People in general think that if you love your dog, that alone makes you a good owner. Putting it simply, that is just not true.

Each owner defines “love” differently. Is a dog loved that doesn’t go to the vet regularly or when necessary? Is a dog loved that doesn’t get monthly heartworm and flea/tick treatment? Is a pet dog loved if it is left outside all the time?

Is the dog loved that is crated excessively, if it never leaves the house for a leash walk or other experiences? Is a dog loved if it is allowed to develop separation anxiety from being with its owner too much? Is a dog loved if it is left home along for long hours all week?

Is a dog loved that hasn’t been taught certain basic commands to make the dog easier to live with and not develop behavioral issues? Is a dog loved if it doesn’t get the opportunity to socialize with other dogs when appropriate for its personality?

A pet allowed to reproduce unchecked is not loved. A dog allowed to wander and not kept safe is not loved.

Whew, that is quite a list! Many people think their dog is happy if it has human company. And yet I hear, and rescues hear all the time, “but I love the dog.”

Dogs are not possessions to be disposed of at will because they don’t fit into your life anymore, or when you find out that you can’t afford them. If you can’t afford a vet or decent food, you shouldn’t own a dog.

If you can’t expose a dog to a relatively full life, you shouldn’t own a dog. If you physically can’t handle the dog, then this might not be a good choice; look at another dog that suits your lifestyle. Don’t just look at breed, look at lifestyle, age (yours and the dog’s) and size.

This doesn’t mean that life changes don’t happen and you might need to make difficult choices. Tthat can happen to anyone after the fact. But, when you consider adding another family member to your home, make sure you have asked all the right questions of yourself.

It is hard to give up a dog you love, and it is even harder on the dog that doesn’t understand why they just lost their human and their home. Rescues, shelters and the streets are loaded with dogs like this.

Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy.