Sigmund Freud and His Love of Dogs

Dogs In The Consulting Room, a brief vignette from Daniel Beneveniste

A brief excerpt from a chapter in Daniel Beneveniste’s The Interwoven Lives of Sigmund, Anna and W. Ernest Freud: Three Generations of Psychoanalysis (IP Books – 2015) as read by Nancy R. Goodman

…Freud kept his dog with him in the consulting room during analyses, and Anna did the same with Wolf. According to family legend, Freud always knew when psychoanalytic sessions were over, as Jofi, lying on the floor near the couch, would always get up at exactly the right time. Freud was also said to have used her to help him evaluate potential analysands. If she was suspicious of them or turned away from them, so the story goes, they were considered unsuitable for psychoanalysis (Freud Museum, 1998, pp. 39–40).

In 1991 the distinguished North American psychoanalyst Otto Will repeated a story he was told by his friend Roy Grinker Sr. regarding his analysis with Sigmund Freud:

Roy had gone back to work, I think a summer, with Freud. You know, to have two or three months’ analysis with him. And he was on the couch, he said, and Freud was sitting there and Anna came and opened the door. She didn’t know her father was with anybody. And she opened the door and was surprised to see her father there with a patient, and the dog jumped up and jumped on Anna, and Anna stumbled and Freud stood up and Anna fell down on top of the dog, and Freud stumbled and fell on top of the dog and Anna! And Roy said he just didn’t know what came to mind! (Interview with Otto Will, December 18, 1991)

In Grinker’s (1985) memoirs of his analysis with Freud, he recalled that it was difficult to express his hostility directly toward Freud, so he found ways to criticize him indirectly.

I could also scold the dog, which was definitely involved in my analysis, and in that way indirectly express my hostility to Freud. As a child I had been deathly afraid of dogs. Now Freud’s dogs naturally got the full force of my fears and hatreds. When I rang the bell of the door which opened onto the waiting room that both the Professor and Anna utilized, there would be a horrendous barking from the other side. Paula, the maid, would open the door and a great big wolfhound would attack me with its snout at the same level as my genitalia. So I entered Freud’s office with a high level of castration anxiety.

At one of the child psychiatric seminars that Anna held for the Americans, somehow or other that damn dog lay down next to my chair and started to bark. Anna said, “Dr. Grinker, he’s perfectly safe. Of course, when he was younger, he used to eviscerate sheep, and I couldn’t take him out. But now he’s perfectly safe; just pull his tail and he’ll stop barking.” Not me!

In Freud’s office there was also another dog, a Chinese chow named Jofi. Jofi would sit alongside the couch, and after a while get up and scratch at the door to be let out. The Professor would get up, let the dog out, and come back and say, “Jofi doesn’t approve of what you’re saying.” Then, after a while, the dog would scratch at the other side of the door, and the Professor would get up, open the door, and say, “Jofi wants to give you another chance.”

In this country, no candidate would continue for long under these conditions! Once when I was emoting with a great deal of vigor, the dog jumped on top of me, and Freud said, “You see, Jofi is so excited that you’ve been able to discover the source of your anxiety.” But I wasn’t paying the dog! (p. 9)…

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