Pet lovers in Germany have come up with a novel way to make sure they are never apart from their four-legged friends: By turning their fur into wool and making it into sweaters and other items of clothing.

“I didn’t like to throw away my dog’s beautiful hair,” says Rita Steffen, owner of Finja, a White Swiss Shepherd.

To make use of the hair the fluffy dog was losing during its grooming routine, Steffen bought a hand spindle on the Internet to make her first ball of dog hair wool, which she used to make a pair of gloves and a sweater.

Seven years later, her hobby has expanded into an operation that attracts customers from Germany and abroad.
People send her their pet hair, and she now uses a large electric spinner to make it into wool.

Dog yarn

Rita Steffen likes to make wool from the hair of her White Swiss Shepherd, Finja.

The room where she works is piled high with boxes of hair from all manner of canines, from Collies and Australian Shepherds to Huskies. There is even a smaller box of cat hair.

Turning your pet’s fur into wool can provide you with a lasting memory after they die.

Silke Kreutzer, from the state of Saarland, has had wool spun from the hair of four Australian Shepherds – and she’s now looking for someone to knit her a poncho.

“Three of my dogs have already died,” says the 48-year-old. She wants the wool to provide her with a lasting memory.

Dog wool is also environmentally friendly, according to Heike Hess, a spokeswoman for the International Association of the Natural Textile Industry (IVN). If the hair wasn’t used in this way, she points out, it would only end up going to waste.

Gabi Angele, another weaver who sells her own home-made dog wool at a market stall in Bavaria, says people can take some convincing about it.

Often, she says, they’ll pick it up and start cuddling it, remarking on how soft it is.

To make dog wool, the dog's hair must be clean and cared for, and can’t have been collected from the floor or a vacuum cleaner.

To make dog wool, the dog’s hair must be clean and cared for, and can’t have been collected from the floor or a vacuum cleaner.

“But when I tell them that it comes from dogs, the reaction is always the same: Bah!”

Many customers are prejudiced: “They think sheep’s wool itches and dog wool stinks” – neither of which are true, she says.

Not all hair makes the cut. It must be clean and cared for, and can’t have been collected from the floor or a vacuum cleaner. Plus not all breeds of dog are suitable – Poodle hair, for example, would be too itchy.

And you need a lot of hair to make a wearable garment – a sweater in a European size small, for example, requires 500g of wool. Nevertheless, the women say demand is on the increase. “In the past year-and-a-half, there’s been a real boom,” Steffen says. – dpa