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dog symbolism

Woof or Wolf? The Esoteric Meaning of Dog Symbolism

By Richard J Oldale,
January 16, 2021

Esoteric symbolism can be used as self-healing psychology. In this article, I am going to show you how by explaining the esoteric meaning of dog symbolism.

In exoteric accounts – information intended for “the masses” (them asses), you will read “the dog spirit totem” represents alertness, loyalty, companionship and protection. As pets, well-trained dogs are faithful followers that show loyalty to their owners.

Whilst this is partially true, there is a deeper, hidden meaning of dogs which enables you to enrich your quality of life. The esoteric meaning of dog symbolism relates to accepting and rejecting thoughts, ideas, information and knowledge.

Dog symbolism
Jedi Pug

Other symbolic meanings connected with dogs are trust, bravery and devotion. Dogs trust their instincts and show courage when protecting their owners. In ancient times, sheepdogs were used to ward off wolves, protect property and sent to attack invaders during wars.

Here we get closer to the esoteric meaning of dog symbolism. When you acquire new knowledge, you need to have the courage and devotion of acting upon it – even when you’re afraid. You must also remain loyal to your new way of life in order to liberate your mind from old habits and acquire wisdom.

Like a dog, your ego-mind also needs training in order for it to stay loyal to you. When you need to do something new, your ego will resist because it doesn’t have a program to deal with whatever you need to do. This is why you feel anxiety when you are challenged.

The only way to train your ego is to feed the subconscious with the wealth of knowledge in your unconscious.

“The subjective mind [subconscious] is always amenable to suggestion; it is controlled by suggestion. We must recognise that the subconscious mind accepts all suggestions; it does not argue with you, but it fulfils your wishes. All things that have happened to you are based on thoughts impressed on the subconscious mind through belief. The subconscious mind will accept your beliefs and your convictions.” ~ Dr. Joseph Murphy, The Power of the Subconscious Mind

In a nutshell, the subconscious stores all your memories and retrieves habitual thoughts which prompt habitual behaviours, beliefs and attitudes.

It is subconscious programs that prompt us to repeat the same cycles of behaviours and generate the same energies. As a result, we continue to experience the same disappoints, failures and feelings.

The only way to reprogram your subconscious mind is to acquire new knowledge and act upon it. That requires you to strengthen the conscious mind – the master mind – so that it has power over the subconscious.

You need to breed a dog that can learn new tricks.

The Subconscious – in a Nutshell

Whilst the conscious mind is in control of decision making – the ruler archetype – the subconscious mind typically drives your thoughts, emotions and actions.

Studies in neuroscience determined that around 95% of the decisions, actions and behaviours you perform throughout the day are driven by contents in the subconscious.

That means that your master mind – the ruler – is only in control 5% of the time!

dog symbolism
Only 5 percent..?

This is important because your thoughts, emotions and actions determine how you experience life.

If the information in your subconscious is low-quality, you will have low-quality experiences in life. The brain is a supercomputer. If a computer is programmed poorly, it doesn’t function well.

The same rule applies to your brain. If you are processing information that doesn’t help you get to where you want to be, you won’t get there. Oftentimes, it is limiting beliefs that create an obstacle to reaching your goal.

Your thoughts, emotions and behaviours are only as good as the information programmed in your subconscious. If you want to enrich your quality of life, you have to program the subconscious with a wealth of wisdom.

The esoteric meaning of dog symbolism is a reminder to protect your conscious mind from low-quality subconscious programs that influence your thoughts, emotions and actions.

To do that, you have to be alert to thoughts that habitually appear in the conscious mind. You need to know which thoughts are programs designed to help you survive and which thoughts are coming from your higher faculties to help you thrive.

It is knowledge from the higher faculties of consciousness that help you expand self-awareness and experience a richer quality of life. Other times, relevant information will reach out to you in a book, article, blog, conversation or experience.

Understanding the esoteric meaning of symbolism in ancient mythology is also a great way to acquire knowledge and wisdom.

The unconscious mind nudges you to see problems that you are not aware of. Dogs represent the faculty of your mind that enables you to sniff out problems, transform your action and obediently maintain new routines.

To enrich your life, you have to teach that old dog new tricks.

From a negative point of view, dogs also represent, getting over-excited, rushing into things unprepared and playing tricks with your mind. This is why dogs are sacred to Ares in Greek mythology.

Dog Symbolism in Ancient Mythology

In ancient mythology, dogs are typically depicted as guardians of the underworld. The underworld is the unconscious mind – where the wealth of wisdom is stored.

  • Note: the subconscious and the unconscious have different stores of memory. Briefly, the subconscious is a store of lived experiences that can be retrieved by conscious awareness, and the unconscious is where split-off fragments of consciousness are buried. I explain this in more detail in the Beginner’s Guide To Symbolism.

Dogs also appear as the companions of hunters, transformational characters that kill animals – your animal nature.

The esoteric meaning of dog symbolism, therefore, serves as a reminder to remain loyal and truthful to yourself. They represent your instincts, whether you accept or reject new knowledge and your ability to give and receive love.

symbolic meaning of dogs

Before you can truly feel love rather than feel what you perceive to be love, you must be able to love yourself. Love gives you motivation, courage and confidence.

By nature dogs are loving, caring animals. They are devoted to their master and innately recognise it is their duty to protect you and your home. Love, care and devotion to yourself also protect you and your body (your home/temple) from ill-health.

Dogs are known to possess healing power. True Story.

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and lived in good cheer and splendor every day. But there was a poor man named Lazarus, who was cast at his door, full of sores, and desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; yet even the dogs came, and licked his sores.” (Luke 16:19-21)

In the passage above, the poor man represents the subconscious that has poor-quality information. He hopes to be filled with wisdom from the rich man’s table – the unconscious mind. The dogs belonging to the rich man licks the wounds of the poor man.

The symbolic meaning of dogs prompts you to take care of yourself and to be gentle with those around you. Kindness will often get you a lot further than criticism – especially self-criticism.

Kindness is a healing quality. Criticism is destructive.

Dogs also represent the aspect of consciousness that identity perceived threats and reflect your intelligence and courage.

Ancient myths also reveal that dog symbolism can represent confusion about your loyalties, beliefs, and commitments. In other words, when you acquire new knowledge which conflicts with a subconscious program, you do not know what to do.

Being caught in two minds, or being afraid of doing something different to what you have always done requires courage. You need to trust your instincts.

It is the role of your subconscious to protect your emotional survival. Habitual thoughts predispose you to be dependent on something; an attachment that helps you get through the day. In the Four Noble Truths, Buddha taught that all suffering comes from attachment.

The habitual mind reminds you what you think you need to get you through the day. Oftentimes the attachment is not actually what you need. It is destructive; cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, coffee and other habitual behaviours.

It may also be the case that you give your energy away to other people rather than doing what you need to do for yourself.

Eventually, your loyalty to others will turn into frustration, resentment and anger. Frustration is the result of not getting what you want.

You may have someone in your life that has an unreasonable expectation for you to care for them. When you say no, they accuse you of being selfish or stroppy.

If you are giving yourself away too much, or continue to pursue behaviours that are destructive, you may dream about dogs or a dog may come into your life in an unusual way to show you this. If you own a dog, it may remind you to look after yourself as well as others.

The synchronicity of significant dog incidents may be a call for you to become self-aware of attachments that prompt destructive behaviour. The attachment may be a belief, an attitude or personality trait that is the reason behind low-quality experiences.

Let’s take a look at some of the esoteric meaning of dog symbolism cited in ancient mythologies. Myths help to paint a bigger picture and help you understand more about the subconscious and the collective unconscious. The images conjured by stories also aid memory recall and make it easier for you to reflect.

Symbolic Meaning of Dogs in Ancient Egypt

Dogs were so revered in ancient Egypt that the law ordered people to diligently care for dogs of all breeds.

The ancient Egyptians also worshipped the canine-headed Anubis and the Dog Star, Sirius.

Egyptian symbolism Anubis

Anubis is said to be the god of the “afterlife as well as the patron god of lost souls and the helpless.” He was depicted with the head of a jackal which scholars believe replaced dogs as a symbolic emblem.

“Dogs were closely linked to the jackal/dog god, Anubis, who guided the soul of the deceased to the Hall of Truth where the soul would be judged by the god Osiris.” ~ ancient.eu, Pets in Ancient Egypt

In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Anubis is described as the “Guardian of the Scales” who determined the fate of dead souls. The jackal-headed god is shown weighing the heart of the deceased against a feather – said to be Ma’at, goddess of Truth.

If the heart of the deceased was heavier than the feather, the person was determined to be sinful and was sent to suffer in the Underworld. If the feather, or Truth, was heavier, the dead soul would ascend to heaven.

In short, Anubis dispatched thoughts the conscious mind rejected to protect the master mind.

As children, this faculty executed by the brain does not always serve our best interests. When we have parents, teachers, politicians and role models that are not enlightened with wisdom, the dog is fed ignorance and will protect it.

Adults, however, need to nurture independent thought. You have control over the decisions you make. When you have new thoughts, ideas and beliefs that enable you to develop a richer quality of life, it is pertinent to adopt them as behaviours that enable you to reach you goals, both big and small.

This is why the Egyptians also worshipped Sirius and called it the Dog Star. It was also known as Sopdet or the Soul of Isis.

During the heliacal rising of Sirius around the summer solstice, the annual flooding of the Nile which fertilised the land. This was the New Year in ancient Egypt.

The flooding of the land is symbolic for new consciousness giving birth to new ways of living. We continue this tradition today by way of New Year’s resolutions.

Changing habits is key to self-development. When you act on new knowledge and repeat the behaviour enough times, you reprogram the subconscious. This is how you acquire inner-wisdom.

A heart filled with wisdom is a light and playful heart, not heavy, angry and sad.

Egyptologist Margaret Bunson notes that dogs “served as hunters and as companions for the Egyptians and some mentioned their hounds in their mortuary texts.” (ancient.eu)

This is not only true of the Egyptians but also other cultures around the world. In numerous mythologies, you will find dogs associated with hunting, the dead and “man’s best friend”.

Esoteric Meaning of Dogs in Greek Mythology

Esoteric wisdom that surfaced in Egypt was heavily adopted by the Greeks. The esoteric meaning of dogs in Greek Mythology is practically identical to ancient Egypt. The only difference is the way in which canines appear in stories.

The best-known dog in Greek Mythology is arguably Cerberus, the three-headed hound that guards the gates to Hades. Depicted as a vicious monster with the snarling teeth, savage claws and a dragon’s tail, Cerberus is the loyal servant of Hades.

Hercules taming Cerberus

Cerberus’ role is to prevent the living from entering the land of the dead and to prevent the dead from leaving the underworld. Occasionally the dog would be subdued by hypnotic music or overpowered by strength as was the case with Hercules, illustrated in the image above.

The role of the subconscious mind is essentially a guardian and gatekeeper. Its function is to retrieve stored data that enables the ego to deduct the most likely possible outcome. When the subconscious is programmed with limiting beliefs, fear and bad attitudes etc, this information will be your natural response.

However, we do have choice and free will. This is the role of the conscious mind. You have to overcome your ego and retrain the subconscious mind with thoughts, emotions and actions that make you feel and behave positively.

In other words, you have to upgrade subconscious programs with better quality information. In doing so, you transform your energy.

Scholars suggest the three-heads of Cerberus symbolise three stages of life; infancy, youth and old age. However, age has no connection with the underworld. So that theory sucks.

The other suggestion is the three heads symbolise past, present and future. This summation is closer to the esoteric Truth. By entering your unconscious mind (Hades) you can remember the past and see the future. Your inner wisdom tells you what you need to do.

Given dogs represent a function of the ego, they also represent observing the present. Ego’s first thought is what is happening now. The unconscious mind, on the other hand, has no concept of time. This is why dogs are stationed at the gates of the underworld rather than in the underworld.

In my opinion, the three heads also represent the transformation of energy; creation, destruction and “rebirth”. New ideas that appear in the mind can only be brought into reality by transforming energy through thought, emotion and action.

Dog symbolism, shown by Cerberus’ role as a guard of the gates, determines which thoughts and emotions the ego accept and which the ego rejects. The decision will prompt your actions – and sometimes you will need courage and motivation to overcome the fear programmed in your subconscious.

The Roman poet Virgil describes Cerberus as symbolising avarice – extreme greed for wealth or material gain – traits of the programmed ego. When Hercules overcomes the hound, it symbolises the conscious mind overcoming earthly temptations.

Dog symbolism sometimes appears in mythology as a wolf such as the story involving the founding of Rome. The sons of Mars, Romulus and Remus are reared by a she-wolf.

Later in the story, the two brothers fight and Romulus kills Remus. One analogy of the myth is the struggle between the self-ego axis – being caught in two minds.

Romulus and Remus she-wolf

It is also said that the first poisonous plants sprang up from the saliva of Cerberus and were used by the Thessalian witches to make a potion that enabled levitation. This also evokes the impression that mankind can rise above the material plane.

Poisonous plants cause hallucinations which conjure images in the mind’s eye – a window into the unconscious. When you identify the energies the ego has rejected, it leads to self-healing.

“There is good reason for supposing that the archetypes are the unconscious images of the instincts themselves, in other words, that they are patterns of instinctual behaviour.” ~ Carl Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

The transformational qualities of dogs are also expressed in the Greek myths involving Artemis, goddess of the hunt, who was accompanied by seven hounds she received from the god Pan – a god representing your True Nature.

In one myth, the hunter Actaeon feels the wrath of Artemis after ogling her naked body as she bathed in the woods. Artemis reacts angrily and forbades him the power of speech. Speech is an action.

If Actaeon spoke he would immediately transform into a stag. Upon hearing his hunting party approach, he momentarily forgot about the curse of the goddess and called out.

Upon transforming into a stag, Actaeon flees into the woods but is tracked down by his fifty hounds and torn to shreds.

“The only certainty is in what Aktaion suffered, his pathos, and what Artemis did: the hunter became the hunted; he was transformed into a stag, and his raging hounds, struck with a ‘wolf’s frenzy’ (Lyssa), tore him apart as they would a stag.” ~ Walter Burkert, Homo Necans

The wrath of Artemis is proverbial for the hostility directed by neglected unconscious energies towards an individual that does not listen to the wisdom of their inner voice.

Burkert’s reference to ‘Pathos’ in Homo Necans relates to a mode of persuasion that awakens an emotion that causes suffering. In other words, an emotional attachment or desire for something you cannot have.

The act of the dogs killing the stag is symbolic of the psyches power to overcome desire and attachment to earthly possessions whereby you free the mind from illusion. In doing so, the subconscious mind is given the equivalent of a software upgrade.

“The hounds of Artemis, or Diana, are the occult powers which hunt down and pursue the soul from birth to birth; the inevitable, implacable forces of Nature which, following evermore on the steps of every ego, compel it into the conditions successively engendered by its actions, as effect by cause. Hence Actæon, presuming upon Fate, and oblivious of the sanctity and inviolability of this unchanging law of Karmic Destiny, is torn in pieces by his own dogs, to wit, his own deeds, which by the decree of the implacable Goddess, turn upon and rend him.” ~ Dr. Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, Introduction to Virgin of the World

The virginal goddess Artemis, by the way, represents pure consciousness and “independence”. Liberation from subconscious programs that keep you enslaved.

Symbolic Meaning of Dogs in Celtic Mythology

When animals appear in Celtic mythology, they often relate to fertility and vitality. As with the ancient Egyptians and the Greeks, the Celts depicted dogs as guardians to the underworld and associated them with hunting.

The theme of dogs and hunting lay side-by-side in mythology. In Celtic mythology, Cernunnos was the god of beasts and hunting and symbolises masculine energy and fertility – thoughts and the seed of new life. Scholars describe him as “a mediator of man and nature, able to tame predator and prey.”

In the above quote, “man” relates to the conscious mind and “nature” is the unconscious mind or superconscious. It is during “talks with God” where you can acquire new knowledge that needs to become part of your conscious mind.

In Welsh folklore, Prince Pwyll encounters a pack of otherworldly hounds that exude a “glittering bright white” feasting on the carcass of a dead stag – a symbol representing the transformation of energy and self-improvement. Pwyll frightens the shiny hounds away so his own dogs can dine.

The glowing white hounds belonged to Lord Arawan, king of Annwn, the underworld of the Welsh Celts. Arawan is pissed at Prince Pwyll for his actions and a quarrel breaks out.

To appease with angry Lord, Pwyll agrees to trade places and live in the underworld for one year and a day – 11: mastery of new knowledge.

In this myth, Prince Pwyll represents the conscious mind and Arawan is the superconscious. When Pwyll defeats Arawan’s arch-enemy, he is made “head of Annwn.”

A prince is symbolic for the undeveloped mind. A King is a ruler and decision-maker. Because Pwyll spent time in the unconscious (where the wealth of wisdom resides) and defeated the demons, his conscious awareness transforms from a prince to a king.

Celtic hounds are generally associated with royalty and warriors – both of which are included in the 12 major archetypes. The emblem of the Celtic Hounds shows three dogs chasing one another in a circular pattern, similar to the triskeles.


The symbol relates to the transformation of energy – death and rebirth – and the cycle of the sun. The sun is symbolic for the illuminated mind.

However, the esoteric meaning of dog symbolism can also relate to deception. You deceive yourself when you do not listen to your inner wisdom.

Dog Symbolism in Native American Traditions

Native American tribes typically reared dogs as companions. They would accompany them when they went hunting and acted as guards around the camp at night. When dogs became aware of a potential threat, they bark a warning.

Shamanic traditions intertwine dogs with the coyote. Today it is acknowledged that dogs are pack animals and share 97% of their genes with coyotes and wolves.

Archaeologists have also identified the Jackal headed god of the Egyptian’s Anubis as a dog. He was originally considered the African golden wolf until genetic analysis in 2015 updated the taxonomy for the species. In modern-day, a jackal is called a wolf.

If you compare the symbolic meanings of wolves and dogs, there are many reoccurring patterns.

wolf symbolism

In Native American traditions, the wolf and the coyote also have the same meaning.

Coyotes correspond with the trickster archetype. For example, in one Native American myth, coyote steals fire from Fire Beings who live on a far-away mountain top. His motivation for the crime was to save mankind from the cold and help them keep warm.

In Greek Mythology, a primordial god – the Titan, Prometheus – steals fire from the Gods of Olympus. Olympus is also a mountain top. Other myths also involve the theft of fire.

In symbolism, fire relates to constructive and destructive thinking. For example, positive thinking destroys negative habits.

The trickster archetype denotes an undeveloped, immature mind that keeps your mind imprisoned. However, it can also bring light to conscious awareness from the underworld.

This idea is also reflected in the Native American myth, “Coyote Gets Rich Off the White Men”. Against bobcats advice – inner wisdom – Coyote plays the fool and is arrested.

Whilst in prison, coyote uses deception to trick the white man (ignorance) and escape. Later, he also tricks white men to make money (wealth of knowledge).

When you apply the shamanic myths of coyote to dog symbolism, it is analogous of how easily the ego-mind can talk us out of doing something new. This is why you must trust your instincts and have the courage to overcome subconscious programs.

Symbols can be used as a powerful tool to help guide you through life and make important decisions with confidence. Our self-development courses use esoteric symbolism to demonstrate how you can expand conscious awareness and improve the quality of your human experience just by observing your unconscious mind and understanding your true nature.

Click here to download your FREE copy of the Introduction to Symbolism Guide

Richard Oldale
Master Mind Content is a leading authority in decoding ancient symbolism . Our research unveils the secrets to understanding and taking control of the the subconscious mind, channeling energy to self-heal and effectively using universal laws to fulfil your potential.

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