Getting a Dog Inspired Tattoo

Dog tattoos and dog-themed tattoos are both intensely personal experiences. This is my journey of two dog-themed tattoos, what I learned, and what to consider before jumping in ink first. 

Okay, so it didn’t tickle.

Will A Dog Tattoo Hurt?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions customers pose to tattoo artists. “The physical pain is really more temporary and passes much quicker than the pain of losing your companion,” tattoo artist Andrea X. Tasha reports. For seven years, many a spot has been made of Fido on the customers visiting Mooncusser Tattoo shop in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

In what has become a permanent trend in a way to forever memorialize a beloved pet, grieving guardians are turning to tattoos as a lasting tribute. An intensely personal experience and forever etched on the largest of the body’s organ (yes, skin!), this indelible ink serves as emblem of honor and love. Just ask Kelly Ladouceur of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. “I wanted a dog that was running, since the most beautiful thing for me to see is a Cocker in full coat moving. I ended up going with my upper right shoulder, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t do that again. I can’t see it and if I’m going to get inked, I want to be able to look at the tattoo and enjoy it.”

Surprisingly, not everyone getting a dog tattoo has memorial reasons in mind. Karen L, Hudson, author of the book, Living Canvas: Your Total Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Body Modification explains, “It’s probably not surprising that men have more dog-related tattoos than women – the old adage that ‘dog is man’s best friend’ holds true. But not all men get dog tattoos as a tribute to a personal companion – in fact, most of them get ‘generic’ dog tattoos as signs of strength, virility, and protection.” For those who are grieving and unable to move forward after a beloved pet passes, the fear of forgetting Fido is often a concern. Hudson relates, “The tattoo then serves as a talisman, a promise that you will never forget them and allowing you to, at the same time, move on.”

The pawprint on Canadian Tracy Bezanson’s right wrist is an eternal reminder of the love she shares with her 3-year-old dog, Tia Maria. Did it hurt? “I was so excited about the paw print, I barely even noticed the pain,” she relayed.



Tattoo Size and Location

In consideration of a dog tattoo location and size, attention to detail is achieved on a larger area of skin, such as the deltoid or shoulder region.  The tattoo artist should be experienced, clean, and meet the FDA guidelines for intradermal tattoos. “A personal connection with the artist really helps, too. Talk with the artist and decide if you feel confident enough to hire them. If not, there’s plenty to choose from,” Karen L. Hudson said and continued, “If you’re getting a tattoo in memoriam of your lost pet, you want an artist who is sympathetic to your pain as well as being talented. My advice for anyone getting a dog-related tattoo, especially if you’re looking for a portrait or profile, is please find a talented tattoo artist who has already proven to be adept at realistic animal portraits and profiles.”

There is much to be said about the recidivism rate of tattoos. Marge Pylka of Britt, Minnesota remarked, “I’ve got three: on my right leg, my upper left hip, and one over my heart in memoriam of my son who died in 2005.” Keeping it in the family, Pylka even went to the tattoo shop with her daughter and granddaughter. Clearly, the stereotypes and clichés of who gets a tattoo, where and why, have been dismantled; Pylka and her paw prints are proof.

Derivatively, the word tattoo is believed to be Polynesian for “striking something” and Tahitian for “marking something.” Throughout our lives, Fido strikes a harmonious relationship, marking our hearts with unconditional love. A tattoo is a personal experience expressive of a life well lived and never forgotten.

The final "paw-roduct"
The final “paw-roduct”

My First Tattoo Experiences

Yours truly went under the needle twice, both in the name of dog.  For my 40th birthday, I gifted myself a tattoo.

While vacationing in Cape Cod with my Cocker Spaniel, Brandy Noel, in September of 2008, I decided that I would have her paw print impression put on my leg. For all of her life, Brandy sat on my lap quite often. And when she would get up, her tiny ‘impression’ would leave a temporary paw imprint on my skin. Eureka! I decided to have her imprint done on my leg right where she would rest her paw forever.

The whole process took about an hour, the tattoo artist owned the shop (Mooncusser Tattoo), I did my research, talked to him about it, and went for it. It really was not as painful as I thought and it healed up nicely. Three weeks after having this done, I lost my little girl to what was believed to be liver cancer and complications of IBD. She was one week shy of her 15th birthday.

One little last detail, and I think this was a gift from Brandy to me. I had initials of previous dogs I owned put underneath Brandy’s paw print tattoo on my leg along with a small heart. Well on 11/08/08, little Dexter came into my life. His initials are the exact same ones as the initials I had etched into my skin in Cape Cod, which are those of my wife, Darlene.  And as fate would have it, Dexter has the marking of a heart imprint in his fur. Talk about messages from the angels. He is truly a little gift from the heavens. In 2009, Dex marked his spot with a second pawprint right next to his departed sister. Fido fur-ever.

Learn more about what to know before tattooing

Would you ever get a pawprint tattoo?


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  1. How coincidental in timing! I was actually seriously considering getting Prudence’s paw-print tattoo’d on my foot. I think it’s a wonderful way to memorialize not only the dog his-or-herself, but also the bond that a person shares with their dog. Your tattoos are just lovely!

    Now, when you got Brandy Noel’s print done, did you use an actual print of her paw as the design? That’s what I want to do for my tattoo, but am having a hard time getting a great imprint. If this is what you did, or if anyone else who comments did or is getting a tattoo like this, any help in the paw-print print department would be greatly appreciated 🙂

  2. Hi Ashley, Good timing indeed.

    I did use her pawprint. I got one of those rubber stamp things and had her pawprint on a piece of paper. The tattoo artist then sketched it first, showed me and they put it over my skin and he did his magic.

    DId the same thing with Dexter’s pawprint, too.

    You may want to have someone help you get the pawprint accurately OR take a close up photo of the paw as you want it with the macro setting on a digital camera.

  3. Great post!

    I actually got my Chuck’s paw print on the back of my calf along with his name, a little under two years ago. He’s now 13 and still the happiest dog ever. The tattoo was inspired by a Chuck-related dream I had. I did the same thing, Carol, though I used an inkpad, had Chuck step on it, and then had him step on a piece of paper. 🙂

  4. Love your tattoo’s, Carol and the story behind it. I’m thinking of getting a tattoo of my dog’s paw, too. I have been on the “fence” if I should do it now or wait! I think you just made up my mind. I am going to do it before the end of the summer!!!! Yay me!

  5. I am so happy I did it, too, Melanie Theresa. Bet yours looks neat!

    TY Terry for stopping by, and no you are not crazy – go for it. I am so glad I did. When I am having a bad day or upset about something, it is comforting to look at those pawprints eternally etched on nature’s canvas (aka my skin) and feel so much better.

  6. Carol thank you for this article. I have been thinking of getting a couple of my very old tattoos covered and have been wanting to cover them with pics of my babies. I really think that I am going to do it! Some people I know are thinking that I am crazy but now that I read that this is not uncommon or crazy I am just going to go for it. Have other people sent you pics of theirs? I would love to see some other ideas. Glad to see your blog up and running. Great job


  7. Recently I inked my calf with and Celtic inspired Border Collie. Although it is not specifically one of my dogs, it reminds me of those who have pasted and those who come next. It is a custom design i created with help from my artist, Jen Wilson at Primeval Ink in Monroe, WA.

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