What Do Dogs Symbolize in Dreams?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.