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August 19, 2022 — 9:00 AM
Furry friends have a way of sneaking into a lot of people’s dreams. If you keep dreaming about dogs, in particular, here’s what it can mean, according to dream experts.
Before we dive into dreams about dogs, let’s take a moment for a refresher on general dream interpretation. While of course, there are some people who think dreams are nothing but memory consolidation and the brain flushing waste, there are others who believe dreams carry messages from the subconscious mind.
As psychologist and dream expert Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., previously told mbg, “Dream interpretation is about decoding the dream. It enlightens us and expands our awareness psychologically, [offering an] expansion of consciousness.”
And that decoding, he explains, is all about feeling into the emotions the dream brought up for you. Stressful dreams, for example, are often a manifestation of stress we’re experiencing in our real, waking lives. So, when you can figure out the emotion the dream evoked in you, and think about what was happening in the dream as well as what’s going on in your life, you can get a clearer picture of its potential message.
As aforementioned, dreaming about dogs is incredibly common. In fact, according to professional dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg, dogs are the most common animal people dream about in her experience with clients (followed by cats and snakes).
She tells mbg that dreaming of dogs often relates to three key themes: relationships, friendship, and loyalty. “Dogs are typically going to represent a relationship, or the dynamics that are going on within a relationship,” she explains, adding, “And that could be any relationship—friendship, an intimate relationship, work relationship, family relationship—any relationship where there should be loyalty and companionship, all these qualities that we attribute to dogs.”
Loewenberg, as well as therapist and dream expert Leslie Ellis, Ph.D., both note that when interpreting your dog dreams, it’s important to pay attention to the specifics of the dog.
As Ellis explains, “If I dream of a dog because I love them and have always had a dog in my life, my dream dogs would likely be related to love, friendship and loyalty. If someone is terrified of dogs, their dream dogs would have an entirely different flavor.” Try to remember if the dog was friendly or mean, healthy or scruffy, etc., she suggests.
“It’s very important to pay attention to not only the type of dog, but the dog’s behavior in the dream,” Loewenberg adds. “The state of the dog in the dream and how you’re feeling about the dog will often directly correlate to those same feelings within a relationship in your life right now,” she explains.
What it could mean if a dog appears in your dream.
1. It’s time to analyze a romantic relationship.
Set yourself up for success with a good night’s sleep.*
Knowing that dogs often represent a relationship, or certain relationship dynamics, Loewenberg says you’ll want to pay attention to the dog’s breed, behavior, and how it made you feel.
German Shepherds, for example, are known to be protective animals. “They may show up in your dream when you need to be guarded about a relationship, or perhaps when you need to police your behavior,” she explains. Or, maybe the dog is a breed you find particularly annoying, which could indicate annoyance or frustration within a relationship you’re in, she adds.
Think about what qualities the dog breed is most associated with, and how those qualities may be showing up in your romantic relationship (whether by you or the other person in question).
2. It’s time to analyze a friendship.
Dogs in dreams can represent more than just romantic relationships, and could also be cluing you into a friendship, a work relationship, or a family dynamic.
An aggressive dog that’s barking at you, chasing you, or attacking you, for example, could indicate that you’re feeling attacked by a friend in real life. If you’ve always been afraid of Rottweilers and you keep dreaming about them, ask yourself what relationship in your life right now is causing you to feel threatened.
Or perhaps the dog in your dream is really friendly, offering you companionship and support. This would be a good sign that there’s a positive and supportive friend in your life.
3. You should consider where your loyalties lie.
Loyalty is what made dogs man’s best friend, so if you’re dreaming about them, it’s possible themes of loyalty are coming up in your life—for better or worse. As Loewenberg explains, a dog that’s been harmed can represent betrayal of loyalty. A dog coming to your rescue, on the other hand, would be representative of a loyal person.
If the dog is sick or dying or wounded, she adds, it can also mean a relationship is on its way out, potentially because of disloyalty. “Then you need to ask yourself, is this relationship worth saving? Or do I need to bury it and move on from it?” she says.
4. You should reflect on discipline.
Along with being loyal, dogs are also highly trainable and can represent discipline when they appear to you in dreams. As Loewenberg explains, “They can represent your discipline and training yourself in some way. In what way are you training? In what way are you trying to be more obedient and disciplined?” she explains.
5. There’s a message you need to learn about yourself.
And lastly, according to Ellis, if you feel the dog’s message is more about you than someone else in your life, that’s entirely possible too. She explains that you’ll, again, want to pay attention to the qualities of the dog in the dream.
“For example, if this dog was particularly protective and great at setting boundaries, maybe this quality is needed or lacking for you—or is too strongly present,” she says, adding, “If it’s an unknown dog, it may be interesting to get to know it a little bit…to approach it in an imaginal sense and see if and how it might want to interact with you.”
If dreams truly are messages from the subconscious, the next step after interpreting the message is to act on it. And in the case of dreaming of dogs, it may require you to look at your relationships (or yourself) a little more closely.
As Ellis tells mbg, “My suggestion, if someone frequently dreams about a dog, is to get to know the dog and discover what it might be asking of the dreamer or trying to tell them.” She adds that she does resist generic interpretations of dream images, however, “you can consider what dog-like qualities might be important to you.”
And as Loewenberg adds, if the dog in the dream was being unreliable or disloyal, for example, ask yourself how you can make a particularly unreliable relationship better—even if that means walking away.
Overall, she suggests, “See if you can figure out what’s going on with the dog, and how the dream is giving you a different perspective on a relationship in your life right now.” Both she and Ellis are proponents of dream journaling, as well, which can help you get your thoughts down on paper and reflect on the dream going forward.
If you’ve been consistently dreaming about the same dog, there’s likely a message there for you about a particular relationship. Whether the dog was the friendliest dog you’ve ever met—or the meanest—those same qualities may just be showing up in your waking life too.