Dog owners may know this situation all too well. You’re in bed, asleep and dreaming. In your dream a dog – perhaps your own – comes up to you, wagging his tail and then he bites you.
Other times you may dream of being chased by a ferocious dog, snarling and baring his sharp teeth at you.
Or perhaps it’s sometimes a lot more pleasant, like a dream where you’re rolling in green summery fields, rolling about with lots of adorable, squirming fur-babies, laughing as you play with the cute pups.
These dreams can leave you baffled. Luckily, our sister site TeamDogs has dug into the realm of dreams to interpret what these dreams could mean.
Oneiromancy, the science of interpreting dreams, has a distinguished pedigree. The ancient Sumerians had dream diviners as far back as 3100 BC, and the ancient Greeks and Romans built sanctuaries within temples especially for people seeking the meaning of their dreams. Visitors were given a sleep-inducing drink and priests were on hand to interpret as soon as their patients awoke.
Over the years a canon of interpretation was established, based on thousands of first-hand accounts of dreams and their consequences. Several practitioners collated these meanings into books, such as The Interpretation of Dreams by Artemidorus, a professional dream diviner of the 2nd century AD. According to Artemidorus, dreams featuring hunting dogs represent your deeds, while household dogs relate to relationships and the family. And if you dream of cute fluffy dogs, it symbolises a need for playfulness and joy.
Modern dream interpretations have built upon these ancient sources. It’s recognised that dreams often contain what psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud termed ‘the day’s residues’ – a jumble of unconnected flashbacks to things that happened to us throughout the day, that are a way of clearing our minds as we sleep – and if you own a dog, it’s very likely you’ll dream about them, too.
Dreaming about dogs
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Researchers from Heidelberg University in Germany have discovered that people who own dogs tend to have more positive doggy-related dreams than those who do not own dogs or who have had a bad experience with dogs.
In 2020, the Heidelberg professors surveyed 1,695 people about dogs appearing in their dreams. Those who owned dogs reported that the animals appeared frequently in their dreams, with the highest percentage of doggy dreams coming from people who allowed their pets to share their beds.
Around 25% of participants said that they had negative dreams involving dogs. The most frequent dreams were being bitten by a dog, being chased by a dog, or being startled by a dog barking. Dog owners also reported dreams in which their DD was bitten by another animal. Children and young people were the most likely to remember dreams about dogs acting in a threatening way.
According to the research, dogs show up on average in 5% of remembered dreams. This rises to 19% amongst dog owners – which is comparable to the appearance of a romantic partner in a dream! It seems that, in dream land, we value our canine companions just as much as our significant others.
Keep a dream diary
If you find yourself remembering many of your dreams, or if they’ve been especially vivid, it could be worthwhile keeping track of them to see if your subconscious is trying to tell you something. As soon as you wake up, jot down what you can recall of your dreams. A pattern will soon emerge, and over time you’ll be able to interpret their meanings.
What it means when you dream about…
An injured dog
Dogs, especially our own pets, will often stand-in for ourselves or some aspect of ourselves. Dreaming about an injured or sick dog, therefore, suggests that we should check our own health – are you working too hard or stressed by something? Maybe you need some time to relax and unwind.
A dog barking
A barking dog is all about the noise. Someone is making demands on you, so think about how you react in your dream. Were you surprised, annoyed, upset? If the dog is continually barking, it’s your subconscious nagging you to deal with something in your waking life. Give your attention to the person or situation that’s irritating you, and your dream dog will soon quieten down.
A dog running
It’s important to note if the dog is running after something – you, perhaps? – or if the dog is running away. If you dream of a dog chasing you, in real life you could be feeling overwhelmed by a situation – you feel helpless and out of control. But if you dream of running after a dog and you just can’t catch it, the dream can symbolise that you’re reaching for something you want but can’t get. It could be time to let things go.
A dog swimming
Where is the dog swimming? Water represents emotion, so if the dog is swimming in the sea you’re likely to be feeling conflicted, whereas if the dog is paddling about in a pond, you’re feeling content and playful. Look for clues to your hidden emotions in how the dog is reacting to the water – is he happy, splashing around, or is he struggling, barely able to keep his head above the surface?
A dog biting, or being bitten
The meaning of this dream depends on where the dog bites and how you feel about the attack. If you’re bitten on the leg, you’re feeling off-balance. A bite to your hand means that someone you trust has turned against you. But what if it’s the dog in your dream that’s being bitten? A common dream scenario is for a wild animal such as a snake to strike at a dog. This also represents disloyalty, the equivalent of a stab in the back from someone you trusted.
A dog in a cage
Are you feeling trapped? Someone has betrayed you or let you down, and you feel alone. The dog in your dream may fight to escape, or it may accept its imprisonment. The dog may be in a cage for a purpose – it could represent an unruly emotion that you’re wary of letting loose. Examine your feelings in the dream to learn how you should react to the situation.
Dreaming of babies of any kind symbolises new beginnings. Maybe you’ve met somebody new, or you’re about to start a new job. Seeing a puppy in your dreams means you’re eager to learn more and get ahead. It can also mean you’re feeling protective or nurturing – if the puppy appears with someone you know, you may have those cute feelings towards them. Or you’re just feeling comfortable and playful.
A dog hunting or digging
If you see a Labrador, Retriever, Spaniel, Jack Russell or Terrier in your dreams, you’re searching for something and haven’t quite found it yet. Make a note of where the dog goes and how it behaves – is it confused, going around in circles, or does it go straight to what it wants? Is it digging quickly or slowly? Has it vanished down a rabbit hole and won’t come out, or does it trot back to you with a bunny in its mouth? How the dog reacts to the situation it’s in will guide your decisions in waking life.
A dog tracking or sniffing
Similar to the above, when dogs that rely on scent to hunt, such as Beagles, Bassets and Bloodhounds, appear in your dream, they’re trying to help you solve a problem. Again, examine what the dog does and try to apply its actions to your real life situation. You’re sure to sniff out the answer to anything that’s troubling you.
Dreaming about a dog that’s been bred to protect people and property, such as Alsatians, Dobermans, Border Collies or Sheep Dogs, is often a warning to be on your guard. Note what the dog is protecting – it might be yourself or another person – and ask yourself why it’s looking out for you. Are you feeling under threat in real life? Sometimes it’s helpful to borrow the characteristics of the animals in our dreams in waking life, so next time someone starts haranguing you, be brave like your dream dog and growl back!