How to Draw a Dog Laying Down: 7 Practical Steps

John Walton
Written by John Walton

Maybe in a bid to celebrate their birthday or just as a special bonding moment between man and his pet—sometimes you might feel like doing something sweet for your dogs in return for their undying loyalty. One way to do that is by immortalizing your pet’s image in a drawing. But wanting to draw a dog laying down and knowing how to draw a dog laying down are two very different things.

The best chance to draw your dog comes when they’re in sleeping position—because then they won’t move as much and it also means you get to capture your beloved friend at a point in time when they are at their cutest—but many people still consider this easier said than done. People who aren’t used to drawing will usually have a difficult time recreating those lines on paper. But don’t worry, because today we are going to go over how you can make the perfect drawing of your dog.

Tired dog laying down.

Without much ado, let’s sink our canines into the meaty part of this tutorial so that you can start sharpening those pencils as fast as possible. We’ve laid out 7 practical steps on how to draw a dog laying down in this article. However, before we dive right in, there are some things that you need to know.

What You Should Take Note of Before Drawing

Drawing is an art, no doubt, so there’s a system to it. You don’t just whip out your drawing materials and start making strokes. Instead, take note of all the curves on the body of your dog. Take notice of all the shapes that make up the whole image of the dog too.

At this point, it could help to see your dog as a collection of solid shapes that make up the whole being. That helps you give yourself a clearer look at things as opposed to seeing the complexity.

architect working in the office

It would help if you spare some time before you start drawing to take note of the larger parts that make up the entirety of the dog. For example, you might want to draw the head first. List the features that make up the head so you’ll have an easier time perfecting each of them. Do the same to the body. It’s easier when you compartmentalize by breaking the picture into parts.

What You Need

There are various art supplies that you can use to make a drawing of your dog:

  • First things first, you’ll need some drawing paper. Not just any conventional paper will do. With a proper drawing paper, you’ll be able to apply shading and colors more easily.
  • Next, we recommend using a fine-lead pencil or fine point marker. While we would typically advise you go with whatever works best for you, experience has taught us that these two are the best options when it comes to a simple drawing of a dog because they are very versatile and can be used by beginners and experts alike. The marker is great for drawing pronounced lines and the pencil is for the shading.
  • Don’t forget the eraser. Even experts will usually need erasers.
  • If your goal is a monochrome drawing, colored pencils or paint will undoubtedly not be needed. But it can be fun to add color into the picture even if you’re drawing it just for practice.
  • And finally, don’t forget to call upon the model aka the dog. Wait for the dog to fall asleep to begin the action.

The supplies we mentioned above are used for conventional drawing. If you know your way around it, a digital drawing tablet can also be used.

How to Draw a Dog Laying Down

Now that we have all of our bases covered, let’s get right down into business. Below, we will try as much as possible to detail and outline the steps involved in drawing a dog lying down.

Step 1: Outline the Basic Shapes

Remember when we told you to observe the dog, to see what basic shapes make up their entire build? This is where we want you to apply that knowledge. Start the picture by sketching all of these shapes and bringing them together into one cohesive picture. Don’t worry about smoothening the lines for now. Focus more on getting the shapes that represent each part, and bringing them together to represent the dog’s image well.

Image showing a dog laying down on the grass

You’re at liberty to use triangles, circles, ovals, rectangles, squares and what have you to show different details such as the head, mouth, forehead, ears, back, thighs, limbs and so on. After the head, do the honors of including a small detail for the connecting neckline as well. Most times, you don’t need basic shapes for this, just a simple working of the wrists to create the best shape that is as close to the real thing as possible.

Step 2: Start With the Head

Now that you have taken the time to break down the image of your dog into a collection of basic shapes, we can move on to the next step. This will be your outline for the entire drawing, so make sure you did it well. If not, you can always go back to erase and adjust where needed.

Afterwards, start with the head part of your outline. From the shape you have created for the head, go on to add further details such as the eyes (remember, these are supposed to be closed) and nose. Make careful details to link the face to the snout, and include some detailing for the ears too.

a dog laying down in one of Tingdene's caravans.

What’s a dog without a forehead, right? While other details are taking up space, make sure you leave just enough to match your dog’s forehead slant. Don’t go all in at first. Make light sketches that could easily be erased and adjusted if something goes wrong. When you’re sure you have what you want, you can then go on to make the pencil thickness uniform with the rest of the outline.

While your drawing is not expected to look exactly like the real dog, you are expected to capture the likeness. Thus, make sure you don’t make any mistake in the placement of these features. Also, if your dog has any distinguishable features (such as a birthmark or scar), go ahead and draw it in.

Step 3: Work On the Body

Now that we have partially finished the head, we should move on to laying out a ‘map’ for the body. From the outline which you have drawn, start your drawing of the body from behind the neck. Work the lines carefully to represent what shape the dog is sleeping in.

Scientifically, the tail is an extension of the spine. Artistically, that means you have to end the line you’re drawing at the tip of the tail without stopping along the way. You might end up drawing a half-circle for this line because usually, a dog sleeps in a curled-up position. Its tail will often end up covering the body, over the hind limbs.

Image showing a little puppy looking at the camera

Speaking of limbs, a drawing of the body that you should have had by now would naturally point you to where the limbs are supposed to be. A sleeping dog usually has at least one elbow on the floor. Make sure you give special attention to showing the elbow. Although, if it’s a small dog, this might not be visible.

Distinguish the thigh while not forgetting to introduce the paws. Make sure your paw-drawings follow what the dog’s looks like, not what you think it looks like in your head. Finish up here by thickening (from the outline) the rest of the space between the hind limbs and the forelimbs of your dog. That would automatically look like its stomach. If you’ve been following the guidelines to the letter, the stomach would look as realistic as can be too.

Step 4: Put Down Some Shadings

After placing the features on the head of the dog and drawing out a simple outline of the body, it is now time to start shading your drawing. With drawings of a person’s profile, shading creates the impression of a certain angle and lighting. With drawings of a dog, shadings do more than that. It represents your dog’s coat—and the shadings would differ depending on whether your dog has short or long hair.

Start with the head. Tilt your pencil gently to one side and start making strokes. Of course, this is not to be done at random. Like everything we have been talking about, there is an art to this.

german boxer dog lying down

Carefully, observe the direction in which the hair on the head of your dog leans toward. This is much like the natural direction our hair follows after we have combed or bushed them. Take these into consideration and start replicating. Do not draw out the fur strokes. Instead, shade them in.

Start lightly at first, then gradually move to deepening the shading against all other parts of the drawing. In essence, this is one of the most challenging parts of the drawing as you’ll need to always observe the flow of the hair to better inform your own strokes. Go on for a while then sit back and take a minute to examine what you’ve drawn to establish the degree of likeness. Don’t forget that you can always erase at the slight hint of a mistake and start again.

Step 5: Move Around

While we have detailed how you can keep refining the head to make it very realistic, you should not focus on that part alone. Fortunately for us, the body of a dog that’s lying down doesn’t have many details to be drawn out. That means all we have to do is put in some fur shading.

Image showing a little white Puppy

Like has been done with the head, observe your sleeping dog (and be careful not to wake your model) and see how their hair falls in place. Follow the strokes by shading from the sides of your angled pencil. Carefully, take the gentle strokes all the way down to cover the entire body of the dog.

You must have noticed while observing your dog that some parts seem to have more contrast than the others. This might be due to the presence of a darker patch of fur on those parts, the presence of shadows (due to the reflection of light on the sleeping position of your dog) or both. Whatever it is, don’t leave out this detail in your shadings. Although minute, it is a very important part of your drawing. The image of your dog will not look complete or realistic without it.

Step 6: Darken and Strengthen

If you think you’re done with shading, then you’re unfortunately wrong. Probably one of the things you’ll be told over and over again in an art class is that you need good shading to make your drawing as realistic as possible. Your dog is also going to be better represented on paper with some more shading.

German Shepherd, Dog, Dog Lying Down

We have walked you through some of the places that need to be shaded in the steps 4 and 5 above. Here is where you need to use your discretion to determine where else your dog might need shading, where needs some darkening, and where doesn’t need any of these at all.

All of these would be dependent on

  • The breed of your dog
  • The amount of hair your dog has
  • The presence of multi-colored fur patches on your dog
  • Lighting conditions where the dog is sleeping

It doesn’t take an expert to figure out all of these things. They are all things you can see and apply as you see fit.

Step 7: Refine! Refine!! Refine!!!

Unless you’re Leonardo da Vinci incarnate, or you have had some knowledge about making drawings in the past, we don’t expect you to come up with something perfect the first time. It can be great—even very close to perfection, but perhaps not quite perfect yet. There is always room for improvement. And we believe that’s what makes drawing fun.

If you feel it’s something you can manage from the comfort of your already-made drawing, by all means, do so. If you’re not satisfied at all with the current drawing, you should start over again.

Image showing a person preparing to draw something

But no matter what, don’t throw away the first one you drew. Look at it and make decisions on what can be improved upon there. Make notes for yourself and start all over again. Hopefully, your dog won’t be up yet. Otherwise, use your first outline as a basis for your next drawings.

Wrap Up

The drawing of a sleeping dog might look challenging at first, but you will find it rather simple once you’ve gotten used to the idea. At the end of this exercise, provided all the steps are followed diligently, you should have a picture of your beloved pet to hang around the house.

One last thing. Don’t forget that art is an expression of self. So while you are drawing, make sure to infuse some personal style into what you’re doing. This can neither be taught nor learned. It just happens. So, relax and just let it happen.

Australian Kelpie laying down in thick grass

Did we manage to answer your question regarding how to draw a dog laying down well? Have you tried following the steps we laid out for you? What’s the end result like? It will be awesome if you are willing to share it with us by posting it in the comments section below! You can also share some tips of your own if you have any.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.