the brief warm-up episodes in March that trigger the irises and daffodils to sprout are enough to make thick winter hair start falling out. Blowing coat happens twice a year. Unlike the usual loss of undercoat, the seasonal equinoxes trigger a massive loss of hair. In spring, the thick winter undercoat falls out and makes way for the lighter summer undercoat to grow in. Likewise, the lighter hair will start to fall out en masse in the fall when the first taste of cold air hits.
This is a great time to start saving dog hair! Don’t be put off by the rising temperatures; this is harvest time. Fruits and veggies will come in the fall; brush that puppy now!
Beware the Furminator
I know, I know…everyone loves their Furminator. It takes off so much hair! Yes, it does take off hair. But it has a blade, and blades damage the hair shafts as they come off the dog.
But…sheep get sheared, why can’t I just clip my dog’s coat? I hear this question a lot. The bottom line is this: dog hair is not the same as sheep hair. When viewed under a microscope, a hair shaft from a sheep has little toothy things all along the length of the shaft. Those toothy things, the barbs, are what allow the hair fibers to catch and hold onto each other in the spinning process. (It might also help to explain when some wool causes itching on the skin.) Dog hair shafts do not have barbs all along the shaft. Those little teeth only occur on the base of the hair shaft, near the skin. Hence, when dog hair is spun, while the fiber twists all the way up and down the shaft, it does not remain twisted after it is worked (knitted, woven, etc.). That’s why chiengora has a “halo“; and that halo is why wool from dogs is so much warmer than wool from sheep.
Any blade edge can damage the hair shaft, and if those barbs are not intact, the wool can’t spin.
Taming the Herd of Hair
So if I can’t use a Furminator, how do I get all that hair out of my pup???
My best suggestion is a rake.
In the fall, we rake leaves. I rake dogs. The tool is smaller but works on the same principle. Think of a rake as a modified comb. The teeth are shorter, and they lie in a row that is perpendicular to the handle. Unlike a slicker brush, it reaches into the undercoat to get out more of the undercoat hair and shed. (And in fairness, I must tell you that Furminator markets a dog hair rake, too. It will not endanger the barbs on the hair!)
It’s not a perfect solution; it pulls out so much that little poofs tend to fly free. One must also be careful to rake gently, since undercoats can tangle and the rake will pull on those tangles. But it will get out a lot of shed.
As an alternative, I also use the Untangler, a comb with rotating teeth that slips through hair more easily. It doesn’t remove as much shed at one time as a rake, but it does an admirable job, and Clarence prefers it by far on his more sensitive skin.
Brush, then bag
So you have a mountain of fluff on the floor. It’s like you just adopted another dog. Now what?
For storage, paper bags are best. Pack the hair loosely. Don’t pack hair tightly for any period of time longer than a week or so. Just as it can mat on your dog, it can mat in a bag. Fill the bag, bend the top of the bag over on itself, and use a binder clip to hold it shut.
If you don’t want to store your dog hair in your house, send it here! We’ll get it spun right away. Storing skeins is easier and smells much better, too. Contact us by clicking on the Golden Retriever on the side of this page and we’ll get you squared away. Packing the hair into Space Bags for transport is a good idea. Once you squeeze out all the air, you’ll be surprised how little hair there really is! (But remember, even a little can be a lot: on your floor and as a gift!)