Comfy Quarters

Today’s containment systems boast an array of constructions options, colors and features, helping to make the grooming experience as comfortable as possible for pets.

As with everything in the pet world—from pet food and supplies to the mom-and-pop pet shop experience—customer expectations and standards continue to rise. The same is true for pet owners’ demands of grooming salons in many markets throughout the U.S. So with pet owners becoming increasingly discerning, grooming salons are endeavoring to make the experience as comfortable, welcoming and appealing as possible for both their human and their canine or feline clients. With that in mind, salon owners are raising the bar on the containment and enclosure systems they use for visiting pets.

Fortunately, the market for animal facility enclosure systems has expanded to offer a variety of options that meet wide-ranging needs and price points. Stainless-steel enclosures are the tried-and-true standard. They tend to be affordably priced, and these days, many manufacturers have refined their designs to be safer and more appealing than ever. Meanwhile, some of the latest innovations in containment systems are constructed of tempered glass, fiberglass and plastic, giving grooming salons and other professional pet facilities a deeper well of options from which to choose. However, experts say that no matter whether a grooming salon owner is starting from scratch or looking to upgrade or replace the current system, there are some basic considerations to keep in mind before making any final decisions.  

Among the most important factors to consider is the safety and comfort of the animals that will be housed in the enclosures. “Owners should look for containment systems that are safe for the animal and the handler,” says John Walczuk, vice president of sales and marketing for Shor-Line. “An ideal system is made from quality materials that are easy to clean and require minimal maintenance, so [groomers] can give their full focus to the animals.”

Shor-Line manufactures containment systems made with stainless steel, which is known for its durability, dependability and rust-resistance. It is also easy to clean and hygienic, thus helping to reduce the transmission of disease. Yet while those have always been hallmark features of stainless-steel enclosures, today’s designs have even more appeal.

“The bodies of our cages are made from one stainless steel sheet with rounded corners, which eliminates injury from sharp corners and makes the cage easy to clean,” Walczuk says. “Our cage door design features tight spacing between rods—especially near the latch—to keep the animal from opening the door. [In addition], if you are holding a particularly fractious animal, you can keep a tight hold of the animal and use your forearm to open the door and place them inside the cage.”

Shor-Line has also addressed the issue of the unpleasant sounds often associated with stainless steel—such as claws clinking against the metal. “We also offer Quiet-Time Covers that can lessen stress and offer solitude,” he adds.

Still, many pet facilities are looking for alternatives to stainless steel, as more grooming salons and other pet businesses seek to create as warm and cozy an environment as possible. Greg Taylor, CEO of Mason Company—which manufactures dog runs, cat condos, caging systems for short-term holding and more—says many of today’s enclosures offer the warmth and comfort salons are seeking.

“We’ve seen a slow and steady movement away from stainless and cubes to fiberglass and larger cubes—fiberglass because it’s a warmer environment for a potentially wet dog than stainless steel,” Taylor says. “And everyone is looking for [enclosures] that don’t look like prison.”

The move from stainless steel to materials such as fiberglass and tempered glass, however, does come at a cost. These options are typically pricier, Taylor points out, but he adds that many salons are not put off by the additional cost.

“People seem to be making the decision that, on balance, they would rather spend a little bit more and [have cages that] look nice enough to compete against newer competitors,” he says, adding that many salon owners chalk it up to the cost of doing business today.

Greg Brown, director of marketing for HunteKennels, which manufactures high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containment systems, concurs that many grooming salons are looking to create more homelike environments for their clients without sacrificing proper care. “HunteKennels.com can build groomers containment enclosures that look and feel like furniture,” Brown says. “We can do away with the cold, clinical feel but still have clinical level clean-ability and health protection.”

Another attractive selling point for business owners looking for caging systems is the ability to customize the enclosure for their specific and unique needs. “Every grooming business is unique, so our custom enclosures empower each business owner to design features that some off-the-shelf solutions could never give them,” he adds. “The HunteKennels Team are experts at opening up your ideas and developing a deep understanding of your needs. We will advise you on options that you may not have known existed, and work with you to find ways to make your project affordable.”

The HDPE construction of HunteKennels’ enclosures, he says, has the added advantage of offering a wide array of color choices and “endless design features” that stainless-steel products cannot offer. “Our seamless plastic welded construction makes HunteKennels’ enclosures the most reliable in protection from the spread of disease and extremely durable over time,” Brown says.
Stone Mountain Pet Products is another company that offers pet facilities variety and customization in its enclosures, along with a host of benefits such as easy-to-use safety features and clean-ability. Among Stone Mountain’s chief offerings for pet grooming salons are its drying suites, which come in a variety of colors and can be customized to include fans and other features.

According to Stone Mountain sales manager Tim Larson, the company’s Express Drying Suites, Condo Drying Suites and Combination Suites boast industrial-grade fans, break down for easy storage or transport and come in modular units, allowing salons to add to the system at any time. However, while the options seem nearly limitless, Larson advises salon owners who are shopping for enclosures to examine their needs and goals carefully and try to accurately forecast how those needs may evolve in the future.

He suggests that salon owners ask themselves several key questions:

• How many units will I need to purchase?

• How busy is my salon now and what is my anticipated growth?

• What kind of image am I trying to project to my customers?

• What is the average number of animals I service, and what sizes do I see?

• Will the new equipment help to streamline my grooming process?

When vetting a manufacturer to work with, Larson adds, business owners should also focus on quality. “Try to purchase equipment that helps improve the salon’s bottom line,” he says. “Buying something that is a cheap fix now will end up costing more as repairs are needed, and then replacement.”

Taylor also stresses the importance of forethought and planning when considering the purchase of an enclosure system. He says salon owners should look for a financially solvent company that can stand behind its warranty and can offer design assistance and, if required, installation services. “You have to think about the installation process as well; people often forget about that,” he says. “Some people are incredibly handy and have a garage full of tools, and other people don’t.”

It is also crucial that a salon owner—or a thoughtfully appointed employee or manager—pay microscopically close attention to the details of an installation project before the enclosure system is designed and delivered, since many manufacturers will often not take back customized orders.

Lastly, Taylor says, business owners must make sure they account for the time it takes for a manufacturer to design and deliver containment systems.

“We don’t build for inventory,” he says. “We build for each individual job, so it takes six to eight weeks after we get [the order]. This stuff does not typically come off a shelf of inventory. You need to give the manufacturer plenty of lead time.”

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