This month I have been looking back and how much it costs to maintain Dexter. He is a great dog, and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for him.
Being a Shih Tzu/Terrier, he requires regular grooming which ends up being the most expensive part of his upkeep. Approximately every six weeks I take him to the big box store for his appointment. This routine there include: a bath, brushing, a cut, nails clipped, teeth brushed, and ears cleaned and plucked. Its quite a process for him, and for me. The people who work there are great, and they always ensure he comes back looking wonderful, but it takes a toll on him. He is in an unfamiliar environment, there are strange dogs coming and going. His breed is ‘alert dog’, so he is constantly on point listening and watching; which makes him come home stressed.
To solve two concerns at once, I though I would try home grooming, first, to save some money, but secondly, to keep him in his own environment, with his pack.
I don’t really have a good place in my house to groom him. Neither the dining room table, the living room coffee table, nor ‘the floor’, seemed like an appropriate place to take scissors to him.
I wasn’t sure where to start, so I did some searching for pre-built tables on Amazon. There are a lot out there! So many features including shelves, non-slip pads, height adjustments, folding or not, the size of the table portion, and how heavy-duty the parts are. It was overwhelming. Also, I don’t need more things in my house. Having a table sitting in the garage or the basement that I will use once every six weeks is a waste of space. Plus, they started around $80.00. At that rate, adding about $50.00 for the cost of clippers, I would need to groom him four times to recoup the cost. I haven’t groomed him once, so I don’t know if I want to commit to four (or more) times!
Then I looked online to see if there are instructions for building your own table. Yes! There are a few good sites with materials required and instructions, but I didn’t want to invest a ton of money into the table. I have never groomed a dog before. Based on the videos I watched, it doesn’t seem too hard, but those could be famous last words. Since I didn’t know if I am going to make this an ongoing thing, I wanted to build a sturdy but inexpensive grooming table that wouldn’t take up much room.
Dexter is about 28 pounds. He is a relatively small dog. He usually fits in the “Medium” category for a walking harness, leash, size of toys, etc… so I knew the table didn’t have to be overly large. Looking at the sizes available on Amazon, and the size of the anti-slip pad I was planning on using, I knew the table would have to be about 24″x36″. I plotted the size of the dog and the table on graphing paper and the fit looked about right.
I realized I had a small, portable workbench in the basement, it is a Black & Decker Workmate “Project Center”. That got my mind going, it has a solid 24″ x 24″ foot print, holes in the surface on the top (I could bolt a larger board to the top as a tabletop), and figure out something for the grooming arm. Using the board bolted to the top would allow me to remove the grooming surface between projects, and re-attach it when necessary. I also wouldn’t need to buy legs, saving on the expense. Voila! A plan was in place!
I needed to come up with the material list of what I would need from the hardware store. I’m a huge fan of Lowe’s. I know whatever I could dream up, they could help me make.
Materials I used:
- 1 – 1/2″ x 2′ x 4′ oak plywood
- 1 – roll of anti-slip rubber surface (Kobalt brand truck box mat)
- 1 – Elmers spray adhesive
- 4 – 1/4″ x 1-1/2″ machine bolt (and nuts)
- 4 – 1″ washers, to match the bolts above
- Black & Decker Workmate (repurposed)
- A weight for stability (I chose an extra landscaping brick found in the garage)
- saw (I chose a reciprocating saw)
- drill with 1/4″ bit
- utility knife
- crescent wrench for the nuts
- pen or pencil
- Clamp-on Grooming Arm from Amazon (I checked the price today at it was at $40.00)
- Potential future upgrade: Top Performance Tabletop Mat
All told, my shopping trip to Lowe’s cost about $30.00 (wood, bolts, and rubber). The rest of the supplies I had at home.
The grooming arm from Amazon cost about $19.00 for a grand out-of-pocket total of $49.00.
One note about the grooming arm. I found instructions here (Youtube video) which I would have eagerly attempted, but when the author started demonstrating drilling holes in the conduit, and using a vice, I knew I didn’t have the setup to do this at my home. Any cost savings of building the arm myself would be lost in purchasing the necessary equipment. While I can understand the value of having a well-stocked shop, it wasn’t what I was trying to accomplish with this.
A note about the plywood. There were several types of wood to choose from. I obviously wanted something sturdy so I went with 1/2 inch oak. It was about $5.00 more expensive than the pine, but it felt much stronger, and I wanted to ensure
The actual construction took less than an hour.
Step One: Cut one foot off the length of the board.
Step Two: Drill the holes used to attach the board to the work bench.
Turn over the board and the work bench. Center the workbench on the board and use the pencil to trace around four of the pre-drilled holes in the work bench, marking where the holes will be drilled in the work surface. Drill the holes.
I made sure the board was centered to keep the weight over the legs; improving stability.
Step Three: Set everything right side up, and cut the truck box mat to fit the grooming surface. The square feet of the mat were enough, but the dimensions didn’t match nicely with the board, so I had to cut two large pieces, and configure two smaller pieces to go at the end. After all the pieces dry fit nicely, apply the spray adhesive to the board and press the mat onto the board within 15 seconds for a solid bond.
My goal was to keep true to the 36″ length. If my grooming goes well, I may upgrade to a real mat designed for grooming; they are designed for 36″ or 48″ lengths. You could opt to cut off the last few inches so you don’t have mis-matched pieces at the end.
Step Four: Feed the bolts up through the bottom of the board and use the utility knife to score the mat; allowing the bolt to pass through. Remove the bolt and insert it from the top (through the mat, the board, the workbench), then add the washer and tighten the nut. Repeat for the remaining holes.
Step Five: Attach the grooming arm. This one bolts on nicely. You can extend the top section to give more height, or remove it and insert the short end into the vertical part to get more coverage across the table. I have done so in this example.
Step Six: Add some weight. I put Dexter up on the table and it was sturdy, he wasn’t going to tip it over; but I decided to add some weight across the base to lower the center of gravity, and add some stability. Using the scrap material from Step One, I placed it across the horizontal braces and added the landscaping brick. Another option would be to add something heavier – I had a 40 bag of soil that I could have placed in stead but based on my situation I feel the brick is more than enough.
In summary, this table meets my objectives:
- It doesn’t take up too much room; I can remove the surface and use the workbench between grooming sessions.
- It was inexpensive. As I mentioned earlier the supplies and arm came in around $49.00. I will also need to buy some clippers, but more on that in another post. Your final cost will depend on what supplies you have at home. The biggest supply expense was the board (which may be readily available to you), and the grooming arm can be built for about $10.00 in conduit (if you have the tools necessary to assemble it).
- It is safe; the work surface is solid, the base is sturdy and reinforced with the landscaping brick.