To Cage or Not to Cage - Groomer to Groomer

Safe, Secure, & Stress-free Solutions

To Cage or Not to Cage

By Kathy Hosler

Many years ago when I first opened my salon, a young couple brought their Toy Poodle, Spunky in to be groomed. We discussed the style of clip they wanted, and as they were leaving, I placed Spunky in a cage so that I could finish the dog I already had on my table. The wife immediately burst into tears and sobbed, “She’s putting him in a cage! She’s putting him in a cage!”

I assured them that it was for Spunky’s safety and would only be for a few minutes. The husband said that would be fine and he took his weeping wife and left. A couple of minutes later, he was back. His wife demanded that he get the dog. She couldn’t stand the thought of her ‘baby’ being in a cage. 

I made a suggestion. “I have two grooming tables, what if I put a nice blanket on one of them and then
let Spunky rest there (with a safety loop on him, of course) until I can start him?”

Well, the husband was relieved and ultimately the wife was happy. So, for fourteen years, that was how we cared for Spunky…no cages for him. Of course, being tied up a grooming table, I had to constantly be aware of Spunky’s every movement. It was not the ideal solution for me, but as a new groomer, I tried my best to please every client—even if that meant more work or problems for me.

This is a dilemma many groomers face—how do you keep the pets in your care safe and secure, and still please your customers?

Cage–Free Systems

While some pet parents may think ‘cage–free’ sounds ideal for their precious baby, there are many dangers associated with pets roaming free in a salon. Most shops have some type of containment system, even if they don’t use cages. One of the most popular is the stall or suite. This type of setup usually consists of a series of eyebolts along a wall that the dogs can be tethered to. Most have dividers or partitions to separate the dogs. Many dog suites also have doors or gates on the front. They do not have a top on them, which helps the pet parent feel that their beloved baby is not in a dreaded cage.

This kind of setup can be made inviting and beautiful, with murals of outdoor scenes, beach backgrounds, and other vacation destinations placed on the wall behind the pets. When planning a containment system like this, you have to think about durability and pet safety, and you will need to select materials that are easy to clean and sanitize.

Cage Systems

For most salons, cages are essential equipment for the safe operation of their business. You don’t have to refer to them as cages when you are speaking to pet parents, call them pet condos, puppy cabins, or cozy canine cottages. Most facilities have banks of cages where the pets are housed when they are not on the grooming table or in the bathtub. Today’s cages are very professional looking and have been designed with the pet’s safety in mind. They come in many bright colors to coordinate with any shop’s decor.

The kind of cage system that you select depends on how you want to use them. They each have benefits depending on the application. Banks of cages are often the system of choice for the majority of grooming establishments. They come in standard sizes, or they can be custom designed to fit your salon’s needs. Many manufactured cage bank systems have a laminated surface that is very durable. They have rounded inside corners and a raised non–drip front edge which makes them easy to sanitize and clean. And, most have casters on them that make it a breeze to move them so you can easily clean under and behind them.

A plus of wire cage units is that you can see the pet at all times. They have flow–thru ventilation, and you can fasten a dryer or a fan on the side, top, or the front of them. Most of them have a slide–out tray under the floor for easy cleaning. On the downside, they might rust over time and they can be noisy.

Plastic or fiberglass cages can be stacked or used singly. They are lightweight and easy to clean and disinfect. Most come apart and can be nested for storage. Some pets are calmer and more content in these den–like units. If you have a non–stop barker, you can even drape a towel over the front of the cage to eliminate outside stimulation.

Safety First

The pet’s safety should always be uppermost in your mind when you select a containment system. You should do a thorough inspection of any cages that you purchase. Check the inside surfaces for rough edges that could injure a pet. Look at the spacing of wire framework and the door bars. They must be close enough to prevent a dog from being able to bite the bars and get its teeth stuck between them. And, the doors must latch securely to keep a dog from escaping.

A lot of cages come with raised floor grates. If the openings are big enough to allow a dog’s toe to slip through, that’s an accident waiting to happen. Placing something like dri–dec tiles or vinyl matting on top of the grates will keep the dog from getting a toe trapped or tearing off a toenail. If you have ever had this happen to a dog that was in your care, you know how terrifying it
is—and you will do anything to eliminate the possibility of it happening again.

In addition, vinyl matting will give the pet a comfortable surface to lie on and will prevent the crisscross pattern that dogs can get imprinted on their fur from sitting or lying on the floor grate.

The main purpose of a pet containment system is to keep pets safe and secure in a stress–free environment when you are not actively working on them. With all the choices available, your grooming facility can have a great system that fills all your needs. You just have to decide ‘to cage–or–not to cage’.  ✂

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