75+ Fantastic Foo Dog Tattoo Ideas – A Creature Rich In Symbolic Meaning

When you first see a foo dog tattoo you might think that it doesn’t look like a dog at all. Well, that is because the foo dog is a mythical representation of a lion rather than a dog.

These images, in the form of statues, are thought to have originated in India in the 3rd century before slowly making their way to China and then to other Asian countries.

These statues were used to guard both Buddha and Shinto temples, as well as other important buildings and even wealthy residences.

The foo dog or fu dog (also sometimes known as the Chinese guardian dog) typically appears in male and female pairs, with one statue on either side of the entrance.

The male appears on the right-hand side with his paw on an embroidered sphere (which represented dominance over the world) and the female appears on the left with a cub (on its back) under her paw. Often the male statue has an open mouth while the female’s mouth is closed.

This represents the enunciation of the word “om” which is a sacred word in Indian religions and a mantra in Buddhism. The Japanese define this differently believing that the male is inhaling while the female exhales – representing the circle of life.


The Meaning Of Foo Dog Tattoos

The foo dog is a creature that is rich in history and symbolism and over the centuries a few distinct meanings have become associated with the foo dog, which many men (and some women) are now choosing as a tattoo subject. Some of these meanings are:

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The lion, on which the foo dog is based, is a strong symbol for both dominance and survival. Many times they are seen in aggressive poses in tattoos, showing their strength and will to survive against all odds.


The foo dog was used outside of buildings as a symbol of protection and guardianship, warding off evil spirits and other undesirables. Many chose this tattoo with this symbolism in mind, either to protect them or showcase their status as a protector or guardian in their everyday life.


The foo dog is most often seen in male and female pairs, representing the yin and yang which in Chinese philosophy represent the balance and interconnectedness of all things.

This tattoo may be chosen with this meaning in mind, to remind the person of how everything, no matter how contrary, is connected and essential for balance.

Prosperity and Success

Due to their dominant stature and intense mythical power the foo dog has also come to represent success and prosperity.


Above all things the foo dog is regarded as fearless, willing to fight an adversary who is being threatening. Having this tattoo may remind someone of a difficult event that they overcame or remind them that success comes through courage and determination.

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Finding The Right Placement

This tattoo design usually looks best on a larger scale so most people choose areas such as their back, chest, outer thighs or shoulders for their tattoo. Having more space to work with allows the artist to go into more detail and add dimension to your piece.

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These are the most common areas, but you can choose any position that suits your lifestyle or has significant meaning; what about a foo dog over your heart to protect you from heartbreak?

Foo dogs are often used as subjects in traditional style Japanese bodysuits, which were made popular by the Yakuza gangsters. The bodysuit consists of tattoos that cover the entire body except the face, neck, hands, feet, and a thin strip down the breastbone.

This is a process that requires multiple sittings and can be quite expensive – reserved for the hardcore tattoo seekers!

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Foo Dog Colors

The traditional statues were traditionally made from stone, but the earliest drawn depictions of the mythical creatures’ shows them as red with purple dots and brilliant ruby colored eyes.

Red and purple are contrasting colors and this theme continues today with tattoo artists using dynamic combinations of colors to bring these creatures alive on the skin; think blue and yellow or red and green.

Often the tattoo will be inked in black and gray with shading and the eyes or mouth will be brightly colored.

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What To Combine With Your Foo Dog Tattoo

Many folks who choose a foo dog wish to combine this piece with other similar Asian style subjects.

A few common images are dragons, koi, and bamboo which are all symbols of luck, as well as birds, snakes, samurai, Buddha’s and Japanese deities with backgrounds that include waves, wind bars or clouds.

Flowers like cherry blossoms, lotuses and peonies can also be used together with the foo dog.

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The foo dogs’ distinctive appearance is based on its origins. Depictions of the Chinese lion dog were influenced by lion pelts and drawn images of lions that came from countries where the lion existed (such as India) and was viewed as a totem of strength.

As this image was carried along the famous Silkroad it gradually changed, coming to look like the muscular and fierce foo dog that we know today.

Because the lion is generally regarded as a male figure and because the foo dog is often designed to be quite fierce, with tattoo designs sometimes including sharp claws, exposed teeth, and blood, this tattoo is chosen by more men than women, however, softer versions can make striking artwork for girls.

By choosing the foo dog as a subject for your tattoo you are choosing a symbol that is thought to bring luck, prosperity and success while at the same time providing protection and warding off evil spirits.

Foo dog tattoos may not be for everyone, but they make an excellent tattoo subject due to their history, symbolism and the intense color that the artists use to make them stand out.

You could choose to use them in a sleeve piece together with other Asian art or as a standalone tattoo, but either way, this mythical creature is sure to look amazing!

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