What Do Dogs Symbolize in Dreams?

Updated on March 21, 2018
EsmeSanBona profile image

Esme is a published writer who writes extensively on the subject of dream interpretation from the standpoint of Jungian psychology.

What does that who ran into your dream mean?
What does that who ran into your dream mean? | Source

This article seeks to give the reader background into the dog's mythological history and provide insight into its common usage as a symbol. That being said, the reader should bear in mind that when it comes to interpreting the meaning of a dream about dogs, the final authority is one's self. No dream guide, not even this one, should ever substitute one's own intuition and wisdom.

What Do Canines Symbolize in Dreams?

While loyalty may be the first word that springs to mind when one contemplates the dog's attributes and symbolism, it does not encompass the entire meaning of the dog's dream symbolism nor does it encapsulate the dog's place in mythology.

Dogs in dreams do indeed symbolize loyalty, but they may also be symbols of:

  • Guardians

  • Guides

  • Fidelity

  • Death omens

Dogs as Guardians

The Chinese Fu Dogs whose statues often sit outside temples in China are perfect examples of dogs as guardians.

If the dream dog is one associated with comfort, and it appears calm and at peace, then the dream may indicate that the dreamer is enjoying similar feelings. He or she feels safe, satisfied. Perhaps, in the waking world, one feels particularly secure.

Dogs are not only mythological guards but are also trained by everyday people to guard homes and their owners. Some dogs are trained to guard by force, others guard by barking.

Check to see what the dog is doing in the dream. Is it barking? If so, the dog dream may be trying to call attention to something awry in the subconscious or it might be calling attention to an unsafe situation in the waking world.

Temple Fu Dog
Temple Fu Dog | Source

Dogs as Guides

In waking life, dogs are often used as assistance animals. In dreams, the dogs that help guide in waking life can become entities that help one navigate the territory of that which is hidden in the subconscious.

Just like dogs who can alert one to seizures or sniff out tumors in the waking world, dream dogs can help one to see what is hidden in the realm of the unconscious.

That which is hidden can be surprisingly pleasant such as unused gifts or talents. Alternatively, dream dogs can help point out the unpleasant aspects of the personality, or the subconscious ways in which the dreamer is engaging in self-sabotage.

Guide dogs in training— taking a breather.
Guide dogs in training— taking a breather. | Source

Dogs as Fidelity Symbols

As previously stated, faithfulness and dogs go hand in hand. When dreaming of dogs check to see if the dog has a companion.

If so, and if the dog is healthy, that person can be symbolic of someone the dreamer has abject faith and trust in. Make sure that trust is well-founded.

If the dream dog is injured in some manner, this can indicate betrayal, a breach of trust, or a damaged relationship with the dog's companion.

If the injured dream dog has no companion, the dreamer should check to see if he or she is betraying his or herself, or is engaged in self-sabotage.

Black Dogs in Dreams: A Symbol of Death and Change

Dogs not only inhabit a place in the heavens, as in the cases of Orion's Sirius, and the constellations of Canis Major and Canis Minor, they are also figures of the underworld as the fearsome three-headed Cerberus who guards Hades's entrance and the Cŵn Annwn. The dogs of the Celtic Otherworld, Annwn, will attest.

Since the dog is associated with the underworld, and since the color black is often used to symbolize grief and death, it may only be natural for the coupling of black and dogs to end up as harbingers of death.

This is in fact the case in both Irish and British folklore. Variously called the "Churchyard Beast," "Padfoot," and "Cu Sith" amongst other names, "The Black Dog" is an entity whose encounter means that death is on the way.

Usually, tales of encounters involving this entity occur during waking life, happening in much the same way that reports of ghostly encounters are reported. The experience is usually of an eerie nature with the dog reportedly being of a monstrous size with glowing red eyes.

When black dogs show up in dreams, however, the interpretation is likely to be highly symbolic as symbols are the language dreams speak.

To interpret a black dog in a dream one needs to break the symbol down into two parts--first there is the symbolism of the dog itself to deal with as well as the symbolism of the color black.

Dogs most readily symbolize loyalty and black most commonly symbolizes mourning or depression. Dreaming about a black dog, therefore, might symbolize a disloyal friend, mourning over the betrayal, or mourning over a lost or unfaithful lover. One might even do well to consider it a warning that the possibility for a depressing betrayal is present.

Even if it is heralding death, that death is most likely itself symbolic.

Death symbolizes radical change, the leaving behind of that with which one is comfortable and familiar in favor of the complete unknown--black can stand in symbolically as a symbol of the void one might interpret as being the unknown.

Change and transition often involve loss. If, for instance, one is moving to a new location in favor of pursuing a career or relationship, the loss of friends that will result from the change might be interpreted as a black dog.

What is encouraging, as dour as dreams of death may sound, is that as much as it is relegated to a spot in the back of the mind, death is actually a natural occurrence. Therefore in dreams, this can indicate that the transition that one might experience will be a more natural state of change, rather than an out-of-the-blue jolt.

The Black Dog Legend
The Black Dog Legend | Source

Mythological Canines

Since dogs, like cats, have a rich mythological heritage, they are also symbols with deep roots in the collective unconscious psyche. When dogs appear in dreams the message they symbolically carry can have deep meaning for the dreamer.

Each of these mythological dogs is an embodiment of archetypal imprints left on the psyche through the collective unconscious. Unraveling the meaning of that blueprint will yield information valuable to uncovering the meaning of a dream involving dogs.

Some important mythological canines include:

  • Sirius: The hunter, Orion's, faithful. Sirius is so important in Greek mythology that he has his own constellation
  • Anubis: Egyptian mythology's god of the Underworld, who is pictured with a jackal's head.
  • Fu Dogs: China's part dragon, part lion guardian dogs whose statues are often found guarding temples.
  • The "Black Dog:" Known as "Black Angus," according to Irish and British folk tales, this dog visits one just before death.

The Constellation Canis Major - Orion's Dog Sirius
The Constellation Canis Major - Orion's Dog Sirius | Source

Trust Your Own Dream Interpretations

In dreams, dogs mean far more than just loyalty. However, dogs still retain characteristics they have in waking life.

To discern what a dog means in a dream requires one to be completely honest with one's self and always use one's own personal associations rather than blindly adhering to what is written in a dream encyclopedia.

Always use articles such as this one as a starting, rather than an ending point.

I Love My Dog! My very own beautiful, beautiful boy, Oisin the Wonder Dog
I Love My Dog! My very own beautiful, beautiful boy, Oisin the Wonder Dog | Source

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    • profile image

      SmokkaQveen 

      11 days ago

      A few nights ago I had a dream about a black wolf and from what I remember it was chasing me but I wasn’t exactly afraid. Last night I had a dream that a black dog roughly the size of a German Shepherd with a brown spot on its chest was just staring at me from the end of my lot as I was looking through the window. There was no fear, it wasn’t barking, just staring. I’m afraid what that means when all I keep reading is mostly about death. Can anyone help me out please?

    • profile image

      Cristy 

      6 weeks ago

      I recently woke out my sleep and a dream of a black dog with wings. He look hurt and sad. The dog was just sitting there. Harmless and depress.

    • profile image

      Rose Marie 

      7 weeks ago

      I had a dream of a being that had the body of a praying mantis & a dog head. & it bit me. It was holding my hand biting me but it did not bite hard. I of course was screaming! I was screaming for a friend to help me & he took off. Than I said to myself my ex boy friend would’ve killed it for me.

    • profile image

      Liana 

      2 months ago

      I was dreaming with 3 dogs and they were trying to get in trough the window crazy and freaky

    • profile image

      Hermione granger 

      2 months ago

      WOW!!!!! I had no idea thats why that happens!!!

    • profile image

      Mackenzie Casey 

      4 months ago

      I dreamt of a black wolf creeping up behind me. I heard it's soft foot on the earth and turned around quickly, only to see it had been trying to sneak up on me to make me it's lunch. It was swiveling it's head and inching closer sniffing the air around me. It didn't look everly menacing...just as if it wanted to test out how close it could come. The next day I got layed off from work, and the morning after found out the first love of my life had died with unexplainable causes.

    • profile image

      Diane69 

      8 months ago

      I used to dream of a pack of black dogs, as soon as I looked and saw they are running towards me, I would run as fast as I can, but they catch up every time, then I would awaken, heart pounding, gasping, scared....

    • profile image

      Michelle 

      2 years ago

      I just had a dream that a large black dog came into my room while i was sleeping. I was with my two siblings and daughter, (for some reason) and they could see the dog also. We all reacted fearfully, but the dog didn't seem evil, however it did seem god like or spiritual. It just stood over me and stopped me from moving. I'm not sure if protecting me, or just to keep me still.

      I rarely dream. And this one was vivid.

    • profile image

      London 

      2 years ago

      I was going out of a church/church area and looking for my parents. I went around the corner and suddenly I was on the edge of the building (the church area was up high inside a building). The building seemed to be floating above the clouds, and it was so bright. Anyway, I saw my parents but then I knelt down and a large black dog came and bit into my right shoulder. It had a strong grip on me but it didn't seem to want to HURT me. Still, I was scared. I moved my left foot and it slid off the edge. Nearly dangling, I held onto the dog's head as my parents were in the distance yelling for me to let go of him/get him away. I'm afraid of large dogs and heights, and I knew I would fall and die if I let go of the dog. I woke up right afterwards.

      Does this bring about any thoughts for anybody?

    • profile image

      Tyler 

      3 years ago

      Ok, I had a dream...

      In my dream me and my gf where sleeping, in our old house; we heard noise from the other room over, scary noise's like someone breaking and making hole's in the walls... Also voices of someone talking to him self in our old house., next room over sounded like someone with a hammer breaking walls and talking -

      - I assume probably a GHOST because, I always lock my house and no one could off gotten in/ anyway thinking it was a ghost, I send my black medium-size guard dog to go check and possibly scare the bad spirit away. I figure if it's a really bad spirit the dog would cry or bark none stop a lot or sound in pain, I listen and nothing... The dog was quiet he didn't make a sound and the noise's and voices had stopped SO "everything" was back to normal so I return to bed.

      In the morning my dog Rex at the moment "I don't have a dog but I my dream I did, his name was Rex". I found Rex frozen In that room, all the noise came from- the night before, he was motion less alive but very very scared., he seemed like he was dieing Very scared wouldn't move, Frozen looking at one corner in the hole room...

      That was my dream can anyone help?

    • profile image

      val 

      3 years ago

      Just had a dream bigger black dog biting smaller black dog on the head. I called the aggressive dog's name and for a second he stopped and continued biting the other dog. There was a white towel over the dog month. I don't remember his name.

    • profile image

      Ashin 

      3 years ago

      I had a dream just a few minutes ago..

      There were two dogs one was white in colour which

      was the good dog and it was just standing in the

      corner and one very wild and black and was

      medium in size with a long mouth, upward ears and

      hairy like terrier. It had shiny round eyes and was

      very wild and was trying to bite me and my long

      tied hair every second and it did succeed in biting

      some of my parts of my left hand which was

      painful. After sometime I caught the dog from its

      mouth with a lot of difficulty and poked it's eye wih

      my own finger one by one (At moments I felt pity

      for the dog and thought I shouldn't have done it

      because I'm a dog lover but there was something

      inside me which couldn't stop me). After sometime

      I stabbed the dog with a knife and before I threw it

      I took out it's skin as well. I realized it became

      smaller in size after it died.

      I found out through google that black monstrous

      dogs symbolises death. I'm worried.

    • profile image

      Marzia 

      4 years ago

      In my dreams their was a black dog with red eyes the dog look at me and turn away

    • profile image

      Christina 

      4 years ago

      I keep having dreams that on an aggressive dog barking growling than I bite who ever is coming at me

    • EsmeSanBona profile imageAUTHOR

      EsmeSanBona 

      5 years ago from Macon

      So do you see the black dog as primarily a positive or negative dream symbol?

      Thanks for the comments and up vote!

    • Man from Modesto profile image

      Man from Modesto 

      5 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

      Wow. I voted this up and gave it some props. This is really comprehensive. I have also been interpreting dreams for almost two decades. I have a blog post on black dogs here:

      http://dreamtraining.blogspot.com/2009/07/black-do...

      For me, I find that a black dog (as opposed to some other dog) is the loyal servant of a dark force, a manifestation of its protective and destructive powers.

    • T. Pisa profile image

      T. Pisa 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting! Thank you!

    • profile image

      Reb 

      6 years ago

      I recently dreamed of being in a house and a black dog, large and skinny, shiny hoovered outside the window. I eran out to chase it and found others and forced them back into the night. my bulldog ran out from behind me in the darkness and I called to her and told her she was safe. what does that mean? I felt the black dogs were evil somehow.

    • profile image

      francine 

      6 years ago

      i had the most horriblest dream ever, it was a flashback from a video i watched. it was a dog killing scene and the dog was wimpering so much and then the boy grabbed a flower vase and hit the dog with it until it was dead.what does that mean when i remember stuff i did or watched back then?

    • john2000 profile image

      john2000 

      6 years ago

      Great Hub about Dogs. I love my Dog (Bambi). I also wrote about Dogs in my hub.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      As I'm an avid dog lover I found this hub particularly compelling. I often dream about dogs and in particular my dogs that have passed on coming to visit. These are very beautiful dreams but at times a little sad that they end on waking.

      Really interesting hub, loved it!

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