About Us

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

I’ve had a long-standing love affair with dogs going back as far as I can remember. My parents promised to bring a puppy home when I turned 10 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. 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.

After spending time working with veterinarians, rescues and well-respected trainers I became certified by the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers and opened Bark to Basics LLC in 2007. I have since gone on to become a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants as well as a Certified Behavior Consultant Canine specialist with CCPT, both of which require advanced knowledge and skill demonstration. I’m happy to join the ranks of behavior consultants who have been professionally certified to address behavior issues such as aggression, separation anxiety and fear issues (there are only about two dozen of us in the entire state of North Carolina)!  I am also an insured member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.


I was the President of Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California for 14 years, where I also provided behavioral evaluations and treatment plans for the hounds in our care, and helped increase the adoptability of my foster dogs with training.

My professional training career began in 2004 and I have an extensive background in rescue work (as well as fearful, reactive and aggressive dogs) and understand the specific needs of newly adopted dogs. In addition to helping with manners and new puppy training 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 and LIMA to help you learn how to effectively communicate with your dog so you can live together happily.

I live outside Raleigh with my husband, Paul, and our two rescue bassets, Wilbur and Mia, as well as our growing farm of animals. 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, hike, bake, and spend time on the beach and in the yoga studio!

Need help choosing a trainer?

Rachelle French

I have been working hands on with canines of all breeds, temperament and size for more than 20 years.
I have trained many dogs over the years to get their TDI, CGC and go off to provide affection, comfort and support to people in hospitals, retirement, nursing homes, hospices, etc.

In college while completing a bachelor’s degree I worked in kennels, managed dog daycares, offered pet sitting services and realized I couldn’t get away from the thing I was most passionate about – dogs. I started working side by side apprenticing with different dog trainers until I found my niche in the industry and went off to start my own dog walking business in North OC to help families with specialized dog walks with a training focus. Two years ago I moved to Lake Forest with my dog and husband; and joined the Bark to Basics team to help educate humans and dogs! I strive to help my clients and their dogs form a strong bond through clear communication and structure.

My training is mostly reward, play and structure based. Food and play are huge motivators for dogs as it drives them to want to do things we would like them to do in our lives and don’t require excessive frustration or punishment. I’m fond of clicker/marker training but don’t require you to use one. It is well known that punishment hinders the learning process, and you don’t need to be dominant or “alpha” to succeed!

When not helping clients to enjoy easier lives with their canine companions, I am busy reading, hiking, running, spending time with my pup, Rigatoni, son and husband.

I’m a new mom and recognize the great need to integrate dogs and children properly as well.

I’m also certified in Pet CPR and First Aid.