Grooming tables, as with every piece of large equipment in our industry, have gone through a design revolution in the last couple of decades. They used to be little more than sturdy card tables; now you can get electric or hydraulic mechanisms that elevate high enough to put a poodle’s foot by your chin and low enough for a great dane to step up onto it. The sheer number of choices of tables, accessories and functions are overwhelming. Sometimes the best thing to do is take a moment and think about what, exactly, a table does and what, exactly, you need it to do for you. Determine which features are vital to your everyday work and which sound great and may be helpful, but are not really necessary.
Some groomers are fortunate enough to be able to purchase everything they need in the way of equipment ready-made. Some work with what they have until they are able to save enough money to afford their ideal. Some simply prefer the feeling of having made their own equipment by means of good old-fashioned ingenuity.
One groomer purchased a split-level house to convert into a salon and ended up using the kitchen counters as tables for small dogs. With the addition of non-slip mats and poles slanted from the walls to serve as grooming arms, they were surprisingly functional. They were a good height at which to work, waterproof, easily cleaned, and right next to an appropriately sized sink. In a similar manner, mobile groomers have utilized existing features such as tables in RVs, even managing to keep them convertible enough to use as vacation vehicles when not in use as a grooming salon.
Handy groomers that like doing their own work have been known to purchase hydraulic lifts, carts, or worktables and add larger tops to create their own custom table. This can help a groomer achieve the ideal table height or tailor it to have perfectly positioned drawers and tool holders. One does have to be very skilled to avoid the risk of the results not looking entirely professional, but it can be done.
There are plenty of options available commercially if you don’t care to go the do-it-yourself route, and some manufacturers are very responsive to groomers’ needs, even in the small things. For instance, Wahl listened to groomers wishing they had a good way to keep tools right at hand without risking a dog kicking them off the table, and offered the Kennel Gear Professional Grooming Caddy. It attaches to the table with a clamp just like most grooming arms, is made of durable, cleanable material, and is sectioned to hold your favorite tools at your fingertips. Some may think it is a little pricey at over $100, but if it increases your speed (thereby your income) or is more comfortable to use (thereby increasing your longevity in the business) then it is worth it– and that goes for any accessory.
Finding the Best Fit
Ellen Sachs Ehrlich, author of Go Mobile and Succeed, wanted a table that was both stable and able to go low enough to allow big dogs to hop right up. Stability and ease of cleaning were also important features for her. She ended up going with the Hanvey table that comes with the mobile van she owns, and she couldn’t be happier.
Curtis Hanvey, founder and design engineer of Hanvey Engineering & Design, manufacturer of several types of grooming equipment, agrees that selecting the features that are most important to you is vital to getting a table that you’ll be happy with. “Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference,” says Hanvey. “Even the color of the top is important. For years, grooming tables were only available in black, but black tends to absorb light. We use colors that reflect some light up under the dog—grays and blues. Our comfort blue is like the blue screens used in filming; it provides excellent contrast so any hairs can be easily seen against it.”
Hanvey has thought a lot about tables and how they serve groomers, and he has a lot of ideas. For example, he suggests buying some small LED under-counter lights to lay on your table when grooming. They are inexpensive, don’t break readily if kicked off the table and provide a good amount of extra light. They also don’t create glare, which can be tough on eyes.
Some groomers like to stand or sit in one place and turn the table to reach each part of a dog. In this case, the single post hydraulic tables with rotating tops will probably be the best choice. They do tend to have more wobble to them compared to some other styles, but they are usually among the least expensive to purchase. However, habits can be unlearned and some of the most diehard original-style table fans have moved to hydraulic or electric tables—which, despite the fact that they require either the groomer or the dog to move during the grooming process, are less likely to cause a nervous animal to panic and tip the table over.
Table movement is important in more ways than one. Hanvey points out that for mobile groomers, or any groomer with limited space using a hydraulic or electric table, the way the base is constructed and how the table lifts is important. Many tables move to the side as they are raised, some as much as 10 inches—if space is limited, that extra 10 inches can be crucial. Some tables are designed to go straight up and down with no sideways movement at all. (Examples of all types can be seen at hairvac.com.)
No matter what you want your grooming table to do for you, there’s almost always a way to make it happen. There’s even a table (The Viper) that not only raises and lowers electronically, but the grooming arm also raises and lowers at the touch of a button. Buy it, make it, pay a lot or a little—make sure the features you need are the ones the table has. Grooming is hard enough without trying to work without your ideal equipment.
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.