Clay dogs were likely substitutes for real mastiffs, still renowned in the Middle East as effective guard dogs.
In the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods, dog images served as magically protective figures, without association to any particular deity. Groups of five differently colored clay figurines of dogs were deposited either side of gateway foundations. The figures were inscribed with warnings such as "Don't stop to think, bite!"Werness 2006, p 116)
Clay guardian dog from a set of five Traces of blue paint. c 645 BC from Nineveh North Palace. British Museum, ME 30001-30005. Image © L M Clancy, 2010.
Another clay dog from the set of five. Traces of red paint. c 645 BC from Nineveh North Palace. British Museum, ME 30001-30005. Image © L M Clancy, 2010.
Werness, Hope B. 2006. The Continuum encyclopedia of animal symbolism in art. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.