Although many pretrained models exist for text or images, there have been relatively fewer attempts to train representations specifically for dialog understanding. Prior works usually relied on finetuned representations based on generic text representation models like BERT or GPT-2. But, existing pretraining objectives do not take the structural information of text into consideration. Although generative dialog models can learn structural features too, we argue that the structure-unaware word-by-word generation is not suitable for effective conversation modeling. We empirically demonstrate that such representations do not perform consistently across various dialog understanding tasks. Hence, we propose a structure-aware Mutual Information based loss-function DMI (Discourse Mutual Information) for training dialog-representation models, that additionally captures the inherent uncertainty in response prediction. Extensive evaluation on nine diverse dialog modeling tasks shows that our proposed DMI-based models outperform strong baselines by significant margins, even with small-scale pretraining. Our models show the most promising performance on the dialog evaluation task DailyDialog++, in both random and adversarial negative scenarios.