Dog tattoos are an amazing way to express your love for your pup. But since tattoos are a permanent expression of this love, you don’t just want to wing it. Taking your time to research your options and find inspiration is a crucial part of the process. To give you a head start on your search, we’ve rounded up some incredible dog tattoo ideas you’re sure to love.
Whether your pup has recently passed away and you’re looking to commemorate them, or you’re just obsessed with your canine’s cuteness and want to get their likeness inked somewhere on your body, there are many ways to nail an amazing dog tattoo. Think paw print tattoos, dog mom tattoos, dog ear outline tattoos, minimalist dog tattoos, dog tribute tattoos — the options are endless.
We spoke to a few tattoo artists to get their take on dog tattoos, which seem to be creating quite the buzz these days.
“In the past year especially, I’ve had a lot of people getting dog tattoos! That’s almost all I’m asked to tattoo now and I love it,” says Sonja Elise, 28, tattoo artist at Bullseye Tattoo in Staten Island, New York. “These little pet portraits are my favorite thing to do. Pets are our family and bring us so much love and joy, so these tattoos have so much meaning to every person that gets one. Whether it’s a childhood dog that’s passed, or it’s your little pup who you’ve only had for a short amount of time — whatever the story may be, these portraits are so personal to everyone who wants to honor and cherish their furry friends.”
Adds Sophia Argyrou (aka “Jerry’s Kid”), 44, tattoo artist at Electric Mama Tattoo in Athens, Greece, “Like all pets, dogs are super silly. But what stands out for each pet mom/dad is how loyal and loving they are. They all have stories to share. They’re their kids.”
With help from our resident tattoo experts, we’ll go over some of the best dog tattoo ideas out there, as well as tips to help you choose a tattoo, prepare for your appointment, and survive your inking session.
Dog Tattoo Ideas: Things to Consider Before Getting Inked
There are a few things you’ll want to consider before getting a dog tattoo (or any tattoo, really).
Focus on style
“A really important step is to know which style you want,” explains Elise. “That way you can be the happiest with your tattoo. [There are] so many tattoo styles: realism, neo traditional, American traditional, etc. Typically, portraits are done in those three styles, sometimes even combinations of those styles. So, it’s best to do some research beforehand so you can know which style you’d like to go with.”
Research tattoo artists
“Once you know which style you want, it’s important to do your research on reputable artists that specialize in the style you’re looking to do,” says Elise, who recommends contacting the artist you’d like to work with for a consultation. “Try setting up a consultation with that artist, whether it’s in-person, through email or virtually. That way you can discuss your tattoo idea and you can be on the same page and will have your desired outcome.”
Adds Argyrou, “Once you find the artist that you want, you should give a few directions/guidelines of where and what you would like it to depict, but give total freedom to the artist to create a one-of-a-kind piece. Trust is what we ask for.”
Think about placement
“Decide where on your body you want the tattoo, and then you ask the artist to make something that fits the area you want,” recommends Argyrou.
Look into pricing
“Tattoo artists all do their pricing a bit differently, so it’s recommended to reach out and find out pricing to make sure your budget will work for this artist and tattoo,” says Elise, adding that a higher price point is not necessarily a red flag when it comes to tattoo work. Her mantra? “‘Good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good.’ It’s so important to make sure you’re not going to an artist that’s TOO low in price, because you’ll more than likely be unhappy with your tattoo. If your artist isn’t local and you’re traveling, it’s also important to budget the travel expenses as well.”
26 Best Dog Tattoo Ideas We’ve Ever Seen
Since seeing examples of some sweet dog tattoos is the best way to get inspiration, we thought we’d compile a list of our favorites. Here are 26 dog lover tattoo ideas to help you find the perfect one for you.
Dog Paw Tattoo Ideas
A pup portrait with paws on full display.
Add some florals into your paw.
Or put some laurels and your pup’s name around the paw print.
This “pawsome” tat even has a snoot in it.
Dog Memorial Tattoo Ideas
This sweet sentiment shows pup and parent snoozing together.
Honor multiple pups with one tat.
A peaceful, beautiful dog tribute tattoo for a favorite furry friend.
Simple Dog Tattoo Ideas
A heart and paw can say so much about your love for your pup.
Your pup already has your heart — why not feature her heartbeat too?
Dog Portrait Tattoo Ideas
A portrait of Ragnar, but with some embellishments. (Check out that dog bone thought bubble!)
The face of a very good boy.
A stippling technique can create a gorgeous portrait effect.
Try an abstract take on a pup portrait.
Small Dog Tattoo Ideas
We love a smaller tat with a realistic look.
Use your handwriting (or a loved one’s) to write your pup’s name.
Dog Outline Tattoo Ideas
This minimalistic dog outline tattoo shows lots of ear and nose.
Why not feature two pups in one tattoo?
Capture your pup’s likeness, line by line.
Dog Ear Tattoo Ideas
Showcase your pup’s sweetest detail: his ears.
A unique yet realistic take on those little floppers.
The most adorable trio of puppy ears.
Floral Dog Tattoo Ideas
Florals can easily fit into any dog portrait tattoo.
We’re fully focused on this pup’s flower power.
Rainbow Bridge Tattoo Ideas
An abstract approach with rainbow brush marks.
A paw print, but make it rainbow for a perfect dog tribute tattoo.
Tips for Booking Your Dog Tattoo Appointment
Once you’ve decided on a tattoo and found a tattoo artist you like, it’s time to book your appointment. Let’s go over a few tips for this part of the process.
Contact your artist first
“Most tattoo artists now have Instagram, so it’s usually pretty simple to find out which contact method works best for each artist,” says Elise. “In their bio they’ll have their contact link that’ll give either their email or phone number, or it’ll simply say ‘email only, no DMs’. If you don’t see any of that information, then the next step would be to find out the shop information, and give a call to see how they can set up an appointment.”
Be prepared to be patient
Many tattoo artists are often booked out well in advance, so it could take awhile to get an appointment. “There are so many great artists out there, and lots of them are pretty booked up. It’s important to be patient if you really want to work with a specific artist — being booked up is a good thing and means an artist is in high demand!” says Elise.
She adds that another equally important tip is that if seeing a design is important to you beforehand, you also need to be extra patient. “Most artists don’t send out designs beforehand and won’t have a drawing ready until a day or two before your appointment, as they have to prepare and draw for appointments nearly every day.”
From there, it’s super important to have high-quality reference photos to share with your tattoo artist, especially if you’re looking for a tattoo with a lot of realistic detail. “The best photos for the tattoo would be very clear with good lighting. Make sure the photo isn’t cropped so you can see the whole head of your pup, make sure it’s not blurry, and make sure it also isn’t too close or too far,” says Elise. “It’s best to also make sure there are no filters or random reflective lighting.”
She adds that photos taken on newer phones are always better than ones taken on cameras or phones that are older.
Expect a deposit
According to Elise, “Most, if not all, reputable artists require a deposit to set up an appointment. That way your appointment spot is guaranteed.”
How to Survive Your Dog Tattoo Session
Ready for your appointment? It’s well known that tattoos don’t feel great and can take a good chunk of time to complete. So here are a few things to keep in mind to make the process as painless (literally and figuratively) as possible.
Come rested and fed
“It’s important to get a good night’s rest before getting tattooed!” says Elise. “In the morning, eat a good breakfast and make sure you’re hydrated. I even recommend fattier or greasier foods. Personally, I’ve noticed some clients that ate only fruit for breakfast do not sit as well as clients that ate a sandwich or even a slice of pizza for breakfast, but it really does vary for everyone.”
Don’t forget the snacks
“If you have a longer session, I would also recommend bringing some snacks and drinks,” Elise adds. “Sugary snacks are best, or anything that’s higher in energy, and water.”
Expect some pain — but not a ton
According to Elise, “The pain is usually not that bad — it’s not like breaking a bone or anything like that. It feels more like hot scratching, and afterward can feel a bit like sunburn. Some spots definitely hurt more than others, but this, too, varies from person to person.”
Steer clear of pain relievers
Elise suggests avoiding numbing creams beforehand. They can interfere with the tattoo process and really don’t do much to help with the pain. “Advil or any ibuprofen can thin your blood, so I don’t recommend taking any before your tattoo either,” she adds. “Once the skin is broken and you’ve been getting tattooed for a bit, there are some numbing sprays that can help a little that artists usually have.”
She notes that with smaller tattoos, you can be in and out within an hour depending on just how small it actually is. However, bigger pieces can definitely take multiple hours or even sessions. “Sitting for long sessions can actually be a little boring at times, so it’s definitely helpful to have your phone on you to distract you or keep you entertained, or maybe bring a book or Nintendo Switch. All of these options definitely make the time go by a bit faster and make the tattoo process smoother!”