Because dogs can’t verbalize their experiences to us, we have no way of knowing exactly what they dream about. (Though we’re pretty sure they do dream.) It stands to reason, then, that they could be dreaming about us, their loving humans. Aw, how sweet. But what does it mean if we’re dreaming about them?
Autumn Fourkiller, Indigenous mystic and writer behind the Dream Interpretation for Dummies newsletter, says dreams about dogs are particularly tricky to decipher. “For me, it’s super hard to present a general take on dog dreams, as they’re ubiquitous, which makes the interpretations of them very personal,” she says. “However, I will say the archetype of the dog brings forth an image of fidelity, loyalty, protection, and, sometimes, a little bit of having lost your edge or wild side.”
As you might imagine, the meaning behind such a dream can vary widely depending on whether or not you have a dog. Says Fourkiller, “Like most dreams, if you are near the image, the interpretation tilts a bit. If you have a dog, if you are close with a dog, if you love dogs, dreaming of them might be a fun little way of your subconscious being like, ‘Here’s a treat!’”
These treats can also continue well beyond your dog’s lifetime. “I once interpreted a dream for a woman whose father kept having recurring dreams of his beloved childhood dog, a silky red spaniel,” Fourkiller recalls. “Together they played. The man was young again. And though the traumas he experienced were still there, he had a deeply warm feeling to carry through life with him. What a gift!”
If not just a treat for your subconscious, the dream might spring from an overwhelming sense of loyalty you’re experiencing. “Dog dreams could arise when you’re feeling very protective of your ‘territory’ or someone close to you,” Fourkiller says, “when you’re in a relationship that you feel a huge amount of loyalty toward (even if it might not be the best for you), and if (and this one is a little ~out there~) one of your guides has taken the form of a dog and has a message to impart,” Fourkiller says.
The dream could also potentially serve as a warning. “Dogs often know if you’re sick,” Fourkiller cautions. “If a dog is nosing at your chest in a dream and whining, I’m not saying go to the doctor, but monitor your health.”
Below, experts interpret different dreams about dogs.
If you dream about an injured dog …
Because dogs live so closely with humans, most interpreters believe they, more than other animals, can act as our stand-ins in dreams. “In your own dream you will probably know if a dog is just a dog, or is a part of yourself,” Ray Douglas writes in Decoding Your Dreams. “Interpretation is bound to be a personal matter.”
An injured dog might mean you are worried about your health, or a close relationship in your life. But if the injured dog is your dog, according to holistic life coach Fran Kramer, it might be an indication of worry about the dog, or a warning that you need to take better care of it. “For example, if I dream my dog is lying by the road with a broken leg,” Kramer writes, “I need to ask if I am giving it too much freedom to roam freely on the streets or be endangered by on-coming vehicles.”
If you dream about a dog barking …
According to J.M. DeBord in his book The Dream Interpretation Dictionary, a barking dog could symbolize the fact that you need to go easier on the people in your life, and be less demanding of them. Alternatively, it could mean you feel like someone should be less demanding of you. “You can tell the difference by how you feel and respond to the dog barking,” writes DeBord.
If you dream about a dog running …
Again, it’s important to note how you feel about the running dog. “If you dream of a dog chasing or threatening you,” Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a dream analyst at whatyourdreammeans.com, told Paw Culture, “it likely represents a situation in your life that makes you feel victimized, angry or powerless.”
If you can’t catch the running dog, it could mean there is something in your life you want but can’t get. If the dog is running toward you in a way that feels nonthreatening, it could represent a new relationship. Similarly, a dog running away from you could represent a relationship that you feel has become distant, or one you feel like you should remove yourself from.
If you dream about being bitten by a dog …
A dog bite can mean different things, depending on where on your body the bite happens, according to DeBord in The Dream Interpretation Dictionary. A bite on the leg might indicate a lack of balance; a bite on the wrist might mean your loyalty to someone or something is holding you back. A gentle bite might be symbolic of a guiding force, and a bite on the hand could take on the meaning of the phrase “bite the hand that feeds you” — that someone you’re close with, or helping, might be doing something to harm you.
Fourkiller says she agrees with DeBoard in that she is also “inclined to think the dog here represents someone close to you, someone you are loyal to, emotionally ‘biting you.’” That said, she adds, the dream could also potentially represent “something that has already occurred that you need to sort through.”
If you dream about a dog who has died …
You might be wondering if dreaming about a dog who has died means they’re attempting to visit you in your sleep. I understand. “Dreams are personal,” Loewenberg told Paw Culture. “It could be a visitation of a beloved pet letting you know they’re still around and watching over you. It could also be your mind’s way of getting closure or trying to remain connected to that animal.”
Fourkiller adds, “This could totally be your dog visiting you, or a way to process that grief and bring about closure, but it could also be the death of a friendship or relationship. Dogs are cute and cuddly and are great at comforting us in the face of upheaval.”
If you dream about a dog leading you somewhere …
Fourkiller says this dream could be an exciting signal from your subconscious. “If you dream about a dog leading you somewhere, like into the woods or on a journey, there is something about yourself and about your life you are yet to discover!”
The takeaway: Still unsure what your particular dream about a dog was about? Fourkiller suggests self reflection. “Do you have a dog? Did you have dogs in your childhood? Do you carry some kind of emotional or physical wound that involves dogs? How do you feel in the dream? Does it ever shift to a nightmare? All these questions could be helpful!”
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