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Why do we dream about animals?

In 40 years of working with hundreds of dreamers, I think dreams about animals are the easiest to understand. Each animal, insect, or fish in your dream represents something important in your life-a stinging situation, a threatening person or habit of your own, or any other aspect of your own personality or that of someone else's behavior that is impacting your life.

We use the images of animals in our dreams to highlight a situation in our lives that could use our attention.  Because people, including children, are usually very good at describing the personality of an animal, the parallels to someone in our lives or to some part of ourselves is usually easy to see.


Imagine that you are someone who responds to the dog in the photo above.  Let's say you would describe him as full of love, trust, and most of all, a sense of exuberant play.  Now, imagine that in your dream, this dog was in a tiny cage and had not been fed for days!  If you were to ask yourself, "Is there anyone in my life, or any part of myself that is "full of love, trust, and most of all, a sense of exuberant play " that has been malnourished, and cooped up in a cage for days? You would probably understand your dream.
And you thought dreams were mysterious!

Your dreams about penguins, dragon fish, or spiders may delight or terrify you.

In any case, SEIZE them.  Write them down with all the feelings they trigger in you.  Then interview yourself.  Write out your interview or ask a friend to use the CUE CARD questions. Remind her to resist helping you by intruding her own descriptions or worse yet, interpretations.  Ask her to feed back to you (Recapitulate or Restate) your exact words.

In my book, In Your Dreams, you can  look up specific, common dream images of animals, people, objects, places,and themes. In each section,  the steps of the Interview and the Questions to execute those steps are provided.  If you register to follow this site, I shall send you the latest version of my brief CUE CARD which lists the questions you can ask yourself or another dreamer that will elicit rich, personal and unique Descriptions that you can then Recapitulate, and that will allow to then Bridge the Descriptions of the dream images to the waking life situation of the dreamer, thus interpreting the dream.  (Oops, I apparently do not know how to provide the Cue Card yet. If you register before I figure it out, I promise to send you the Cue Card as soon as I can!)

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Animal Dream Questions from the Dream Interview Cue Card

Step One: Give (or elicit) a rich, but focused DESCRIPTION

  • What is this animal (the fish, insect, horse) like?
  • How would you describe the personality of this type of animal? (Try using 3-5 adjectives)
  • What is the specific animal in your dream like?
  • How do you feel about this animal?
  • What is the animal doing in the dream (its role, action)?
  • How do you feel about the animal and it's role in the dream?


Summarize and edit slightly your or your dreamer's description (using only the dreamer's words), making sure to include the feelings and judgements that are part of the dreamer's description. Does your recapitulation capture the essential parts of the description? Is the description rich or is it skimpy and in need of elaboration? If you are playing the role of interviewer for another dreamer, you could say something like:

  • So tell me if I have got this right: you describe this image (or feeling or theme or action) as (Recapitulate the description). Any modifications or additions?

Step Three: BRIDGE

When you are satisfied that the recap is rich enough, ask the dreamer or yourself:

  • Is there anyone in your life, any part of yourself, or anything in your life that is like this animal that you describe as (Restate the description one more time)?

This is the step that helps you "bridge" from the dream image to waking life. Because we usually understand things in words, not pictures, you will be better able to recognize how your dream is like a parable or metaphor about a particular issue in your life if you put the dream images into feeling-laden descriptive words. Once you succeed in putting the images into words, the metaphors or parallels to waking life will pop into your mind without effort. You will suddenly say, "Oh, that is just like......."

Even as a beginner, you will probably see an important situation from a new, Point of View.. This will allow you to better understand the issue, and to make better-informed decisions to take action. Until you ask, and then discover what you think and feel about a dream image, you will be borrowing someone else's meanings from reading you have done, things you have heard, or from your interpreter's projections. Claim your own dreams and your own meanings!