On the Table
Choosing the best grooming table for the job is critical for many reasons, not the least of which is reducing work-related injuries and pain.
Groomers spend nearly all day at a grooming table. It is a vital piece of equipment, and it is essential to select the right one—one that is effective and comfortable for both the groomers who use it and the pets they are grooming.
“To me, picking the right table is almost as important as picking the right shear,” says Scott Wasserman PDS, MPS, Meritus.
Among the most critical things to consider when buying a table is finding one that will enable groomers to perform their job as comfortably as possible.
“My chiropractor calls us ‘occupational athletes,’” says Melissa Verplank, founder and president of The Paragon School of Pet Grooming, Inc., and Learn2GroomDogs.com, and author of Notes from the Grooming Table. “Our days are filled with lifting, bending and twisting. Selecting a grooming table can have a huge impact on your comfort level as well as your longevity in this field.”
She recommends that groomers look for hydraulic or electric tables that allow the user to adjust the height and that have a heavy-duty grooming arm. It should also be sturdy and stable, especially for working with larger sized dogs. “In my opinion, the lower it goes, the better. Many dogs will willingly step on or off a low tabletop themselves, eliminating the need to lift them,” Verplank says. “Once they are on the tabletop, you simply have to lift them to a level that is comfortable for you. If you are tall, you should also look at how high the table will go as well. Your goal with any table is to minimize how much you lift, bend and twist.”
Tables should minimize the extensive physical effort it takes to groom dogs. A good table will save your back.
Petlift is one company that prides itself on constantly improving its table designs to better suit groomers. “I’m not a groomer, but I know what groomers need,” says Nancy Apatow, president of Petlift. “I know what kind of stability is needed, what they want, and what kind of posts they need.”
Until the 1960s, pet grooming wasn’t much of an industry. People generally either groomed their dogs themselves, had the breeder style their pet, or they’d take it to one of the few people doing it out of their garage. In 1965, that’s just what a neighbor of Lenny Sciarrino, an early innovator of grooming tables, was doing in Brooklyn, N.Y. The groomer, who stood over six feet tall, spent his days bending over a kitchen table. Noting the groomer’s struggle, Sciarrino, a mechanical engineer and the owner of a beauty salon and barber supply company, fabricated a metal-edged tabletop for his neighbor, putting it on a hydraulic base, like those used in the beauty industry. Thus, the first grooming table—and Petlift—was born.
The groomer introduced Sciarrino to John Stazko, who introduced Sciarrino and his tables to Shirlee Kalstone and Jerry Schinberg, well known names in the industry and the people behind the earliest and biggest grooming shows/seminars in the country. Although that first hydraulic table had a height range of only eight inches up and down, it made a world of difference to groomers.
Although those early table designs are still available—and some of the original tables themselves are still in use—today, Petlift’s grooming arms have a safety feature that prevents them from dropping suddenly when you open it to change the height. They also come with a lifetime warranty. (The table clamp has a two-year warranty.) “Petlift is all about safety; our tables are solid,” says Apatow, Sciarrino’s daughter.
Electric tables, lighted tops, hydraulics that range from 18 inches to 48 inches, solid framework, and replaceable parts—Petlift has them all. Most come with a five-year warranty on the frame and a two-year guarantee on the motor.
Over the years, the styles, designs and materials used to construct tables have evolved and been refined to better meet groomers’ needs. Frames may be made of powder-coated steel, stainless steel or other materials. Tops may be made of various metals, wood or composite board, and it’s important to make sure that the materials used meet not only your budget but your needs. A material that will last in an air-conditioned front room may not fare as well used in a hot and humid bathing area. But what groomers need remains the same—a good product at a fair price that will save them time and physical stress while grooming.
Billy Chen, vice president of marketing and sales for Comfort Groom, recommends conducting thorough research on grooming tables before purchasing and advises groomers to seek a manufacturer that provides a long or lifetime structural warranty. Comfort Groom, for example, offers a lifetime warranty on all table frames, two years on electric lift motors and one year on hydraulic pumps. Tabletops and other replacement parts are also available for purchase, so even after warranty coverage is ended you can keep a table going.
Lindsay Dressen, head of distributor relations for Groomer’s Best, believes that ergonomics are also a driving factor in table selection. “Fifteen years ago, a lot of groomers went with the folding table style,” Dressen says. “After a groomer does that for a few years, their back will catch up with them. We now see more hydraulic tables than folding, and electric are becoming more popular.”
One feature unique to Groomer’s Best tables is a blade holder underneath both sides of the table, as well as a slot that holds scissors when not in use. “Groomers were telling us the dogs would sometimes kick their scissors off,” she says. “So we redesigned our tops to make the grooming environment safer for both groomers and pets.”
Shor-Line is another company that has responded to groomers with improvements and updated designs—for example, its newest model, the Big Top Grooming Table. According to Holly Gibson, marketing and innovation manager for Shor-Line, “Many of the advances in grooming tables have come in ergonomics. Grooming takes a lot out of a groomer, and the more the table can do the work, the more energy the groom can spend being artistic and working with the pet.
“The grooming table itself has evolved to suit its function. Not unlike a surfboard, a grooming table needs to provide traction when it is wet but also be easy on sensitive paws. Because dozens of paws a day will grip onto the table, its coating also must stand up to use.
“When we engineered the Elite and Big Top tables, our engineers worked with several proprietary polyurethane coatings. Some were too rough and others too slippery. What we decided upon is a smooth coat with just enough grain to help the pet feel secure but not rough up the groomer.”
Safety is a recurring theme with all grooming table manufacturers, as well as with Chuck Simons, industry expert and distributor of many table accessories, including the Groomers Helper, a popular safety and positioning system that many top groomers use and recommend. Simons recommends paying attention to detail when selecting a table. “Groomers should purchase a table that you can get a grooming clamp on,” he says. “The standard width of the table should be 24 inches, and the standard thickness should be one to 1.25 inches. There should be a three-inch clearance on the sides of the table and a four-inch clearance underneath the table on the ends.”
Groomers Helper offers a variety of universal clamps to help accommodate tables that do not have those dimensions and do not take a standard clamp.
Purchasing a new grooming table is making an investment in your health, so listen to the experts. Here’s a final word from Daryl Conner, master pet stylist, award winning industry speaker, author, and owner of FairWinds Grooming Studio in Appleton, Maine. “Do not scrimp,” she says. “The grooming table is where so much of the magic happens. It is an investment in your career. Shop carefully and get exactly what you want. A good table will last for many years and improve the quality of your daily work life.”
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.