On the Table
Grooming tables rank among the most vital and frequently used pieces of equipment in a pet groomer’s day, so choosing the right one is critical.
Standard four-legged folding tables may still have their place in the grooming industry, but that place is usually as a spare table. The variety of table-top sizes available is a benefit, and folding tables that can be adjusted in height are certainly useful, but that usefulness is limited by their inability to be adjusted while a dog is on them. Ultimately, their primary appeal today is that they are portable and inexpensive.
Tables, however, are one piece of equipment that groomers usually spend the most time with everyday, so they need to be as ergonomically correct as they possibly can be. Since groomers come in all heights and sizes—and so do the dogs they work on—the answer is to make tables readily adjustable to a range of varying heights.
Today’s adjustable grooming tables, whether hydraulic or electric, offer groomers tremendous conveniences in various ways. Many tables come with casters, making them easy to move around a salon. For example, Master Equipment’s newest offering, the Flex table, can either be moved on casters, or it can rest on retractable leg levelers when needed for added stability.
These days, tabletops also come in different sizes, usually from 32 in. to 48 in. in length. Shapes can vary, as well, to accommodate groomers’ preferences. Some like a bone-shaped table, as it allows them to stand a little closer to the dog while still having a good amount of table surface. Other groomers prefer an oval shape to avoid corners. Arms or posts can be made of various materials and heights, and some can rotate around the top half of the table so the groomer will not have to awkwardly reach around it to clip the neck and shoulder areas. All these factors are important to consider, but how the table operates, and the maximum and minimum height ranges, are among the most vital.
If large dogs make up a significant portion of a salon’s clientele, a table that goes within a foot of the floor might be needed. On the other hand, salons with tall groomers may be more interested in how high a table raises. Look at every aspect possible to ensure that groomers are comfortable and safe while working, as it will pay dividends in less injury-related downtime and increased groomer longevity.
Hydraulic tables move up and down, but they often have a limited range—sometimes only seven to nine inches from lowest to highest. This can vary depending upon the type of lift and table construction; Hanvey has a scissors-style hydraulic table that says it will adjust from 12 in. to 54 in.
Hydraulic tables also vary in how smoothly they operate—although this is often dependent upon the groomer’s touch and patience. Some hydraulic tables rotate, allowing the groomer to stand in one place and move the table to turn the dog.
Electric tables, meanwhile, are the height of convenience. With extensive minimum and maximum height ranges, most electric tables lift quietly and smoothly—a big advantage with fractious or nervous dogs. Foot pedals can be located on one side or both, or a remote control can be used to raise and lower electric tables.
While an engineering degree isn’t required to groom dogs or own a salon, having a good understanding of how tables work, what maintenance should be done and what to do if a table fails is a good idea.
Hydraulic lifts have fluid in them, and moving the lever in half pumps down increases the pressure on the fluid, forcing the piston up and lifting the tabletop. Pushing all the way down on the lever lowers the table, and lifting the lever up locks the table in place. If this mechanism fails, the hydraulic pump can usually be replaced fairly readily. However, it is sealed, so it may not be worth trying to repair it or having the hydraulic fluid or seals replaced if the mechanism malfunctions.
An electric table works in much the same way as a hydraulic table, but a motor moves the pump instead of groomer power. Some may have a worm gear that is not dissimilar from the jack used to lift a car for a tire change, only instead of being powered by a human turning a crank, it is motorized. If any of these components or the foot switches or remote should fail they should be able to be replaced readily.
On any table, the top is what sees the most wear and tear. Comfort Groom knows this and offers removable tabletops that are easy to clean and replace should they ever wear out. The company also offers stainless-steel tops, so the tables can even be converted into veterinary exam tables. “We also have a structural lifetime warranty on all grooming tables,” says Billy Chen, vice president of sales and marketing for Comfort Groom.
Although Chen notes that the tables are made to last, he recommends that groomers clean excess fur from the working parts of both hydraulic and electric tables to keep them in good working order.
Holly Gibson, marketing and innovation manager for Shor-Line, agrees, noting that the biggest threat is accumulated hair and dirt. “Think kindly about your grooming table and make sure you tuck it in at night,” she says. “That means sweeping up around the base, paying special attention to removing trapped hair from the foot switch. Try using an electrostatic dust collector to remove the hair from the frame and base. Some models have adjustable lengths, which means you won’t have to bend over when you are already tired.”
Generally speaking, maintenance for top-quality tables should not be back breaking.
“A premium grooming table should be self-contained and require little or no maintenance for years of heavy use,” she says. “The sealed hydraulic jack or electric actuator will raise and lower your table many times each day with minimal maintenance.”
“A premium unit could be your best investment,” she adds. “Any groomer that’s had a table fail is ready to invest in their business. With interest rates low, it’s a nice time to be able to have something that will lift smoothly many times a day from the get go.”
Still, Gibson points out that most moving parts will eventually wear out. This is why Shor-Line offers replacements for frequently used parts, such as the knobs on grooming arms that are adjusted dozens of times each day.
“With a durable table, it is likely the actuator [for electric tables] or jack [or hydraulic tables] will fail before the frame and table top,” she says. “Should the lift mechanisms need replacing, make sure you can get replacements from the company you purchased it from. They are fairly simple to replace, and the manufacturer should be able to provide you with instructions and assistance.”
In addition to making sure hair is swept from around the table’s moving parts and wiping those areas down as often as possible, about the only maintenance needed is to remember to leave your hydraulic table in the lowest position if it will not be used for a while to keep the hydraulic fluid intact. And lastly, groomers’ biggest challenge with all equipment is to keep moisture exposure to a minimum to prevent wood or composite board parts from warping or rotting and metal parts from pitting or rusting.
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.