At least once a week, I sweep an entire Dilly off my floor. Dilly is my 60-pound Heeler mix and he sheds what feels like a scientifically impossible amount of dog hair, especially at this time of year.
As I fill dustpan-after-dustpan with his golden-red hair, I always find myself asking: How does Dilly shed this much hair? And what the heck am I supposed to do with all of his dog hair—throw it away, give it to the birds? What kinds of things can you, and should you, do with fur?
Does this sound familiar? Maybe you’re finding dog hair on every square inch of couch cushion. Or, maybe you’re brushing a small mountain of hair off your dog every other week. You’re definitely not alone if you’re dealing with a very hairy situation around your house.
One of the reasons that our dogs are shedding so much right now is because springtime and warmer weather is shedding season for many dog breeds. Dilly, along with most every other dog, needs to get rid of his thick winter coat to get ready for warmer temperatures. So, it’s totally normal to be dealing with a lot of dog hair right now, according to the American Animal Hospital Association.
If you’re also wondering what you’re supposed to with all that dog hair, you’re in luck. I consulted with some experts to find the best ways to handle and dispose of pet hair to make sure we’re doing the best thing for our dogs, the environment, and even local wildlife! And, for fun, I rounded up some creative ways that people reuse and recycle pet hair.
Pro Tips on Managing Pet Hair
If you feel like you’re always dealing with a mess of dog hair, you might need to spend more time taking care of your dog’s hair or fur, says Becky Clark. Clark is a grooming instructor for the pet grooming program at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And she’s got 25 years of professional grooming experience.
She says pet hair is just like human hair. The more on top of your hair you are, the better it’s going to look and behave. But, if you neglect your hair, it can turn into a total and unmanageable mess.
“If you haven’t shampooed your hair in a few days, you might notice that there are extra hairs in the shower drain when you finally get around to it,” she said.
“The same thing can happen with your dog.”
Clark recommends combing and brushing your pet on a regular basis. She says just how much you should brush your dog varies by breed and coat, but she promises it’s worth it to stay on top of grooming. She even has a tactic for double-coated dogs that can reduce their shedding by 90 percent.
“The more you groom your dog, the less pet hair you’re going to have to deal with,” says Clark.
Regularly brushing and shampooing your dog can help reduce shedding, remove dead hair, and keep your dog’s hair more manageable.
Clark says her grooming facility largely disposes of dog hair in the regular trash—much of the hair her groomers deal with is best suited for the dump. But she has had clients come in to collect dog hair for projects around their house, such as fending off deer from the garden or giving barn swallows nesting material (more on that in a minute).
The Dirt on Pet Hair
Pet hair and fur is compostable because it is full of nitrogen, which is good for soil and fertilization. The downside of composting pet hair is that it can take a while to break down, just like human hair. To help accelerate the process, spread your pet’s hair out so it’s not in clumps, and strive to balance the hair out with the correct ratio of green and brown compostable materials.
Pet hair can also be helpful for fending off unwanted guests in your garden. Because animals associate the smell of a dog with getting chased, the scent of dog hair will make them think your dog is close by—and make them want to stay far away. You can stuff burlap sacks or nylons with dog hair and line your garden or yard to keep deer, rabbits, and other backyard animals out.
Oh, the Places Pet Hair Can Go!
There are many creative ways to recycle and reuse your pet’s hair and fur.
The nonprofit Matter of Trust accepts pet hair, fur, and human hair donations to help clean up ocean oil spills—insert mind blown emoji. To do this dirty work, the organization felts together mats and booms made of recycled pet hair and fur. The hair mats absorb all kinds of oily messes, from protecting shorelines to lining storm drains to keep motor oil out of the water supply. You know what they say, hairing is caring!
Your city may also accept hair in its recycling or composting program. Check your local recycling guidelines to see if your dog’s hair qualifies for a curbside pickup.
People do all kinds of crafty things with dog hair. From sewing jackets and vests to making scarves, hats, slippers and mittens, people have found many ways to sport dog hair in a much more intentional and fashionable way than I do (which is through stray hairs stuck on every article of clothing that I wear). People will also felt with it, or stuff pillows and dog toys with dog hair instead of a synthetic stuffing.
Pet Hair: Is It Really For the Birds?
Birds are resourceful creatures, known for repurposing all kinds of materials to build their nests, including twigs, leaves, grass clippings, even koala fur. But some materials can be dangerous for birds, like human hair, because it can snag a bird’s leg or wing and injure it. I emailed ecologists from the National Audubon Society to see if pet hair is safe for birds and nest construction.
Pet hair is not harmful for birds and it can be good nesting material, they wrote, unless that pet hair has been treated with flea or tick meds. In which case, try to avoid leaving your pet’s hair scattered around outside after a big grooming session. But, if your pet sheds a little naturally, that should be fine for the birds.
The Flea Med Factor
It’s better to be more cautious with hair disposal if your pet’s hair has been treated with topical flea or tick meds. Because these treatments include chemicals that kill things, they are not ideal for compost piles or outdoor spaces. The chemicals can be harmful to soil, plants, and water sources. The Audubon ecologists wrote that a small amount can be okay, but an entire winter coat of dog hair should go in the trash instead.
Pet Hair, Do Care
‘Tis the season for shedding and you’re not alone if you’ve got more than a little dog hair on your hands (and pants, and floor, and couch cushions). There are many environmentally-friendly ways you can repurpose, recycle, and rid your home of all that pet hair. From gardens, to bird’s nests, to sweaters, you’ve got lots of good options for what to do with your dog’s hair, so that it ends up in a better place than the dustpan.
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- How to Keep Dogs Calm During Grooming