Pet Assisted Therapy/Activities Handler

Hamilton, the Health Services Pet Therapy Dog with UNH Students. This program is called Paws and Relax.

"One of the most fundamental advantages of animal assisted therapy over other therapeutic modalities is that it provides the patient a much-needed opportunity to give affection as well as receive it. It is this reciprocity - rare among medical therapies - that makes animal assisted therapy a unique, and valuable route to healing."
- Dr. Andrew Weil, World-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine 

About the Paws and Relax  

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. 

  • Group Sessions with Hamilton
    Hamilton can be requested to visit a residence hall, apartment complex, Greek house, classroom or student organizations.
  • Individual Sessions 
    Starting in January, Hamilton can be visited for scheduled one-on-one sessions. A trained Pet Therapy Handler will also be present during the sessions. 

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. 

Apply to be at Pet-Assisted Therapy Student Handler (PATH)   


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, PATH students will provide pet therapy activities on-campus with Hamilton.  

General Information about the Paws and Relax Program

Students 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
  • Previous experience working with animals (paid or non-paid) that were not your family pet. If you have not had this experience, please do not apply.

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 PATH 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.  This can be changed based on your availability. 

Important Dates 

  • Applications Due - September 25 at noon 
    Complete the online application (see below)
  • Interviews - September 28 through October 2
    Interviews will be scheduled and conducted 
  • Online Training - October 3 through October 18 
    Selected students will be required to take the Pet Partners online training 
  • Hands-On Training with Hamilton and Maria and student handlers - October 19 through December 1
    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 7 through 11
    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 – December Break 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.  
  • Shadowing Handlers and may provide programming - January through May 2015
    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 

Apply Now 

You must have previous work experience to apply to become a handler. If you answer no, you do not meet the minimum qualifications for this position. If you answer yes, please continue with the application.
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