Dog Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

If you’ve been mulling the idea of getting a dog tattoo, it’s time to get the lowdown. The kind of dog tattoo, its placement and the meanings associated with it are all essential. Armed with the right information, you can get a tattoo you (and your dog) will be proud of.

Symbolic Expression of Dog Tattoos

Tattoos depicting dogs and canine culture are a ubiquitous form of body art around the world. Why do people show such devotion to their dogs as to bear a likeness of them on their skin? 

A Reminder of Special Memory

People who love dogs form very emotional bonds with their favorite pets. A devoted dog owner opts to have a tattoo resembling their beloved furry friend.

Dog tattoos can also be inked to commemorate a passed away pet. With a tattoo in the likeness of their pet, they now have an ever-present reminder. It won’t equate to replacing the dog, but it delivers comfort nonetheless.

Permanent Tributes

A dog tattoo meant as a special tribute may be more abstract than those meant as memories. The tattoos may depict dogs with some anthropomorphic (human-like) features. They can be complicated or simplified too. It all depends on the turn of mind of the dog owner and the tattoo artist’s ingenuity.  

Popular Dog Tattoo Designs

Dog tattoos can be as varied and as eclectic as other forms of body art are. The most popular type of dog tattoos include portraits of beloved pets. However, some popular designs appeal to a wide demographic of dog lovers. Here is a look at some of the most common dog tattoo designs: 

Paw Prints

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most popular dog tattoo designs is one depicting paw prints. Pawprints are simple, elegant and abstract graphics that offer a compelling visual story. To personalize the paw print design, you can embellish the graphic with the name of your pet. 

For some dog owners, paw print tattoos are a humorous retelling of a favorite dog pastime. Dogs, especially puppies, have the endearing (if often disconcerting) habit of walking all over you. With the paw marks on the skin, it is as if these dog owners can feel the padded footmarks any time it strikes their fancy. 

The simplicity and small size of dog paw print tattoos make it easy to place them anywhere on the body. You can have one popping out of the exposed area of your neck for instance. It’s also possible to have one concealed behind the ear or even on a finger if it strikes your fancy. 

Dog Skull

In the larger milieu of graphic tattoos, skulls are ubiquitous options. Instead of having a macabre human tattoo emblazoned on their skin, dog owners feel an affinity for a dog’s skull instead.  

A dog skull tattoo can be a simple line depicting a generic skull. It is, however, possible to specify a detailed and anatomically accurate skull of a particular dog breed. This kind of dog tattoo serves as a more personalized memorial of a particular dog. 

Chinese Year of the Dog Tattoo

Chinese astrology aficionados tend to sport oriental zodiac symbols as tattoos. If your birth year happens to coincide with the Chinese year of the dog, then it’s a commemorative that makes a lot of sense. 

Chinese year of the dog tattoos take different forms and variations. For some, a tattoo of a popular Asian dog suffices. Others will only go for appropriate Foo dog artwork. Some others prefer dog kanji symbols instead. 

Foo Dog Tattoos 

Foo dog graphics appear at once intimidating and mythical. This multilayered meaning has propelled them to special significance in areas as diverse as architecture and body art. Foo dog tattoos depict the concept of guardianship as well as prosperity and success in life. 

In oriental culture, a memorable moniker for a Foo dog is “protective lion”. This has spawned a practice of symbolizing the dogs as a pair, representing Yin and Yang. This depiction makes Foo dog tattoos attractive options for those seeking a tattoo with a deep connection to Oriental mythology. 

The Foo dog has special relevance to Buddhism where it implies calmness. A wearer of the Foo dog tattoo also seeks to depict inner strength balanced with wisdom and a genteel spirit. 

A distinctive Foo dog tattoo requires a considerably extensive portion of skin for it to come out properly. It is best when inked on the arm or neck. Some people can pull it off on the thigh, upper arm or lower legs. 

Dog Howling at Crescent Moon Tattoo

The moon is a captivating celestial body. Despite its removal from the terrestrial platform, it has some primordial connection to all we do. A tattoo depicting a howling dog with its snout pointed at the moon perfectly illustrates this connection. It usually depicts a new beginning in life. 

A tattoo of a dog howling at a crescent moon arrests attention immediately. It fascinates people who have a penchant for astronomical phenomena and dogs. The tattoo will look very much in place on your upper arm, the neck or the inner wrist. Large and extensive versions of the tattoo appear in place when inked on the back, chest or thigh.  

Dog Tattoo With Sun Background

A majestic dog tattoo emblazoned with the sun background projects an image of ultimate strength, courage and vitality. The tattoo brings the best of what we find in a dog — guardianship and alertness to danger. The sun itself adds brightness, illumination and regularity in the circles of life. 

Adding the image of the sun disk also provides a feeling of illumination and a clear life path. The combination of dog and sun signifies that the wearer has weathered the storms of life and proved adept at it. Depending on the placement of the objects, the tattoo can signify the capacity to enlighten the life of others too. 

There is no definite rule about where a dog and sun tattoo should appear on the body. It is, however, much better if it is on a prominent part rather than concealed beneath clothing. 

Dog Paw Print Tattoo Encased in the Infinity Symbol

You can add a remarkable twist by placing one or two dog paw prints enclosed by the infinity symbol. You could opt for one loop of the symbol to encase the paw print while the other encases a heart. Altogether, the tattoo represents the loyalty, unswerving and unimpeachable nature of your love. 

As this tattoo design is full of multilayered meanings, there’s little need to embellish it further. In practice, it looks best when inked on the inner wrist. Variants of the tattoo can also appear on the neck or behind the ear with equal effect. 

Military Dog Tattoos

Dogs have been ascribed feats of war mystique for as long as humans have carried out military campaigns. Top military honors have been awarded to select dogs for their performance on the combat field. You only need to look at recent military campaigns to come up with some memorable examples. 

Whether you fancy dogs that have excelled in military combat or rescue missions, there is inspiration aplenty. Pick the one you find most impressive, show it to a creative tattoo artist and have it embellished for personalization — you will be the bearer of a distinctive military dog tattoo!

Common Color Combinations for Dog Tattoos

There are no universal conventions on the kinds of colors or color combinations used for dog tattoos. Most dog owners go for the commonplace black ink that’s used for most tattoo designs. 

It’s worth noting that a dog tattoo does not require any special mark of appearance for it to stand out. Of course, you need to choose a tattoo ink that offers sufficient contrast with your skin tone. 

To make your dog tattoo even more relevant, seek to make a unique feature of your dog stand out in the tattoo. If your dog had large, inspirational eyes, insist on a color that brings this feature out.  

Where to Have the Dog Tattoo Inked?

Dog tattoos often appear in prominent and conspicuous areas of the body. However, this rule is not cast in stone. You can still have your dog tattoo inked on an area of the body that is mostly concealed. 

The most common areas for the location of dog tattoos are the upper arm, the neck and the midriff. Some dog tattoos also appear on the chest, lower back and even on the wrist. 

There are many reasons why a dog tattoo makes sense as a form of body art. The reasons for opting for one dog tattoo over another are varied and personal. If you want to join the ranks of those who bear canine body art, you now have plenty of inspiration. 

Now, don’t be surprised if strangers on the street pet your tattoo!

Best Dog Tattoos