Monday, October 29, 2012

How to Carve a Pumpkin that Looks Just Like Your Dog

By Tamara McRill

Have the perfect pumpkin sitting in front of you and out of ideas on what to carve? Just look to your favorite canine companion for inspiration! Carving a pumpkin in my dogs’ images is hands-down my favorite Halloween tradition. It’s even a project that can be tackled by the less than artistic among us. There are three basic options you can use to carve the exact likeness of your dog:

Dog Breed Pumpkin Templates

If your dog is the poster child for his breed in looks, then chances are you can do a quick online search and come up with a pumpkin template or stencil that looks remarkably similar. Just type the breed plus “pumpkin template” into your browser. For example, my Wuppy is a Chocolate Labrador, so I would search for “chocolate lab pumpkin template.”

There are plenty of sites and articles online to find these, such as Better Homes and Gardens. Once you find the best template for your dog, you’ll need to print the template.

Altering Templates for an Exact Look

For mixed dogs that look mostly like one breed, you can use a template and add the minor changes. Our dog Dusty is a Dalmatian and Pitbull mix, but mostly resembles the first in the face. So for him I can get away with printing out a Dalmatian stencil and drawing in slightly wider cheeks and perkier ears. Altering the template is also an excellent way to personalize pumpkins for purebred dogs. This way you can get the spots in the same place or make sure fringe placement is exact.

Exact Dog Portrait Template

Templates are wonderful for breed-specific dogs, but maybe you have a mixed masterpiece like our Cody. We have a good idea of his mix, but I have never been able to find a pumpkin carving template that looks just like him. So I came up with a simple way to make my own.

Supplies: Computer, tape, tissue paper, washable marker and scissors.

1. Pull up a front or side photograph of your dog’s face on your computer screen.

2. Blow it up to a size that will fit nicely on the center of your pumpkin face, leaving a few inches of surrounding space.

3. Tape a sheet of tissue paper to your monitor.

4. With your washable marker, lightly trace the outline of your dog’s head. Don’t press too hard; you don’t want to mark on your screen.

5. Trace out predominant features like eyes, eyebrows, nose, scruff and spots. Shade in any spaces that you will totally cut out when carving. Use squiggly lines for areas you want to highlight, but need to remain attached to the pumpkin.

6. Untape your tissue paper and cut it down a size where you can tape it onto your hollowed out pumpkin.

Carving Tips

Now that you have a template of your dog, you can begin carving. While special carving tools make this easier, I’ve been known to just use a steak knife, toothpick and a spoon to get the job done. Here are a few more tips:

- Use a carving tool or toothpick to make dotted lines through the template, onto the pumpkin. This transfers the template and you can cut along the dotted lines.

- Keep the photo of your pet handy, to have a point of reference.

- Throughout the carving process, turn out the lights and set a lit votive in the pumpkin. This will help you see if you need to work on areas more.

- If you accidentally cut off a detail, just reattach it with toothpicks. Been there, done that.

Have fun and happy carving!

Have you ever carved a pumpkin in your pet’s image?

Photos by Tamara McRill

Read more articles by Tamara McRill


  1. That would be fun! SOme folks are super creative!

  2. Mom has a magnificent template of a Siberian Husky, but she says it is way too complex for her skills. We will settle for her to get the pumpkin and make us some treats with it:)

    You did a great job on yours.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  3. That is really terrific. Good luck on our Mom doing all that. But great applause to you for sure. That sure is a good tutorial on how to do it. Thanks .

  4. That is so cool! We've never done a pumpkin carving of our pets, but it may be something we've got to try! :)


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