Move over, Dog Whisperer. A New Jersey Man has a gift for communicating with pets.

Sussex County’s own ‘Dog Whisperer’ knows what your pet is thinking

By Rosa Kasper

The Peaceable Kingdom of Bob Brandau

Dog trainer Bob Brandau’s peaceable kingdom lies high in the hills behind Wantage. Standing at the door of his house, Brandau greeted a reporter with a gold and blue macaw on his shoulder, a golden retriever at his side and a two Siamese cats purring and winding around his legs.

From a large cage came the sound of cooing doves, and a flock of hooded guinea fowl repeated their “buckwheat” call. Nearby, Brandau’s daughter, Sarah, 15, cuddled a gray and white rabbit, and his wife Roberta arrived carrying in Lassie, an ailing, geriatric sheltie who had just come from a visit to the vet.

“I always loved animals,” Brandau said. “When I was a child, I observed animals and wondered what they were thinking and why they were behaving as they did. At any gathering, the pets and children flock around me. They seem to sense the harmony and respond to it.”

Brandau feels he was called to be a dog trainer by what he believes is a natural affinity for understanding how animals think. For years he devoured books on animals and on animal behavior and psychology, and slowly, carefully developed his training method, which is founded on establishing what he calls “kinship” with the animals he trains. When people began to notice how well-behaved Brandau’s animals were, they begged him to train their pets. From those early successes, Canine Companions was born in 1976.

The company now has branches in New York, Pennsylvania, and California, as well as in New Jersey, and Brandau said he has trained dogs for movies with actor Michael J. Fox and he also has appeared on David Letterman.

He’s also recently completed a video on avoiding dog bites for the U.S. Postal Service, a clip of which he showed on his cell phone. Chomper, the golden retriever, plays the starring role.

His advice to mail carriers? Carry something delicious for the dog to eat – perhaps a few slices of bologna. Then the dog will come to think of the mail carrier as the bologna carrier and will greet him or her with gladsome barks.

Brandau’s Kinship Psychological Dog Training is trademarked under his name. The method is built on teaching dogs what to do, rather than what not to do.

Dogs aren’t just furry people, Brandau said: “The relationships in a wild dog pack resemble those of a human family. It is this social structure that is the basis for kinship relationship training.”

“If you have been correcting your dog for something, and he still does it, the correction is rewarding the bad behavior or the behavior is more rewarding than the correction,” he went on. “The correction probably only caused your dog to be scared of you, not the behavior. If your dog is chewing the rug, and you aren’t teaching your dog what to chew instead, you are negatively reinforcing chewing.”

Dog’s really don’t do bad things – at least not from their point of view, he emphasized, explaining, “We have to teach our pets what to do so they won’t misbehave, not correct them for misbehaving. A dog can only do what you let him do.”

Brandau credits his training methods with saving careers and marriages, by helping desperate dog owners learn to build empathy not only with the dogs but also with the human beings in their families. He says the method brings mental healing and harmony to those who understand and use it.

Part of Brandau’s work involves training sessions for people’s pets. A single session lasting 90 minutes to two hours costs about $395. A complete training regimen can cost from $1,200 and up, and comes with a lifetime guarantee for unlimited additional training.

Brandau said that he had often pondered whether dogs have souls, but at this stage can say only that they have unique personalities and spirits and possess qualities that differentiate them from lower animals. For sure, he says, the human-canine bond is one of the most rewarding and potentially beneficial relationships available to us.

“Try to be the person your dog thinks you are,” Brandau concluded, raising his arm in what might be taken for a benediction as Chomper looked up adoringly at his master. The doves still cooed softly in the background.

For more information, call Canine Companions at 973-875-5016.