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Ep. 106 Ann Corcoran, Separation Anxiety Dog Trainer

By August 22, 2022January 9th, 2023No Comments

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Continuing our series on our furry friends, ? Ann Corcoran joins us today to talk about Dog Separation Anxiety.

After over 2 years of having constant companionship, many of us are returning to the office, routine, activities and life. Our fur babies don’t understand. ? They’ve had constant companionship and often extra attention as we did meetings from the couch and slept in a little later because no one knew if you still had your pajama pants on in a Zoom meeting. ?

Little wonder they expect to go everywhere and do everything; it’s been their routine.

As a pet parent, I can attest that if I don’t have my walking shoes on bright and early, I will get woke up by a cold nose or a paw in the face ~ no sleeping in allowed here! ?

Tune in to learn about Dog Separation Anxiety, what is it and how to recognize it as well as what to do about it.


Barb 0:00
Are you ready to make the phone ring, the website ping and the tail ding. In our follow up episode on dogs, we’re talking about separation anxiety in our furry friends. Sound familiar?

Barb 0:15
Maybe you hear about it from the neighbors. Maybe you hear that sound each time you come and go from home. One of the best kept secrets in any community is its network of local businesses. But no more secrets from those skinned knee lessons that will make your wince, to the tell exposes, these everyday people are doing extraordinary things in their businesses, and today is no exception.

Barb 0:40
We’re talking with a local business owner. And we’re talking about dog separation anxiety. What it is and what you can do about it. Welcome to The Secret Life of local Show. I’m your host, Barb McGrath, Google girl and founder of the Get found for local program.

Barb 0:59
I’ve been helping local businesses thrive for over 20 years, from online businesses to multi location stores, you can turn browsers to buyers and thinkers to doers. Let’s get started.

Barb 1:12
Today’s guest is Ann Corcoran. She has a dog business where she helps pet parents who have dogs that are suffering from separation anxiety. Who knew a dog could get separation anxiety, but she’s here to tell us how to recognize it, what we can do about it, and the supports that are out there. So before I ramble on, let’s have Ann introduce herself and talk a little bit about your business for me Ann.

Ann 1:43
Hi there. Yes, so my name is Ann Corcoran and I’m a separation anxiety certificated trainer. And we’re here today just to give you some information, how we can actually help our dogs. So yeah, as Bob said, it’s not really recognized. As pet owners, we don’t always recognize the signs of separation anxiety. Those are the key few things that we can probably look out for, you know, think about how does your dog react to actually be when you’re before you’re going out? When you pick up your car keys or your mobile? Do you see your dog rushing to the door? Do you sit down to hide underneath the table? Do you see it patched? Is it licking its lips? So they’re just some of the signs of our dogs feeling uncomfortable in the environment at that time.

Barb 2:28
So those also sound like signs of stress, hiding, licking their lips, like those are signs of stress. Or they sound like signs of stress to me. So the dog is actually feeling quite stressed with the thought that you’re going to leave then is that right?

Ann 2:43
Yeah, that’s correct. Yeah. So before the event happens, the dog or dog will put two and two together very quickly. They’re very perceptive. So it could be that you might say a word like, right, we go to the shop now. Okay, have we got our pack lunch ready? Have you got this kid? Have you got your school bags ready, etc, for the dogs will pick up on our movements around the house and think, hey, something’s going on here. I’m not included, why are you going? So they then begin to demonstrate anxiety like we would so we might breathe heavily, and we might feel anxious by feeling sick, nauseous, sweating a lot, perspiring a lot, breathing rate change. And the same happens with animals, you know, that pile up the dog. It happened.

Barb 3:25
We know what’s so interesting about that. In the summertime, we spent a ton of time at the lake. And as soon as the coolers come into the house to get packed to go to the lake, the dogs instantly know where we’re going. And our dogs don’t feel stressed about going to the lake, they get quite excited. They will immediately go and sit in the truck. We might not be going for hours, but they’re in the truck. They’re making sure to go they’re both, you know, in their seats ready. So they pick up on these little cues. And one of the things that we really noticed this summer is as soon as there’s a slight change to routine. So our routine is, you know, get up, take a dog for a walk and get on with the day. But as soon as you don’t do exactly that, they know something’s going on. So they’re very smart little creatures. I think we underestimate them, right?

Ann 4:21
we certainly do. Yeah, we do. Andressa doggies.

Barb 4:24
So okay, so when I think about separation anxiety in my dog is shown. So showing signs of stress. As you know, like most people, they aren’t going to do something just because they’re showing stress. But I think sometimes those behaviors get carried away like they turn into destructive or negative behaviors. Is that typically when you would talk to someone, or do folks call you when they’re hiding under the table and you know, showing some of those very early signs?

Ann 4:59
Yes. So we’ve got two things here. We have a puppy, though sometimes a new puppy, because it moved away from its family home from its mom, and its siblings, though it feels very uncomfortable, it feels strange to them. So they will, you know, bark a lot they might serve if they’re not toilet trained already, they will actually defecate in their beds and around the house, because the stress is because of that toilet train that we got in that scenario.

Ann 5:27
Then you’ve got the dog, that’s, we’ve been there at home all the time, say during the COVID, the COVID pandemic. So everybody’s been working from home. And now obviously, gradually, now this year, we’re actually getting back to normal, which is great. We’re going back to the office, we’re going to the gym, kids going to school, the older children off to college. So again, the house environment has changed. So the dog, a pet dog, has been used to us being there. And now we’re going back to what we’re used to, but the dog isn’t.

Ann 6:00
So it’s that change in the environment, where we start to see perhaps the behavior getting worse. So has it been destructive because it’s been left home alone? Or is it separation anxiety, so there is a slight difference there. So a dog that sometimes is destructive, will do like your shoes, or if you left your kids or lift their school bag around, it will rip out the school bag or chew on the sofa. So that dog is bored and frustrated. Okay. And the dog that is anxiety, separation related behavior will do the destruction around the doorway. So the door that you’re coming in and out of you mainly see the damage around that. Ah, so maybe it didn’t happen before. And now it’s happening.

Barb 6:46
Exactly. So it’s almost dead trying to get out trying to get with you, yeah, thing is if you’re on the other side of that door type of thing.

Ann 6:53
That’s correct. Yeah. So you’ve got the flippers, you’ve got the dog that’s disruptive. So it picks up a cushion, the school bag or shoe says two pieces because it’s bought, and it has to do that to help it calm down. And then there’s the other thing where the dog is actually really in panic. And it’s really over what we call the separation anxiety threshold where it’s been, you know, trying to get out of that trying to get to you it’s trying to escape. And sometimes a dog can actually do harm to themselves, like rip their claws out.

Barb 7:19
Oh, absolutely, yes. So now, let’s differentiate a little bit because there’s a bit of a spectrum. And so on this podcast, I often talk about our fur babies. And we have a senior who, again, these are very smart creatures. He has no hesitation about letting everybody know who he wants to be with. If Mum and Dad aren’t home, he makes a big stink about it, he whines, he cries, he won’t play, right? He wants to be with mum and dad, period. And in fairness, he’s had somebody home with them for five years. So why wouldn’t he want them? The kids can be home with him, but he will be miserable for the kids, the teenagers, you know, like I’m okay with that sometimes, too. And so is that separation anxiety? He never does any destruction. He never does anything negative. But is that separation anxiety? Or is that just intelligence saying no, I don’t want to be with you, I want to be with them.

Ann 8:23
It depends on the situation, though, it’s possible that you know, perhaps for yourself, your dog is hyper attached to you, and wants to be with you 24/7 Because you’re his best buddy. And perhaps with the other family members, he doesn’t feel quite so happy, content. So you’ve got that situation where they are hyper attached and older. So they might withdraw and go and just hide again under the table or just be very quiet, because they are actually missing you. And they feel you know, they feel very uncomfortable within themselves.

Barb 8:56
You know, and I think a big part of it is, when my husband and I are here, he’s always got somebody to sit with, pay attention to him, play with them, right? Like, he’s got a buddy. But when we’re gone, the kids are watching TV or they’re doing things they’re not paying any attention to. So you know, I think a big part of it then is boredom and loneliness for them. Yeah, right.

Ann 9:19
So it is and you know, we can work around that. So you can have a game plan. So maybe with the kids, you say like, let’s have time to spend with the dog. So why don’t you do compound trick training with them to make it more interesting for your dog at that moment in time when you’ve left them and it might give them a good distraction as well. Instead of like being so you sort of spread the love. So the family gets involved with the dog’s duties. They do some training, do the walking, do the feeding, maybe send your dog out to a dog sitter, though, you know, so it’s actually taking that ownership off the dog’s shoulders that you don’t have to rely solely on yourself. You can spread love which is a term used in child psychology. Yes.

Barb 10:02
And you know, the funny thing about that is we actually get our kids to help in the care of the dogs in hopes that that exactly that would happen. So our son, for example, feeds both dogs both meals every day. Well, you’d kind of think that he’d be the favorite. Nope, he’s not. But I think that’s partially a teenager thing. Right? Like right now. Yeah, the fact that the guy who feeds them is not their favorite. Just dumbfounding to me. Absolutely. Okay, so separation anxiety. Um, if I’m concerned that my dog is suffering from separation anxiety, where do I start, especially coming out of a pandemic, and you know, I, my job may have changed, my business may have changed, finances might be a lot tighter. Where do I start?

Ann 10:58
Well, the best thing would be to get hold of a reputable trainer, somebody like myself, who specializes in separation, anxiety related behavior. I can help you with a trading plan, which is evidence based. So science has proven that it works. It’s a form of cognitive behavior therapy, and it’s going at your dog’s pace. So it’s a simple, easy to follow program. So yeah, I would do that.

Ann 11:23
Also speak to your veterinarian as well, maybe if the anxiety is really bad, where you get lots of panting, crying continuously when you’re out. Destruction and self harming, you know, your dog is in an uncomfortable state of mind emotionally, because the dog has gone into panic, you maybe go and talk to a veterinary about perhaps medication to help it but with the, with the medication, it’s best to work hand in hand with a training program to somebody like myself that can help you to actually train safely and going at your dog’s pace. And we can teach all different techniques. Looking at the body language, the big clue is looking at our dog’s body language, we get you to be the doggy detective.

Barb 12:08
So how do you work with clients online? Because I know that you work with clients, you know, all over the place? Yeah, sure. How do you how do you do this online,

Ann 12:18
As we are now, it’s the video link. The data technology allows them to do their work with humans, especially particularly children with anxiety related behaviors, it’s all done by video link. So that means that we don’t have to come out of your home. So that sometimes by visiting you that can put you under stress, so you’re under stress to put your dog under stress, but we’re not doing a real life situation, it wouldn’t be the same for the benefit is to actually have we rig up as we are now be through zoom or use Zoom, or it could be with Windows, or sorry, team, Microsoft Teams. So we have a camera where we communicate, and then a camera that’s looking at your dog, and we just go through this easy assessment, where I’m just watching your dog’s behavior. And then I will, you know, talk to you, talk you through that. And then you know, we assess it. And it’s supported by a fabulous training app. So you’re connected, and you’re not never on your own. You’ve got access to myself with a training app, and I can monitor your training, like going to the gym, that helps motivate you. So we can keep in touch and we meet twice a week.

Barb 13:31
Okay. So is the idea that we want to slowly work up the dog to feeling comfortable with the amount of time that they would be alone?

Ann 13:42
That’s correct, yeah, we will keep the dog safe at all times, that’s paramount. So we start and we find that point where your dog is comfortable. So if that’s like three seconds, it’s three seconds, that’s still a big win for your dog in three seconds. In the dog’s mind when he’s dealing with separation anxiety is a big thing for the dog. So it could be a three second dog where dogs are individual like we are. So we have different starting points. But the Paramount is that we keep your dog safe at all times.

Barb 14:11
So just work me through this process. So if I have a dog with separation anxiety and walk out the door, five seconds later, they’re out the door, they’re scratching to me that says they’ve got a five second threshold. How do we work this up? What are we actually doing to go from five seconds to 10 seconds to 10 minutes? What are we actually doing? Can you talk about that?

Ann 14:35
Yeah, we’re using it based around systematic desensitization. So gradual steps to the scary thing. So the scary thing for your dog is actually you leaving its side, whether that’s going to the loo, wherever it’s going to take the trash out. Whether it’s you know, just taking the kids to school and school run, though we that’s when the dog is you know not when you’re company and it can’t, can’t cope with being alone.

Ann 15:03
So we have to find the debt before it goes over its threshold. So when you just said the dog was barking and crying at the door, that’s too far, it’s gone over the threshold of its anxiety, it’s gone into panic. So for me that panic is if a speck spider came into the room right now I’ll probably just freeze. I feel quite sick. You know. So that’s what’s happening to the dog. Or if you go on a roller coaster ride, you’re screaming for that moment or three minutes, five minutes of the roller coaster ride, then it stops, you go. Ah.

Ann 15:38
So when you come back into the door, the dog will go, ahhhh, sigh of relief, but they normally do that big shake off. Yep, they really shake off. And so that means that they’re taking the tension out of the body. So we want to get to the point before the dog goes over its threshold. So it could be. So we got the camera rolling, though, we see that the call your dog Buddy, Buddy gets up. And he starts to move around. And then he might start to pant. So that’s our time to actually come back in. Because he’s coping with that situation, it could be that he’s starting to, you know, scratch himself in his basket. That’s a sign that he’s coping, so come back in. So before the behavior escalates, we need to come back in and start again, when your dog is more relaxed. So when he’s resting, not fast asleep, but when he’s resting. Okay.

Barb 16:30
And so can you do it? Can you do multiple common goals in, you know, your 15 minute session or your 30 minute session? Or is it you know, we can do this once or twice and the dog is too alerted. And so we’re done for today?

Ann 16:45
Yeah, it is repetitive, and you think, oh, gosh, this is boring, but it’s supposed to be boring, not exciting, you’re gonna be like, oh, yeah, we go into the zoo, you want to be calm, you want it to be more natural. So that’s why we repeat it over and over, because the dog will suddenly go, oh, gosh, this is boring. But we have to go at the dog’s pace. So it could only be that you do it two or three to two or three depths. And that might be enough for your dog, another dog might be able to do 10 steps of that exercise. We call it lumpy training so you train at them when you are actually a dishwasher, let’s do a little bit of training that might take three minutes. And if it Okay, that’s enough for the dog. So you leave it, you go sit down, okay, you watch, watch a soccer match, the half time whistle blows, you get up and you do a little bit of training. So that’s how we train. It’s not a solid hour, it’s little bits.

Barb 17:36
Little bits here. And one of the things that I’ve learned because we have a rescue dog as well, is their ability to train. It’s very exhausting for them. So what seems like five or 10 minutes for us, or lumpy training, like that’s tiring when they’re truly training. And we saw that earlier this summer, when we were doing some work with our rescue, we started going to new places where there were lots of dogs and lots of people. And we were figuring out what our distance was from a reactivity standpoint.

Barb 18:12
And the first few times he came home, he came home and he just dropped, he was exhausted, he lasted about half an hour, the first few classes, and then he just dropped and slept the rest of the day. Now he does the whole hour, he does the whole park, he comes home, he plays right and our distance is getting shorter and shorter. So we can actually stand and have a conversation with someone, like be close enough to have a conversation, where in the beginning, we had to be so far apart, that we were yelling, just to try and communicate to keep him under threshold.

Barb 18:52
So from a science base, you know, I get where all of this comes from. Now the training that you do is also science based, and it’s force free. And Ann of course is our second guest on the show who is talking about force free and science based training. So can you just talk a little bit about that? Because I know here in Saskatchewan, dog trainers are unregulated, but I know you’re quite qualified. So can you just talk to us a little bit about those two things.

Ann 19:24
So the regulations? It’s a very difficult question to ask because I think across the world, in different cultures, there are different standards. So I think as an organization well you know, we have to do it locally in our own country to begin with and hopefully we’ll get recognized with the same organizations across the world. That’s what we’re trying to work on. But yes, I am qualified in what I do. And as we already said, it is an evidence based program where that is monitored by a governing body. So, it’s proven that we’re following the correct procedures. I am a four three trainer. So for three trainers means that I don’t pay a rattle, can your dolphin shake it, and it is when it barks. But positive reinforcement, so it might be just the smile, a little pat. Giving your dog a treat. That’s positive reinforcement. Yep. Okay, so the thought, oh, 4-3 training, you know, using that site based training. So that’s been taken, it’s been researched. And we’ve come up with these methods that they actually do work. So it could have been say over in Canada, or the United States, it would have gone through scientific research.

Barb 20:44
So peer review.

Ann 20:46
Peer reviewed and the thing in the UK that these are so the way that we train is, as I said, it’s in law handed works hand in hand, as as we would work with humans, with dogs that have separation related behaviors will be the same methods is what we use with humans with their anxiety. desensitizing. The scary thing, so it’s a gradual exposure, the scary thing.

Barb 21:11
Yeah. So if I think I have a dog with separation anxiety, I need to be able to get to work, go to the gym, take the kids to school, but every time I come back, something is destroyed. What do I do in the meantime?

Ann 21:25
Okay, so the best thing to do if your dog is uncomfortable in that situation, think about having a plan in place. So can I take the dog with me? Are we going in the car? Can our dog come with us? Do we have a family member that can stay with a dog? Or can I send it into doggy daycare? Or can I have a neighbor come in and look after my dog? You don’t want to be leaving your dog alone? It’s getting to that point? Because it’s not fair. Put yourself in that situation? If you’re locked in a room with no windows? It goes without saying okay,

Barb 21:59
That’s awesome. And how did you get into this work?

Ann 22:04
Sure. Well, I’ve been working with dogs now for 14 years. And so all sorts of behavior cases. So I have a higher National Diploma in canine psychology, and dog training. I’m a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, UK, and the Association of Pet Behavior Trainers, UK, and they are recognized now throughout the world, those two organizations.

Ann 22:30
So how did I get into this? Well, I used to work with multiple sclerosis patients as the physio therapy assistant. And I relocated and I thought, I think I fancy a change and freshen up. And I thought well about dog training with my own dog. And it was through one of my own dogs because we had definitely moved into the environment. They started to play anxiety related behaviors, like going into full panic like howling, even if we took the trash out. He could not cope. And he will all be destructive around the door. The exit door. So that’s how I wanted to learn more about my own dog. And that’s how I researched it and looked and looked for the right educational package to actually help me to help others that are doing it correctly and safely.

Barb 23:24
So you’ve actually I’ll say lived through having a dog with separation anxiety. Yeah. What, what realistically, is the time period before your dog was comfortable being alone?

Ann 23:39
Okay. So I Be careful what I say I can’t, you know, maybe wave a magic wand to have a Harry Potter moment. Everybody’s an individual. So with Bruce, I would say it took him about two years. Okay, so being very patient with him, it would have been two years where he found that he could actually cope without us.

Barb 24:01
Okay. And was that doing some daily desensitization work or the lumpy training that you talked about? Yeah,

Ann 24:08
Yeah, absolutely. So just a little gradual steps. It started off with me just opening and closing the door. Yep. So you build on that. And then it would be then going out and standing out with him safe, built up, say from 30 seconds to five minutes, then to an hour, then driving down to the gym coming back. So it was all very gradual with him. So yeah. So by the end, I reckon it was about two years. 18 months, two years.

Barb 24:34
Okay. So yes, a fairly extensive period of time. And we only have about two minutes left. Is there anything else that you’d like to share some tips about getting started and tell folks how they can find you and your website and your social channels?

Ann 24:49
Sure. So feel free to get in touch, reach out to me, and I offer discovery calls. So I do a complimentary half an hour discovery call. So my website is Or you can WhatsApp me, my mobile number UK is +44 1603 334001. All my details are on my website so you can go from there.

Ann 25:21
But yeah, so reach out to me or you can look at a wonderful lady called Julie Naismith. She’s based in Canada. She is my mentor, she has a great book out there that you could pick up. It’s called Be Right Back. So that’s a good starting point. But I think I have a plan. Think about putting your own dog into your own routine. What can we do to help Buddy for example, what can we do to prepare ahead before something happens. But you know, I think you need to speak to a professional. As soon as you can you do the delay on it. And also speak to your vet. Okay,

Barb 25:58
That sounds good. Is there a couple of things that I can do kind of on my own as I get ready for my discovery or anything like that?

Ann 26:07
Yeah, sure, I think just prepare yourself. But you could just practice golden opening, closing the door, these little things add up to big wind. And also make a mental note, keep a notebook of what your triggers are. So are you putting your shoes on in front of your dog? If you don’t put your bag or the school kids get their lunches ready the night before and have all those triggers out of the way triggers are a big thing that take your triggers keys, phones, lunches, you know, get all the prep done before but have a game plan. Don’t leave your dog alone is the message.

Barb 26:42
Okay. Well, thank you, Ann. That was fantastic information. I know a lot of folks are seeing some behaviors in their dogs that before the pandemic they had never seen. So having been with us almost exclusively now for two years our dogs are showing more and more of the signs of stress. So I think today’s conversation was very timely.

Barb 27:04
On that note, if you want to sell your story, you need to tell your story. And there’s no better place to start than being a guest on The Secret Life Show. If you’d like to be a guest, you can email me at or reach out on our Facebook and Instagram account

Barb 27:25
I’m your host Barb McGrath, Google girl and local business cheerleader. Remember you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.

Connect with Ann @ Ann Corcoran Separation Anxiety Specialist


Barb McGrath’s been cracking the online code for nearly 20 years. She helps local businesses get to the top of Google with digital marketing training, web design, SEO, online reputation and advertising. Most importantly, she’s earned the trust of Google.Barb runs the only Google-approved agency designed to show you how to turn the online “stuff” into in-store buyers.If you depend on in-person customers, you need Barb’s step-by-step, online marketing plan to generate a steady stream of onsite buyers and make it rain money. She is the host of the Secret Life of Entrepreneurs, a local radio show and iTunes and Google Podcast.