Salon owners need to consider several features when choosing a optimum table for both pets and groomers.
Professional groomers spend most of their day standing at a table drying, brushing or styling, so a table may be among the most important piece of equipment they purchase. Of course, theoretically any safe and solid surface would do, but selecting a table designed with both pets and groomers in mind is likely to be the best route.
There is no argument that tables that move readily up and down are better and safer for both groomer and pet. Many dogs do not like to be lifted, and lifting dogs can be hard on groomers’ backs. The health benefits of having an animal at just the right, comfortable height to work on can’t be overstated. Purchasing a table is not a place to skimp, but it is also a place to make sure you get value for your money.
According to Jeanne Caples, director of operations at Forever Stainless Steel, personal comfort is key to selecting the right table. “A grooming table should be the right size and right height for the type of grooming you do every day,” Caples advises. “It should be stable, so the pets you groom are not stressed and neither are you. And you need a table that you don’t have to worry about—no downtime.”
Forever Stainless offers both a hydraulic and an electric table. Both are good, but Caples points out that although an electric table raises and lowers more smoothly than a hydraulic, the hydraulic is more portable, as it doesn’t need to be plugged into an outlet.
Bob Lutz, vice president of UltraLift, says, “A good electric table can probably allow you to increase your grooming by a least one more dog per day and be less tired. Make the product do the work for you. It makes your job more cost effective to get the best—something that will last.”
Another important aspect of a table to consider during selection is its construction. A good sturdy table will last longer, making its depreciation slower and its value higher. Using quality, non-rusting metal, a good motor and/or hydraulic lift, and good materials for the table top and grooming arm will pay off in longevity as well. Keep in mind that there is always a correlation between cost of materials and the price of the table, though. For example, a tabletop made of metal—Forever Stainless Steel offers one—or even marine-grade plywood will cost more than one made of composite board, but it will be much more durable and resistant to moisture.
Billy Chen, vice president of marketing for ComfortGroom, notes that groomers should consider the frame of the table as well. “The frame being constructed of steel is very important for the longevity of the tables,” Chen says. All ComfortGroom tables are made for the long run and have a lifetime warranty on the structure, he adds.
One thing to keep in mind when comparing metals is that the lower the number, the heavier the gauge, although that seems counterintuitive. So 11-gauge stainless steel would be stronger than 14-gauge.
Ergonomics is another important factor of table design. “Ergonomic experts explain that the key to avoiding repetitive-use injuries is to use proper techniques and change body positions regularly,” says Holly Gibson, marketing and innovation manager at Shor-Line. “When a person reaches out with arms extended, the work should be within easy reach. Grooming’s less-talked-about side is that it is a physical job, and the grooming staff has to take care of their health to keep grooming for years to come. We build ergonomic features into our equipment so that each groomer can set their tables to the best height for their body type. To follow proper ergonomics and protect both the pet and the groomer, the table should allow the groomer to work with arms below heart level as much as possible. That height will vary based on the groomer’s height and the pet’s height, so easy adjustability is critical.”
Chen suggests that a low of 12 inches and a high of 40 inches will give a groomer the versatility to walk the dog onto the table, yet be high enough that it does not strain a groomer’s back at any time.
Most tables do not require much maintenance besides ensuring that, for optimum hydraulic performance, they be left in their lowest position each night or when unused. However, every single manufacturer consulted said virtually the same thing when asked about maintenance; keep them clean, and keep hair out of joints, lift mechanisms and motors. Fur can cause serious issues in all those places. Even the lift mechanisms on high-end grooming tables, designed to stand up to years of use, may not be able to withstand dirt and hair inside.
Lutz notes that proper maintenance also demonstrates to customers that the groomer takes pride in their work and equipment. “Customers see what you’ve purchased and like to see that their money is going to benefit their dogs and will more readily spend more money with you,” he says.
Gibson agrees. “The table groomers choose will be an extension of their vision for their business,” she says. “The grooming salon’s look is the first thing a client will see. That is why Shor-Line offers durable tables in a range of bright colors.”
She adds that proper maintenance is also important for the health of the pets that visit the salon. “With all equipment that comes in contact with animals, you will use a disinfectant to prevent cross-contamination,” Gibson says. “Bleach can be very corrosive to metal and other equipment. Plan your disinfectant program to allow a rinse with water if you are using diluted bleach (10:1). As an alternative, use a hospital-grade disinfectant labeled to not damage stainless steel or non-porous synthetic surfaces. Surprisingly, using a good cleaner that safely disinfects while not damaging the equipment surface might be one of your best investments.”
Warranty is another major consideration; how well does the manufacturer back up the quality of material and workmanship? It is important to know the length of the warranty and what it covers before buying. If a covered part fails, can it be replaced in house, or does it require an expert, or shipping back to the manufacturer? Every warranty is different, ranging from one year against defects to a pro-rated five-year warranty, which is offered by UltraLift.
It’s also important to make sure parts are still available after any guarantees are ended. ComfortGroom has designed their tabletop—any table’s most vulnerable feature in a moist grooming environment—to be completely, easily replaceable. Shor-Line offers the ability to change parts and a technical support team to help advise if needed.
Private-label products can work out well, too. Distributors turned manufacturers have had a lot of opportunity to get feedback from groomers on what they want a table to do, and on many different brands of table. No matter where you eventually buy, ask all your questions before you purchase. Get peer opinions from websites, groomer’s lounges and chats, social media groups, and go to shows where you can personally evaluate a table hands on.
The number-one way to be certain you are getting value for your money is to select a manufacturer that you trust, because that’s really what it comes down to in the end. A groomer can and should research as much as possible, but cannot expect to know as much as someone who makes tables for a living; so learn as much as possible, then choose a vendor that you are comfortable with.
Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.