I read a great many dog books every year. There are some great authors on the subjects of canine cognition and behavior and dog training in general.
Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz (Amazon) is a great overview of current canine research. She approaches the subject from the point of view of an ethologist and a dog caretaker and directly addresses the risks of putting our own thoughts into observations of others. At the end of the book she uses the hand shake of a dog to point out how we fall down as observers when we don't realize that the paw raise of a dog is a deferent gesture to avoid conflict and not a hand shake as humans know it. She's right-in dog's it is a sign of deference. But she's also wrong because in humans the hand shake evolved as a show of deference, too; specifically a gesture showing a lack of weapons. When they author reminds us that dogs are just animals, she forgets that humans are animals, too.
Dog Sense by John Bradshaw (Amazon) is another book that gives an overview of what we know about dogs and how it's changing. He confesses to being a dog caretaker and the associated bias we can assume. In one example, he refers to research that demonstrated dogs act more "guilty" when they are accused of something they did NOT do than dogs who are reprimanded for taking a treat they were told not to take. Interesting. But then he assumes dogs don't actually feel guilty when they are acting like they do. While I agree that we can't assume that other animals (including humans) have the feelings they appear to have, we also can't assume they don't. Appeasement behavior is the scientific name for guilty display. Appeasement behavior is used to avoid being ostracized for something you have done which is the very purpose that guilt serves.
These books follow a non fiction and beautiful story of the life of one dog called Merle's Door (Amazon) by Ted Karasote. The author weaved about 50 years of relevant canine research into a heart warming story about how dogs live. Mr. Karasote followed with a book on the morality of hunting called Blood Ties (out of print but highly recommended if you struggle with eating meat) and has a new book coming out about why dogs live longer in Europe. I'll let you know about that one.
The book The Truth About Dogs by Stephan Budiansky is one of my favorites. It's a bit irreverent and doesn't paint a picture of dogs that is as lofty as those of us who live with them might like. In fact, he pretty much debunks the idea that your dog needs to love you and calls them parasites. But there is nothing about his work I don't like. From an archeological point of view, his book Covenant of the Wild (Amazon) is even better. He uses what we know about our own history and research by Ray Coppinger to ask the question of the true meaning of domestication. In fact, by the time you finish this book you'll realize the dog's influence on humans may have been greater than any artificial selection we may have imposed on the Chihuahua.
A brand new book called The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods covers much of the same research with the added advantage of being hot off the press. The latest research says we may have underestimated the dog and overinvested in dominance theory and clicker training. Since I agree, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, with notes to find the original works if you would like to.
Karen Pryor has several books on dogs but her latest, Reaching the Animal Mind, comes with an everchanging website and follows the successful launch of her dog training academy based on positive reinforcement which is closely linked to behavioristic theories of learning. The web site makes it possible to include video and change information as research continues. This author has trained Whales who simply can't be forced to do anything. She created a revolution in training and learing in the 70's and her methods applied to dogs have been very successful.
Jean Donaldson's book, Oh Behave! Pavlov to Premack to Pinker (Amazon) is the application of all of this science to actual dogs with actual problems. If you've gotten confused by theories of reward and punishment, this book will make it all crystal clear. On top of that, she trains Chow Chows which according to Brian Hare's work come from the most untrainable group of dogs evolved.
You'll never go wrong wtih anything by Dr. Ian Dunbar. But given this growin list, I suggest you go right to video from Sirius Dog Trianing, Dr. Dunbar's program. Sure, he's one of the few authors to do his own research but his demonstrations are worth their weight in gold. And on that note Suzanne Clothier's book Bones Would Rain Down from the Sky is excellent but her live seminars are even better. Get a sample on Youtube and you'll be clamouring for a three day course.
What I like about these authors and speakers is that they introduce their reader to decades of research about our closest companions other than our fellow humans without the pain of going to graduate school. We've made some assumptions over the years that didn't pan out, like the whole dominance thing* and the theory that we domesticated dog by artificial selection.
So I recommend these books for the science they summarize but keep your wits about you. It's almost impossible for those of us who live with and enjoy dogs to report results without bias. Anytime someone doesn't admit this, they may not know about it. And that means they will make assumptions that fit the current mold.
If you want to find out the latest, check out YourDogsFriend.info and their free classes in Rockville.
*Dominance theory was based on observations of unrelated captive wolves. Actual wolves do not live with unrelated others. Then we applied that assumption to dogs. Turns out dogs don't live like wolves, anyway. In order to deliver these faulty methods we assumed dogs would accept us acting like non humans. No wonder so many dogs are still in training.