Make your own free website on

Notes on drawing canines... Know what you're drawing!

When drawing canines, especially realistic ones, it really helps if you have some basic knowledge on anatomy! You don't have to know every single muscle and part of the skeleton, but knowing how and where the legs bends, the basic shape of the canine body, really helps, you know. I don't know that much myself, but I've learnt more and more. Now, when looking at many of my older pics, I realize what stupid anatomic mistakes I did back then!

Step 1 - The basic skeleton
This is a basic canine skeleton. As you probably realize, I've simplified it quite a bit. But basically, this is what you need to know unless you want a very realistic picture! Look at those filled balls on the legs... Those are joints, that's where the leg can bend. Look at the foreleg first. First, we have the shoulder, then the elbow. As you can see, the upper part of the dog's arm is very short, and the elbow is placed very high. Well, that makes perfect sense if you know what a speedy predator should look like. Long legs, right? Well, partly truth, but it also depends on what part of the leg is long... The thigh? Nope, it's the lower parts of the legs that tells you if an animal is a good runner or not! Just look at a horse, or an ostrich! They have long legs, but the thighs aren't the longest part of the legs! Same goes for dogs (well, at least the speedy breeds). You can see that on the hind legs as well, the knees are placed very high!

Here's the skeleton of an english bulldog. This dog isn't nearly as athletic as the doggie above, but you can see that the basics are still the same, the length and proportions have simply changed.
Whenever you want to try a pose, or just sketch, it's a great idea to use the simplified skeleton. Heck, you can make it even simpler than above, just use lines! The important thing is to keep all the joints, so that you can tell whether a pose is anatomically correct!

What the? Common mistakes...
I will now go through some mistakes that one can do when drawing dogs. They can be mistakes that I've seen others do, but most are mistakes that I've done myself. Hopefully I will be able to teach you something :)

Strange bends
Sometimes you can see dogs with their legs bend at weird angles. You might not realize it yourself at first, but if you look closely, and compare with our trusty skeleton, you realize that this dog must have a broken leg to stand like that!
Look at the first leg... It might look okay at first, but hey... How can it bend on the middle like that? If we drew a skeleton onto that dog, we see that the leg must be broken or something....

Low knees
Something else you often see... Low knees! Remember what I told you about running abilities? Well, be honest... Do you think the dog to the left would be able to run for long distances? I doubt it! Look at the skeleton... Poor doggie, I wouldn't wanna be built like that!
Now, the dog to the right is another matter. Compare the two skeletons... As you can see, this dog's knee is placed a lot higher, by the belly. This goes for most "real" dogs, feel on a dog's hind leg, and you'll see it (well, feel it). Okay, the american german shepherd has a low knee, but that poor breed has been bred too far, and I honestly feel sorry for some of the german shepherds in the US... You know, it's no wonder that they have more hip problems than other breeds! If you live in the US, you should be aware that from all german shepherds have THAT bent legs. FCI countries (the largest kennel organization in the world) follow another breed standard, the german, which doesn't want such bent legs (the american standard want the knee joint to be bent at 90 degrees, which isn't healthy for any dog). I may be dissing someone here... Sorry in that case, these are just my thoughts. Don't hate me >_<; *hides*

Now, there are a few exception, but dogs with a "normal" bite, like spaniels and other dogs with longer muzzles, usually have their teeth placed like below. That means that the lower canine goes before the upper one, not the other way around, as you often see! Dogs need their teeth placed like this to help them nibble on small objects, like removing fleas from their coat. It also helps them when biting.

Let's face it...
Dogs that have lips should be drawn with them, not like the dog to the left, which has a giant mouth but no lips!
Also, the ears... Ears are not flat, they are as 3D as any other part of the dog! Try to take a close look at a real dog's ears, that's the best you can do :)

Well, these were a few tips of mine. I hope that I've managed to help someone :)
If you have any questions, you can always email me!