Dreaming of Dogs: What It Means
Dogs have been humankind’s faithful companions for thousands of years, following us everywhere and, sometimes, even in our dreams. Surveys suggest that dogs appear in about 5% of all dreams, and for dog owners, this percentage might be double. So, what does it mean when you dream of a dog?
In this article, we’ll discuss interpreting dog dreams, and what your dreams might mean in the context of your overall hopes and fears.
Finding the Meaning in Dreams
People have long wondered about the meaning of dreams. According to Sigmund Freud, dreams disguise latent desires and fears that aren’t acceptable to our self-image. On the other hand, his student Carl Jung believed that dreams are messages from the deepest parts of the mind that communicate in symbolic images, and that these conveyed messages are more complex than what simple words can express.
Modern research supports the idea that dreams can be meaningful. Psychologist Dr. Deirdre Barrett has found evidence that dreaming about problems may make you better at solving them when you wake up. Other researchers think dreaming might help you process your feelings about difficult situations, expressing emotions that your waking mind ignores.
Because we all experience and remember dreams differently, it’s difficult to draw one conclusion that’s accurate for everyone. Most experts agree that considering what meaning your dreams may hold can help clarify how you feel about what’s currently happening with you and the people you care about.
The Symbolic Meanings of Dogs in Dreams
The meaning of a dog in your dream might depend on the role it’s fulfilling in your life: Is it a playmate, a guardian, a noisy nuisance, or something else entirely? Here are a few common dog dreams and what they might mean.
Dreaming About Playing with a Dog
When you have the chance to play with a dog in your dreams, it can connect you with a sense of simple, carefree joy. If you’ve been feeling anxious about your responsibilities or your future, this dream could be a hint that you need to allow yourself to be more playful and live in the moment.
Dreaming of a Dog on a Leash
Because they’re domesticated animals, dreaming about dogs can represent the loss of a person’s wild, uninhibited side. This may be particularly true if you dream about a dog on a leash or in a cage. Letting it loose could suggest that you’re feeling the need for more freedom and spontaneity.
On the other hand, if a dog in your dream is behaving badly and needs to be chained up, it could indicate that your emotions or urges are getting you in trouble. For instance, a dream dog barking too much might mean that you’re getting too territorial.
Dreaming of a Dog Guiding You Somewhere
With their famously strong noses, dogs in dreams may represent your ability to find your way or locate something lost. A dog in a dream leading you somewhere could mean that you need to trust your instincts. You might also want to pay attention to the place where the dog takes you — it could symbolize something that you’re unconsciously searching for.
Dogs in dreams may also offer guidance about who we should trust. How many times have you heard someone say, “My dog liked him, so I knew he was all right”? If you dream of a friendly dog after meeting someone new, it may suggest that your unconscious mind trusts them even if your waking self is still uncertain.
Dreaming About a Lost Dog
Searching for a dog in a dream might indicate a feeling of something missing in your life. The emotions you feel as you search for your pet may hint at what exactly is missing.
If you feel scared, the lost dog in your dreams might indicate a sense of insecurity. A sense of irritation while looking for your dream dog could mean you crave more fun and relaxation in your life. If your main emotion is sadness, the lost dog could represent your need for a friend.
Dreaming of a Dog Attacking You
Dreaming of an angry dog attacking you might suggest anxiety about a situation you perceived as safe. According to Jungian therapist and scholar Barbara Hannah, dogs have strong psychological and mythological links to ideas of both friendship and betrayal. A dog biting you in a dream could show that you feel hurt by someone you trusted or that you worry they will turn on you.
Dreams of dogs chasing you could mean you feel cornered or helpless in some way. If there’s something in your life that you feel you can’t get away from, your mind may symbolize it as a wild dog running after you.
Dreaming About a Sick Dog
Seeing an injured dog in a dream might evoke deep feelings of concern and protectiveness. This might indicate a need to show compassion toward a tender, vulnerable aspect of yourself. Dreaming about a dog’s death could suggest profound feelings of loss.
If the injured or sick dog is your pet, it more directly symbolizes your feelings of guilt. Perhaps part of you feels you haven’t been taking enough care of your dog (or your other important responsibilities).
Dreaming About a Scared or Worried Dog
Some dream interpreters believe that dogs can point out a dreamer’s illness since pets in real life often know when people are sick. If you dream that a dog is acting worried while pawing or nuzzling a specific part of your body, your unconscious mind may be concerned about your health.
If you’re concerned about your physical, emotional, or mental well-being, your dreams might suggest seeking consultation from a healthcare professional.
Dog Dreams in Various Cultures
Many cultures have myths about dogs or dog-headed gods protecting the gates to the spirit world. For example, the ancient Egyptians said that the jackal-headed god Anubis weighed the good and evil deeds of dead people to determine whether they were worthy to enter the afterlife. In Greek myths, the three-headed hound Cerberus protected the border between life and death.
If you’re familiar with these stories, dreaming of a guard dog might indicate that you’re concerned about your spiritual state. You may be “weighing” your own positive and negative qualities, wondering if you’re on the right path. A dream of a dog guarding an entrance could also suggest that you’re about to take an essential step in your personal spiritual journey — what scholar Joseph Campbell called the crossing of the threshold.
In some Celtic countries, the appearance of a huge, wolf-like black dog is considered an omen of bad luck. Your unconscious mind might use this frightening image to point out a danger you aren’t acknowledging.
A white dog dream could mean the opposite, representing purity, trust, and spiritual guidance. Central American folktales talk about a dog-shaped spirit called the Cadejo. While a black Cadejo can be evil and dangerous, a white one is said to protect travelers and lead them safely home.
Dog Breeds in Dreams
Different dog breeds might symbolize diverse things when they appear in dreams:
- Hounds and hunting dogs could mean you’re searching for something
- Shepherd dogs often symbolize protection
- Retrievers in dreams may suggest loyalty and friendship
- Huskies or other sled dogs might point toward a journey into the unknown
- Bulldogs or pit bulls could mean toughness, stubbornness, and determination
Better Understanding Your Dreams
Interpreting dreams can be difficult initially, but you can often improve your skills with practice.
The first step is typically to recall them with more clarity. One technique that can make a huge impact is keeping a dream journal next to your bed. Write down as much of the dream as you can recall as soon as you wake up. Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake in the evenings can also improve your recollection.
Some researchers have found that you’re more likely to have a meaningful dream if you “prime” your mind before sleep. As you’re lying in bed, spend a few minutes thinking about a question into which you’d like some insight. You may find that your dreams that night help you see the problem in a new light.
Finally, getting more restful sleep can help you go deeper into your dreams, not to mention leave you refreshed and clear-headed. Our BetterSleep app can be a valuable tool for getting the rest you need. It features relaxing exercises, soothing sounds, and guided meditations that work together to help improve your sleep quality and overall wellness.
For more information about the interpretation of animal dreams, you can explore our in-depth analysis of pet symbolism in dreams.
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