Check out a breed guide first. Behavior, exercise needs, and trainability vary greatly depending on breed. I have this
(which I got after
getting my greyhound, LOL), and it's a good general guide to breed characteristics and for all the stuff you'll be thinking about (feeding, training, hygene, socialization, etc.).
Once you've picked your ideal breed, check out rescue groups and animal shelters. When you find a dog you like, have a staring contest. When it meets your eyes, don't look away. Stare as long as it takes to get a reaction. If the dog growls or moves towards you, don't get that dog. If the dog looks away, backs up, or whines a little, it's more submissive and willing to let you be the Alpha. This makes training much easier.
Next, do a touch-test. Pick up each paw and hold it for a minute. If you can do this without the dog squirming, nail-trimming is going to be a piece of cake. Pet the dog, rub its ears, touch its tail, and see if there's anything it doesn't like. Open its mouth and check its teeth. If you can hold its "lips" back and touch its gums without it squirming, brushing its teeth will be easy. If you can't, that's okay... you can work on it.
Finally, the compatibility test. Bring all of your other animals to meet the new dog before you buy/adopt it. The cats will probably not be happy, but as long as they're not screaming, you should be okay. If the dog snarls or acts like it wants to dig the cats out of their carriers, find another dog.
Once you find your dog, rejoice! That was the easy part! :LOL
My biggest tips:
- Train early, train often, train consistently, and have everyone in the household, even the kids (starting around age 4-5) help with training. If you're confused about training, get a clicker training video.
- Cheap food is not good, and good food is not cheap. If the ingredients list includes "by-products" of any kind, find another food. Foods with meat instead of meal or grain as the primary ingredient are better... the dog will get more nutrition from less food.
- Dog-proof the house. They can dig, they can chew, they can rip things to shreds if they want to. Be careful where you leave things, what doors you leave open, what food or chemicals are within reach... basically all the same stuff you do with kids and cats.
- Play! Set aside time each day to play with the dog. Dogs are social animals and they love you. Not all dogs like tennis balls or tug ropes... experiment until you find something your dog enjoys. Do not get rawhide bones; the chips and slivers the dog breaks off can get stuck in it's throat and do very, very bad things. NylaBones and similar brands are much safer. If your dog gets bored easily or has separation anxiety, get a Kong and fill it with peanut butter, cream cheese, or something equally tasty and sticky so the dog can focus on that for a while.
- Bad breath probably means plaque and/or tartar buildup. Time for a cleaning. Depending on the breed, your dog may need a cleaning every six months to a year, but you can lengthen that time a bit by getting a dental kit (complete with meat-flavored toothpaste) and brushing the dog's teeth every day.
Wow, that came out longer than I thought it would.
I know it seems like a lot, but you'll get into a routine soon enough. Have fun!