I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a tough year.

The general consensus is that our pets have saved many of us during the lockdowns and throughout this anxious time. But we shouldn’t take them for granted. They have undoubtedly been suffering too, due to the collective uneasiness around them. We’re all hoping for a better year in 2021, and why not begin by setting some intentions to give something back to your furry companion?

I’m guilty of taking my dog for granted at times. And although I do consider myself a responsible and caring dog mummy, I could definitely do better! Couldn’t we all?

Here are my New Year’s Resolutions for a more harmonious 2021 with doggie:

Number one: Pay More Attention To Cues

Spending too much time staring at the screen? This wasn’t hard in 2020, since many of us started working from home, and indeed staying at home much more. If you’re guilty of too much screen time, your dog will tell you. I’ve been getting messages loud and clear from my Charlie this year, and I think it’s time to pay more attention.

She’s also been a good reminder to try to stay connected with people and go outside. She adores being around people and out in the open, and as we move forward with the pandemic still lurking, it’s good to have another living being encouraging you to get out, do stuff and live in the moment.

Number Two: Balance The Socialising

As much as Charlie loves socialising with other dogs (as she should as it’s really important), we got a bit carried away the other day. She ended up overexerting herself and provoking an old injury in her leg. I frequently feel that she’s lonely because we don’t often see other dogs, but too much of a good thing isn’t always the solution either.

Again, I think it’s important to look out for cues from her, and by the end of her ‘play date’, she was definitely giving me some looks which signalled ‘get me out of here’! So, next year, we’ll try to go with the ‘little and often’ theory.

Number three: Go Easy On The Hugs And Kisses

I guess this would differ from dog to dog but Charlie doesn’t really love the hugs and generally leans in the other direction when I move in. I’m going to make a conscious effort to show my affection in other ways, rather than the obvious human method.

Number four: More Interaction 

Get back to the present and bring out your inner child! I get so stuck on schedules and deadlines, and some days I forget to have a good old play with her. This is sad. Dogs really need interaction and if I’m to improve my behaviour next year, it must include this. She’d much rather a play around the living room than a hug. It will show her that I really care. She got some cool new toys for Christmas but perhaps it’s also time to think about investing in some more interactive toys.

Number Five: Less Car Time

I had an international relocation in 2020, and in 2019 for that matter. Charlie and I had a particularly stressful journey during which the car broke down several times. She does not like the car at the best of times, and this was ultra anxiety-inducing for her. Not to mention the two rather long ferry journeys we had to take as well. 

Now, this probably isn’t going to be the hardest resolution to stick to in 2021 because many of us have travel restrictions, but I have to keep it in mind because I often get itchy feet. Charlie, like many dogs, feels comfortable with some kind of daily structure and having her own territory. It’s not surprising that she feels uneasy when she has no idea where she’s going.

Number Six: Less Selfies

Don’t shoot me but I do enjoy taking a good selfie with my dog. I can’t resist because I just love her face so much and she has a bit of fan club amongst my friends on social media. I don’t like to disappoint. But, she hates it, and I really think it would be an idea to cut down. Charlie is very infamous for her sighing and as soon as the camera appears, the sigh emerges and the head turns away. I’ve been told.

Number Seven: Be Aware Of My Emotions 

Having a dog can really help you reflect on how you’re feeling, and unwanted emotions can boil up too, if your dog has a naughty streak. Emotions, whether connected with your human or animal relationships will have a huge impact on your pet.

I want to be more aware of this (without suppressing emotions, because it’s important to feel them) and be conscious it may be affecting my dog. If you’re finding you need some alone time, ask a friend or family member to help out, or try to engage in some practices or habits that may help alleviate your grief/sadness/depression. It’s easier said than done, I know this, but your dog can be the one who helps you keep going if you focus your care and attention on him/her. 

So, there we have it — a set of intentions for a hopeful shift in 2021. For me personally, the lack of hugs and kisses has been a massive miss in 2020. And despite promising to hug Charlie less (she happens to like social distancing!), I hope for many of us, affection, in whichever style you prefer, makes a comeback.

Get our best articles straight to your inbox. 

Subscribe to The DARling below:

About the author

Vaila Erin is a writer, lover of animals, and a bit of a nomad. For her, life is about stories — observing yourself and others so that you can laugh, cry and entertain each other with its absurdities. Connect with her at vailaerin.com or via LinkedIn.