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 life experience, including PhDs, DVM, Military and advanced medical service as well as many cumulative years of dog training/handling and client/patient experience.

As of September, 2018, more than 400 trainers have been through RBBM training, and more than 180 have taken advanced classes at C-HRI, or have signed up for courses offered.

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

Mr. 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 C-HRI 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, Mr. Hodges 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.

Mr. Hodges 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 neurodevelopment 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

When looking upon my qualifications as an instructor for this program, I must reflect upon my experience as a student. I came to the Canine/Human Relationship Institute as an RBBM seminar participant 3 years ago. Like most, I came with what I perceived as a “problematic dog” problem. It didn’t take long for me to realize I had a problematic relationship problem. With my dog, yes, but primarily with myself. Through the courses of the institute, I have learned to integrate my life
experience library into a highly functional resource I can rely upon under almost every challenge. In the past three years, I have experienced personal growth and a reintroduction to my latent skill sets. Taking
courses with the CHRI, doing SAR with Nelson Hodges and other institute members, and being an active advocate for the RBBM method of dog training with my clients has brought me to a high level of confidence and competence in my teaching and learning abilities. I am a volunteer with my local ambulance, am a member of the IACP therapy dog committee and am actively pursuing my rabies vector species wild life rehabbing license in NY. My favorite field of study is the cooperative evolutionary biology of canine and human brains and its relevance to training protocols in inter-species relationships.

My experience library includes but is not limited to 30 years experience as an EMT specializing in winter emergency care & hospital care. I was a medical technology specialist in chemistry, microbiology,
hematology and transfusion medicine in a county trauma center for 20 years. I was the clinical supervisor of medical laboratory students and nursing education in transfusion medicine and specimen collection protocols during that time, as well as a pioneer in emergency laboratory care in the trauma ER. I have a BS in Medical Technology with a minor in evolutionary biology, an AS in Physical Engineering, and a BA in Art History with a minor in archaeology and medieval studies in my formal
education portfolio.

I have been working with wildlife rehab and conservation since the 1980s. I worked as an archaeologist for 10. I have trained and worked therapy dogs in hospital environments and trained 3 personal cardiac
alert dogs. I have trained horses and successfully performed in eventing trials for 30 years. My greatest achievement is the happiness and love of my grown children. I have always been both a student and a teacher and continue to find fulfillment in both.

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 RMMB Trainer 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 other!
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, gastro intestinal 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 full filling than a visit from a recovered patient.

Joining the team at the canine human relationship institute 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.