Tubs and bathing systems can be a fairly large investment, especially for a small salon, so getting the right one is important. Some bathing systems are fairly reasonable, but once a tub is installed, it will be costly to change your mind, so time spent researching this purchase is time well spent.
A good place to start is by checking groomers’ forums online for opinions, asking friends in the industry what they use and why, and going to any seminars you can find on bathing.
Figure out how much you can afford to invest in a tub, and make it as much as you possibly can since it is a long-term investment. Then, look around to see what’s in or close to that price range. If you can only afford a cast-iron or fiberglass tub meant for human home use, perhaps you should wait and save up. Bending over a wide lip is not ergonomically correct and can cause back, leg or shoulder pain over time.
Consider what materials you prefer in a pet tub: galvanized steel, stainless steel, molded plastic or fiberglass. Fiberglass and molded plastic are lightweight, rust-free, and come in endless colors. Stainless is also long lived and can be disinfected readily. Good-quality, stainless steel will also probably still look new in 20 years. Powder-coated, galvanized steel is an economical alternative to stainless steel or fiberglass.
Visualize how you will be using the tub, and decide what features are important to you. Of course, safety and ergonomics for both the pets and staff should be at the top of every groomer’s list of priorities, says Jeanne Caples, director of operations for Forever Stainless Steel. Features such as a rolled front rim and smooth, hemmed edges all around—both of which are found on Forever Stainless Steel tubs—can go a long way in making the bathing process safer and more comfortable.
Another important group of safety features addresses the difficulty of lifting dogs in and out of the tub. “Ramps and step-in features help groomers avoid lifting of dogs,” says Caples, noting that lifting large dogs can result in painful back strain. Forever Stainless Steel offers tubs with both features.
The ability to raise and lower a tub can also be a great help in avoiding back strain. Ultra Lift and PetEdge both have tubs that will lower to within 14 inches from the floor, so dogs can hop right in. They will also lift 200 to 250 pounds up to 42 inches for easy bathing. UltraLift even has a three-sided version to keep water spray to a minimum. Tubs can be built into the wall or installed to be walked around.
Taming the Suds
While many groomers still prefer to hand-apply shampoo from bottles, faster, more economical and greener results can be had from professional bathing systems.
There are a few different types of shampoo delivery apparatus. Some of the less expensive—at about $500—are portable pumps that, placed in the tub in about an inch of water with some shampoo concentrate added, quickly mix the two. The water and shampoo mixture is sucked through a filter into the pump and out through a hose and nozzle. Applied to a dry dog, this time-saving equipment also penetrates down to the skin instantly, even on heavily coated dogs. The first popular version was the Hydrosurge, now marketed as the Oster Deluxe Power Bather. Other companies, like Hanvey Engineering, followed up with nozzles, hoses and operating mechanisms to please every groomer.
This type of bathing system saves water, shampoo and time. “A recirculating bathing pump, used in a Forever Stainless Steel Y Model tub, can reduce water and shampoo use by 75 to 90 percent and reduce bath times substantially while enhancing results,” says Caples.
Less water is needed since applying shampoo along with water gets the dog wet instantly—no more waiting for the water to absorb into the dry coat. Rinsing is faster, as well, since less shampoo is used. However, even though less shampoo is needed, it is a good idea to use low-sudsing shampoos as the pump creates a lot of foamy suds. Bathing is speeded, especially on large, double-coated dogs.
More expensive—at $500 to $1,000—is the type of system that uses water pressure to dilute and deliver shampoo. Most are limited to installation locations that can provide a minimum of 3.5 gallons of water per minute. Gallons of shampoo concentrate deliver product through tubes into a wall-mounted unit where it is mixed with incoming water, but without sufficient water pressure to create a vacuum in the gallon bottles, it won’t work. Most systems can handle up to four types of shampoo or conditioner, and a simple dial mounted on the wall allows the groomer to choose which to use. Another position on the dial delivers plain water. Similar gains in product and water costs and in speed hold true for these systems, and they are easy to use.
There are also systems that do not depend on water pressure or recirculating, and they fall at either end of the price spectrum. The Prima Bathing System uses diluted shampoo in a container and delivers it to a dry pet, but instead of pressurizing the container with water, positive displacement is used to force the mixture through the nozzle at 60 pounds of pressure, which will get to the skin of even a heavy-coated dog immediately. The system costs $1,195.
Prima’s latest system, the Encore, is smaller than the original and is wall mounted to accommodate the needs of mobile groomers and small salons. It is also less costly, at about $700.
The Cosmos Bathing System is very simple. Diluted shampoo in pressurized stainless-steel tanks (three-, five-, or ten-gallon size) delivers perfectly mixed shampoo through a small sprayer. The company installs the system, and the cost is a surprisingly inexpensive monthly rental fee averaging $17 a month.
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.