I have been fascinated by tubs that move up and down ever since I first saw one in the late 1980s at Groom Expo in Hershey, Pa. Called the Du-Zee, it was a well-made tub with a hydraulic base and a flexible drain hose.
There was the obvious benefit—large dogs could easily climb in. But a height-adjusting tub was also a blessing for groomers. For starters, it’s easier to have the tub a bit lower for big dogs and higher for little ones. Additionally, short people need lower tubs, while tall people need higher ones. Many groomers and bathers suffer back pain and fatigue brought on by spending too much time leaning over a wide-lipped tub that is the wrong height for their needs.
The Du-Zee tub is no longer available, but these days the market offers several adjustable tubs with electric or hydraulic mechanisms. Master Equipment by PetEdge makes two: a simple fiberglass tub that lowers to within 14 inches of the floor and has a pull-down entry door, and a 304-stainless-steel version with a handheld control, instead of foot pedals, to move the tub up and down.
Direct Animal Products has a 16-gauge-type, 304-stainless-steel hydraulic grooming tub with full backsplash that lowers to within eight inches of the floor; between that and the entry opening with removable door, any dog can step in comfortably.
No matter what type of tub you have, however, the accessories that you use with it can make a huge difference in your day-to-day work.
Sprayers and Hoses
From rubber tubing with hose clamps and a garden sprayer attached, all the way to high-end stainless-steel restaurant equipment that lasts forever, the choices abound. Stainless braided-metal hoses are expensive, but they are sturdy and long lasting. Stainless-steel spray heads share the same qualities. Many plastics are easier on the hand, as they are lighter weight, yet while they tend to cost less, they don’t last as long. Also, consider the spray. I’ve used high-end sprayers that made my hand hurt after just a couple of dogs because they were difficult to handle.
As for restraints, steel-cable loops that are fully encased in plastic are ideal. They are durable and do not absorb oil, dirt, water or soap. MDC Romani sells an excellent version that is thick enough to be comfortable for the dog. Whatever loop you use, make sure to have some kind of emergency release. Polyester slip leads can be attached to a tub ring or grooming arm using a half-hitch knot that releases with a tug on the loose end, or go to groomershelper.com and look for the panic snap for use with loops.
Tub racks are a must-have accessory. The days of waiting for suds gathered around animals’ feet to go down the drain should be over for all of us. There are, however, differences of opinion on what to use. Ritch Batterton, president of Direct Animal Products, cautions salon owners to make sure they know what they are buying. “The safest product you can find is what everyone should be looking for, whether it’s shampoo racks or other accessories, but especially grates,” he says.
Direct Animal Products makes smooth-edged grates with round perforations, which the company says are less likely to trap nails or toes than rectangular or diamond shapes. Direct Animal not only has grates specifically measured and made to fit a number of brands and styles of tubs, the company also accommodates groomers who work with human tubs by designing grates to fit those, too. It custom designs crates, as well.
Many groomers prefer the added safety of a mat on top of the grate. Forever Stainless Steel offers a thick, sturdy mat with holes that allow water to drain. The mats are sturdy and easy to clean.
Ramps and Stairs
Ramps and stairs save your back. Instead of lifting dogs into the tub, I use portable steps by Master Equipment that are lightweight, sturdy and hang neatly on the wall out of the way when not in use. They work quite well. I chose the style that is freestanding, actually meant for SUVs and grooming tables, rather than those that hook over the edge of the tub, as I believe it is a more stable arrangement. Using them does take some training, as most dogs don’t like open steps—an argument in favor of ramps. Jeanne Caples, director of operations for Forever Stainless Steel, says that a built-in ramp is even better. Ramps are less steep and more accommodating for dogs, because they connect to the bottom of the tub, not the edge of the lip.
Hairtraps are another important accessory, keeping hair from clogging drains and septic tanks. There are catch baskets for under the tub, add-ons that go onto the tub drain pipe, and catch basins in the tub drain itself, just like in a kitchen sink. Forever Stainless steel has a patented, built-in, hair-catching basket in some of its tubs that works great. Water drains right through the hair and the basket without slowing the water flow at all.
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.