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.
What: 1-1/2 hour hands-on workshop for those handlers + their dogs.
When: WE WILL SET A DATE WHEN THE CLASS HAS AT LEAST 4 REGISTRANTS
Where: West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (map) 8470 SW Oleson Road Portland, OR 97223
Cost: $15 for the actual workshop (covers site rental)
Content: Includes but is not limited to:
Part 1: We will give a quick overview of the science behind what we’re doing, starting with how to “charge the clicker” given to you as you sign in. For the balance of this section, we will talk while you quietly charge the clicker in preparation for the following section. 10 minute break – include checking out one of the side displays
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 the clicker – teach your dog to touch it with its nose/paw no matter where it is. 10 minute break – include checking out one of the side displays
Part 3: Changing handlers – each dog/handler will teach one of their existing cues to another person. OK to use verbal cues, better if hand signals. 10 minute break – include checking out one of the side displays
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 took in as you looked at the side displays.
S.T.A.R. Team Basic Qualification Test Prep Series
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.
When: REGISTRATION FOR THIS CYCLE NOW CLOSED. See class schedule below. One on-line session will be on a Thursday.
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 NEXT CYCLE STARTING SOON.
West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (WHUUF) (map) 8470 SW Oleson Road Portland, OR 97223
Garden Home Recreation Center (GHRC) (map) LARGE GYM – separate entrance! 7475 SW Oleson Rd Portland, OR 97223
Metzger Park – Patricia D Whiting Hall (PDWH) (map) 8400 SW Hemlock Street Portland, OR 97223
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 A – Building on Foundation Skills Handlers and dogs
Clicker Training 3 B – Building on Foundation Skills Handlers and dogs
Clicker Training 4 – Game components Handlers and dogs –
Working with Children – ONLINE
Working with Children – Handlers and dogs Includes applied practice with the assistance of young volunteers .
S.T.A.R. Team Basic Qualification Test
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
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.
New this year: 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
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. 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.
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 S.T.A.R. Teams
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
Thanks to the City of Beaverton (SW) and Personal Beast (SE) we have two potential practice locations. Scheduling these practices has proved to be an on-going challenge, but we’re doing our best.
We also 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 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!).
“Good-bye kits” are for the kids we’ve been working with as they leave the shelter. These tiny 2″x2″x3″ boxes contain a temporary tattoo and a sticker, both with Eli’s laughing face, a “Hands and Words Are Not For Hurting” sticker, a clicker, and a tiny but powerful flashlight inscribed “S.T.A.R. Trainer – See, Tag And Reward”.
This is our current answer to two needs:
ONE: Children in shelters live in a frighteningly chaotic time of too many abrupt changes with no closure. Our teams will never know when a visit with a child is the last, and we don’t want to become just another perceived abandonment. Goodbye kits give the shelter personnel the option of giving departing children a gift “from Eli”.
TWO: It is common in behavior modification protocols to create an “anchor” object to re-ground the learner when the coach can’t be there. In our case, we’re using tiny flashlights engraved with “S.T.A.R. Trainer – See, Tag, And Reward”. Perhaps this choice is also an unspoken modern-day echo of Galadriel’s parting gift to Frodo: “May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
Let’s start by looking at this question from a totally different angle: Think about the act of training LESS as “do what I say” and MORE as “explaining to a good friend what you need done”.
No matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, dogs do not really understand human speech. Their own communications system is based primarily on scent and body language, not vocalizations. They understand posture and patterns of movement when we make “that sound”, and the places we usually do these actions; but it is as difficult for them deduce the meaning of a spoken command as it would be for an average American to understand Swahili.
So how can we possibly communicate with such an entity? By building a shared language one “word” at a time. And the first word is “click”. The clean, intonation-free sound “click” is immediately followed by something the dog loves – a treat, a ball, a tuggy. Very quickly the dog realizes that “click” means “Woo hoo! Good thing coming!” Then by clicking exactly as the dog does something the trainer likes (say, going into a sit position) the trainer marks/tags that behavior with a click as something the dog can do to get a reward (marker-based training). The dog can choose or not choose to do that behavior – there is no punishment if it doesn’t. But the odds are very very great that the dog will want to continue this marvelous game in which he can get treats just by sitting.
There’s nothing magic about the clicker itself – it is just a convenient, inexpensive device that is readily available and easily manipulated by child-sized hands. The audible marker used to tag the behavior we want to encourage just needs to be uniform, no matter who is delivering it, and quickly and easily produced.
The effectiveness of clicker-training is based on the trainer’s ability to build a trust relationship with the trainee, working in a training environment that is free of fear. There is no room for lies, punishment, threat/dominance displays. What we humans are calling “training” is, for the dog, a fabulous game to which they return joyfully (“the little dog laughs!”).
What about “The Dog Whisperer” Cesar Milan? Is clicker-training like that?
No. In fact, quite the opposite.
This sounds easy! Will the kids be actual dog trainers after the class?
No, that takes more time than we typically have with a child. We are confining our focus to the portion of training that best supports the goals of behavioral therapists – the “ah ha!” moment when the dog and the child start communicating without words, without coercion. Referencing the STAR Training Guidelines given to older students (CLICK HERE to open a copy in a new browser window), elementary school children will actively work in Zone 1. For older students, or as appropriate to illustrate a point, the children will dip into Zone 2 and Zone 3 behaviors so they have a clearer view of how the dog will progress.
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.
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$100 targeted donation from L. Keast to help cover Nandi’s Vet bill
$1000 Fidelity Charitable grant made possible through the generosity and recommendation of the Arth Baker Fund ($300 to be applied to scholarships, $100 targeted for Nandi’s Vet bill, $600 for insurance and regulatory expenses)
$180 from handlers toward the ClickerExpo registration cost.
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In a world rightly pursuing evidence-based intervention, we started off with a handicap: we had no hard, objective evidence to validate the effectiveness of our program. S.T.A.R. was a new model, and our successes fell in the realm of “anecdotal”. The Psychology Department of Pacific University is changing this.
As part of Pacific University’s multi-year commitment to the program, since September 2013 year we have worked with seniors under the guidance of Dr. Heide Island, Associate Professor, Comparative Biological Psychology at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.
Phase 1: Piloting Methodology for Evaluation and Interpretation of results
Since September 2013 students have accompanied our S.T.A.R. teams to physically assist the handler, and to act as non-participating Field Observers who impartially collected data for outcome assessment.
The collected data is being used to create a program evaluation that will be used for grants, government certifications, and of course for their senior thesis presentations.
Equally important has been the weekly feedback provided by these scholars on pacing, terminology, and props. They have been valued allies in moving our program forward.
CLICK HERE for a .pdf copy of the Power Point presentation where they describe how they solved the tricky issue of collecting meaningful, clinically relevant data in such an erratic environment.
CLICK HERE for a .pdf copy of the final report of their findings.
Conclusions in a nutshell: We encourage you to read their full report, but the following quote from the Discussion section at the end of the report contains a major take-away (bolding and use of color are for emphasis, and not part of the report):
This data demonstrates that brief bouts of Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) can be evaluated in a meaningful, clinically relevant way. The within-block behavioral improvement can be used to compare differences in both cross-sectional and longitudinal designs. Data from individual points in time throughout the session were simultaneously compared to data from the beginning of a session to then end of a session. This methodology could be used for transient populations in clinical settings with brief bouts of animal assisted activities including hospitals, schools, and assisted living facilities. All of these settings would benefit more from shorter, less structured AAA’s, as opposed to the long-term, more structured nature of animal assisted therapy.
Results indicate that a child attending a single session with TLDL will show significant improvements in five of the six learning and behavioral realms (i.e., Engagement, Following Instructions, Concept Recognition, Attitude and Affect).
Phase 2: Revising and Collecting Data of Revised Methodology and Interpretation of Results
The students did some fine tuning of their observational methodology, and again accompanied our visits to two shelters. In May 2015 Dr. Island and the students prepared a formidable 73-page technical Formative Evaluation Report The Little Dog Laughed (TLDL) Animal-Assisted Therapy Program. The Summative (final) Evaluation Report will be published in July 2016.
CLICK HERE for a .pdf copy of the full Formative Evaluation Report.
CLICK HEREfor a .pdf copy of the poster presented on November 19, 2015 at the Chicago Program Evaluation Conference. (This is for a large display poster)
Vastly condensed from their conclusions (again, the bolding is not part of the report):
Since a mission statement is a formal summary of the values and goals of an organization, it was also necessary to evaluate how well the program actually met the objectives of its mission statement. The Little Dog Laughed, Animal-Assisted Therapy mission statement asserts, “Our volunteer dog/handler teams work with therapists/counselors/teachers in their effort to nurture empathy and non-violent problem solving skills in at-risk youths. We offer a carefully structured set of short classes that teach behavioral skills by engaging the children in actively training our dogs using positive training techniques.” From this statement, there were essentially three constructs we could measure: 1.) empathy, 2.) nonviolent problem solving, and 3.) teaching behavioral skills through reinforcement.
Based on the observational data, The Little Dog Laughed, Animal-Assisted Therapy Program did appear to achieve behavioral improvements among their target population in all three constructs associated with the mission goals… TLDL model is adaptable to a number of other contexts and target populations. It is conceivable that the seven behavioral outcome categories for child residents of domestic violence shelters could be modified for a variety of other populations. For example, TLDL model could be adapted for rehabilitation centers, to assist patients with motor damage, assisted living facilities to help residents with attention, memory, and loneliness, and inclusion facilities to help residents with developmental disabilities.
Dr. Heide Island, Associate Professor of Comparative Biological Psychology at Pacific University reports that due to the hard work of the students, they will be able to wrap up what was expected to be a five-year effort in three! From her summary of their calendar:
November 19, 2015 New data – cumulatively evaluated with the old data was presented at the Chicago Program Evaluation Conference in November. [CLICK HEREfor a .pdf copy of the poster]. You will note that the Concept Recognition category is now significantly different pre/post (this is what we were hoping to see after last summer’s formative evaluation), this is consistent with all behavioral outcome categories. So nice job in facilitating and promoting the behavior among the kiddos this last semester so the outcome could be better measured. February 27, 2016 Students will be giving an oral presentation as the Oregon Academy of Science at Pacific the third weekend in February of these results as well. April 27th, 2016: Senior Projects Day, TLDL Seniors (all of the students) will be presenting the 5-year project, that through collaboration with TLDL in making small adjustments to program recommendations, was completed in 3!
dMay 1, 2016 Students will be presenting there poster on the final data set at the Western Psychological Association in California. June, 2016 Sometime in July, I will have the final Summative Evaluation (much like last years’ but will be summative rather than just formative) for your review. This will be the culmination of our project, as you should have more than enough to demonstrate evidence-based programmings. There is no need to continue further since the Concept Recognition and Social Civility categories are now significantly different in the direction we would expect, from Block 1 to 4.
As of July 31, 2016 The full Summative Evaluation Report has been published, and proudly posted on our site – CLICK HERE for a .pdf copy (warning: it’s 174 pages long!).
Here’s one of my favorite parts (bolding is mine):
Bottom Line: Based on the observational data, The Little Dog Laughed, Animal-Assisted Therapy Program demonstrated efficacy for child residents of two domestic violence shelters. Evidence was established through statistically significant behavioral improvement for each of the seven behavioral constructs (as represented by TLDL mission) within a single 15 to 20-minute animal-assisted activity session. TLDL Animal-Assisted Activity/Therapy model is adaptable to a number of contexts and target populations. It is conceivable that the seven behavioral outcome categories for child residents of domestic violence shelters could be modified for a variety of other populations, including but not limited to assisted living residents, youth and adolescent life skills training, and adults or children with physical or intellectual disability.