Our Team

The Institute provides advanced courses on canine behavior and behavior modification, brain, language, motivations, health, human psychology and client relations and basic canine and human medical skills.

All CHRI instructors have advanced degrees and/or life experiences, including PhDs, DVM, military and advanced medical service as well as many cumulative years of dog training/handling and client/patient experience.

As of July, 2019, more than 450 trainers have been through RBBM training, and more than 180 have taken advanced classes at CHRI, or have signed up for courses offered.

Nelson Hodges, IACP, CDT, CDTA, PDTI, CIS

Nelson Hodges has worked with Animal Behavior and Rehabilitation for more than 40 years. He has specialized in Canine Behavior, helping others to understand the nature, intelligence, language and motivations of all canines. In 2016, Nelson created the Canine – Human Relationship Institute (Located in Blue Ridge, Texas. D/FW area) to act as a “University” level education center for professional dog trainers. He is the Senior CHRI Instructor and conducts many of the courses offered, along with other qualified instructors.

Nelson is the creator of the RBBM (“Relationship Based Behavior Modification”) system, teaching workshops and courses in this method of rehabilitation of canines. He has provided and continues to provide public and private group seminars and workshops that draw people from the canine professional training community, service dog industry, rescue organizations, municipal animal shelter/control, police officers, military, postal service, veterinarians and staff, and dog owners alike since 1991.

Nelson has personally worked, hands-on, with thousands of canines of virtually all breeds. His behavioral cases include many of the most extreme behaviors, from shut-down fear to severely aggressive dogs, and all behaviors in between. He has been a long-term advocate for understanding canine behavior for ethical treatment and handling.

Nelson was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) from 2015 through 2020. He holds Certifications of CDT, CDTA, PDTI from IACP, and is a SATS CR Animal Trainer.

Nelson has written articles for various publications, including The Safehands Journal (now Canine Professional Journal) and the quarterly publication for the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP). He has appeared on TV, radio and podcast programs around the world.

Nelson created an international group that is working to help repatriate the highly endangered Mexican Gray Wolf (Lobo) to their natural habitats in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. He is working to help US Fish and Wildlife, the Endangered Wolf Center, California Wolf Center, and other groups in the effort to save this most endangered of all mammalian species in North America. In 2018, Nelson teamed with legendary Neuro-Biologist/Wolf Behaviorist/Scientist, Dr. Jason Badridze, PhD., Wolf Behaviorist, Dr. Nino Badridze, PhD., and Dr. Regina Mossotti, PhD. and Director of the Endangered Wolf Center in St. Louis to present the first Wolf Behavior and Ontogenetic Understanding of Wolves. Proceeds were raised to provide additional funding for the recovery efforts of the Mexican Gray Wolf.

Nelson is currently writing a book on the canine brain, language, motivations and behaviors called, “If you want to learn how to talk to your dog, shut your mouth”.

Dr. Christine Koehler, PhD, LPC-S, RPT-S 

Dr. Christine Koehler is a neurodevelopmental specialist and canine assisted therapist in private practice in Plano, Texas. She joined the institute after finding that the guiding philosophy of CHRI aligned precisely with methods she was implementing for improving the (human) parent-child relationship. Additionally, what she has learned through working with CHRI has allowed her to be more in-tune with the canine experience in canine assisted play therapy work. She believes that canine professionals function similarly to therapists in that they are trying to educate and balance relationships and communication between two or more beings.

 Her passion at CHRI is to assist canine professionals who are looking to deepen their understanding of themselves and other humans to better advocate for canines from a relational rather than power/control dynamic. Her lecture topics include structure and function of the brain, human personality, communication and decoding human words and actions. She is available for private consultation and works with canine professionals with challenging human clients. She and her husband volunteer to foster medical rescue cases for Texas Husky Rescue and currently reside with four huskies: Crash, Timber, Lilly (CAPT), and Chinook, the tripod.

Valerie Erwin, BS, BA, EMT, WEC, ACLS

Valerie Ann Erwin has been an Emergency Responder for 35 years, concurrent with a 20 year career in Medical Technology, spanning Winter Emergency Care, Trauma Transfusion Medicine, Microbiology, Chemistry and Hematology. Her degree in Medical Technology was granted with a minor in Evolutionary Biology. She also worked as an archaeologist for 10 years after earning a BS in Art History with minors in Anthropology and Medieval History. She has an AS in Engineering.

Valerie has been teaching, training and mentoring for most of her professional life. Medical students, Lab students, emergency responders trainees, nursing education, equestrian students, conservationists, archaeology field school interns, and most recently dog owners.

Along with this formal education, Ms. Erwin has 40 years experience training and competing successfully in Equestrian 3-Day Eventing. She was still competing in intercollegiate Division II equestrian sports until her early 40s. Her riding coaches included Karl Mikulka, former Chief Rider of the Spanish School in Austria, and coach of the Brazilian Olympic team. All of her equestrian mentors taught relationship based equestrian skills, which Valerie translated to dog training when she started training personal service dogs and therapy dogs in the 1990s.

Seeking to continue with relationship based training models for her personal dogs and client dogs, Valerie has followed a directed course of study in dog training that has culminated in upper level courses in behavior modification with Nelson Hodges at the Canine/Human Relationship Institute and certification in the NePoPo method of obedience as a Gold School Graduate with Bart and Michael Bellon.

Valerie has been an avid hobby wildlife rehabber and conservationist since childhood. She is a Professional member of the IACP, and a 3 year member of the IACP Therapy Dog Committee. She volunteers for the New Paltz Rescue Squad as an EMT and is a member of the DFW SAR team.

In joining the CHRI staff as an instructor in “Crisis Response and Emergency Medical Skills”, Valerie has found the perfect place to combine her lifetime of learning and teaching with humans and animals. It is her goal to share that experience with other dog trainers, teaching personal strength and resiliency skills to assist them in fulfilling their goals, in all their endeavors, no matter the challenges met.

Cheryl Ross, CPT

Cheryl Ross has always had a passion for working with and helping dogs and people. By the time she was 12 years old she knew she wanted to be a professional dog trainer. She has dedicated years of her life to studying training methods, canine behavior, communication and the relationship dynamics between humans and dogs. Over the years her training journey has taken her through many ideologies of dog training. Beginning in the “positive only” world of training, she learned how to use positive reinforcement to teach dogs desired behaviors, only to find that this method had limitations with more difficult behaviors.

 She then attended and graduated the National K9 School for Dog Trainers “Master Dog Trainer” certification course in 2011, where she learned more of the “old school”/Koehler method of training. She describes that experience as “a bit of a culture shock” having come from the positive only approach previously. Yet she was open minded to the process of learning, and gained valuable skills through that program, which has helped many dogs and their owners. However, after training in those methods for about 2-3 years, she saw that this approach also had its limitations with behavior modification, and felt that there could be a better way.

 She began seeking out “balanced” dog trainers to learn from, and she attended many different seminars, workshops and a few shadow programs to learn the balanced approach. As she began honing her training skills even more over the next few years, she knew there was still more to learn and that she was missing something deeper… so she decided to attend the Relationship Based Behavior Modification workshop hosted by Nelson Hodges. At the time, she knew nothing of Nelson or these teachings, but immediately felt like she had just found the missing piece! RBBM was a turning point in her career as she learned to see the soul of the dog, and not just their behavior. She dove into the 9-day RBBM Trainer Instruction course after that and was able to then learn to apply all the newly learned information. This process of self-discovery learning has inspired her to pass on this amazing experience to others!

Her greatest passion is to compassionately guide her clients through perspective shifts that are necessary in order for them to achieve success with their dogs behavior modification and rehabilitation. Her company, Take the Lead Dog Training is based in the Seattle, WA. area.

Sarah Kegel, DVM, BS, AS

Dr. Kegel was born and raised in Leipzig, Germany. She earned her doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois in 2012. Post graduation she relocated to Ft Worth, and started working as a general practitioner in small animal and exotic animal practice.

 Dr. Kegel has been a full time Associate Veterinarian since October 2015 at a busy 24 hour Animal Emergency Hospital in Euless, TX. She maintains an interest in all aspects of emergency medicine, and feels this field allows her to make the biggest difference as a veterinarian for animals and their owners. Her patients are brought to her for a variety of reasons ranging from a broken toe nail, all the way to serious debilitating injuries and illnesses, including but not limited to heart failure, respiratory problems, shock, physical trauma, seizure disorders, gastrointestinal problems, snake bites, toxin exposures, and orthopedic problems. Her responsibilities involve triage and trauma management, emergency surgery, anesthesia, managing intensive care patients, transfusion medicine, infectious disease management, internal medicine, obstetrics, end of life decision making and counseling of pet owners with terminally ill or injured patients. She enjoys getting to know animals and their families, and feels there is nothing more fulfilling than a visit from a recovered patient.

 Joining the team at the CHRI has been a very rewarding experience for Dr. Kegel. She enjoys sharing information with dog trainers about canine structural anatomy and function, husbandry, common canine health problems, canine environmental and household hazards, preventative care, and field first aid basics for canine companions. Her class is intended to give dog trainers a basic foundation of knowledge about general canine health, so they can assist their clients better in spotting abnormalities early, and to help decide when it is time to seek out a licensed veterinarian. She finds it very important that canine professionals, veterinarians, and dog owners work together as a team to provide the best possible environment and care for our canine companions so they can thrive and live long and healthy lives.

Dr Kegel shares her home with her two rescue dogs, Jack and Daku, and several scaly companions including a snake, and two painted turtles. On her days off she usually can be found on an outdoor adventure such as trail riding her horse, Lady, along the Trinity River in Ft Worth. She likes to travel to visit her family in Germany and enjoys attending seminars and dog training classes to learn how to help dogs overcome fear and aggression issues.

Angela Leuck,, Canine Relationship Coach

Angela has owned dogs since she was 4 years old. She trained her Doberman in obedience when she was twelve. As she progressed through life and dogs she continued to work with obedience and agility.

Angela pursued and achieved a Business degree in Marketing at Radford University, became a buyer for a wholesale club, and got married.  After the birth of her two sons, she left the corporate world to stay at home on her farm. Through all of these life events, an interest in dogs was a common theme.

In 2013, Angela and her Olde English Bulldogge, Gemma, became a registered therapy team.  Gemma’s life ended too soon due to cancer. But this experience solidified her desire to help canines and people connect with each other. 

Angela began teaching an obedience program at a local dog daycare.  She also fostered dogs through DC Weimaraner Rescue. Fostering became a great opportunity to learn even more about dogs’ variances in personality and solutions to behavior issues. Working with many dogs taught her obedience was only part of behavior solutions.  She felt there was more to getting dogs and humans to coexist respectfully and contentedly. . 

Angela attended many shadow programs, workshops and socialization seminars. The theory that resonated with her  most was RBBM with Nelson Hodges. Through Nelson’s lessons, Angela realized dog training was as much about one’s self as it is about the dog.  Shutting her mouth, in order to “talk” to the dogs(as Nelson says) became the magic that opened up a deeper connection with the dogs. Along with Nelson, Phyllis Smuland of Canine Counselor, Inc and Julie Hart provided valuable feedback and collaborations in her dog training pursuits.

Angela now calls herself a Canine Relationship Coach due to her focus on repairing the relationship between dogs and human clients.  She is a Professional Member of the IACP, and currently runs her own business, Anything’s Pawsbull, LLC, in Lovettsville, VA out of her home.  Her goal is to inspire people to understand their dog from the canine perspective, not just from a human point of view, that will build trust and respect between them. Her husband, two sons, and mom hold down the fort as she runs her business and travels to further her education at CHRI.  Her pack includes Mara, the Bulldogge, Thor, a good ole’ dog, and Ellie Bee, a 13 year old chihuahua. She enjoys going on adventures with her dogs, exercising and yoga.