Bathing is a vital part of the grooming process that is often overlooked or viewed as less skilled as styling, but a good bather is the bedrock of a good groom. You cannot do a good job finishing unless the preparatory work has been done well, and bathing is the first step in that work. While drying and brushing correctly are also critical to the whole package, a good groom needs to start with a perfectly clean dog.
How efficiently pets are bathed can make or break the profit margins in a salon. Those dogs that we often call “bath dogs,” meaning they do not require a lot of finishing work, are the bread and butter of a salon’s income. These grooms are often handled entirely by employees closer to entry level and therefore compensated at a lower rate – which means the salon makes more money.
Safety (and Comfort) First
As with any aspect of grooming, a dog’s safety while bathing is a primary concern, and it’s vital to a salon’s reputation. Bathing efficiently leads to quicker turnover, which not only increases profit but means each pet spends less time in the tub, which makes them happier. It’s a win for everyone.
How you bathe and what equipment you use to do it can have a huge bearing on how efficiently and how safely you are bathing. According to Joan Hyland, marketing specialist at Groomer’s Best, “making sure you have the right equipment is important to increasing efficiency while bathing.”
In a salon that regularly does large or giant sized dogs, a walk-in tub may be the answer as it’s only 9 in. from the floor. “Dogs feel as though they have more control over the situation in a low tub, which can reduce fearfulness,” says Hyland. “Older dogs that may have back or leg problems are safer and more comfortable getting in and out of a low tub.
“[You could also] consider a tub with steps and a door for medium up to giant breeds – with a removable tray to accommodate bathing small dogs without having to lean deep into the tub.”
Holly Gibson, marketing and innovation manager for Shor-Line, suggests that, for the ultimate adjustable comfort, a tub that lowers or raises with a lift may be ideal. Not only does it make it easier to get pets in and out, but the tub can be at the ergonomically correct height for each employee bathing a dog, because safety in bathing applies to the groomer, too.
“Bathing is hard on a groomer’s body.” says Gibson. “Whenever possible let the equipment do the work. That can mean deciding which level to place the tub floor if your tub is equipped with options, or getting the ramp or stairs just right.”
Gibson also recommends using goggles or safety glasses especially if you wear contact lenses, to prevent hair, shampoo, or debris from getting in your eyes. For pet safety, have a mat or PVC coating on the tub floor.
“If pets feel secure underfoot they tend to relax,” she says. “It also makes it easier to adjust the dog as you bathe it.”
Making sure that your equipment accommodates your specific clientele will help efficiency.
“Investing in the right tub, one that will not require maintenance other than cleaning, and one that incorporates the features that you need most, may initially be more expensive than a very basic tub, but will more than pay for itself in the long run both in money saved and reduced stress for all,” says Jeanne Caples of Forever Stainless Steel.
Getting to the Bath
Once safety and comfort has been established, it’s time to pick out a shampoo. Deciding what shampoo delivery system works best for you will have a large impact on your bathing process. Recirculating systems reduce the use of shampoo, an expensive consumable in any salon, and using a tub such as Forever Stainless that has a dedicated area for the pump can reduce the water needed for each bath and therefore the time needed.
Other shampoo delivery systems include those that automatically mix and dilute shampoos before it reaches the sprayer head, and several different kinds of delivery for pre-mixed shampoos ranging from the Primo or Cosmos bathing systems to hand diluting shampoo into applicator bottles.
Now, almost everyone interviewed for this piece agreed on one thing: have everything ready and within reaching distance. Most dogs do not love the bath part of their grooming, so many may be ready to hop out of the tub. If you can spend the entire bath time with at least one hand on the animal, you reduce the risk of surprise exit attempts. And if you have all the products and tools that you will need to use on that dog within reach, it’s also faster to bathe that dog as well as safer.
Additionally, consider trimming nails and cleaning ears in the tub for efficiency, and nails are often easier to do once they are softened by absorbing a bit of water – and the dog that doesn’t enjoy this process may object less because it’s in a different place, so less negative associations have been built up. Temperature affects results, too. Dogs prefer a temperature closer to tepid but if you are encouraging shedding, somewhat warmer water helps.
The Drying Finish
Since most of us at least begin the drying process in the tub, let’s talk about that a little. High velocity dryers were originally marketed as saving on towels as the water would just be blown off the dog. This is true, but much more effective when used on a dog that has had some of the moisture blotted from its coat.
Remember that all the water blown off that coat is going into the air and, in a humid climate, that can add a lot of time to the drying process. Holding a towel to absorb the water being blown off the dog helps prevent it from adding to the air. Using a dehumidifier in the bathing area also helps.
Towels can be thick cotton bath towels, microfiber towels, or faux chamois towels of various types. Vince Lapinski, president at Clean Tools, the maker of The Absorber, points out that using the Absorber helps increase efficiency in bathing several ways.
“Since it’s faster and allows more dogs to be dried in the same amount of time, it costs less,” says Lapinski. “This is a PVA material not a fabric” says Lapinski. “It absorbs a lot of water before it needs to be wrung out.”
One thing that can help any business improve their efficiency and effectiveness in bathing is to be open to learning more about new products and techniques. For instance, try attending Teri DiMarino’s Brusher Bather Certificate Program offered at many trade shows and competitions. It includes detailed information on products, techniques and equipment that will save groomers time and money.
It’s also important to reflect on your own experiences as a groomer. Look at the steps taken to bathe a dog. Dissect the entire process from start to finish and find the places where you can save time or increase safety, and put them into play. Consider whether the equipment you have is ideal for your purpose and if not, talk to manufacturers about what would be ideal.
If someone mentions that a specific product or tool has (for example quick dry sprays, or a particular towel) saved time or money, why not try it out? It could be the item that saves you 10 minutes per dog, which can add up to being able to do another entire groom that day. PB