Finding the Right Grooming Table

I have seen and used every style of grooming table imaginable over the years. When I was asked to write an article about pet grooming tables, my first thought was, "What is there to write about?" I had never really thought about grooming tables deliberately, but when I did, it became clear: grooming tables are the backbone of every groom.

Whether you’re just starting your career or looking to upgrade, let’s start by talking about needs—why are you buying a new grooming table? Why are you disappointed in your current grooming table? Where are you going to use the table? What type of grooming is it for?

Each of these activities will have some bearing on which table makes the most sense, but they just scratch the surface. What type of animals do you plan on grooming? How long and how often do you plan on grooming? Answering those questions will lay the groundwork for deciding which table will suit you and your salon best.


How to Choose

The first thing to consider—no matter what type of table you choose—is what material the top is made of. If you’re looking for plywood, make sure it’s high quality. Cheaper plywood, MDF or particleboard won’t withstand water penetration and will warp, crumble and even break. You want something that can take a beating but is still comfortable enough for animals to stand on for extended periods of time and is non-skid and easy to- lean. If a dog is comfortable and feels secure, they tend to stand better for the grooming.

Of all the tops I’ve used, from soft plastic to truck bed liners, corrugated rubber flooring material held up best. The only negatives to a corrugated top are they need an edging or trimming that can get torn off, and narrow corrugation is harder to clean.

I’ve also used tables that have inserted anti-fatigue mats and regular wooden tabletops that set down in the table frame, which all had their pros and cons. The dogs seem to like the anti-fatigue mats the best, but they are hard to keep clean compared to a nonporous surface of the rubber topper or spray coatings. Do your research on the new polyurea and polyurethane coating compounds used to cover some tops that have been getting good reviews.

Now, what size dogs do you plan on grooming every day? The grooming tabletops range from 30 in. to 48 in. long and 18 to 24 in. wide. As a reference, I groom all sizes of dogs and cats on my heavy-duty Z style manual hydraulic 24 by 48 in. table. I love it because it is one of the Forever Stainless Steel grooming tables, but it’s heavier than most Z-style tables and doesn’t waiver when grooming big or difficult dogs. A lot of dogs become insecure during the drying process, and a table that’s more substantial helps keep them safe with its extra stability. A heavy grooming table is less likely to flip or fall over and hurt the dog.


Choosing a Table

Now, let’s cover the different types of grooming tables and why you might consider them. If you plan to attend shows, you should look into portable grooming tables that have folding legs that may or may not be adjustable. I show the same breeds at every show, so I bought folding grooming tables that were different heights and had different sized tabletops. They were sturdy but lightweight and did not take up a lot of room in the van.

Another favorite show table is the mini or ringside table for toy breeds. These tiny folding tables are perfect to set up ringside to keep toy dogs in pristine condition until it is time to walk into the show ring. Having the ability to set your dog down ringside is also easier than holding them or getting down on the ground with them.

Additionally, for toy breeds, there’s Lazy Susan-esque tabletop grooming devices that rotate dogs while you work. They have rubber feet and can be used on any flat surface, including grooming tables, eliminating the need to walk around the table during a groom.

The accordion lift style tables are great at handling heavy loads and lowering almost to the ground, and they’re available in electric and regular hydraulics. I use an accordion-style table to lift my extra-large dogs into the bathtub. These tables go so low that large dogs can just step on them and are nice if you have limited space of a mobile unit or a small salon because they go straight up and down. However, they are priced high and may not make sense for home use.

My first lift table was the classic style hydraulic grooming table. It was a sturdy grooming table that had a sealed hydraulic pump with a 350 lb. weight capacity and featured rubber matting and an aluminum trim. The top rotated 360 degrees and could lock into position, but I wouldn’t recommend this type of table for any animal difficult or large, as the table would wobble and cause the dog to become more nervous. Tables of that kind are geared toward small and medium breeds, and they’re nice to have in limited-space salons as you can move the dog in a full circle whiles staying in the same spot.

Finally, you have your Z style tables that also come in regular or electric hydraulic. Z-lift frames with smooth height adjustments are reasonably priced and seem to be the most popular of the lift tables. They are sturdy enough for most dogs, as the Z-lift base provides extra stability and eliminates wobbling and tipping with few exceptions. I prefer the manual hydraulic over the electric because I don’t enjoy tripping over cords in the salon, but both provide a smooth height adjustment from about 22 to 40 in. high. They can also come with a ramp for mobile units to walk dogs from the table to the tub.


Table Add-Ons

A grooming table is not complete without a grooming arm and grooming loop. Over my 30+ years of grooming, I have tried them all and I’ve bent, broken and watched grooming arms/loops corrode and stop working properly.

An overhead grooming arm is secured at each end of the table and it extends over the length of the grooming tabletop. This type of arm is meant to control the movement of the dog when grooming it. It has multiple places to clip loops and waistbands to keep the dog standing in comfort. I tried this style of arm but felt like it interfered with my grooming too much.

Some arms have a flip bar, which is helpful when you are scissoring topknots and show dogs, but they are not sturdy enough for difficult dogs.

The telescoping arm extends from 24 in. to 48 in. I have a few of these style arms, and they are suitable for all sized pets. But I have had issues with the adjuster screw getting stuck and the inside rusting, and I’ve noticed that many of these style arms do not extend far enough over the table for me.

There’s your basic 36 and 48 ¾ in. square tube arm, which I feel is not sturdy enough for a difficult dog. If you have a large dog that decides to jump, these arms will bend. I prefer the solid stainless that are ¾ or 1 in. thick—they’ll hold up forever.

The other consideration is the clamp. Clamps should be made from extra-strong, zinc-plated steel, and should be wide enough to prevent damage to the table while increasing stability. Steer clear of the round arms, as they tend to spin in the clamp and are not very secure.

My favorite arms are from Forever Stainless and Groomers Helper. The arms extend from the front of my grooming table to almost the middle, have places to hook a dog and are sturdy enough to hold a dog up, if needed.

The thing you must remember is that if an arm comes with the grooming table, it’s most likely a basic style. That’s fine if you’re grooming your own dogs or show dogs, but professional groomers should examine the underside of the table to see where and how they could attach a heavy-duty arm clamp.

In terms of loops, I use Groomers Helper exclusively! I love their loops because they lock in place and have a quick release snap on them, and they work with Groomers Helper grooming post and clamps.

Remember no matter who you are and what dog is on your table, never leave them unattended for even a second. It is an accident waiting to happen. Dogs know if they can take an inch, and they are going to struggle a little to test you. If they think for a second that they can get away from you, they will keep trying. Many times, if they are secured, and there is no evidence of escape, they settle down.

My advice is to find a tabletop and frame that is going to last you the longest. To date, I have only had one table with hydraulics that ended up breaking down for me. It is usually the table construction itself that starts to deteriorate. Tables are an investment, but when you think about everything that goes into a grooming table, it is worth every penny. There are many manufacturers of grooming tables. You will find one that is right for you. Your table can be your security blanket—find your third arm.  PB