Here are a few excellent "must read" books if you want to be really knowledgeable about dogs and understand them better.
These books can be found at Amazon.com, but it's great to try to support your local bookstore--if you still have one.
The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs
For the Love of a Dog:
Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend
by Patricia B. McConnell
I recommend McConnell’s books to anyone who has a dog. They are just WONDERFUL and you will be amazed at what you learn.
Amazon.com Review (The Other End of the Leash)
The Other End of the Leash begins with an eloquently simple premise: "All dogs are brilliant at perceiving the slightest movement that we make, and they assume each tiny movement has meaning." With that in mind, all of Dr. Patricia McConnell's recommendations for communicating with your canine make immediate sense. Don't we all automatically bend forward when coaxing a dog to come and play? Break eye contact when we wish to avoid a confrontation? While these instinctive behaviors are right on target, a number of other habits aren't so positive, and McConnell helps us break them with both humor and common sense.
Chapters are categorized by senses such as sound, sight, and smell; specific pack behaviors such as dominance and play also merit their own sections. McConnell uses the same humor and patience she recommends with dogs on her readers. Whether she's referring to maggots as "a value-added commodity in canine economics" or ruminating on attempts to verbally cue her dogs to exit the house one at a time, her wise and gently self-deprecating book brings training--of both dogs and humans--to new levels. --Jill Lightner
From Publishers Weekly Review (For the Love of a Dog)
Animal behaviorist, dog trainer, syndicated radio talk show host and prolific author on all things canine, McConnell presents a compelling combination of stories, science and practical advice to show how understanding emotions in both people and dogs can improve owners' relationships with their pets.
This is more than a simple dog-training book: much of what McConnell discusses concerns how dog owners can learn "the language" of dog by recognizing important signals and reading them correctly. She provides numerous helpful examples of how owners can observe dog behavior, especially differences in posture and facial expressions, in order to help dogs be better behaved and help dog owners to be better handlers; her discussion of the meaning of a dog's "tongue flicks" is alone worth the price of the book. Her overall goal is to help owners provide their pets with "a sense of calm, peaceful benevolence," and she skewers current dog-training fads that emphasize "dominance" over a dog. "Don't fool yourself: if you yell at your dog for something he did twenty seconds ago, you're not training him; you're merely expressing your own anger."
Prepare to have any illusions about your canine companion totally shattered. In writing The Truth About Dogs, author Stephen Budiansky is determined to uncover the true nature of our beloved beasts, and it's not always a pretty picture. The introduction presents a basic question: why on earth have we allowed these disease-carrying, biting, destructive, and expensive animals into our lives? We know why--it's because we love them, warts and all. So does Budiansky, and once you read past his inflammatory introduction, you'll find a book that presents a new way of looking at old behaviors.
His interpretation of recent behavioral research may raise some hackles as well, and begins with an examination of pack behavior in wolves. While wild packs have only one dominant male and female, we often expect our dogs to behave submissively to an extended family of dominants--not only can that be difficult, but some of their natural "submissive" behavior can be extremely frustrating. Face-licking is an easy example of this poor conduct; Rover thinks he's showing submission, but Grandma's not thrilled with having an 80-pound shepherd jumping on her. In discussions of more general behaviors, Budiansky's examinations of the motivation levels present in different breeds seems to explain much about the success or failure of obedience training. --Jill Lightner
How Dogs Think : Understanding the Canine Mind
by Stanley Coren
From Publishers Weekly Review
Friendly, authoritative and firmly grounded in scientific evidence, Coren’s survey of canine biology and psychology will give readers a new appreciation of humankind’s best animal friend. A psychologist and dog expert, Coren has an amused sort of enthusiasm for all things doggish; he likes both funny stories about pooches and serious research that logically explains their behavior. . . . Coren doesn’t dumb anything down but manages to make scientific information easy to understand—and he scatters practical tips for handling dogs at home throughout the text. This entertaining, well-researched book will please dog lovers of every stripe.
From Publishers Weekly Review
A beautifully written exploration of the ways in which humans can establish a better rapport with their dogs. Positing that owners+ relationships with their canine companions have the power to make them more human-and humane-the author examines the way owner/dog relationships go wrong, and how owners can make them right. Profound and practical, the book offers new insights into behavioral -problems,+ improved communication, and mutual respect and trust, while challenging readers to re-examine their own attitudes and discover the joy in a genuine partnership.