Dreaming of dogs? You’re not alone.
Dogs are the most commonly dreamt of animal, says Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a dream analyst at whatyourdreammeans.com (they’re followed by cats, snakes, horses and spiders, in case you’re curious).
Their starring role in our dreams is most likely thanks to the thousands of years dogs have spent living with, and helping, humans in real life.
“A cat is a great companion, but dogs work for us,” says Loewenberg. “They’ve been very beneficial to the human race.”
Dogs can help us hunt and find food, she says. They bark when strangers get too close, and even protect us from predatory people and animals. All of those centuries of canine companionship are why, for many people, dreams about dogs are actually dreams about a relationship in our waking lives.
How Dreams Work
When we sleep, our brains function differently than when we’re awake, says Loewenberg. Parts of the mind that are dormant during the day are now active. Other parts are, like our bodies, getting some rest.
“When we’re dreaming we’re thinking,” says Loewenberg. “But instead of thinking literally, we’re thinking symbolically.”
This means that the people, places and things we dream about are actually metaphors for other aspects of our lives, says Pam Muller, a dream expert and certified spiritual director at sweetgeorgiapam.com. While these metaphors are highly personal, there are universal themes to what each dream symbol might mean.
To try to decipher which relationship in your life your dog dream is referring to, you have to pay attention to the animal’s behavior and condition. Below are several common themes in dog dreams and what they might be trying to tell you.
“You’ll feel an inner ‘a-ha’ when you hit on something that’s significant for you,” says Muller. “Ultimately the dreamer is the one who gets to determine what their dreams mean.”
Dreaming About an Injured Dog
Dreaming about a sick or injured dog could indicate you’re concerned about a relationship in your waking life, says Loewenberg. For example, she recently worked with a client who dreamt of a dog with a missing leg.
“The nature of the dog was that it was dismembered,” says Loewenberg. “That told me this has to be about some relationship where she’s feeling disconnected.”
Sure enough, the client’s best friend was moving out of the country and she was worried the friendship would end.
The symbol of a dying dog is another common dream theme. This can be upsetting, especially if the dog is a beloved pet. These dreams don’t mean your dog is about to die, says Loewenberg (though you should bring your pet to the vet if you have concerns about their health in waking life or in your dreams), but it might represent a relationship in your life that is ending.
“Death in a dream isn’t about an actual death,” says Loewenberg. “Death in a dream helps us let go. It confirms something is over and it’s time to move on.”
Dismembered and dead dogs may sound like awfully graphic metaphors, but that’s how dreams work, she says.
“Dreams are brutally honest. They don’t sugarcoat anything,” says Loewenberg. “When a dream is upsetting, it’s connected to something in our life that’s upsetting. Dreams help you express emotions and deal with them.”
Dreams of a Running Dog
A dream about a running dog could mean a myriad of things. It’s important to consider the entire mental scene: Is the dog running toward you? Away from you? Do you feel threatened by the dog?
“Dreams are not random,” says Loewenberg. “Every detail matters.”
A dog running toward you in a non-threatening manner could represent a new relationship in your life, says Loewenberg. While a dog running away from you could symbolize a relationship where you feel distance. It could also be telling you there’s a relationship in your life that you need to get out of ASAP.
Because many of us recognize that animals operate on a more instinctual level than humans, chasing a dog in your dreams could symbolize an unconscious urge that wants to materialize in your waking mind but can’t, says Muller.
“In the dream, I’m using my human brain and all of my faculties, but they’re not sufficient to catch that dog who’s operating on a primary survival level,” says Muller.
Dreaming of an Angry Dog
If you dream of a dog chasing or threatening you, it likely represents a situation in your life that makes you feel victimized, angry or powerless, says Loewenberg.
Dogs are territorial and have a pack mentality, says Muller. Are your boundaries in waking life being tested? Are there any pack leader-like figures who make you feel nervous or threatened?
Dreaming of angry dogs could also represent a risk you’re afraid to take, or the feeling you’re wandering into unknown territory in some aspect of your waking life, she says.
Dreaming About Dogs You Know
Not only can dogs symbolize relationships and situations in our lives, they can also represent us.
“Everything in your dream is really symbolic of you or something about you,” says Loewenberg.
Dreaming of a current or past pet, or any familiar dog, may represent who you were when the dog was part of your life, says Loewenberg. For example, if you dream of a dog who ran away when you were a kid, leaving you feeling abandoned, it could represent the fact you’re feeling lonely in your current waking life.
One of the most common questions Muller gets asked as a dream interpreter is if dreaming of a pet who has passed is the animal’s way of saying hello.
Her answer: maybe.
“Dreams are personal,” says Muller. “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.”