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How To Draw A Realistic Dog

Updated on June 4, 2012

To his dog, every man is Napoleon

"To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.", Aldous Huxley

And it's so true! One glimpse into your Labrador's and the world is whole again. Dogs seem to have therapeutic abilities when it comes to cheering people and that is just one of the reasons we love them so very much on our sides.

Dogs are our friends, our guardians and our companions. And drawing them in a wonderful realistic manner isn't as hard as one might think.

In this tutorial I will not only show you in a video how I like to draw my dogs but also give you a few hints on how to draw a dog as realistically as possible.

So, this is my guide to drawing realistic dogs step by step. Please enjoy!

My Drawing Equipment

As you may have noticed: Englisch isn't my mother's tongue. I come from Germany and around here we have completely different brands for drawing equipment. I do my best here to look out the stuff that is most similar to what I use myself.

5.6MM Charcoal Carbon #2 Leads. 5 Inches Long. 12 Pack. Der Gessner 261945
5.6MM Charcoal Carbon #2 Leads. 5 Inches Long. 12 Pack. Der Gessner 261945

I personally use Blackchalk leads which don't break as easily as charcoal leads. Of course, I also have a mechanical pen for this but I wasn't able to find an adequate one on Amazon. Sorry for that!

Maped Kneadable Eraser (010453)
Maped Kneadable Eraser (010453)

I even tried this brand out. Works perfectly!

Bee Paper Company 808S60-1417 Bee Paper Super Deluxe Sketch Pad, 14-Inch by 17-Inch
Bee Paper Company 808S60-1417 Bee Paper Super Deluxe Sketch Pad, 14-Inch by 17-Inch

When you buy paper always remember that the paper does half of the drawing work for you. High quality paper like this will absorb the charcoal dust much more easily than regular printing paper.

Paper Mate White Pearl Erasers, Large, 3 Count (70624)
Paper Mate White Pearl Erasers, Large, 3 Count (70624)

Those erasers should be alright. When buying erasers please keep in mind to buy one that have neither any pigment in them nor silicon (which smears awefully).


A Video-Tutorial on How to Draw Realistic Dogs - Translated into English - Just for You

While watching this video please keep in mind that the average human being benefits far more from learning by doing instead of learning by viewing.

So please feel free to stop the video anytime to get out your pencil and start sketching dogs yourself!

And if you are german by any chance please enjoy the original version of this video: Hunde zeichnen: Schritt fuer Schritt.

Happiness is a warm puppy. - ~Charles M. Schulz

I can't tip off my drawing students often enough about one simple thing: To get mentally close to what they are drawing. Of course, drawing a dog-skeleton doesn't tell you much about the way the fur has to be drawn, but you learn so many other things about that.

For example: After you studied a dog's skeleton (and his muscles) you know exactly how his skin (and then his fur) moves when he does a certain movement. You also get a much better look at the movements that are possible for a dog and earn a deeper understanding on how he can't sit, stay or move no way. For a dog, for example, it's an absurdity to permanently walk on his legs because his main center is just not build for that. The same goes for his legs, of course.

The skeleton is by far not the only thing of interest to a drawing student. Of utmost importance is the individual character a dog has. A wild dog will rather have a slightly ferocious expression on his face. And the famous Labrador Retriever will be seen with a more playful attitude on his face instead. Race does matter for dogs (I mean they were bread for certain tasks and will still strive to fulfill them). And it's not only the looks that need to be portrayed.

And believe on thing from my experience: The careful study of a character (and a dog IS a character) pays out in the long run, because you will put more love and effort in a picture of a dog you know well and the picture will turn out much better in the end.

Analyze your Dog - Observing is Learning

After analyzing the dog it will be much easier for you to sketch him and set the right tone with your pencil.

While studying a dog keep in mind the following questions:

  1. Does he have a long or a short snout? (Long snout: German Shepherd Dog; short snout: Boxer)
  2. Are his eyes rather big for his face, also known as Schema of Childlike Charakteristics? (Typical cases for that are Chihuahuas and Shi Tzus)
  3. What shape do his ears have?
  4. How long is his fur?
  5. Is it a soft, a silky, or a harsh fur? (Soft fur: Poodle; silky fur: Golden Retriver, harsh fur: Dachshund)
  6. How long are his legs in comparison to his corpus? (Short: Dachshund, normal: Mastiff, long: Greyhound)
  7. How long is his tail? What shape does it have? How is it swung?
  8. How is his character? What makes him special? (German Shepherd Dog: attentive, Labrador Retriver: playful, Bloodhound: stolid; you get the idea now, I guess)

How to Sketch Dogs - And Take First Steps towards a Realistic Dog

here are over 150 different dog breeds that are officially internationally approved. To show you how each breed has to be drawn would be a mission in life. And still all the varieties within those races as well as all the millions over millions of hybrids wouldn't be included.

That's why there isn't a sure formula around on how to draw the perfect dog.

The best tactical approach is therefore to recognize geometrical figures within the dog's body build and bring them to paper for the sketch. In my video you can see how I first draw a circle for the had and put a rectangle onto that for the snout. A slightly kidney-shaped body follows and with a few lines for the legs and the tail the sketch is finished already.

The best hint I can give is to go into a shop and by a dog magazine with lots and lots of pictures and just draw as many dogs in a short matter of time as possible. Keep them small and try to stick to the main shape by doing it and you will soon see how fast you improve.

As soon as you feel confident with the little sketches you can try out bigger ones. Or you try to sketch the face of a dog. And if you find that no trouble (that means a stranger can see that it is a dog and it doesn't take you too long do sketch it) you can become more concrete in your sketches.

Please keep in mind that no one has been born a master yet and that you probably need some hours of work until your results are satisfactory.

How do You Sketch? - Too fast, too slow, too perfect?

Many drawing students proove a great difficulty in just sketching. They are either too perfectionistic and can't put the pencil aside even if the sketch is almost no sketch anymore. Or they are too lazy and think you can recognize a golden retriver from three sloppy strokes. Most, however, tend to throw their pencils into a remote corner as soon as the sketch doesn't turn out as great as one of DaVinci's sketches. Only few bring enough patience and understanding too get through the sometimes frustrating process of sketching.

So, did you recognize yourself in those descriptions? Who are you?

What Sketching-Type are You?

See results

How to Draw a Dog's Face - And How to Make Him Bark

A dog's face is the place where you see his character. This is why you need to invest some extra time upon learning a few things about this most important part of his body.

After you sketched his head roughly and you know where eyes, nose and ears belong, you can start right off. If you, however, have the feeling that your sketch is somewhat distorted or just "wrong", lay your sketching pad aside for a few hours and have a look at it again after you rested eyes and mind well. When you return to your pad you will surely find some mistakes that need instant correction and the sketch will turnout alright.

I always like to point out that I invest myself a whole lot of time into my sketches. If the sketch is bad the shading will turn out bad as well. Often it even takes me as long to create the sketch as it takes to do the shading. Always remember that the sketch is somewhat the foundation of your picture and it's good to invest time for a proper foundation.

Personally I like starting with at least one eye. Of course do I work roughly from left to right so my hand won't smear the picture unwillingly but in most cases I love to identify with the picture by putting the first signs of life into it by drawing an eye.

Most dogs have rather dark eyes. The eye colors extend from hazel to pitch black. That means creating a nice velvet black with the charcoal pencil. It's most important, however, that the glint in the eyes stays pure white. Without the glint an eye looks dried out and therefore dead.

The second glint in a dogs face can be found on his nose. Because that nose is rather wet a great deal of light is reflected from there. Please keep in mind that a dog's nose is not very smooth. In fact it's got a rather warty texture. If you succeed in creating the illusion of that texture with your pencil the dog will look much more lifelike.

The ears' shape strongly depends on the breed. Some ears droop, some stand up straight and some (regretfully) are cropped (mostly on Great Danes or Dobermans). Just have a close look at the ears and note of there are for example bumps or folds of the skin.

It's also most important to consider the dog's mood. If he's good-humored the ears will be cocked. An aggressive or fearful dog on the other hand will be tilted backwards.

Usually it takes much longer for a nice dog face to be drawn than the rest of his body. But patience will pay and as soon as the face is done the rest will be a child's play.

Drawing a Dog's Fur Step by Step - Fluffy Fur, White Fur, Silky Fur ....

You certainly don't want to draw every single hair on a dog's fur in order to make him look realistic. And believe me: on the one hand it's totally not worth the effort and on the other hand will the dog's fur even more unrealistic.

That's why you should rather draw the streaks of hear instead. That way you can point out very easily in which way the fur is flowing and where there are highlights in his hair.

My approach to drawing fur is like this: First I create the fur structure with the charcoal pencil (very carefully). After that I use the blending stump to fill up white areas that are not supposed to be there. That way the fur gets a nice silky texture. If I need some highlights pointed out after that I just get out my kneadable eraser and create the lighter spots by dipping off the charcoal carefully there.

It's most important, however, to adapt the pencil streaks' length to the length of the fur. That means drawing long strokes for long fur (Shi Tzu) and short strokes for short hair (Boxer).

Of course, you must also adapt your pencil strokes to the dog's color of the fur. If his fur is black you have to draw dark strokes. But be aware to leave some highlights – a dog that is drawn plain black will look most unrealistic. Especially as the black fur reflects the sunlight so intensely.

White fur on the other hand mustn't be shaded to strongly. Make your strokes just a little too strong and his fur will soon look rather greyish than white. That's why I personally create the texture of a white fur with my blending stump (which is still “dirty” with charcoal powder from the use before). If an area in the white fur gets too dark however, it's no drama – just dip off the charcoal with the kneadable eraser until the shade is right.

The approach is almost self-explanatory with spotted dogs. The areas that have a darker coat color have to be drawn with a darker stroke and the bright areas with a lighter stroke (or even the blending stump). Don't encircle the spots with the charcoal pencil. This will look unnaturally since the dog has no such encirclements on his own coat.

There is no silver bullet for the perfect dog fur since the variety is so great. While some dog's have silky white fur that gleams like crazy in the sun some have brown greyish fur that is so rough that no undergrowth will ever harm him with that (just look at the Dachshund – he was especially bread for that). Some dogs even have curly hair and some have none at all.

Let your intuition take over and just try to draw the fur the best you can. Be patient and always remember that skill comes with practice.

Helpful Books on Sketching Animals - For Example the Beloved Barker

I'm a bookworm myself and feel an almost magnetic urge to buy books on drawing and similar subjects. Therefore I hope you will like the following ones as much as me.

Please feel free to add critique as well as questions or anything that comes to your mind into thos subtle guestbook here. I hope you enjoyed "the show" and feel a little bit brighter now. :-)

Dog Lovers Big and Small - Perpetuate your Name in Here

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    • efcruzarts profile image


      6 years ago

      very tutorial on drawing animals

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @JoshK47: Whoa. Thank you very much. I seriously don't know how I could miss your blessing und comment!

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: Thank you once more. You are also highly encouraging! :-)

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      You are so encouraging to so many people with your artistic lenses - this is a wonderful lens, pinned to my board Arts and Crafts I love.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Absolutely wonderful lens - you're definitely doing quite well here on Squidoo, each lens I see of yours is bless-worthy by far! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Gosh, this is so true. I wouldn't know anything about myself if I wouldn't be drawing. :-)

      Thank you so much for everything!

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @gamesngames: Thankies!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Really enjoyed your writing and photos too. Getting people to draw more I think is a good thing for their stress level and getting to know oneself. *blessed by a squid angel*

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great lens

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @DailyRogue: Great! Please let me know if you hit any hard boulders while drawing. I'll gladly answer your questions!

    • DailyRogue profile image


      6 years ago

      Great instruction. You've inspired me to get out my sketch pad again!

    • chezchazz profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Extremely well done lens and easy to follow instructions. Blessed and featured on my squid angel "Wing-ing it on Squidoo" lens.

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Lynda Makara: Thank you so very much!

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @kindoak: Hey, don't let this discourage you. I improved my drawing skills sinc kindergarten. Such things need time. Picasso once said that 90% of artistic expertise comes from practise. The latter 10 come from talent. Everybody can draw with sufficient self-motivation (imho). :-)

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @BeatMaker2020: Thanks for visiting my lens. Hope you are able to put the instructions into action.

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @suzy-t: Thank you so much for the kind blessing! And even more for trying out my instuctions. PLease let me know if you had any difficulties heeding them!

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 

      6 years ago from California

      Wonderful instructions. You're so talented!

    • kindoak profile image


      6 years ago

      Man, I wish I could draw like that. Tried so many times but I guess some can and some can't. Nice lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very good guide, useful for aspiring artists, thanks!

    • suzy-t profile image


      6 years ago

      This lens is wonderful. I love dogs and drawing (although my abilities arent that good). But with your instruction, I'm going to try again. Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • Budeni profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @myraggededge: Wow! Thank you so much for the blessing and everything! :-)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Brilliant lens. Don't worry about your English, it's fine. Blessed :-)


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