Episode 33: An Introduction to the Essentials of Dog Grooming with Kelli Gilliss

[00:00:00] Corey McCusker: Hello, dog lovers, and welcome to Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Training Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips and educational information to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach, and today I’m thrilled to have back on another podcast, Kelli Gilliss, one of my valued team members who has dual roles with us.

She is our senior groomer, and the other role she has with us is a trainer. Let me tell you a bit about our guest today, Kelli. She brings extensive background. of dog training and behavior management to her work as a Certified International Groomer and Canine Coach. She is a graduate of Sheridan College Animal Health and Sciences and continues her education in advanced canine nutrition and the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers.

Kelli currently holds the position of chair on ODGA, which stands for the Ontario Dog Grooming Association. Her experience began in 1991 as a groomer and progressed to include multiple awards in the competitive grooming industry and titles in dog obedience. Her passion lends its expertise to handling difficult to manage animals in both her grooming and training platforms.

She worked as an in clinic trained veterinarian technician since 1998, and Kelli now explores and practices holistic veterinarian care. Kelli keeps a happy home with her two Australian Shepherds, Maui, ten and a half years old, and Crew, two years old. And her two children, Ella and Owen, and of course her husband, Steve.

So, we are thrilled to have Kelli on our team. As you can hear of all that extensive knowledge, we are so wonderful to have and we benefit from it often. So welcome, Kelli.

[00:01:54] Kelli Gilliss: Thanks, Corey. It’s great to be here again.

[00:01:57] Corey McCusker: Kelli, can you tell us how you got started in the world of dog grooming?

[00:02:02] Kelli Gilliss: Actually, it’s quite a funny story.
I knew I wanted to do something with dogs, but I wasn’t really sure, so I did take that course at Sheridan College, and through a couple of placements, I found at a veterinary clinic that I didn’t really love the inside of dogs so much, and through another placement at a grooming salon, in a boarding kennel, I learned that I like the outside much better.

So, after a lot of encouragement to play around with the grooming equipment that was left behind at the boarding kennel, made some mistakes along the way, but eventually I got a job at a veterinary clinic as a groomer and I started my journey. Hands on, every day, in the trenches, learning.

[00:02:43] Corey McCusker: That’s great. So, before we’re going to talk about what a typical groom is, or what it involves, I want to talk about specific breeds and or coats as it varies with each coat type, I believe.
Like if we look at dogs, like just some examples, if we look at a Golden Retriever, if we look at a Miniature Poodle, if we look at a French bulldog, all of those are completely different. So, can you touch on the different breeds and coat types?

[00:03:10] Kelli Gilliss: Absolutely. As you know, there’s a lot of different breeds out there and a lot of different coat types.
And then of course you get into the mixed breed which gives even more mixed, or mixed coats and mixed coat types. So, let’s say your typical grooming client would be a double coated dog, say a Golden Retriever, an Australian Shepherd, a Border Collie. Those are dogs that typically will have one or two guard hairs and five or six undercoat hairs growing out of just one follicle. So that’s what gives them that double coat, that plush undercoat, which keeps them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And then that protective topcoat, that silky top coat.
And let’s say Poodle coats. Poodles are typically a curly coat or wavy coat, and they are considered to be a single coat because that individual coat will grow until either clipped off or is broken off. And then you have coats like your Maltese, your Shih Tzu. Those are drop coated dogs. So those are coat dogs with a single or double coat. with, will grow right until the ground or until it’s broken off or clipped off as well.
And then you have specific coats like your Terriers, your harsh, wiry coats. They have an undercoat as well, but their topcoat has extra oils, and it’s very harsh and crispy to the touch. And typically, you’d be looking at a process called hand stripping to get that kind of coat out.
And then you get your combination coats, like your Doodles, and your Shih-Poos, your Cockapoos, all sorts of a-Poos.

You never know what you’re going to get combination wise. Sometimes you can have a single coat, sometimes double coat, non-shedding, shedding. It really gets into a lot of variables when you start looking at mixing the breeds.

[00:05:05] Corey McCusker: Okay, so that’s just a bunch of examples of the different breeds and the coat types, and I’m sure there’s more.
So, can you kind of explain to our listeners is what’s involved in a typical grooming session?

[00:05:19] Kelli Gilliss: A typical grooming session would be say, depending on the breed, of course, but every dog would start with a bath, which in my salon would be included with a bathing system, all sorts of different systems out there. The bathing system would sit in a little bit of water, and you add your shampoo to it, and it combines the two, brings them up through a hose, and it’s able to blast it right onto that skin, all through that undercoat or matted coat. It gets that shampoo and water mixture really close to the skin and helps to wash away all the dirt, oil, sebum, all of those other things that are snared up on that skin level.

[00:06:01] Corey McCusker: Okay.

[00:06:01] Kelli Gilliss: And then you look at the drying process which would be typically done with a high velocity dryer, and that’s a dryer which is very high powered, and it tends to blow the coat, or blow the water right from the skin out into the air.

So, it can go through several layers of coat to get to that skin and it blows all that yucky stuff out into the air.

[00:06:28] Corey McCusker: And so, the high velocity, which I’ve seen, and I know that you use, it is very different than what some people think a blow dryer is, and that’s where, you know, I always like saying, well, what we use is very different than the average blow dryer. And I think the benefit of a high velocity is, one, you just mentioned the skin and blowing it out. So, does it do it quicker? Does it get more hair out then or?

[00:06:53] Kelli Gilliss: Absolutely. It’s a very powerful unit. So, it’s able to get through all of that coat right down to the skin. It does make for a lot faster drying time.

Back before there was HV dryers, it was so much harder. We had to work so much harder to get through all that coat because there was just stand dryers or kennel dryers to get a coat done.

[00:07:15] Corey McCusker: And that’s what I think people are sometimes used to, where a stand dryer might be beneficial for another dog or something, I guess.

[00:07:23] Kelli Gilliss: Dogs who are a little afraid of the HV, we’ll break out the stand dryer. It’s just a gentler flow of directed air.

[00:07:30] Corey McCusker: All right. And what is a typical groom? How long does that take?

[00:07:34] Kelli Gilliss: It can really vary depending, of course, on factors such as the breed, the coat type, the size of the dog, the coat condition, so whether it’s matted or has burrs, or has any kind of skin condition that may require a special treatment.
And of course there’s stylized breeds, clipping or hand stripping. So, let’s say your average dog, let’s say a small Doodle, small Doodle, maybe an hour, an hour and a half, medium and large, maybe an hour and a half to two hours. So, you get your giants who may take more. And of course, there’s time variable depending on all those other factors that I just mentioned as well.

[00:08:13] Corey McCusker: Yeah, and I know if somebody does call for a groom with us, I mean, if they’re somebody new or whatever, we will talk about, you know, with the groomer, they’re looking at their table Muttz, which means how are they handling themselves on the table? Are they relaxed or whatever, and then again as you mentioned those specialty where you might have to get into doing more work So and again, there’s a lot involved. I mean you just . . .

[00:08:36] Kelli Gilliss: And every groomer is going to have their own abilities, so may take longer, some may take shorter times. Because I have so much experience in the industry I’m probably faster than the average groomer, but some groomers will take a little more time, it doesn’t mean it’s you know, the dog is doing anything wrong or there’s an issue. It just means that that groomer is, moves a little slower than others.

[00:09:01] Corey McCusker: Okay. And how frequent should a dog be groomed?

[00:09:05] Kelli Gilliss: Again, really breed dependent, but, your typical, say, grooming, styling, clipping dog, such as a Poodle or a Doodle, we really encourage not to go longer than six to eight weeks. And double coated dogs can go a little longer, sometimes between, say, eight to twelve weeks.

And again, it all varies on, does the owner do any management at home, how effective is that management? So sometimes if the owners are a little more diligent with their at home maintenance, then they can stretch it out a little bit more. But typically, we do ask that they come in on a regular basis to keep that coat from getting into that disarrange state.

[00:09:52] Corey McCusker: And I’m going to ask you a question in a bit, but I’m going to come back to that comment about how keeping the coat because I think there’s other factors and bringing them regularly too. But can you talk about, special techniques or tools that you would use?

[00:10:07] Kelli Gilliss: Yeah, definitely. There’re many different tools available. And as for techniques, it again, very groomer dependent, depends on what you know, what you’ve learned, what you enjoy. Some people develop a specialty, you’re looking at hand stripping is a very different and stylized technique that not a lot of groomers are able or willing to learn.

So that takes different technique as well as different tools. And, but the average tools for, say, a Golden Retriever or even your average dog in general, if you have a slicker brush, a comb, those should be sufficient to maintain the dog between grooming visits.

[00:10:53] Corey McCusker: All right. And then with yourself, I’ve been in your grooming room. It’s like, okay, I know barbers or hairstylists or whatever do not have as many tools as you, but you have every kind of scissor, every kind of comb, every kind of brush. It’s like, oh my goodness, the investment alone in your equipment is incredible.

[00:11:12] Kelli Gilliss: Yeah. I think I have a problem.

[00:11:14] Corey McCusker: No, you have a gift of being able to groom dogs and you like your specialty stuff and you like your good tools. So yeah, that is good.

[00:11:22] Kelli Gilliss: I definitely have a scissor addiction and maybe a small one with combs.

[00:11:26] Corey McCusker: Okay, yeah. So, you mentioned hand stripping there. I think that particular dogs that would get the hand strip.

[00:11:33] Kelli Gilliss: Yes. They’re your hand stripping dogs typically are Terriers, all sorts of Terriers. Your Border Terriers, Airedale Terriers, but some dogs that are being shown will be hand stripped such as Cocker Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, some Setters. They’ll have a different technique of hand stripping, but it’s still technically hand stripping.

[00:11:55] Corey McCusker: And I know also we just mentioned just some of the techniques or the tools really, especially, but there’s also types of grooms that people, that the industry has, like a puppy cut or teddy. Yeah. So there’s, there’s different, which I mean, there’s probably too many for us to discuss today.

[00:12:12] Kelli Gilliss: Yeah, there really are.

[00:12:13] Corey McCusker: But what are the common ones that people would ask?

[00:12:15] Kelli Gilliss: You’re definitely, what you just recommended or what just said was teddy bear cut.

[00:12:19] Corey McCusker: Okay.

[00:12:20] Kelli Gilliss: Teddy bear cut is one that every groomer in the entire world hears as well as puppy cut. Puppy cut is another one. There is no industry standard for these things. It is not an actual breed clip. It’s just, it’s really a subjective thing. Typically, with a teddy bear cut, is, or puppy cut it basically just a little bit fluffy all over, the legs are slightly a little longer than the body, and that face is whatever the shape of the face would be, that kind of puppy cute.

[00:12:50] Corey McCusker: Okay, cute. Awesome. Okay, so as a groomer, what are some of the common challenges that you encounter when dogs come to you for grooming, and how do you address them or deal with that?

[00:13:01] Kelli Gilliss: I think definitely, we see a lot of anxiety issues in dogs, and of course, anxiety can stem from a lot of different things, but typically that would be the number one thing I think we see.
Matting is another one. We see a lot of different states of matting and matting comes in kind of different forms. There’s, you know, single little mats, there’s big pelts, there is, you know, spider webbing network of mats. But, yes, I definitely see those would have to be the top three.

[00:13:35] Corey McCusker: Okay. And, the top, so matting, the anxiety, and then just being the fearful coming in is, okay.

[00:13:43] Kelli Gilliss: Yeah.

[00:13:44] Corey McCusker: All right. And so, with the matting, I think a lot of dog owners don’t understand the impact of it. Like I, I hear a lot, Oh, the matting’s behind the ears or they got mats there. Can you deal with them? Can you just cut them out or whatever? So how do you address that? Like, not, I mean, okay, if they say cut them out, like, do you cut them out? But no, I’ve seen you work with dogs, and I think your thing is to make sure. that they’re comfortable while they’re getting the process. So maybe talk about the impact of the mats on the dog.

[00:14:12] Kelli Gilliss: Well, yeah, I think the biggest issue I think we face is that owners really don’t know what a mat is or what a mat looks like or the impact it has on the dog’s skin.

So a lot of times the owners will just sort of discover a mat, like they’ll discover one single knot, say behind the ear and say, Well, he has a mat. Can you just cut that out? But what they don’t feel is that underneath that top layer of coat, that fluffy, soft layer that sits on the top, underneath that, that is closer to the skin, is a network of mats.
Sometimes they’re just in pieces and chunks, and sometimes they’re actually big, solid, like a pelt. So, it can be really hard for the owner to wrap their head around what a mat actually is. They think that we can just go and cut little pieces and chunks out of their dogs and that solves the problem.

But most of the time it really is more of a network. It becomes a network of matting under that coat that can’t be dealt with by just cutting it away. It’s more a process sometimes. I prefer to do . . . I will soak it in product and try and loosen it up. I use my HydroSurge bathing system as well as that HydroVelocity dryer.

So, I use different techniques to try and loosen up the matting. But it’s not always successful. Sometimes that, the whole coat has to be shaved down because there’s just so much matting. Sometimes, again, in chunks and bits and sometimes in pelts all over the entire body.

[00:15:45] Corey McCusker: And that can be painful for the dog too.

[00:15:48] Kelli Gilliss: It can. Those mats, they pull because the hair is all woven together and they pull on that skin. They put a lot of pressure on that skin. And sometimes, when that matting is so tight to that skin and it’s been on there for maybe a period of time, it can actually put pressure sores on the skin. So, when we actually get underneath those mats and release them, the release of pressure causes the blood vessels to come towards the skin, like a hematoma common on the ears because they hang downwards, but along the body you can have those similar spots as well. The blood just rushes in to fill the spot.

[00:16:26] Corey McCusker: Okay. And with dogs that come into you with anxiety or fear, like how do you deal with that?

[00:16:32] Kelli Gilliss: That is pretty tricky, it’s really, every dog is so different in how they display their particular anxiety traits. But typically, I like to let the dog kind of take its time, come in the room, just wander around the floor for a few minutes, get its bearings, and I like to just ignore it at first, and then I will introduce myself.
My energy comes down to their level. Everything is quiet. I try and keep everything quiet on the dogs. My hands are soft. My body language is soft. And once I have a little bit of a connection with the dog, then I will put it up on my table. And it’s really hard to pinpoint one thing that would be done for the dog because again, everyone is completely different, but I think energy is really what I focus on.

[00:17:25] Corey McCusker: Which as a trainer too, both of us being trainers too, we know how important the energy is and the energy that we portray to try to help calm that dog and they can pick up . . .

[00:17:36] Kelli Gilliss: Dogs anywhere, whether it’s groomers, training, you know, dogs in any place really are affected by our energy.

[00:17:46] Corey McCusker: And so you’ve touched on, you know, the matting and some of the things that you come across when you’re grooming. So let’s talk about how a regular grooming routine can really help contribute to the dog’s overall health and well-being.

[00:17:59] Kelli Gilliss: Yeah, and as groomers, we really are on the front lines of your dog’s physical health. And sometimes we can even discover issues internally, such as, you know, skin issues, where is that issue coming from, which is inside the body, which displays itself in ear infections, yeasty paws, yeasty patches, even anal gland issues. And of course, we are able to see right to the skin with those HV dryers and our bathing system.

So we can actually get under there and have a full sight to the skin and we can find bumps and lumps and say, any scars or punctures or scabs or any kind of issues going on there, long before their owner can find it or even a veterinarian just on an average exam is probably not going to be able to find those type of things unless they’re looking specifically for them.

[00:18:58] Corey McCusker: And if you think about it, that’s where a vet or an owner, they’re not going to be examining the dog’s whole body over and that’s where you guys do. So that’s interesting. And I think it’s good that we share some of the things that can go wrong and some of the things that we can find just during the grooming process.
So, can you provide some tips and techniques for the listeners at, and what they can do at home to either maintain or keep their dogs well groomed?

[00:19:26] Kelli Gilliss: Absolutely. I would, I would strongly suggest that whoever you are, talk to a professional in the industry and try and figure out exactly what your dog’s coat type is, or combination of coats if you have the mixed breed, and then you can ask for advice on getting the appropriate tool for your specific coat needs.

Typically speaking, I think the staple in every person’s household should be a slicker brush, some form of slicker brush, a hard slicker, a soft slicker, and a comb, are your best friend. If you can keep up with those in between grooming visits, then it’s going to make our jobs a lot easier and of course is going to benefit the dog because our jobs are so much easier.

[00:20:12] Corey McCusker: And the dog would be used to some grooming techniques.

[00:20:16] Kelli Gilliss: Right, exactly. And handling as well, if owners can make sure, you know, handle their paws, put their hands in their mouth and their ears. They’re able to pick up their feet. They’re able to lift up their tail. Those go a long way as well in helping for not just your groomer but say your veterinarian or anybody who has to have their hands on your dog.

[00:20:36] Corey McCusker: And I think those are really good tips, especially for people that are just getting puppies, too. And they know they’ve got one of those coats that are going to require grooming. And so, for a puppy owner, you’ve just mentioned some of the things that, you know, any of the owners should be doing. How could they prepare their dog for a grooming experience, and when should a puppy go for a grooming experience?

[00:21:01] Kelli Gilliss: Well, again, I would prefer, I like to see new puppies after they’ve had at least one set of vaccines to be able to withstand a multi-dog environment, of course, just for safety, but the earlier you get them started, the better it is. I wouldn’t suggest, you know, bringing in the same week you get the puppy home. I would give yourself like, a few weeks to get acclimatized and get the puppy comfortable and get to know its personality before you do any of these scary things for them. But definitely the sooner the better for the overall experience.

[00:21:35] Corey McCusker: Okay. That’s great. The other thing is some dogs are like, if you look at a Lab, they might not even need grooming other than the one dreaded thing that many people don’t want to do or get done . . .

[00:21:46] Kelli Gilliss: The nails.

[00:21:48] Corey McCusker: So, can we just touch on the nails for a minute?

[00:21:50] Kelli Gilliss: Absolutely. That’s such a common issue. A lot of owners will embark on it themselves. They get all the right tools. They have all the right intentions and they ended up, end up just nipping one of the nails too short and they’ve traumatized themselves. And in doing so, I think they traumatized themselves more than the dogs in reality.

But the dogs, of course, just react by whatever they’re doing, a yelp, or running away, and of course they feel bad. So, it’s really more about the owner. I think that the handling, learning to physically handle your dog is a really big issue when you’re doing nails. Because pressure, the pressure of those nail clippers, or the pressure of the Dremel, really is the most important factor.

If your pressure isn’t just right, then you’re going to cause, like, say if your pressure is too low, too light, then you’re going to cause splintering and jiggling around of the nail and that’s terrifying for the dog and maybe somewhat painful. And, of course, if you do it too hard, then you’re going to be jolting the dog and scaring the life out of both of you.

So, I usually suggest, if you’re going to get nail clippers, to get, like, a plier style nail trimmer. And then get a pencil or maybe a dozen pencils and practice just clipping off the ends of the pencil.

[00:23:08] Corey McCusker: The little lead part.

[00:23:09] Kelli Gilliss: Yeah, the lead part. You don’t have to have it super sharp, all the time, but you will be able to see with your pressure. If that pencil splinters or the paint chips, you know, you’re going too low. Your pressure isn’t enough so it’s splintering. So, you got to get your pressure just right. Put that nail in there, nail into the guide, and commit, and clip her off and be done.

[00:23:28] Corey McCusker: Exactly.

[00:23:29] Kelli Gilliss If the nail does bleed, they’ll never bleed out. It’s not a major artery. It’s going to be a mess, absolutely. But the dog will never die.

[00:23:42] Corey McCusker: Exactly. And is there some home products you can use if they do bleed?

[00:23:46] Kelli Gilliss: Yeah, absolutely. There is corn starch is a great binding agent. Sometimes flour in a pinch, but it doesn’t bind quite as well. And sometimes just take them out onto the grass or the dirt and let them run around for a minute and that will stop it up just as well.

[00:23:59] Corey McCusker: Okay, good. Awesome. Okay. I just wanted to add that dreaded nail thing at the end.

But I think you’ve provided us with a lot of information, and I really greatly appreciate it. In the show notes, we will include just some of the tools that you’ve mentioned, so people don’t know what a slicker brush is or the Dremel or, you know, the types of combs. I will definitely include those in the show notes.

And I just want to thank you because I know how busy you are. So, I want to really thank you for joining us and sharing your expertise with us about grooming. I definitely know I’m going to have you back on another podcast and what it will be. It will be something interesting. So, stay tuned. We also do hold workshops at Muttz with Mannerz™, and we do have a grooming one, we try to hold twice a year so you can check with us when that will be held, if you want to come and learn more about grooming with Kelli. So if you are looking for more information about Kelli and Muttz with Mannerz™, you can visit our website at, www.muttzwithmannerz.com. It is also provided in the show notes.
If you’re interested in future podcasts or reading our blogs, you can go to our website under Education, and find numerous ones there. And if you’re interested in a certain podcast and you would like us to do one on a certain topic, you can email us at info@muttzwithmannerz.com. Kelli, thank you so much for joining us today.

Our goal at Muttz with Mannerz™ is really to enrich the life at both ends of the leash. And today we talked about grooming and that’s where we want it to give you some information, and also know what your pup would experience. Thank you listeners for joining us. Have a great day. And thanks Kelli again for spending the time with us.

[00:25:36] Kelli Gilliss: Absolutely. Thank you for having me, Corey. So much appreciated.

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