May 27, 2024


Jochen Wendel (56) is not only a successful presenter, author, and voice actor, but also a trained dog trainer since 2018. Bendel has loved dogs since childhood. “Dogs are an integral part of my life, just a part of me.” The 56-year-old has been dedicated to animal protection for many years. He is currently a brand ambassador for Purina and supports the non-profit organization Animals Build Bridges eV.

During a visit to a nursing home near Paderborn, he explains exactly what’s behind it. He also talks about his dog. In December, Gizmo, a beloved pug who appeared on many TV shows, passed away. “When his heart stopped beating, I could hear my heart breaking,” he recalled of the sad day in an interview.

You are currently supporting the “Animals Build Bridges eV” association with Purina, is this a real project close to your heart?

Jochen Wendel: Yes, of course. Today I had the pleasure of accompanying this non-profit organization in its work at a nursing home near Paderborn. This pet food manufacturer supports this facility as part of its social contribution efforts. A specially trained human and dog team visited residents there. It was truly moving to see how the elderly were freed from their normal routines and experienced intimate moments with their dogs. I wish there were more encounters like this. Unfortunately, older people are often forgotten on the margins of society. That’s why I think it’s wonderful to provide new stimulation like this and give back the joy of life to our seniors.

How does companionship with a dog benefit older adults in terms of mental well-being, health, and social interaction?

Bendel: We’ve known for years how big an impact animals have on our well-being. A Purina study last year showed that pets have a positive impact on our mental and physical health. We have experienced the joy and comfort that visiting dogs bring to residents, especially in nursing homes. It’s inspiring to see how dogs form connections with seniors, create memories, and provide them with a brief break from everyday life and isolation. Dogs can improve quality of life, especially for people with dementia, which is often accompanied by depression and anxiety.

Not only is the human-animal bond good for seniors, visiting dogs can also help people in difficult situations in other social facilities. You deal with the theme of attachment in your book. What can you do?

Bendel: In my books and my day-to-day work, I focus on the theme of the bond between humans and dogs, or between humans and dogs. In animal-assisted therapy, pets are used to provide access to reclusive people in difficult living situations, such as day care centers, hospices, and nursing homes. When you pet or interact with your dog, bonding hormones are released that cause a feeling of happiness. Visits by human and canine teams to such facilities bring joy, happiness and hope into the daily lives of people of all ages. Unconditional love for dogs moves people’s hearts and creates special moments. It’s amazing to see how people get excited and develop trust when interacting with dogs. Experiences like this can actually make a difference.

Can you imagine your life without a dog?

Bendel: Absolutely not! Basically, I can’t imagine life without a dog. Dogs are an integral part of me, they are just part of me. But dogs also come with responsibilities. I’ve owned dogs for many years, so I know exactly what that means. Therefore, I would like to point out that sharing life with pets is not only enriching, but also work.

Your beloved pug, Gizmo, passed away in December. How do you feel when you remember him?

Bendel: I still think it’s very difficult to talk about. Gizmo was my soul dog. He was like a child to me, the star of my books and many of my television shows. He has accompanied me through good times and bad, traveling with me from Munich to the North Sea. He loved the ocean, and even though he couldn’t walk anymore, we took him there every day in a little wheelbarrow. Then he sat there and looked at the waves and the ships. When his heart stopped beating, I could hear my heart breaking. We created a special place in the garden in memory of him – he always lay there in the sun.

How have your other two dogs helped you cope with the loss?

Bendel: My other two dogs played an important role in helping me cope with my grief. Her daily needs such as training, walks, and play required my attention and helped me distract myself and find comfort. It’s hard to imagine how I would have been able to cope with the loss alone without the presence of the other dogs. Her encouragement and presence were a ray of hope during this difficult time. It was also impressive to see our dog Khaleesi grieving the death of Gizmo, who she had spent many years with. We adopted Snoopy from an animal shelter shortly before we lost Gizmo and are overjoyed to give him a loving new home.

You share your love of dogs with your husband, and you even run a dog podcast together. You’re both trained dog trainers, but do you always agree on dog training?

Bendel: We agree on many points, but of course there are areas where we differ. Just like parents when raising children, we each have our own ideas. For example, the resulting topic. Dogs can tell if we mean it, so we should try to be sincere. A definite “no” means “no,” “get off the couch” means “get off the couch,” and “sitz” means “sit down.” Let’s be honest: Sometimes I find it hard to be consistent. My husband thinks it’s easier. We are both dog trainers and each have our own areas of expertise. We enjoy our jobs, but bringing that into our personal lives can be frustrating. That’s why we made the agreement. For example, when we walk our dogs, we don’t correct each other because we’re not trainers. We are completely in the here and now and just enjoying the time. In the podcast “Holy Dog” we share our experiences and stories.

Can you imagine hosting an animal show with your husband?

Bendel: Two years ago, we co-hosted a show called “Last Chance for Four Paws,” where we visited people who no longer got along with their dogs or cats and wanted to surrender them to animal shelters. We developed a training concept in the field and invited trained trainers to accompany owners for six months to demonstrate real-world changes. Our goal was to document that nonviolent training based on positive reinforcement is indeed effective. We can always imagine further co-moderation, perhaps as part of a new academy project.

What other plans do you have this year?

Bendel: We have great plans! We are currently converting an old nursery school near the North Sea into a unique retreat for people and dogs. The oasis will be home to an academy offering classes and workshops to strengthen the bond between humans and dogs while spending time together in nature. Our goal is for this place to be an adventure-filled, active vacation for people and dogs. We look forward to people vacationing there with their dogs and sharing an unforgettable experience. Although the official opening is scheduled for next year, we have already shared our first impressions with our followers this year.

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