From Drip to Dry
Professional grooming manufacturers demonstrate the value they place on pet and groomer safety through the increasing quality and ingenuity of equipment essentials, such as tubs, tables and dryers.
Most professional pet groomers are in this business because they love the animals they get to work with, and they strive to make the grooming experience as positive as possible for pets, owners and themselves.
Part of a successful pet grooming business, whether it is a storefront location, a mobile or a combination business, is quality equipment. Major items such as tubs, tables and dryers are essentials.
In light of the financial investment groomers make on purchasing equipment for their businesses, experts agreed that durability, strength, safety and repair-ability are important qualities for these products.
“I put the money in upfront rather than replace [the equipment] over and over,” said Julie Rust, a national certified master groomer with the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) and owner of The Fluffy Ruff Dog Spa in Bainbridge Island, Wash.
Those who attend industry shows and keep tabs on trends in the professional grooming arena reported seeing a focus on ergonomics, safety and longevity in the equipment category.
“Our industry is much more aware of the physical challenges groomers have, and they are making more equipment to address those issues,” said Shawn Gaddini, a national certified master groomer with the NDGAA and owner of Super Pups Mobile Grooming in Paradise, Calif.
Groomers Spoke, Manufacturers Listened
“I go to a couple shows a year to catch up on classes, see what’s new and learn new techniques,” Rust said. “Some trends are groomer safety, such as ergonomics and trying to groom for the long haul to not hurt our bodies from long-term wear and tear. For example, getting tables to move where the groomer needs them to go helps professionals groom dogs in a safe and gentle manner without the animal panicking and fighting the process.”
Several companies now offer electric tables and ramps that allow dogs to walk in and out of the tub or on and off the table and keep bathers and groomers from lifting sometimes heavy or panicking pets.
“Our Low Profile Electric Grooming Table goes all the way down to 12.5 inches and raises up to 42 inches,” said Katie Rodne, office manager at Groomer’s Best in Brandon, S.D. “This versatility saves their body from the everyday abuse groomers go through, and it is electric, so raising heavy dogs is no problem. Another convenience added to this table is two drawers located underneath the tabletop to keep what you need within reach.”
Direct Animal Products LLC in Boyd, Texas, also has an electric grooming table in production that is made in the USA and designed to move very smoothly, said Ritch Batterton, president.
“All our products are designed after talking to bathers and groomers in veterinary and grooming facilities and home salons,” he said. “We design new equipment based on needs not being met out there.
“For example, most people just dry the animal on the grooming table but have to replace the top because water corrodes it,” Batterton said. “So we just came out with a drying table that is all stainless steel and just needs to be wiped down. The dryer mounts onto the table, and [the table] has a backsplash that helps catch the hair, and a restraint.”
Wall-mounted dryers leave grooming floors less cluttered.
Not Just Hot Air
When looking at dryers, manufacturers and groomers report ease of use and maintenance as being important considerations.
“Dryers that you can put on the floor or wall or as cage attachments are nice,” said Susan Delaney, owner of All About Grooming in Oakland, N.J. “I recommend a variety if you have room for one on the wall by the tub for convenience and by the table; it keeps them out of the way and off floors.”
Both Delaney and Rust said durability and being able to easily fix and maintain the dryers were key factors in deciding which brands to buy.
“We have to keep the show running, so I need a backup dryer and a backup for that,” said Rust, who has five dryers in her 750-square-foot space. “Really I need everything running as much as possible.”
Most dryers need the filters changed monthly because of all the pet hair and other stuff that gets trapped in them; the brushes should be checked and possibly changed every six months or so, industry participants said.
Beyond maintenance and ease of use, variable speed is the feature de jour.
“We have been rolling out variable speed control on many of our dryers,” said David Stern, co-owner and vice president of marketing for Metropolitan Vacuum Cleaner Co. Inc. (Metrovac) in Oakland, N.J. “Variable speed provides groomers and users an infinite amount of control over the blowing power and noise level so you can groom all breeds of dogs, long- and shorthaired, small or large; even skittish dogs will get used to variable speed dryers.”
At SuperZoo in Las Vegas in July, Metrovac, which makes all its dryers in the USA, introduced two new dryers. The first, an Air Force Top Gun Stand Dryer, has variable control speed and variable control heat.
“Start small and with the basics. Get the best quality you can, but don’t go in the hole for it. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just sturdy, safe and durable. You can upgrade it every year as you go. Also, groomers recycle among ourselves, so check online bulletin boards or Craigslist, where you can get used equipment from people closing down their shops or upgrading their own equipment.”—Julie Rust, owner of The Fluffy Ruff Dog Spa in Bainbridge Island, Wash.
“With all grooming shops, whether it be mobile or storefront, groomers need to make sure they have the right equipment to groom all the dog sizes they offer grooming services on. They also really need to consider what is going to increase the longevity of their body to continue to enjoy life without harming your body.”—Katie Rodne, office manager at Groomer’s Best in Brandon, S.D.
“A storefront shop can get as large a tub as needed, and I recommend a hydraulic. In a mobile grooming situation, I suggest using a smaller tub and a smaller grooming table to provide more room inside the van. Look at the quality and style of the tub. You’ll be using the tub several times a day and they take a lot of abuse, so you want something good quality that will hold up and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.”—Ritch Batterton, president of Direct Animal Products LLC in Boyd, Texas
“You really should spend the money on the better product, from cages and tubs to everything. Make sure the tub is good for your size, because even the littlest bending over to wash dogs can make your back hurt badly; choose for your size or build a platform to put the tub on.”—Susan Delaney, owner of All About Grooming in Oakland, N.J.
“Buy the best electric hydraulic table you can afford; you really do get what you pay for. And think ergonomically to save your back and your life. I’m tall and have neck and back issues because of working on equipment that was too short or small for so many years. Consider what’s ideal for you when bathing and grooming small dogs up to large dogs; you don’t want to be hunched over tubs and tables.”—Shawn Gaddini, owner of Super Pups Mobile Grooming in Paradise, Calif.
“It’s easier to operate and creates a more positive experience for the pet, because the user can change the speed around the pet’s face or rear quarters,” Stern said. “They can dial it down down like a dimmer switch for the dining room, so users have full control from 0 to 100 percent.”
Metrovac’s other new release is the QuickDraw mini hand-held pet dryer, which is similar to a human hair dryer but puts out 10 times the airflow without a heating element, he said. Instead, the friction of the motor produces the warm air.
“The similar design and delivery to a human dryer makes this an easy transition, an easy jump for the consumer,” Stern said, adding that the mini model is being marketed for professionals, pet owners and show dogs.
Another trend is an increase in self-serve dog washes, with more groomers offering that experience, Direct Animal Products’ Batterton said.
Before switching to a mobile grooming business this year, Super Pups Mobile Grooming’s Gaddini had a professional grooming salon with self-serve dog washing.
“It generally costs under $20 to bathe your own dog and use the establishment’s supplies,” Gaddini said. “Especially for people with bigger dogs, it’s more cost effective to just wash and go and leave the mess with someone else.”
Rodne also reported a demand for self-serve dog wash stations, and Groomer’s Best included them in the company’s recent equipment modifications to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
“Our ADA-compliant tubs were designed for self-serve dog wash stations for public use,” she said. “With this design, we raised the height of the legs and lowered the front ledge so it is comfortable for a wheelchair and still convenient for washing dogs.
“Almost every groomer used to use a household bathing tub raised up to do their grooming,” Rodne added. “They are realizing that no toe space, leaning over all the time and quick wear due to overuse is not fun and is very tiresome on the body. Professionally designed bathing tubs will offer convenience, and using a quality, stainless steel product will last a lifetime.”
The Fluffy Ruff Dog Spa’s Rust also recommends the quality of stainless steel products.
“I have two Forever Stainless Steel tubs,” she said. “They cost a good bit more than other tubs, but I heard about others needing to be replaced in a year, and I preferred to just buy it once.”
In retrospect, Rust said if she was opening another shop, she would consider getting a hydraulic tub.
“I didn’t see how it could work when setting up my shop, but it looks like a pretty good deal when trying to get the dog into the work area,” she said. “To have the dog walk in instead of boosting them and possibly hurting your knee or back is great.”
You Color My Days
Beyond durable construction and materials, groomers want more color in their lives. So the industry is seeing a rise in fun colors, such as Metrovac’s recent color introductions.
“Colors are popular,” Stern said. “Recently, we introduced four brand-new bright colors—green, purple, pink and blue—to the Air Force Commander line of dryers, and the groomers like them. The trend seems to be that in addition to grooming their customers’ dogs, they also want to make a fashion statement and upgrade their salons and make them more chic.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Pet Product News.