Let’s face it, the concept of cage drying has gained a terrible reputation and is a hot-button issue for many professional groomers, not to mention pet owners, PETA, and the press. During a recent discussion of drying methods on the Groom_TNT@yahoogroups email list, a groomer wrote: What I take issue with is cage drying. I force dry, then just set the hair with heat. But you are right, people have been teaching and doing LAZY grooming for a long time. I think cage drying is lazy and dangerous. This is why I'm mobile now, I don't have to hear all the excuses anymore for not drying!
Cage drying with heated dryers that hang on kennel doors has caused innumerable deaths in grooming shops. “Innumerable” because they are often not reported nor admitted. Sometimes a death can occur shortly after an overheating incident, or even days later, or can cause irreversible organ damage. Many responsible professionals continue to use cage dryers with heat, or heated drying cabinets, as a viable option. Heat is especially helpful in a cold, damp, climate. Nonetheless, the unfortunate accidents that have occurred besmirch the entire profession. Check out this recent thread on dogster.com for a glimpse into the public attitude toward cage drying. http://dogblog.dogster.com/2011/07/28/woman-sues-after-dog-dies-of-heatstroke-from-cage-dryer/
It is time to step away from the negative connotation of cage drying and find a more neutral term. I suggest we embrace the concept of passive drying. What I like about this term is that it is neutral, friendly, and encompasses a broad spectrum of practices. Passive drying involves allowing the dog to sit, stand or lay in a cage or pen with air blowing through the coat. Air may be heated or unheated room temperature air, known as ambient air.
In my salon, we do not use heated-air passive drying, but we often use cage or pen drying under fans. The Sahara Turbo dryer is another ambient air option, with three large hose “ducts” that can attach to wire cages or the exercise pen I have set up for larger dogs. The problem with heated air, in addition to the health risks, is that it dries hair from the outside inwards, “setting” curliness or kinkiness in the coat. This is the opposite result than normally sought. Fan drying moves a greater amount of air through the animal’s hair with less curling than hanging cage dryers. I especially like to use wire cages with fans on several sides.
This chihuahua mix is fiendishly unmanageable for any form of table drying. He is happy to dry under fans.
An option used by some groomers is to allow a pet to “drip dry” on towels while accomplishing another task. While not exactly passive, toweling is a method of drying that does not add heat or moisture to the room. Absorbing excess water from the coat with towels is an excellent way of beginning the drying process. Some groomers skip the towel and blow off the excess water with the forced-air dryer. While this practice is not bad, it can put a whole lot of water into the air of your drying area, which increases the relative humidity and can slow down all forms of drying. Once the air around a drying area becomes saturated, the water begins to fall back on the dog. It is like trying to mop up water with soaked sponge. This is especially likely in a small, enclosed area such as a grooming van.
Is passive drying a lazy practice or does it reflect of a lack of standards of excellence? It is true that passive drying allows the busy shop to have two or more pets in the process at once, rather than grooming one-by-one. Is it lazy or unprofessional? It saves time and energy and allows the groomer to attend to more dogs per day. It also allows the solo groomer time to do book work, make reminder calls or tend to sanitation, rather than adding those tasks to the end of the day. Passive drying is also a compassionate option, as there are individual dogs that do not tolerate table drying. These dogs with issues, physical or temperamental, can be catered to and accommodated by the option of passive drying. Some may call me lazy, but I market myself as caring and compassionate. Sometimes I word it as “we accommodate the needs and tolerances of each pet.” One of my means of accommodation is the use of passive drying. My customers love it. The concept of passive drying is easy to explain and get across. Go ahead -- try it out for yourself!