19 May

S.T.A.R. Team Training and Testing

Petco Foundation

We are proud to report that Petco Foundation has for THREE YEARS years awarded us a Helping Heroes grant to fund team training!

S.T.A.R. Team Training and Testing Plan

Our plan addresses progressive levels of S.T.A.R. Team recruitment/development, and provides support at each stage.

We recognize that a dog/handler pair may:

  1. Be interested but not sure if our program is a good fit for them (Try-It-Out Workshop)
  2. Be engaged and preparing for the basic qualification test (Test Prep series – cost includes test)
  3. Be a NOVICE S.T.A.R. TEAM – Has passed the basic qualification test, but is not ready for field work.  (Program-Specific workshop series)
  4. Be an APPRENTICE S.T.A.R. TEAM – Has completed the program-specific training and is working in the field under the supervision of an assigned mentor
  5. Be an APPROVED S.T.A.R. TEAM – May work alone, but would benefit from an occasional “refresher” workshop.

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Introductory “Try-It-Out” Workshop

Target Audience:  Handlers and dogs who want to explore the notion of becoming a S.T.A.R. team.

    • What:  New format, still under revision:
      Day 1: Handlers-only “warts and all” informational session (2-3 hours) – we want you to be very clear what’s in store. This is NOT a casual commitment, and we need your complete buy-in.
      Day 2: Hands-on workshop – Those handlers who wish to continue + their dogs
    • 2017 registration opening soon – watch the home page for our announcement.
    • Content:  Includes but is not limited to:
      • review the S.T.A.R. program, the various populations it serves,  and why we’re using clicker-training to accomplish our goals
      • demo a sample session
      • practice clicker-training on each other
      • coaching for each handler as they work with their dog – introducing the clicker (if needed) and working through at least one simple trick

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S.T.A.R. Team Basic Qualification Test Prep Series

Target Audience:  Handlers and dogs who want to brush up on their skills and domain knowledge before taking the S.T.A.R. Team Basic Qualification Test.

Note: This series is not required before taking the test — experienced therapy teams are free to challenge the test.

  • What: series of five 1-1/2-hour classes + the Basic Qualification Test
    Enrollment limited – priority given to those who have already indicated interest in becoming a S.T.A.R. team by taking the Try-It-Out workshop.
  • Cost:  $225.  A limited number of need-based scholarships are available. Cost includes:
  • 2017 registration opening soon – watch the home page for our announcement.
  • Where:   Site in SW Portland TBD
  • Content: Includes but is not be limited to:
    • Clicker Training 1 Pre-foundation Skills   Handlers only 
    • Clicker Training 2 – Foundation Skills   Handlers and dogs
    • Clicker Training 3 – Building on Foundation Skills    Handlers and dogs
    • Clicker Training 4 –  Game components   Handlers and dogs 
    • Working with Children  – Handlers and dogs 
      Includes applied practice with the assistance of young volunteers .

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S.T.A.R. Team Basic Qualification Test

Target Audience:  Dog/Handler teams who have completed the test prep series and/or dog/handler teams with at least two years experience as a therapy team who wish to challenge the test.

  • What:   1+ hour practical test of basic skills needed by a S.T.A.R. team, part written,  part active role-playing with adults and children. Teams that pass the basic qualification test are eligible to prepare for field work with 5 more program-specific classes (see below) to become APPRENTICE S.T.A.R. TEAMS
  • Where:  SW Portland site TBD
  • Cost:  Free for those who took the test prep series, $35 for challengers who can prove they have at least two years active therapy team experience with another organization.
  • Content: The test will be loosely based on on existing Canine Good Citizen (CGC)  tests plus other therapy organization tests, with an additional focus on working off-leash, working with children, and being comfortable using a clicker to train. The test will include, for instance, a demonstration of the team’s ability to:
    • teach the dog a brand new, simple “target” behavior with an unfamiliar object
    • politely greet and interact with a child/children (our trusty Girl Scouts again!) for 10-15 minutes.

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Preparation for Field Work: Program-Specific Training

Target Audience:  dog/handler teams that have passed the basic qualification test AND for volunteers who are interested in participating as a non-handler

  • What:  a fiveworkshop series covering material specific to the S.T.A.R. program; required to become a S.T.A.R. team
  • Cost:  free for those that took the test-prep series and passed the test, $100 for anyone else
  • Content: To include but not be limited to (order may vary):
    • Lessons Learned Part 1 –  handlers only
      Sensory abilities of dogs and how this informs your training choices. Reading/interpreting what a dog is saying with their bodies.
      Reference book provided: “On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals”
    • Building Games  – handlers and dogs
      Half of the time will be demos + explanations of what’s going on, and half will be us practicing creating a new, silly game with your own dogs. We will focus on what needs to happen in your own head rather than on what your dog can flawlessly accomplish. How to explain behavior chains to a child and why you want to. Where do you go from here.  A short session of “PVC is your friend” – we will supply all necessary bits needed to create a highly-portable prop (e.g., a jump, a soccer goal, a basketball stanchion, etc.) that you will incorporate into your game. Conducted by Linda Keast and Giang Pham
    • The Effects of Trauma on Children, and Domestic Violence Shelter Environment and Rules – handlers only
      Presented by a representative of one of the DV shelters we serve
    • Working with Children – Keep Calm and Carry On – handlers and dogs
      Rehearsing what to do when things go wrong.
      Presented by Linda Keast and the Girl Scouts
    • Lessons Learned Part 2 –  handlers only
      How to choose activities that support specific behavioral goals. “How you say it matters”.   Presented by Linda Keast


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S.T.A.R. Team Levels

Apprentice S.T.A.R. Teams

On completion of this focused training, the new APPRENTICE S.T.A.R. TEAMS will receive:

  • One S.T.A.R. team soccer shirt (additional available at cost)
  • A supply of temporary tattoos, good-bye kits, and trading cards for their dog
  • Organizational business cards
  • A 10% discount at a growing number of pet supply stores in the Portland Metro area
  • A laminated photo ID badge with our insurance information on the back
  • A starter set of props and program supplies
  • Assistance identifying a client and setting up a schedule for visits
  • Liability insurance coverage for authorized S.T.A.R. Team activities
  • A dedicated mentor (an APPROVED S.T.A.R. team handler), who will arrange for them to:
    • shadow (without dog) the mentor at an existing client facility for at least three visits
    • work solo with their dog (mentor now just observing and supporting) for at least three visits. NEW: Two of these visits may be replaced by one “Lightning Round” session. This is a video-taped series of three 15-min back-to-back sessions with a volunteer child, enabling the team to demonstrate their ability to plan for and successfully manage sequential visits with the same child.


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Approved S.T.A.R. Teams

APPRENTICE S.T.A.R. Teams that have both (a) been nominated by a mentor who has observed the requisite solo sessions, and (b) gets a “thumbs up” from the client, will become APPROVED S.T.A.R. TEAMS.  Approved S.T.A.R. Teams:

  • will NOT need to be accompanied by a mentor for future visits to Little Dog clients unless they specifically request it. Caveat: Any approved S.T.A.R. Team handler may, with advance notice and the permission of the client, observe any other handler at work.
  • will  help finding a sponsor for additional trading cards featuring their dogs
  • will mentor an incoming apprentice team at least once every two years
  • will assist at training classes for new S.T.A.R. handlers
  • will attend at least one refresher workshop (described below) per year
  • will attend optional, free practice sessions at least 4 times a year 
  • will actively contribute ideas and experiences to help our organization grow
  • will NOT need to retest to maintain their status. Caveat: teams that do no S.T.A.R. Team field work for over a year will be asked to re-test before they restart field work

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On-going Support

We also plan several “refresher” and skill-building workshops each year to share ideas and props. This may be as informal as a round-table-everyone-contributes affair, but whenever possible we will have a specific focus and bring in different professional trainers.

  • In 2017 our first seminar is on-line is on Errorless Learning, to be followed by LGBTQ Sensitivity Training from the staff at Bradley Angle.
  • In 2016 we had a Barn Hunt workshop, a Teamwork Seminar with Grisha Stewart, and the opportunity to attend Terry Ryan’s Chicken Camp.
  • In 2015 we had a 2-session workshop on working with reactive dogs (thank you, Rosie Stein!) and a 4-session class on Rally FreeStyle Elements (thank you Carrol Haines!).

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The Little Dog Laughed Animal-Assisted Therapy | © 2017
7410 SW Oleson Rd. #323 Portland, OR 97223
A 501(c)(3) charity, Tax-ID 35-2431818