I'm excited for you, Brendan! I got my first dog 4 years ago--a wee little German Shepherd puppy. She's turned out to be phenomenal. Energetic, sharp as a tack, affectionate, and obedient. Able to assess the situation and make good decisions on her own, but obedient to my instructions. It took a while to get there, though.
I'd never been around dogs before. I used The Art of Raising a Puppy as my handbook. (Excellent book; I recommend it.) It was difficult at times. Required commitment and consistency. I'd say it took about 2 years for her attitude to steady out as an "adult". She went through stages of testing me quite a bit. It's totally worth the effort, though. Now she's amazing.
I crate trained her and kept her inside with me for the first two years (except for walks, playtime, etc.) Now she stays outside a lot more and I hardly ever get the crate out. The other night she was sleeping on the back porch where I'd stored the crate. Got up the next morning to find her sleeping in her old "home".
One of the keys, I think, is making the puppy/dog your constant companion as much as possible. She learns to read your body language, interpret your tone of voice, and pick up on all your subtle signals. These are things that can only come with time and interaction. The more you make her your companion, the more companionable she'll be.
I suggest you get a female. Spay her early. As a general rule, I think, females tend to be a bit more independent and forgiving of training mistakes that you might make.