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With over 48.2 million dog-owning households in the U.S., it's no surprise that our furry companions sometimes come to visit us in our dreams. As humans' greatest companions, dogs, especially childhood pets, bring a sense of comfort.
Seeing a dog in a dream often represents your unconscious mind trying to tell you something important. Sometimes the animal may need to be more forceful to get your attention, but that doesn't mean the dog wants to harm you. It wants to give you a message, albeit with an aggressive delivery.
The interpretation of dreams is an art (not a science) that seeks to make meaning from the seeming randomness of the unconscious mind.
In his book "The Interpretation of Dreams," Sigmund Freud argued that the imagery and events in a dream symbolize the dreamer's unconscious desires. He asserted that dreams disguise latent desires that the dreamer may not want to express openly.
Freud also identified four elements of what he called "dream work," including:
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, on the other hand, argued that dreams aren't a method of disguising our desires but rather a way of communicating them.
Jung theorized that dreams "do not deceive, they do not lie, they do not distort or disguise…They are invariably seeking to express something that the ego does not know and does not understand." To Jung, a symbol is a tool that the subconscious mind uses to express an otherwise unknown concept.
From a scientific perspective, there may be something to Freud and Jung's theories. Recent studies point toward dreaming as a method of processing emotions and constructing memories. According to these studies, dreams strip away heightened emotions and consolidate them into memories to protect the mind against stress.
Whatever the reason behind why we dream, the link between experience, emotion, and memory is strong, and dream interpretation may be a way to make sense of what you see after you close your eyes.
The key to dream interpretation is detail. There are many possible meanings behind seeing a dog in your dreams, so try to remember as much as you can about your dream to add greater context.
Did you see the dog inside or outside? Was it at a distance away from you, or was it close by? Was it malnourished or healthy? Was it a house pet or wild animal? Try to remember as much as you can about the dog, including the environment surrounding you and the animal.
You should also consider smaller symbols within your dreams. Note any pictures on the walls, smaller creatures and animals, language, numbers, and colors. These seemingly minor details can piece together a more coherent meaning for you.
Lastly, we recommend writing down what you remember before attempting to interpret your dream. This practice helps prevent your biases from interfering with your memory.
There is no one easy answer for what dogs symbolize in your dreams. The "answer" depends on your personal beliefs, experiences, and the content of the dream. As with all dreams, your circumstances will give greater meaning.
Cultural practices regarding dogs widely differ around the world. Depending on how you and your community perceive and treat dogs, a dog in a dream can imbue very different meanings.
In some places, many people treat their dogs like members of the family. If you grew up with a furry friend, seeing your beloved pet in a dream can bring comfort.
Owning a dog isn't common in some cultures and regions. If you live somewhere where non-domesticated dogs roam free, you likely won't get the same warm feelings if you see an unknown dog in your dreams.
In the next section, we'll discuss some common beliefs about dogs from around the world. This background information will allow us to examine some common archetypes that live in the "collective unconsciousness" and form the basis of a dog's many symbolic meanings.
However, it is important to remember that these interpretations of various texts and traditional beliefs do not necessarily reflect the actual views and perceptions of the members of these religious and cultural groups today.
In Hindu culture, dreams about dogs can take on many different meanings. To some, dogs symbolize honesty, faith, and good servanthood.
To others, a dog in a dream could represent Lord Yamaraj, the lord of death. According to some Hindu traditions, seeing a black dog in a dream symbolizes death and change. But, death can also signify the end of a way of life, new beginnings, and personal growth.
In the Christian Bible, dogs guard flocks and protect homesteads. They're less domesticated pets and more worker animals.
To some Christians, the biblical meaning of dog in a dream is a sign of loyalty and protection. Some believe that if you dream of a dog, you're on the right path of good intentions.
According to some Islamic traditions, dreaming of a dog bite or angry dogs is a warning to look out for people who may be deceitful. At the same time, a happy dog is a sign of prosperity and living well.
Also, dreaming about turning into a dog can symbolize a gift from God that isn't being appreciated.
In the Chinese tradition, barking and angry dogs in dreams can denote money loss and impending misfortune. A dog dream serves as a warning to be wise with purchases and save some money if possible.
There are also many Buddhist temples in China guarded by statues of Foo Dogs. The Foo Dog represents a worker dog, guarding the home for his master.
While cultural practices and beliefs shape the way people interpret dreams, there are still many similarities in how people from around the world find meaning in dreams about dogs.
Depending on the context, dogs can either be fierce and loyal defenders or vicious predators. Your own emotions and experiences relating to dogs will also affect how they appear in your dreams.
To better understand why you're dreaming of dogs, let's look deeper into how they look and behave within the dreamscape.
Being chased in a dream is a prime example of Freud's "anxiety dreams," discussed in his Psycho-Analytic View of Psychogenic Disturbance of Vision.
While Freud believed that dreams represent unfulfilled desires, he also acknowledged that some dreams are more stressful than pleasurable. In that case, anxiety dreams represent a motivational conflict.
Dreaming of being chased by a dog could mean that you're running away from something in your life, like unresolved feelings or responsibilities.
Dog bites in dreams, especially your hands, may mean someone is fickle with your emotions and uncaring. A dog bite in a dream could also signify unkindness toward yourself. You may treat yourself too harshly.
If you dream of a dog biting your ankles, it can mean you're experiencing some confusion in life. Perhaps you have to make a big decision and can't choose between two options.
To regain balance again, consider sharing your unease with trusted loved ones to help you get clarity on the situation.
As with most situations in dream interpretation, context can help decode the meaning of a dog barking in your dream.
If the dog is generally happy and wagging its tail, it's a sign of a healthy social life and group acceptance. Dreaming of a cheerful barking dog could symbolize a joyous social gathering about to take place. Your social life is about to bloom, and there's lots of fun ahead. Use these social opportunities to network and make new contacts and friends.
On the flip side, if a barking dog is angry and fierce, it can reflect your desire to control every situation in life. Maybe you make too many demands of those close to you? It can serve as a warning to look at those around you.
Do you enjoy happy, healthy relationships with open communication? Or are there some people who you would be better off without? A barking dog could be warning you of trouble ahead.
Everybody loves puppies, but what does it mean when you start seeing them in your dreams? Those little bundles of cuteness represent new situations, new friendships, new beginnings.
Is there someone or something you feel protective over, or that requires your nurturing touch? Your dreams could be telling you to foster that feeling of protectiveness.
Dreaming of puppies can also be playful, reminding you to have fun and enjoy the simple things in life.
Most people will dream of a childhood pet who has passed on. These dreams usually occur during difficult phases in our lives, and your childhood friend is offering you some sympathy and encouragement.
However, dreaming of the death of an unfamiliar dog could signify the loss of something important to you, like a relationship or an aspiration. Consider if there may be any big changes coming up in your life. Job changes, moving, old relationships ending—these can all make you feel a sense of loss and anxiety, but they could also present an opportunity for personal growth.
This is a surprisingly common dream, and it could represent disloyalty in a friendship. Have you lost trust in a personal relationship? There may be lost trust between you, but that doesn't mean the relationship is unsalvageable. Sometimes forgiveness is enough to rebuild bridges and regain trust.
A lost dog dream denotes a lack of self-confidence and feeling emotionally drained. You may feel you can't protect yourself or stand up for what's right in your life. Take some time alone to rebuild your confidence and enjoy some joyful activities.
If you're the one sending a dog away, it means there could be an opportunity in the future where you could betray someone's trust and hurt them. This is a sign to stop and reflect on your actions.
Dogs symbolize companionship and loyalty. If you dream of killing a dog, it could signify you're in some sort of unstable and unhealthy relationship.
A friend in your life may be hiding their true feelings. Take it as a sign for you to open your eyes and watch out for those who don't have your best interest at heart.
Dreaming of a wild dog indicates that you may feel a longing to express yourself. You crave freedom and the ability to choose your own path.
However, if you're dreaming of a group of wild dogs, it could represent your primal urges for loyalty, companionship, protection, and belonging.
To dream about stepping in dog poop is a sign of losing control of a situation. You may feel you could have acted differently in a situation or changed the course of events somehow. A dream of dog poop is a sign to trust your instincts.
Humans associate different colors with different emotions, so the color of the dog who comes to visit you in your dreams could also be an important factor in uncovering its deeper meaning.
Dreaming of a friendly black dog indicates your growing self-confidence. You have gained inner peace and comfort with your choices. Your instincts are strong, and your intuition is guiding you in the right direction.
However, a black dog in a dream can also be a bad omen, sort of like the Grim in Harry Potter. To dream of an aggressive black dog can mean that you feel betrayed by someone close to you.
Brown dogs in dreams have positive connotations. They symbolize happiness and contentment in life. Your relationships are strong, and your path is wide open to exploring new relationships and strengthening existing bonds.
A white dog symbolizes love, respect, and gratitude. A white dog ushers in a time of peace in your life, perhaps after some turmoil, and assures you that you are protected.
To dream of a white dog indicates that you trust your friends to support and remain loyal to you and should serve as a reminder to show appreciation to the people you care about.
In general, humankind's attitudes toward dogs as man's best friend means that seeing a dog in your dreams symbolizes loyalty, trust, and unreserved love. They bring knowledge of the self and general awareness while bringing comfort, protection, and warnings.
As loyal protectors, dogs come to us in our dreams to guide us on our journeys in life. It's generally a reminder not to stray off your moral path. It can also mean you've been neglecting your talents and gifts.
So, next time, pay attention to the dog in your dream. It may want to tell you something.