What is the most important thing you would tell someone who is new to dogs?
I would have to say not to get a dog for looks, not to get a specific breed for its appearance, because if you get past that you can focus on what dog is best for you. I have known several people that got dogs and really did not pay much attention to temperament and the care requirements.
My neighbors had like 5 Pit Bulls/Staffies (not sure which ones they were, they were not quality bred and they called them Pits) and 1 Rottweiler, the Rottweiler had serious psychological problems and only one of their Pits had a good temperament, and even after their Rottweiler bit a child they still bred her (too often and in old age too), but because they were all good looking dogs people wanted them.
A friend of mine always wanted a chocolate Lab, so eventually he got one, at first it was perfect, but after awhile he stopped exercising her, now she is destructive and BAD on leash, but she is beautiful.
My mother loved German Shepherds, she was raised with them, so my father got her two (this was before I was even born, so I could not have advised them to just get 1), one was wild and mischievous, he was pure puppy, and the other did what his brother did so they both were very wild, but they were both gorgeous dogs.
A friend of the family (a long long time ago) bred American Staffordshire Terriers, the sire got too dog aggressive and eventually had to be rehomed, the b*tch snapped on one of her pups (he was about 4 at the time, the lady who bred them had 2 sons and one of them kept a pup, the one who the b*tch snapped on, the rest were sold), they put her down, one of the pups they sold to someone who they kept in contact with, she is uncontrollably dog aggressive, and the pup that the b*tch attacked is also dog aggressive and is far too hyper and does not get any exercise. They were all beautiful dogs, but really the people did not look into the breed (they called them Pit Bulls but they were registered as AmStaffs and were not quality bred) and got them for their looks and because they pitied the breed.
Another friend got an Anatolian Shepherd, he had stock guarding instincts and started to have problems because he had nothing to guard and was either in a small pen with 1 horse or tied up to a tree on a long rope, she had to rehome him (he has a wonderful home now, so she at least had a good head on her shoulders and knows when it's time to get rid of a dog), but he was stunningly beautiful.
It seems like the main problem I have seen with owners and their dogs is getting dogs for their appearance, because if you look pass that you really get to what the dog IS and how well it will do with you.
What is the most important thing in your opinion?