About Us

-Melissa Ruthenbeck-Chiaramonte, CPDT-KA, Owner/Trainer

I’ve had a long-standing love affair with dogs going back as far as I can remember. I made my parents promise to bring a puppy home when I turned 10, they agreed thinking I would forget, and when I didn’t, we got Ranger!

I started working with animals when I was 12, volunteering at the local humane society – walking and spending time with the dogs. As I got older my passion for helping dogs evolved into working with shelters and rescues, and earning a psychology degree from Drake University, where I studied animal learning and behavior. After spending time working with veterinarians, rescues and well-respected trainers I became a certified by the Certification Council of Pet Dog Trainers, as well as an insured member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

Over time I realized many of the dogs in shelters are there because of solvable behavior problems and decided I wanted to dedicate my life to changing theirs. I’m currently the President of Basset Hound Rescue of Southern Californiawhere I also provide behavioral evaluations and treatment plans for the hounds who come into our care, and help my foster dogs increase their adaptability with training.

I have an extensive background in rescue work (as well as fearful dogs) and understand the specific needs of newly adopted dogs. I specialize in solving problem behavior, from aggression to separation anxiety and I also enjoy helping adoptive families work through issues and bond with their new family member.

Professional, experienced and certified, I use positive reinforcement based training techniques (treats, toys, praise), paired with learning theory to help you learn how to effectively communicate with your dog so you can live together happily.

I live in Mission Viejo with my husband, Paul, and our two rescued bassets, Wilbur and Mia, as well our foster hounds. In addition to continuing education in training and behavior I also spend time studying canine nutrition, vaccination and holistic care. In my free time I love to travel, spend time on the beach and in the yoga studio!

Need help choosing a trainer?

Pet Care Team

Michelle Montoya

Hi! My name is Michelle Montoya and I am so excited to be a part of the Bark to Basics team! I have an extensive background in animal care, including 13 years taking care of the animals at Disneyland.  I have worked with animals of all kinds, dogs, cats, horses, livestock, reptiles and exotics.

I have a variety of fur babies of my own, including Chihuahuas, a Pit Bull, a Cane Corso, a Sulcuta Tortoise and a beautiful mare.

I am so looking forward to meeting you and your fur babies!

Judee D.

Animals have always been a part and love of my life. Therefore, when my family and I moved to orange county five years ago,  I knew that I needed to follow my passion.

I have worked with the SoCal Weimaraner rescue as a foster and I have one dog, Lola. I am dependable and energetic.

In my free time I enjoy Pilates and gardening and I look forward to meeting some new furry friends.

Paige Fischer

Hi, my name is Paige and I was born an animal lover! I’ve owned dogs all of my life including lab/pit bulls, a boxer, samoyed, Shih Tzu, French Bulldogs, and a Pug. I’ve also owned horses, cats, pigs, goats, birds, guinea pigs, lizards and exotics, and have a large span of knowledge for all kinds of animals, no matter their shape or size!

I currently own two furbabies – an eight-month-old French Bulldog named Thunder who is very friendly and loving. He gets along with people and dogs of all sizes. My other puppy is a six-month-old Pug named Storm. She’s a super loving, ball of energy who loves meeting new dogs and people. Her best friend is a large husky.

I have experience with treating injuries (even humans, I was an EMT for six years!) and I’ve had a few dogs in the past with severe allergies that took special care.  I’m looking forward to taking care of your pup!

Michelle Manzo

Hi, my name is Michelle and I have over ten years of experience sitting, boarding and providing basic command training for canine friends and family.

My own fur baby is a 7-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever named Coco and we enjoy going on hikes, visiting the beach and exercising on local trails and paths to stay in shape.

In my free time I like spending time with my two kids, traveling the world and scuba diving. I love dogs, cats and animals of all kinds and look forward to meeting your pet soon!

Tauna Vandeweghe

I have been involved in raising, training and showing dogs for the last 3 decades. Growing up we always had two to three dogs. I learned obedience training and comfort companion training from master trainers. I would be able to reinforce the existing training or newly learned skills, making sure your dog stays on track.

Most importantly I feel dogs need to be a part of the family and well-loved.

Having been an athlete all my life I still exercise daily.  I always include my dogs, whether it’s long walks or playing in the yard, I love the companionship. I also have an 18-year-old son, who plays basketball and will do long vigorous runs.

During my life I have raised everything from German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Fila’s, Irish Setters, Golden Retrievers, German Pointers, Poodles and my favorite, a Chiweenie, which we found and rescued from the woods over three years ago.

Currently, I am a Behavior Therapist for Autistic children.  I live in a gated community, in Mission Viejo.

Rachelle French

With over 20 years’ experience in the pet care industry, I have worked with animals of all kinds, varying breeds/ages, and worked extensively in dog nutrition and training. I’m also certified in Pet CPR and First Aid.

I believe your pet’s health, happiness and wellbeing should be considered number one as they’re family and most dear to you.

I currently have a 14-year-old Dachshund/Chihuahua mix named Mozzarella who is my very best boy (next to my husband). Mozzarella is a certified therapy dog that used to visit nursing homes with me but has since “retired” this position to his couch and sunny spots in yard. We all live in Lake Forest, CA.