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Dog Artists / anthropomorphism  / Anthropomorphism in dogs
anthropomorphic dog art

Anthropomorphism in dogs

Your Guide to Anthropomorphism in dogs


Anthropomorphism in the context of dog art involves imbuing canine subjects with human characteristics, emotions, and expressions. This artistic approach seeks to create a bridge between the observer and the subject, fostering a deeper connection and understanding of the emotional lives of dogs.


Anthropomorphism in dogs finds its roots in our evolutionary history and social psychology. Humans have evolved to be highly social beings, forming deep connections not only with other humans but also with animals, particularly dogs. This propensity to attribute human-like characteristics to animals, termed anthropomorphism, is thought to have evolutionary advantages, fostering cooperation and mutual understanding.

The Role of Anthropomorphism in Art

dog as abe lincoln

In the world of art, anthropomorphism serves as a powerful tool for artists seeking to convey the rich emotional lives of dogs. By attributing human expressions and emotions to their subjects, artists can create pieces that resonate deeply with viewers. The eyes, in particular, become windows into the perceived emotions of the depicted dogs, allowing for a more profound connection between the artwork and the observer.




Why do people like anthropomorphising dogs?

Anthropomorphism often arises from our attempts to interpret and understand canine behaviour. Dogs, being highly social animals, communicate through body language, vocalizations, and facial expressions. Humans naturally project their own emotional experiences onto these cues, attributing human-like emotions such as happiness, sadness, or curiosity to their canine companions.


Anthropomorphism and the Human-Dog Bond

The close relationship between humans and dogs has further fueled anthropomorphic tendencies. As integral members of our families, dogs often become anthropomorphized as we attribute complex emotions, intentions, and even moral values to them. This anthropomorphic lens strengthens the emotional bond between us.


What are examples of dog anthropomorphism?

1. Smiling Dogs

When dogs pull back their lips, exposing their teeth, it is often interpreted by humans as a “smile.” While dogs do exhibit facial expressions, attributing a human emotion like happiness to their facial gestures is an anthropomorphic interpretation

2. Conversing with Dogs

Anthropomorphism extends to how humans communicate with dogs. Talking to dogs as if they understand human language and expecting them to respond in a manner similar to human conversation is a common anthropomorphic behaviour.

3. Dressing Dogs in Clothing

Dressing dogs in clothing, accessories, or costumes is a form of anthropomorphism. While it may serve practical purposes such as warmth or protection, the act of adorning dogs in human-like attire reflects our tendency to humanize them.

4. Celebrating Birthdays:

Throwing birthday parties for dogs, complete with decorations, treats, and presents, is a clear example of anthropomorphism. While it’s a delightful way to express love, dogs probably do not comprehend the significance of birthdays in the way we do.


Why do people anthropomorphise dogs so much?

Because we love them! Dogs hold a special place in our hearts, often becoming cherished members of our families. The tendency to anthropomorphises stems from the profound bond forged through unconditional love. By attributing human-like qualities to dogs, we express our emotional connection and view them not just as pets, but as beloved companions.

Dogs are more than mere companions; they are steadfast friends who provide unwavering companionship. Anthropomorphism becomes a means to enhance this companionship by imbuing our dogs with human-like traits. In doing so, we strengthen the sense of shared experiences and mutual understanding.

Each dog possesses a unique personality, and anthropomorphism becomes a way to celebrate and appreciate this individuality. By attributing human-like qualities, we emphasize the distinct characteristics that make our dogs special and endearing.


Anthropomorphic dogs in art

Anthropomorphic dogs have been featured in various forms of art throughout history, capturing the imagination of artists and audiences alike. Here are some examples of anthropomorphic dogs in art:

“Lady and the Tramp” (1955):

The classic Disney animated film “Lady and the Tramp” features anthropomorphic dogs as the main characters. Lady, a refined Cocker Spaniel, and Tramp, a street-smart mutt, are given human-like qualities and emotions, adding a charming and relatable dimension to their story.

 “Snoopy” from Peanuts (1950s–2000s):

Charles Schulz’s iconic comic strip “Peanuts” introduced Snoopy, the imaginative and anthropomorphic Beagle. Snoopy often engages in activities that mirror human behavior, from writing novels to imagining himself as a World War I flying ace.

“The Fox and the Hound” (1981):

Yet another Disney animated feature, “The Fox and the Hound,” anthropomorphizes the two main characters, Tod the fox and Copper the hound. Their friendship and the challenges they face together evoke a range of human emotions.


Anthropomorphic dogs in artwork

anthropomorphic dog art - dog as a banker

Dog as banker, hand painted by dogartists.co.uk


Medieval Manuscripts and Illuminated Manuscripts


dogs in manuscriptsWhile medieval manuscripts primarily focused on religious, historical, and scientific subjects, some illuminated manuscripts did include depictions of animals, including dogs, in various scenes. One notable example that includes anthropomorphic elements is the “Luttrell Psalter,” a medieval manuscript created in England around 1325-1335.

The “Luttrell Psalter” is a lavishly illustrated manuscript containing the Psalms, prayers, and other religious texts. It is renowned for its detailed illuminations that provide glimpses into medieval rural life. In one of the scenes, you can find anthropomorphized dogs engaged in human-like activities.

In a calendar page for the month of August, there is a scene depicting the labour of the month. In this particular illustration, anthropomorphic dogs are shown engaged in the activity of threshing wheat. The dogs are standing on their hind legs, holding tools, and participating in the agricultural work alongside humans. This anthropomorphic representation of dogs reflects the medieval scribe’s creative approach to illustrating the daily life and labour of the period.


Famous paintings depicting anthropomorphism in dogs

Dogs Playing Poker” series by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (1903-1910)

This iconic series of paintings features dogs engaging in various human activities, such as playing poker, smoking cigars, and socializing in a tavern setting. Coolidge’s playful and humorous depictions of anthropomorphic dogs have become widely recognized and have been reproduced in various forms of popular culture.

“A Friend in Need” by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (1903)

Part of the “Dogs Playing Poker” series, “A Friend in Need” portrays a group of dogs seated around a poker table, with one dog subtly passing an ace card to another under the table. The painting humorously anthropomorphizes the dogs, giving them human-like expressions and behaviors while engaging in a quintessentially human activity.

“The Dachshund Family” by Carl Reichert (19th century)

This charming painting depicts a family of dachshunds dressed in clothing and engaged in various domestic activities, such as reading, playing musical instruments, and conversing. Reichert’s portrayal of the dachshunds as members of a human family highlights the whimsical and imaginative nature of anthropomorphism in art.

“His Master’s Voice” by Francis Barraud (1898)

While not directly depicting anthropomorphic dogs, “His Master’s Voice” is a well-known painting that features a dog listening intently to a gramophone. The painting, which later became the iconic logo for the RCA Victor record label, evokes a sense of loyalty and companionship, anthropomorphizing the dog’s emotional response to music.

“The Intruder” by Arthur Wardle (19th century)

“The Intruder” depicts a group of anthropomorphic dogs gathered around a table, playing cards while one dog sneaks a peek at another’s hand. Wardle’s playful interpretation of dogs engaging in a human activity highlights the artist’s skill in capturing expressions and interactions that resonate with human experiences.

Contemporary Anthropomorphic Dog Portraits:

In contemporary art, various artists explore anthropomorphism in dog portraiture. Custom pet portraits, often commissioned by pet owners, aim to capture not only the physical likeness of the dog but also their unique personalities. These artworks may incorporate human-like elements, such as clothing or accessories, to add a touch of whimsy.

labrador painted as count of monte cristo by dog artists


In summary, the portrayal of anthropomorphic dogs in visual art has a rich history that spans various artistic movements and genres. From medieval manuscripts to contemporary pet portraiture, artists have consistently found inspiration in depicting dogs with human-like qualities, contributing to a diverse and enduring tradition of canine representation in the visual arts.

If you too, would like  a dog portrait of your dogs painted in unform, period dress or royalty please email: hello@dogartists.co.uk or contact Dog Artists for a quote

Dog Artists in an online art studio comprising of 8 dog artists based in London. We specialise in hand painting your dogs onto canvas based on your photos. We offer a bespoke framing service too and can deliver world-wide.
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