Animal Dreams: The Wolves and the Gift

by Ryan Hurd, MA,  Contributor to Dream Medicine on

For years, I was tormented by dreams of being chased by wolves and packs of angry dogs. Usually I would wake up from fright, but sometimes not before one of them sunk their teeth into me or scratched at my hands and face.

In waking life, I’m a dog lover who raised and trained several dogs. In particular, I helped raise a beautiful Alaskan Malamute/German Shepard mix named Bandit who was also a quarter wolf. He lived only 7 years due to a faulty heart. So my nightmares do not come from a fear of unknowing, but rather a legacy of love, which always confused me further. What am I so scared of?

When discussing animal dreams, often we are tempted to focus on the traits and characteristics of the animals, reducing our relationship to a symbol or metaphor. This is valid, especially when we look at the evolutionary significance of “wild” animals and our collective relationship to them throughout the eons. Clearly, packs of wolves were once a threat to humans, especially lone people or children out in the open. Wolves are cunning, able to organize hunting parties, follow tracks and wait for the right opportunity. Yet, more often than not, wolves and humans lives peacefully in the same land-base, except when they successfully taxed our livelihood, such as in sheep-herding or ranching cultures.

Wolves make a good mirror. They are highly social, with a similar pecking order to human groups, with well-established alphas, betas and zetas. Wolves are loyal, intelligent and capable of great feats of endurance. They howl when excited, preen and groom one another, and alpha pairs can form lasting pair-bonds to raise pups.

But the wolves in my dreams are more than symbols of my cunning or my aggressiveness. As depth psychologist James Hillman says in a 1994 interview with Jonathan White about animal symbols in dreams, “Animals come into our own dreams as guides, helpers, and saviors… they teach us about something, but they are not a part of us. The bear dream that one man had corresponds to his own earthy, shaggy nature, and therefore he can feel an affinity. But that bear is not his own shaggy nature. That reduces the bear to just a piece of himself and insults the bear – it interprets the bear away.”

The Dream Provides the Solution

A few years ago, I told an elderly German psychotherapist about my wolf dreams and my inability to proceed when the animals attack, despite often becoming lucid in the dream. Should I fight them off? Allow myself to be devoured as some sort of initiation rite? As with many lucid dreams, my self-awareness seemed to bungle the dream rather than provide clarity.

She suggested something else. “Reach into your pocket and pull out a gift for them.” I was struck by the simplicity of this action. I asked how would I know what to give them and she answered, “That is up to the dream, not you.”

A month or so later, the wolves came back. I was running through a clearing in the woods and climbed halfway up a tree when I became self-aware. I remembered the woman’s words. As the wolves snapped their teeth at me all around, I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out a cloth pouch. Inside, I found raw, red meat. I offered it up and the wolves hungrily ate from my hands. I could feel their teeth scrape against my flesh and soon they were licking my fingers. I looked around and saw they were now non-aggressive and awaiting my direction. I thought, “Go” and they instantly took off, running back to the forest.

I have not had terrifying wolf dreams since then. While I still do not know the full story of who these wolves are and how they are connected to me, I have forged a relationship that continues to grow.  On more than one occasion I have called the wolves in my dreams when I needed aid. They come running now, not to hunt, but to help.

This article originally appeared at the Dream Tribe, a group blog for exploring the healing power of dreams.

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Victoria Pitchford
Vicky P.4 years ago

very nice, that wolf picture is very pretty

Faith Purdy
Faith Purdy4 years ago

great story

Mary B.
Mary B.4 years ago

A pack of hungry predators tree the dreamer, she feeds them and they become her helpers.Very interesting story line.

Magdalena K.
Past Member 4 years ago


Mary L.
Mary L.4 years ago

Beautiful. Perhaps your next lucid dream you will talk to the and understand what they say.

Trudy C.
Trudy C.4 years ago

How comforting the foes are now helpers. Brilliant advisor! My friend, who loves dogs, used to have childhood dream about being menaced by IIRC a white dog. Pretty sure she'dnever been bitten. Will tell her about this gift idea! I'm the kinda person who'd still need to know what/why this dream.

Snezana Miletic
Snezana Miletic4 years ago

Very interesting, thanks

Silas Garrett
Silas Garrett4 years ago

Interesting ideas. I have recently had a wolf dream, though in my dream, I became a wolf. Quite different, but very interesting.

Dana A.
Dana A.4 years ago

the wolf is my totem animal I dream of them often..maybe this is true for you also...

Shell S.
Shelli S.4 years ago

The wolf in the photo, is absolutely beautiful! Great article about dreams, especially the gift of meat to the pack of wolves..Thanks for posting!