Rattling the Cage
The method in which grooming salons choose to contain animals speaks volumes about the service they are providing, so itís best to choose wisely.

As much as salon practices can differ, they all have at least one thing in common. Animals must be contained while they are there, both safely and comfortably. The containment must also have a certain “curb appeal” for the two-legged clients.

The first salon I owned used plastic airline crates in various sizes to contain animals. The smaller ones were stacked on top of the larger ones. Finances dictated that I use them, and they worked, but the crates were hard to keep neat looking as the uneven surfaces on the outside were dust collectors, and disinfecting inside the large ones required me to actually climb into them on my hands and knees to thoroughly disinfect. Now while every small child that ever entered the shop wanted desperately to get inside those crates and shut the door, it wasn’t anything I’d ever aspired to.

The crates also faded, showed wear and had to be replaced every few years. Another drawback was that a determined animal could grab the door with their teeth and pull it completely inside the crate with one swift motion.

A Step Up
The next generation of containment that I utilized was a bank of homemade cages–still inexpensive, with vinyl floor material over plywood. These looked fine for a few years, but held some remnants of odor despite fanatical cleaning. The best I could do after a while was hope that the floral air freshener covered both the bleach and the remaining urine odors. These lasted until I was able to afford fiberglass.

Some salons use a series of open-topped stalls with dogs tethered in them. Depending upon the material used, these can work quite well, and many laypeople do not have the knee-jerk negative reaction to them that they do to cages and crates. They are easy to clean, and some dogs that are stressed over being crated seem to readily accept being tied. Stalls, however, must be carefully designed to ensure that dogs cannot reach neighbors to fight, and when putting smaller dogs in upper-tier stalls, the tether length must prevent dogs from reaching the edge and risking a fall.

A Different Point of View

Salon owners must also consider how pet owners view their containment methods. Make sure you are looking at your containment system from the perspective of your customers, not your own. If your salon is meant to convey a sense of comfort and coddling, but your customers feel as if they are putting their innocent dog in Alcatraz when you put them in your cage banks, consider using accessories and décor to change their impression. For example, soft curtains and plush pillows can soften the look of  stainless or wire-grid steel from jail to palace.

On Solid Ground
No matter what you choose for containment while pets are in your care, spend time selecting the footing, as this is an area of high risk for pets. A slippery surface can cause injury, and most dogs will be anxious about standing on it. On the other hand, pets run the risk of getting a foot or toe caught up in wire-grid [steel cages]. Grids are great for allowing air circulation for faster drying, but no matter the design, there’s a dog out there that can get a body part stuck in it. One partial solution is to lay down mats that are slightly smaller than the grid. This will reduce the risk to the animals while still allowing some air circulation.

In all cases, salons must weigh risks against benefits, while always keeping the store’s identity and mission statement in mind. If a high-tech, sanitary appearance is the goal then stainless cages are a great choice. They last a long time, don’t hold odors, and are easy to clean. If your customers, however, are likely to look at stainless containments as sterile, intimidating environments, consider fiberglass cages. Fiberglass banks are even available in custom colors to match your décor.

No matter what you decide to offer, have an alternative available as not every pet will be comfortable with your choice. Some dogs undergo extreme stress when confined; some undergo extreme stress when allowed more freedom than they can handle. Make sure staff is trained to observe animals with an eye to their comfort so that each animal’s individual needs can be accommodated.

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.