Paws and Relax

OHEP: Mind, Body, Spirit

Office of Health Education and Promotion

Paws and Relax

Hamilton the Health Services Pet Therapy Dog with UNH Students

Petting an animal has been shown to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with being a college student. Paws and Relax is a pet therapy program at UNH that aims to enhance the well-being of students. 


Paws and Relax Sessions with Hamilton

  • Group Sessions with Hamilton
    Hamilton can be requested to visit a residence hall, apartment complex, Greek house, classroom or student organization, starting September 2014
  • Individual Sessions 
    Sessions will be available at Health Services, starting January 2015

About Hamilton

Hamilton (a.k.a. Hammy) is a 4 year old, 85 pound, Great Dane mix who was adopted from the Houston Humane Society as a puppy.  He is owned and trained by our Nutrition Educator/Counselor, Maria Caplan

Hamilton is a certified Canine Good Citizen (CGC), through the American Kennel Club which stresses responsible pet ownership and basic good manners for dogs and he is a certified therapy dog through the national organization Pet Partners Partners' Therapy Animal Program that trains volunteers and their pets for visiting hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools and other facilities.

Click Here to Request a Group Session with Hamilton

Group sessions with Hamilton will be available starting in September


Apply to be at Pet-Assisted Therapy Student Handler   


Students who are accepted for this position will represent Health Services and be responsible for a living and breathing animal who is someone’s beloved pet, therefore they must approach the position with professionalism and care. Once trained, students will provide pet therapy activities on-campus with Hamilton.  

General Information about the Paws and Relax Program

Students will “work” in teams of two and will be expected to offer 3 different services:

  • Hold office hours at Health Services with Hamilton 
  • Walk with Hamilton around campus, promoting our services and events 
  • Visit campus locations with Hamilton (i.e., residence halls, groups at the MUB, Greek houses)

What You Will Provide - Expectations

The safety for Hamilton, handlers, and students receiving therapy is rule number priority of the Paws and Relax program. Students who want to become handlers must agree to the following:

  • Attendance and participation and completion in all trainings (online and in-person)  
  • Adherence to the Health Services dress code for professionalism and safety

If at any time a student is suspected of not meeting the expectations, or if Maria Caplan feels a student is not the right fit for the program, he/she will be dismissed from the program immediately.  

What We Will Provide - Training 

We will provide a required comprehensive training program that is required for all participants 

  • Leadership and wellness education training 
  • Online training through Pet Partners
    At the completion of the course you will be awarded a nationally recognized certification. This training is approximately 8 hours and can be down at your own pace. The cost to you for the training is $25.
  • In-person trainings with Hamilton and his owner/handler Maria Caplan
    Participants will be expected to attend 6 weeks of training for 2 hours/week in addition to 3 outings shadowing Maria and Hamilton during a program on-campus. 

Important Dates 

  • University Day - September 16 
    Meet Hammy and his owner to learn more about the program (at the Health Services Table) 
  • Information Sessions - September 19
    8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. AND 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    Health Services Conference Room (2nd floor) 
  • Applications Dues - September 26
    Complete the online application (see below)
  • Interviews - September 29 through October 3
    Interviews will be scheduled and conducted 
  • Online Training - October 6 through October 19 
    Selected students will be required to take the Pet Partners online training 
  • Hands-On Training with Hamilton and Maria - October 20 through December 2
    Mondays 12:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. AND Tuesdays 2:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.  
  • Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test - December 8 through 19
    Students who pass the training and are deemed “ready” to handle Hamilton and will take the CGC test in-person with Hamilton and Maria Caplan
    Learn more about this test >> 
  • Acceptance - January 2015
    Students will be contacted over winter break about whether or not they have been formally accepted into the Paws and Relax program as a PATH.  
  • Provide Programming - January through May
    PATH students will begin providing pet assisted therapy programs to the UNH community  

If you cannot meet the expectations of this program, we ask that you not apply. If you have questions please contact the program coordinator

Click Here to Apply
Learn more about becoming a handler and apply online by September 16th 

If you have questions about the Paws and Relax program, please contact Maria Caplan at or by calling (603) 862-3823.