For our dog Maple, there are five essential things that must happen in the day to keep her happy and healthy—and all at certain times. It has occurred to me more than once that the same five essentials can be applied to a young child's day (in addition to chores, homework, and other things that come along as they get older). So as we've been raising Maple, I'm constantly pointing out the similarities of these essentials to my boys.
- Meal Time. Both Maple and my boys have set meal times that they've come to learn and expect.
- Bathroom Breaks. We all stay healthier with some regularity here. Enough said. 😉
- Play and Exercise. My boys and Maple have to get out a couple of times of day to run around—rain or shine. If they don't, they'll be stir crazy and full of extra energy. This could be tossing the ball at the park or a simple walk around the block.
- Social Time. No matter how much love Maple gets from her family, she's bummed out when she doesn't get to have play dates and socialize with her doggie friends. Just like my boys! Interaction with others helps them develop good social skills, and of course, it's fun!
- Sleep Time. Nap times and bedtimes are key. Both dogs and kids need a lot of sleep—a tired dog, or kid, can be grumpy & irratible, and have poor behaviour.
I know they're slowly getting the comparisons. I've heard them say things like, "Maple looks so tired and it seems like something's wrong with her—did she eat? Does she need water?" My answer: "Yes! She needs 'fuel' at certain times, just like you, or she peters out." And just yesterday, my oldest son said, "Mom, Maple seems a little sad. I think she misses her friends." Maybe that was just a hint that I should invite his friends over—but either way, the importance of a schedule and making sure the essentials are included is being drilled in.
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