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Dos and Don’ts to Remember When Getting Dog Tattoos

If you’re like us, your dogs are a central part of your life. Looking for ways to memorialize or honor your dogs? Whether they’ve passed over the rainbow bridge or they’re still by your side, we’ve got a few tips (and personal stories about!) dog tattoos.

Sassafras Lowrey  |  Jun 27th 2018


Dogs are absolutely the center of my world. They were the most consistent and joyful part of my life as I was a kid growing up in an abusive home. I’m heavily tattooed and I’ve chosen to memorialize my relationship with dogs through dog tattoos many times. I have paw prints for all the dogs who were part of my life as a kid/teenager in a band on my arm and I have portrait tattoos for the three dogs that I share my life with currently. I also have a dog agility course tattooed on the back of one of my legs with a quote about loss — I competed actively in dog sports as a teenager, but had to quit when I became homeless and lost my dogs.

Tattoos are how I document important experiences and relationships in my life, so, of course, I have dog tattoos!

Dos for dog tattoos:

A woman with tattoos on the back of her neck hugging a dog.

Trust your artist when it comes to your dog-tattoo design. Photography ©PenelopeB | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

  1. Be creative – think about a design that you want on your body forever, and that represents your dog’s personality and/or your relationship with him.
  2. Find an experienced artist who does tattoos in a style that you like.
  3. Give your artist lots of reference materials, photographs of your dog, and any other inspirational images you want your artist to incorporate into the tattoo.
  4. Trust your artist when she makes suggestions about the design or size of the tattoo — she’s the expert.
  5. Ask questions. Especially if this is your first tattoo, ask questions about anything that feels confusing. 
  6. Tip your tattoo artist! Twenty-percent is generally an average amount to tip your artist.

Don’ts for dog tattoos:

The author Sassafras Lowrey's dog tattoos. As she says — don't be afraid to go big with your dog tattoos.

The author Sassafras Lowrey’s dog tattoos. As she says — don’t be afraid to go big with your dog tattoos. Photography courtesy Sassafras Lowrey.

  1. Don’t be afraid to go big! Tiny tattoos don’t tend to age well.
  2. Avoid getting cheap tattoos — sometimes you really get what you pay for. The cheapest tattoo might not be one you want on your body forever.
  3. Try not to copy other people’s tattoos — work with your artist to design something new/unique that represents your dog or your relationship to your dog.
  4. Don’t feel like you have to wait until your dog has passed to get a tattoo. Many people consider tattoos to be something to get as memorials, but you can absolutely get tattoos of your dogs while they are still alive!

Stories of Dogster Readers With Dog Tattoos:

1. Scott Lorenz Andresen

Scott Lorenz Andresen's dog tattoo.

Scott Lorenz Andresen’s dog tattoo.

Tattoo of a painting of Scott’s late dog, Sprey.

2. Cari K.

Cari K's dog tattoo.

Cari K’s dog tattoo. Photography courtesy Cari K.

“I got Keener shortly after my first dog died. We took a whole bunch of classes together. I knew I wanted to try nosework with him and we both loved it. That’s why I chose to have his nose in the tattoo. We’ve traveled a few thousand miles together for training, seminars and competitions. He opened me up to an awesome new world. We have met so many great people. I never in my life thought I would have it in me to travel ‘alone’ (wait, I guess it’s not alone when your dog is with you) out of state.”

3. Jack Jackson

Jack Jackson's dog tattoo.

Jack Jackson’s dog tattoo. Photography courtesy Jack Jackson.

“We’re in Toronto Ontario. I’m from the U.K., so she’s my only family here and she’s the absolute love of my life. She makes me so happy every single day.”

4. Rae

Rae's dog tattoo.

Rae’s dog tattoo. Photography courtesy Rae.

“This is a portrait of my Corgis (Machete Corgéz and Knives the Corgi) based off a painting my friend Amanda gave me for Christmas one year. [This tattoo was] done by Alex Dawes. [It’s] not a memorial tattoo — just a lot of things I love all in one.”

5. Christa Faust

Christa Faust's dog tattoo.

Christa Faust’s dog tattoo. Photography courtesy Christa Faust.

“I live in Los Angeles. The tattoo is by Graham Chaffee. Butch was my heart dog, my little shadow and my constant traveling companion. I’m a crime writer and he attended several conferences with me, which is where he got the nickname Noir Dog. This tattoo is on my left calf, so that he will always walk by my side.” ­

6. Lisa Clark

Lisa Clark's dog tattoo.

Lisa Clark’s dog tattoo. Photography courtesy Lisa Clark.

“Although [it’s not a tattoo] of my dogs — it will happen, trust me, I have two dogs, I’ve had foster dogs and I volunteer at my local SPCA — I had this infinity symbol with paws done to represent my dogs, my fosters, and the many dogs I’ve loved and cared for in my lifetime that [have] offered me unconditional love and companionship. They are man and woman’s best friend.” ­

7. Jae

Jae's dog tattoo.

Jae’s dog tattoo. Photography courtesy Jae.

“I have a tattoo of my retired guide dog’s paw (to scale) with a purple Hamsa in the middle because his collar is/was purple. He guided on my left, and his eyes were my eyes and protected me from so many near-misses with cars, random cut-outs on sidewalks and finding my way home.”

Tell us: Do you have a dog tattoo? Please tell us about it in the comments! 

Thumbnail: Photography ©zhobla91 | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author whose novels have been honored by the Lambda Literary Foundation and the American Library Association. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor and assists with dog agility classes. She lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner, a senior Chihuahua mix, a rescued Shepherd mix, a Newfoundland puppy, two bossy cats and a semi-feral kitten. Learn more at sassafraslowrey.com

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