Petco Foundation

We are proud to report that Petco Foundation has for FIVE 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 Prep series – cost includes test) – 2020 cycle now underway.
  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 or group practice.

Questions?  You can reach us at

Introductory "Try-It-Out" Workshop

Target Audience:  Handlers and dogs who want to explore the notion of becoming a S.T.A.R. team. Participation does NOT commit you to going any further in our program but it does give you “first dibs” on the limited number of spots in the full Test Prep Series.

Before registering for the workshop, all applicants are asked to pour a cup of coffee/tea, sit back, CLICK HERE, and watch “Warts and All” – an unsophisticated but honest 25 minute video describing several of the environments in which we work. We want you to be very clear what’s in store. While fun, our work is NOT a casual commitment, and we need your complete buy-in.  At the end of the video is the URL for the form for those who wish to register for the workshop. You may also want to review the description of what we’re looking for in both handlers and dogs.

  • What: 1-1/2 hour hands-on workshop for those handlers + their dogs.
  • When:   February 10, 2020  7:00-8:30 pm
  • Where:  Patricia D. Whiting Hall in Metzger Park 8400 SW Hemlock St, Portland, OR 97223
  • Cost:  $15 for the actual workshop
  • Content:  Includes but is not limited to:
    • Part 1: We will give a quick overview of the science behind what we’re doing. 
      10 minute break 
    • Part 2: Training a simple new behavior using the clicker
      • Demo of two basic behaviors (“put this in that” and “touch”) that particularly lend themselves to our work. Demo of how to teach the “touch” behavior.
      • You will select one of the props and – using JUST the clicker – teach your dog to touch it with its nose/paw.
        10 minute break 
    • Part 3: Changing handlers – each dog/handler will teach one of their dog’s current cues to another person. OK to use verbal cues, better if hand signals.
      10 minute break
    • Part 4: Mini‐Rally course – can you keep your dog’s attention for a short obedience rally course? We will demo, then one at a time you will select which rally signs you want to try and we will set up your course.
    • Wrap‐up: Q & A time, going both directions – we may have questions for YOU based on the material covered and what you learned when you looked at the side displays.
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 seven 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.
  • Instructors: Linda Hamilton of Cold Noses, Warm Hearts Dog Training and current STAR Trainers
  • When:  Monday nights 7-8:30 pm, starting February 24, 2020. No class on March 2. On-line session date TBD.
  • Where: First handlers-only class at  West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship 8470 SW Oleson Road Portland, OR 97223
    All dog+handler classes at  Patricia D. Whiting Hall in Metzger Park 8400 SW Hemlock St, Portland, OR 97223
  • Cost:  $225.  Thanks to fundraising efforts on the part of current S.T.A.R. Teams, a limited number of need-based scholarships are available. This $225 fee – the only fee  S.T.A.R. Team handlers will ever be charged – covers:
  • How to Register:  Registration for this cycle is now closed.
  • Content:  Includes but is not be limited to:
    • Clicker Training 1 Pre-foundation Skills   Handlers only  – West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – FEB 24
    • Clicker Training 2 – Foundation Skills   Handlers and dogs – Patricia D. Whiting Hall – MAR 9 
    • Clicker Training 3 – Building on Foundation Skills    Handlers and dogs – Patricia D. Whiting Hall – MAR 16
    • Clicker Training 4 – Building on Foundation Skills    Handlers and dogs – Patricia D. Whiting Hall – MAR 23
    • Clicker Training 5 –  Game components   Handlers and dogs – Patricia D. Whiting Hall – MAR 30 
    • Working with Children – ONLINE
    • Working with Children  – Handlers and dogs 
      Includes applied practice with the assistance of young volunteers  – Patricia D. Whiting Hall – APRIL 
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
  • When:  TBD.  Applicants will be scheduled one at a time. Written tests will also be due at this time.
  • Where: West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship  (map) 8470 SW Oleson Road Portland, OR 97223
  • 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 Scout allies again!) for 10 minutes.
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.

Thanks to a technology grant from an anonymous donor, we  now have the ability to move those classes that do not involve dogs on-line. This will allow us to cover more information in a significantly shorter time and save the need for a cross-town communte for the classes that require hands-on participation.


  • What:  a five-workshop series covering material specific to the S.T.A.R. program; required to become a S.T.A.R. team
  • Where:   TBD SW Portland site; on-line for handlers-only classes;
  • Cost:  free for those that took the test-prep series and passed the test, $100 for anyone else (need-based scholarships are available)
  • Content: To include but not be limited to (order may vary):
    • Lessons Learned Part 1 –  handlers only – online
      Sensory abilities of dogs and how this informs your training choices. Reading/interpreting what a dog is saying with their bodies.
    • 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.
    • The Effects of Trauma on Children and other selected topics – handlers only – online (work at your own pace)
      Available through the  Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence (sponsor: Raphael House of Portland)
    • 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 – online
      How to choose activities that support specific behavioral goals. “How you say it matters”.  Presented by Linda Keast

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.
Approved STAR 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


On-going Support

Scheduling  practices has proved to be an on-going challenge, but we’re doing our best.

We plan several “refresher” and skill-building events 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. Note: The cost of these opportunities does NOT come out of community donations. Our handlers work together on fundraisers dedicated to our continuing education expenses (e.g., garage sales).

  • In 2019 we sent SEVEN of our handlers to the 3-day 2019 Portland ClickerExpo (and we were chosen by Karen Pryor Clicker Training as the local partner charity – woo hoo!).
  • In 2018 we attended Grisha Stewarts workshop on consent – “Don’t Grab the Pussycat”. Two of our handlers attended an online TagTeach seminar, and we started saving our money for the 2019 ClickerExpo in Portland.
  • In 2017 our first seminar (on-line) was on Errorless Learning. Three of our handlers attended the 2017 Clicker!Expo in Portland, one of our favorite training events!
  • 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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