Symbolic Dog Meanings for Tattoos
Most dog tattoo ideas revolve around personal love and affection for a canine companion, and that's super-cool. Sometimes canine ink is a memorial to a loyal friend who has passed on to the spirit side of life. Interestingly, dogs are considered sentinels to the gateways of the Otherworlds. In ancient Egyptian, Celtic, Greco-Roman and other myths, the dog represents a kind of "psychopomp" or spiritual guide - an ally while a human soul is transferring between the realms of physical and non-physical. Do you feel you are straddling the dimensions of worldly life and ephemeral reality? Perhaps a dog tattoo can solidify a feeling of guardianship and protection as you move through the veils of reality and experience.
In Shamanic wisdom (as well as Celtic thought), the dog is associated with the powers of the forest. Here we see canines as keen, savvy wilderness guides. Hearty, strong and stead-fast to leading us through dark and infinitely mystical territory, the dog is a champion guide. Dogs are phenomenal companions on any kind of journey (spiritual, physical, emotional). A dog tattoo might be a great way to convey that concept of guidance as you wind your way through dark forests of life.
In Asian symbolism, the dog is incredibly good luck. The Chinese prescribe symbolism of prosperity, good fortune, obedience and friendliness to the dog. The dog is also associated with Aquarius in the Chinese zodiac, and therefore is considered to have an amicable disposition. Philanthropic, empathic and very well-liked are other attributes. If you need a bit of luck or a boost in your social standing, a dog tattoo might be the reminder you need for these aspects.
Some keywords to consider when researching your dog tattoo ideas...
Dogs (and dog tattoo ideas) can be associated with both lunar and/or solar qualities and imagery for your tattoo.
The color of your dog tattoo is a tale-teller too. White dogs are symbolic of purification, clarity, virtue and stamina. Red dogs convey virility and a sense of victory in personal battles. Black dogs have a lunar flavor to them and hearken back to the baying hounds of Hecate, who in some versions of myth, is the goddess of shadows. In this light (or lack of it), black dogs are shadow-riders, unafraid to walk boldly into dark places. This also ties in with themes of protection (there's a reason for the term "guard dogs").
Dogs are also considered animal healers. They are associated with sacred waters in Celtic mythology (which offer healing/cleansing power). Canines are also depicted with Asclepius, an ancient Greek physician of renown portent. In many cultures, dogs were thought to have immense healing powers. Ancients observed dogs tending to their own wounds (licking) with remarkable healing results. Are you a healer? Shamanic wisdom encourages you to invite the dog in your healing practices, as this creature will guide you in more effective healing results. A dog tattoo may also serve as a dynamic statement of your power and desire to heal others (and/or yourself).
This is just a small sampling of dog tattoo ideas. If you dig it, check out my more in-depth page on Dog Meaning and Symbolism here. There's more related digging up you can do by following the links at the end of this page.
Special thanks to David J. Crotty for the dog pictures he took and allowed me to use on this website. Thanks Dave!