If you haven’t had a dog before, nothing can really prepare you for the huge time and financial commitment. It is never a good idea to buy a dog for someone as a present, unless you have agreed on it in advance—even then, part of the joy of getting a dog is in choosing it and finding the right match for you so a gift may still not be the best idea. Before you get a dog, here are a few things to be sure to consider!

Can You Afford A Dog?

The cost of owning a dog can really add up—as much as $10,000 over the life of the dog. Veterinary bills in particular, can get very expensive— a new puppy will need a series of shots; a teenage dog will need to be spayed or neutered; throughout its life the dog will need an annual exam; and elder care for a dog can become quite expensive, particularly if the dog is ill.

Will You Be Able To Spend Time With The Dog?

A dog that is left home alone all day will not be happy. Before you decide to buy a dog, it is important to consider whether you will have enough time to spend with it. Will someone be able to come home in the middle of the day to walk the dog?— this is particularly important with puppies, who cannot make it through a full day without needed to go to the bathroom. Will you have time to walk the dog at least three times a day? Will you have time to train it? If dogs are left alone too long they may become destructive and noisy, causing further problems.

Do You Like to Sleep In?

Dogs are most active at dusk and at dawn. Your Labrador is likely to wake up early in the morning — 5 or 6am and be ready to go out for his morning walk. Most puppies will need to get up at least once in the middle of the night for their first few months at home. Dogs don’t distinguish weekends from weekdays, so your days of sleeping late are likely gone for good. Owning a Labrador is a great encouragement to see the sunrise every morning!

Can You Commit To Owning A Dog For The Next 10 Years?

Labradors live about 12 years on average. Getting a dog is a commitment that you will need to continue over the long term, despite life changes, like getting married, having children, or sending your kids off to college. Will you still want to be a dog owner a decade from now? Are you up for caring for an elderly dog?

Are You Prepared For Messes?

Life with a dog is a whole new world—at one time or another, you’ll likely need to clean up dog hair, vomit, pee, and poop. Will you be able to easily forgive the dog if it has an accident on your carpet, or in your car? What if it chews up your favorite shoes? Or your homework/office work? Labradors are short haired, but they shed an amazing amount. And they are great lovers of mud and dirt.

Do You Have Other Pets?

If you have other pets, it is important to consider the impact that the new dog will have on them. One of the reasons that dogs end up in the pound is that they did not get along with other pets in the household. Before you bring a new pet into the household, be sure to look for a breed and individual that will get along with any current pets. Also, consider how your current pet will get along with the new dog.

Do You Have Small Children?

New dogs — especially puppies — often don’t mix well with small children. First, consider whether you will have enough time to meet the needs of both the children and the dogs. Second, remember that children can accidentally step on, fall on, or irritate a dog — if you do get a dog, be sure to choose a breed and individual that is good with children, and not prone to aggression. Be sure to provide the dog with plenty of training as well. Remember that big dogs, even friendly ones, can accidentally knock children over when they get excited. Also, consider whether you might have children in the next few years. If so, it may be best to wait until the children are older before you get a dog.

Does Your Housing Allow Dog?

Never, ever get a dog if you are living in an apartment or condo that does not allow dogs. Many people try to sneak dogs in, and end up having to give them up when they are discovered. If you are ready to get a dog, please look for housing that allows dogs. Also, consider what will happen if you lose you current housing, or need to move for other reasons. Will you be able to find and afford new housing that is pet friendly? If you own a house, be sure to consider the needs of your neighbors — what will happen if the dog barks frequently?

Are You Prone To Allergies?

Before you get a dog, be sure to check if you might be allergic. If you haven’t spent a lot of time around a dog, you might want to visit a shelter, or play with a friend’s dog to make sure you are not allergic. Remember, different breeds have different levels of allergens.