Reputedly “man’s best friend,” the domestic Dog comes in a stunning range of sizes, shapes, traits, and personalities, but all are descended from the wolf.
Today, dogs are used in a variety of ways: to sniff for bombs and drugs, to see for the blind, to guard, attack, hunt, and more, but the association of dogs and humans is ancient, going back perhaps fifteen thousand years. Dogs have certainly proven to be the helpful allies of humans.
Several cultures, however, despise dogs. Find out why, learn why dogs are often associated with healing, and see what wisdom Dog holds for us today, here:
Judaism and Islam do not hold the dog in much esteem. Both consider it an unclean scavenger, ritually taboo. In Islam, “dog” is a term of shame and dishonor for unbelievers. In Christian cultures, the dog represents faithfulness. Fido, a favorite pet name for dogs, means “I am faithful” in Latin.
Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine, had a dog for a companion; the Sumerian goddess Gula, who as a healer restored life to the dead, was depicted with a dog beside her throne. Like many animals, dogs will lick their wounds when they are hurt, and there is a widespread folk belief that a dog’s tongue (or saliva) has healing qualities. Dogs also attempt to heal themselves by eating certain grasses when they are sick and they have even been credited with an herbalist’s knowledge of just which grasses will do the job.
Given their instinct to guard, dogs have long been associated with guarding real thresholds. So it seems symbolically apt that one be placed at the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead. In Persian mythology, two four-eyed dogs guard the Chinvot Bridge between those worlds. In Hindu myth, the sun and moon dogs of Indra are guardians, and several Native American peoples incorporate similar notions in their mythologies. Another Greek goddess, Hecate, who had power over heaven, earth, and sea and presided over magic and spells, is associated with dogs; she is identified with the original hellhound, Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades. In Norse mythology, a dog, Garm, guards the entrance to Niflheim, the dark realm of the goddess Hel, and bars the entrance of any living soul. Anubis, the Egyptian god of the land of the dead, is pictured with the head of a dog.
Occupying a threshold between the world of the living and the dead, a faithful friend and guardian of Hades, the dog can symbolize a connection between consciousness and the unconscious. Dogs are extremely sensitive to how they are treated, so a person’s abuse of his or her body–a chronic refusal to listen to bodily feelings, symptoms of other form like the language of the body such as anxieties or energies–can take the dog-image into a negative form. The notion of a dog that “turns” on his master remains particularly potent and disturbing because it underscores how wrong attitude can have a devastating effect on one’s bodily life, something that one expects to be able to rely upon most deeply.
The appearance of a dog in a dream might suggest a need to listen with more attention to personal instincts rather than to take a rational, scientific approach to daily actions and attitudes. Since the dog is closely related to bodily knowledge, dreamers might consider how they need to more aware of the wisdom of their bodies and their physical symptoms and to engage the body’s healing potential, allowing imagination free rein.