Dogs are cute! Who hasn’t taken a moment to doodle their favorite pooch on the side of their paper before? But like many animals, dogs can be hard to draw well, especially from memory.
If you are trying to up your drawing skill, this guide for how to draw a dog is for you! We’ll cover all the basics of learning to draw animals and dogs in particular, and walk you through drawing a dog step by step.
4 General Tips for Drawing Dogs and Animals
Drawing animals can be really challenging! Living creatures are often harder to draw than static objects, as you want your animal drawings to be full of life. Here’s a few tips to get you started!
It might feel like cheating to use a reference, but it’s a-OK. Professional artists use references all the time to help their artwork feel more realistic. A reference photo will help you see what a dog looks like without trying to make a real dog sit still the entire time you’re working.
There are so many kinds of dogs that it’s practically impossible to remember how to draw all of them. Even if they have similar skeletal structures (which isn’t always the case), their fur texture, eye shape, and size can vary pretty widely. You can take your own reference photos or use ones you find in books or online to help you get the details right.
You don’t have to go to veterinary school, but spending some time looking at animal anatomy will help you better understand how an animal sits, stands, and moves.
Pay particular attention to the location of the spine, as this will help you figure out how the animal is shaped. When you know that, you’ll have an easier time positioning the head, legs, and tails appropriately.
You can also get a better handle on their muscle structure, which is particularly helpful when drawing animals with short fur and pronounced muscles. Though you don’t need to replicate every detail in your drawing, understanding how an animal’s body works can make your drawings feel more lifelike, even in a cartoony style.
Start With Simple Shapes
Even complicated drawings are based on simple shapes. A light underdrawing that consists primarily of primary shapes is a great foundation for more detailed drawings; you can build on the basic shapes to help your drawing feel lifelike.
Look at an animal’s anatomy and imagine it as several connected shapes. You might see a large oval for the ribcage and a rounded rectangle for the head, or an almost kidney bean-like shape for an animal’s leg.
These are just guidelines—they’ll need refinement to really work in a drawing, but using these shapes to guide your work will help you stay on track as you’re drawing.
It takes time and effort to draw well. Start off with light pencil for sketching, and don’t be afraid to erase and try again.
As you progress through the drawing process, you can erase your guidelines and draw in heavier pencil. This helps keep you on target and gets rid of the unnecessary lines.
When you’re ready, you can go back over your drawing in ink or marker, and erase the pencil marks entirely. That ensures that only the lines you want are visible!
This also works for digital illustration. Using layers in illustration programs, you can have underdrawings and layers of increasing detail, which can be turned off when you no longer need them.
With practice, you'll soon be doing way better than this.
How to Draw a Dog: The Simple Method
Even when you’re drawing a simple dog, it’s smart to have an understanding of basic dog anatomy. It might sound silly or unnecessary, but even cartoony drawings need to be based in reality to look right. As mentioned above, take some time to look at dog anatomy and learn the basic shapes that make a dog up to help you make even a simple dog look great!
Because there are so many kinds of dogs, we can’t provide a tutorial for how to draw all of them. Instead, here’s a simple guide for drawing a sitting dog that can be adjusted depending on what kind of dog you’re drawing.
A modest beginning.
Sketch the Muzzle
All you need is an oval to start with. Don’t get caught up in making it look perfect—you can make adjustments to it later.
Also, don’t worry about details. Just get a circle down and we’ll add to it later, once we have the body done.
It doesn't look like much yet...
Draw the Head
Sketch the shape of the head around the oval you’ve drawn for the muzzle. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect, because you can change it at any time.
You can change the shape depending on how you want your dog to look. Some dogs have very round heads while others are more angular, but having the head oval in place gives you a structure to work around.
Looking a bit more like a dog now.
Add a Nose
Dog noses are unusually shaped. They actually look a bit like mushroom slices, with an exaggerated flare at the bottom.
You can start by drawing a sort of rounded triangle, then adding the nostrils to flesh it out. A simple nose or a detailed one can be equally effective depending on how detailed your drawing is.
A dog’s ears can be a great source of expression! Depending on what kind of dog you’re drawing, the ears may be floppy, upright, or even cropped.
Start with the basic shape and tweak it from there.
Eyes make a big difference.
Let’s keep it simple here—eyes are tricky to draw well! Two little ovals will do the job for now, so if we’re doing a simple cartoony drawing, we don’t have to get very detailed.
You can add eyebrows to give your dog more of an expression. Dogs don’t have eyebrows exactly like we do, but some have eyebrow-like markings just above their eyes. Feel free to use your imagination!
Okay, it's definitely a dog now.
Add a Mouth
Dogs have two rounded shapes beneath their noses that often turn upwards, making it look as though they’re smiling. You can draw these shapes as rounded ovals to make the dog look happier, or make them more angular and pointed downward to make your dog look more serious.
In combination with the ears, the dog’s mouth is the best way to convey emotion.
The egg-shaped body feels like a bit of a step backward.
Add a Body
The body looks a bit like an egg, with the top hidden behind the dog’s head. Again, draw it lightly and go over it later to add more detail.
These legs leave something to be desired.
Add Front Legs
Draw two straight lines and add a little oval at the end for the paw. You can embellish these with spots or fur, but the basic shape is just two sets of two lines with a little oval at the end.
I wanted a husky-like tail, even if it looks a bit like a banana right now.
Add a Tail
What kind of tail a dog has depends on its breed. You can draw a skinny tail, a fluffy one, or no tail at all depending on what kind of dog you’re drawing.
These legs are a little on the abstract side.
Add Back Legs
Back legs are a little more difficult to visualize, but think back to the anatomy of a dog. The dog’s thigh is kind of like a tilted oval, and the foot and lower leg are like an elongated, squashed oval.
All these are just sketch lines, so if they look a little funky now, that’s okay—you can fix them up with detail later on.
Details and ink definitely help the doggy appearance.
Add Details and Finish Up
Now that you have the basic structure of your dog, you can touch things up with detail, erase all your sketch lines, and outline in ink.
Some things to add to make your dog look more lifelike and cute are color, fur textures, and whiskers. Take a look at real dogs and see the features that make them unique, then make adjustments to yours to make it look special, too!
How to Draw a Dog: The Detailed Method
Drawing a detailed dog is a lot like drawing a simple dog, though it will likely take you more time and effort. Again, understand the simple shapes that make up a dog. Look at skeletal structure and muscle groups to help you understand what they look like under all that fur, as those are the features you’ll start with before you add more detail.
First and foremost: start simple. It’s easier to draw a familiar yellow lab than it is to draw something more complex, like a Puli. That goes for shapes, too. Underdrawing is even more important when drawing detailed dogs than it is for simple dogs, even if you feel like you’re erasing most of the work.
And erasing is a big part of drawing detailed dogs. You probably won’t get it perfect the first time, but that’s okay! The dog up above was my first attempt, and if I continued to practice I would get better. Erase and try again and again. You might not notice your skill improving, but every drawing you do brings you closer to the artist you want to be.
This beautiful dog is going to be our reference photo.
Start With a Reference
You can use your own photo or one you find online, but add your own embellishments and tweaks to really make it your own. You don’t need to trace, though you can if you’re just starting out and want to get a better grasp on what dogs look like. It’s not wrong to learn by tracing, but it’s a good idea to use those drawings as practice unless you took the photo yourself.
Many artists take their own reference photos. If you can’t, you can use one you find online, but aim to make your drawing substantially different from the reference if you plan to use the picture for something other than practice.
Starting with a reference photo lets you work off of an existing image, which can help your drawing be more accurate. Use what you know of skeletal structure so you can better draw the shapes that make up a dog.
Not very impressive.
Naturally, dogs are made up of many complex parts. But when you’re starting your drawing, just focus on the basics—the shapes that make up the basic form of a dog. If you were to just imagine a dog’s silhouette, you might see a rounded rectangle for the head, a large oval of the chest, and another oval for the hindquarters.
Start with a line to keep the body parts aligned. The line can be straight or slightly curved, depending on what position you’ll draw the dog in. Then draw the basic shapes at their appropriate places, centering them on the line.
After some redrawing, we have the basic form of the dog in our photo.
Outline Shapes for Larger Features
Now that you have the basic dog shape down, you can add just a little more detail. Focus on drawing the larger features of a dog—the snout, feet, and legs. Again, draw shapes rather than detailed features, as you’ll add all the little stuff later.
Fill in the places where those features meet the body, and connect the larger sections of the body together. You’ll flesh all of this out later on; for now, you just want it to look like the basic silhouette of a dog, not something instantly recognizable as whatever breed of dog you’re trying to draw.
This dog is more muscular than furry, so I focused on the muscles.
Add Body Contour
Now’s the time to start getting into detail, mostly in the body. Add some rough structure to the body, such as muscle definition for short-haired dogs or fur outlines for long-haired dogs. Look at where the breed is thicker or thinner, and emphasize those areas of the body.
Look at where fur gathers on images of the type of dog you’re drawing, and also where muscles are more visible. Those are the areas to emphasize here, but, as always, don’t get too invested in details yet.
Also take a moment to draw the legs and feet in more detail. Add toes and fur, if necessary, so you have a clearer picture of what the final dog will look like.
Hey, that's a dog!
Erase Unnecessary Lines
Get rid of the guidelines you used, as from now on you’ll mostly be fleshing out details and shading. You’ve spent enough time on the basic shape, adding some fur and details, that you no longer need your initial shapes and guidelines.
Now’s the time to add basic outlines for the dog’s ears, eyes, nose, and snout details. Get their placement and shape right, and be sure they look similar to those in your reference photo.
This will probably take some time. Don’t get frustrated if you have to draw and redraw these features several times—these are details that are important to get right, but that can be quite tricky to execute well. You might have to do a lot of practice, but it’ll be worth it in the end!
Add Fur Texture
Now you can add fur and fluff to the details you added in the last step. Add a little fur to the ears or little tufts on the legs.
If you’re not drawing a particularly shaggy dog, add more muscle definition. Use shading to emphasize where the dog’s muscles would show, and sketch out areas where the dog is more muscular to make it look more realistic.
Just as you’ve done throughout the drawing, start with general details before you get into the smaller ones. Go for general fur shape, then add fuzzier patches. Get the general body shape and muscle structure done, then add muscles that are in use given your reference photo’s pose.
It's not perfect, but that just means it's time to practice!
You’re almost done! Take some time to add additional details to things like the dog’s nose and eyes, and add teeth or a tongue depending on whether the dog’s mouth is open.
You can also add spots or other color patterns if your dog has them. Just shading will accomplish this, or you can use full color to give your picture even more pop.
However, it is possible to get too detailed. Some artists draw intensely detailed images while others are a little more sparing. Both are great art styles, so don’t feel like adding tons of detail is the only way to make your art look realistic and interesting!
Additional Tips for Drawing Dogs
Once you've got the basics down, drawing a dog is a matter of practice. Keep trying to improve, even when it feels like your skill isn’t getting better.
But if you need some additional help in drawing certain parts or certain kinds of dogs, consider these tips!
How To Draw a Dog’s Face
Drawing a dog’s face can be particularly tricky—we want our drawing’s faces to be as expressive and cute as real dogs. Understanding what a dog’s skull is like is a great first step, as you’ll be able to see what parts move, what parts don’t, and where important features like the ears and eyes sit.
Outline the basic shape before adding features. You can block them in using lines to be sure that they’re all aligned properly.
As with the rest of the dog, start with the broader details and then fill in the specific ones. Start with the shape of the eyes, for example, and refine them until they look right. Then add the iris and pupils as well as surrounding fur. You can always make changes, but it’s easier to start with the larger details and fill in the specific ones than end up having the erase everything because you can’t get the shape to look right after you’ve drawn the details.
How to Draw a Puppy
Puppies are a lot more than miniature dogs—they have different features, which means there are special considerations to keep in mind when drawing them as opposed to adult dogs.
For one, puppies often have proportionally larger paws than adult dogs. Drawing the paws a bit larger is a good way to clue people into the fact that you’re drawing a puppy!
Puppies are also generally a little chubbier, with more rounded bodies. Though some might be a little muscular, for the most part puppies will be more rounded—combined with other puppy features like larger paws, a rounded body can make a dog look younger.
Some breeds also have gangly legs, especially as they begin to grow into adolescents. A few adult breeds, such as borzois and greyhounds, may look gangly as adults, but many dogs get that same look as they’re growing up. It’s okay to make your puppy drawings look a little awkward—it’s true to life!
Another good detail for puppies is that their eyes often look proportionally larger than those of adult dogs. This is a common feature of baby animals, and it’s part of the reason that people love them so much. A large head, round eyes, and smaller nose and mouth remind us a lot of human babies, so use those features to make your puppy drawings look even cuter!
Don't be afraid to experiment with different styles when drawing dogs. Check out this guide to how to do contour line art and try out a whole new art direction!
Not sure what to draw now that you've mastered dogs? This list of 100 different drawing ideas is sure to help.
Drawing is a great hobby, but it can also make you money. Check out this list of art scholarships to help you turn your skills into cash for college!Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.