What might be some of the reasons the STAR program has been successful with at-risk children?
- Positive, marker-based training is 100% about building a relationship based on earned trust and clear, timely communication between two different entities – humans on one side, dolphins, orcas, monkeys, chickens, dogs, etc. on the other side. There is something both exhilarating and empowering about having a dog not only do what we ask, but also be clearly enjoying itself.
- We learn/remember best if we are actively rather than passively involved in what is being presented. Because STAR engages the kids in the training process, they are (unknowingly) active participants in their own therapy.
- We all tend to feel more positively about a situation if we feel we have choices and that they will be honored. STAR builds in opportunities for participants to make choices, and to recognize that right in others.
- Dogs have been bred for centuries to interact intelligently with humans. The have very readable emotional reactions to what is happening to them – they provide real-time feedback on interactions. STAR participants are taught to “read” what the dog is saying and adjust their own behavior accordingly. Having the “little dog laugh” is a sincere and unambiguous signal to children training a dog that they are doing a good job.