Dog Idioms

Updated on June 14, 2019
Ben Reed profile image

Ben has held a life-long interest in language and has a special interest in the expressions, phrases and idioms that contribute to its use.

55 Dog Related Idioms and Phrases

It is little wonder that the English language contains such an abundance of expressions and phrases featuring dogs. Canines have been constant partners with people for thousands of years. First as working animals, and then as family protector and friend.

With such distinctive behaviours and traits, dogs have made an indelible impression on us all. Hardly surprising then that these deep seated interactions and observations of canine behaviours have led to the incorporation of their unique characteristics into our language.

Done Up Like A Dogs Dinner - Dog Idiom
Done Up Like A Dogs Dinner - Dog Idiom | Source

When Writing This Article I was Like a Dog With a Bone

1. Be like a dog with a bone
We all know what a dog is like when it has a bone right? They are relentless. They never stop.
A way of saying that someone is fixated on a topic. An example would be: "Can't you stop going on about wanting that new car, you are like a dog with a bone".

2. Done up like a dogs dinner
Often used in a negative sense to describe someone who is wearing clothes that are over the top. Usually too fussy or silly for the event being attended.
Example: "I hope you are not intending to go to the party dressed like that? For goodness sake — you look like a dogs dinner!"

3. As sick as a dog

Ever seen a dog being sick? It's never a pretty sight!

A way of saying that someone is very sick / ill.
Usually refers to someone who is being physically sick. However, it can also be used to say that you are feeling extremely fed up with a situation.

The love and friendship between a person and their dog is unshakeable
The love and friendship between a person and their dog is unshakeable | Source

More Dog Related Expressions

4. Love me love my dog
We all love our dogs. No matter what mischief they get up to. We forgive them and often love them all the more for it.
This idiom is a way of saying that you should love everything, and accept everything about the person you love.
The English Oxford Dictionary defines this as: "If you love someone, you must accept everything about them, even their faults or weaknesses".

5. Tail wagging the dog
Meaning that a small part is controlling the whole of something.
We all recognize an excited, happy dog by the wagging of its tail. Sometimes they become so excited that it's as if the back end of the dog has a life of its own.
Can be used to describe a situation where a recently employed person is suddenly running the business as if he owned it.
Example: "Allowing Paul to dictate the terms of the contract is like letting the tail wag the dog. He's only been here for 3 months, and it's like he is running the show."

6. In the dog-house
A way of saying that you are in trouble or, not in favour at the moment. Refers to a naughty dog being sent into his kennel as punishment for a misdemeanor.
Often used to describe a husband who is unable to behave himself, and is therefore in trouble for his disgraceful conduct. We've all been there - I know I have!
Example: "I'm in the dog-house again! I never should have forgotten our anniversary."

7. Every dog has its day
A way of expressing that it is inevitable that everyone will have at least one moment of glory in their lifetime.
Example: "Would you believe it! Andrew has only gone and won that promotion. I guess every dog has its day after all."

As mean as a junkyard dog
As mean as a junkyard dog | Source

Doggy Phrases

8. As mean as a junk yard dog
Why is it that junk yard dogs always look incredibly mean and downright vicious. You could say that it's why they are there — to deter anyone from approaching. They often don't even need to bark, just the stare and the grimace from some of these dogs is enough to make me think twice about going anywhere near them.
A way of saying that a person is very mean. This idiom can be used to describe someone who is cruel, or eager to fight. It can also be used in a slightly different context, for example: "They say that he is meaner than a junk yard dog, but he is actually quite sweet when you get to know him".

9. Dog does not eat dog
Meaning: not to turn on your own kind. Usually associated with someone disreputable. Often refers to one person of low repute, not turning on another person of similar low repute.

10. Better the head of a dog than the tail of a lion
A way of a saying that it is better to be the leader of a small or low ranking group, than be a subordinate in a higher or more prestigious group.

What are Idioms?

Idioms can be described as concise, memorable sayings that add colour and vibrancy to our everyday language. Often humorous, and always pithy in nature they cleverly allow us to express what are sometimes complex viewpoints with very few words.

The English language is a rich source of idioms which have their beginnings in our history and culture. Often sourced from peoples observations and experiences of life, they offer wise and sensible advice from people of one generation to another.

For people trying to learn the English language, they can be a difficult thing to get to grips with. This is due in large part to the fact that the combination of words used within an idiom can have a different and special interpretation than their basic meaning or definition as found within a dictionary.

An idiom:

  • a group or combination of words that express a view that cannot necessarily be gleamed from the individual words themselves.
  • an idioms figurative meaning is different than the literal meaning.
  • a form of expression peculiar to a language.
  • sometimes humorous.
  • often expresses advice, caution, or warning.

Let's Not Make a Dogs Breakfast of This

11. A dogs breakfast

A statement made with reference to a dog's meal often being a jumble of scraps.

When something is done very badly this saying is often used to tell a person that they are badly dressed. A phrase that can also be used describe someone who is very messy.

An example would be: "I hope you aren't going out dressed like that! You look a proper dogs breakfast."

12. Underdog

A way of saying that someone is at a disadvantage, and likely to lose a contest. Used to describe a team that not expected to win against better opponents.

13 A shaggy dog story!
Refers to a story that can be funny, but usually ends up being ridiculously lengthy.
Can also be used in the context of someone telling a joke that has a meaningless, or sudden ending.
Example: "Danny is forever reciting his shaggy dog stories. They drone on for what seems like forever without hardly ever getting to the point."

A shaggy dog story
A shaggy dog story | Source

Hope I'm Not Barking up the Wrong Tree With These Idioms

14. Barking up the wrong tree
Meaning: to be pursuing an incorrect course of action, or making the wrong choice.
Describes a situation where someone is wrong about the way of doing something.
Example: "I thought that I had an easy solution, but it didn't work out that way. I guess I was barking up the wrong tree."

15. Hot doggin

Meaning: To show off. To grandstand in front of an audience, or to gloat in front of others.
Example: "He's a proper show-off, always hot-doggin about on that blasted motor bike in front of his friends."

16. Slept like a dog
Meaning to sleep long and hard.

17. Dog days
Refers to a period of hot sultry weather in which we are feeling lazy, and unwilling, or unable to exert ourselves. Occasionally this is also referred too as a "Dog Day Afternoon."

18. To see a man about a dog

A way of saying that you do not really want to tell them where you are going. Often used as a way of excusing yourself to go to the bathroom.
Example: "It's non of your business where I am going. Lets's just say that I am going to see a man about a dog, and leave it at that shall we."

Dog Idioms From BBC Learning English

A dog and pony show - idiom
A dog and pony show - idiom

A Dog and Pony Show

19. A dog and pony show
To lay on an elaborate presentation with the hope of gaining approval for something such as a product.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines this idiom as: "an event that is designed to impress people in order to make them buy something or invest money".

20. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas
A way of issuing a warning to someone — to say that if they do dangerous things they will have to suffer the consequence.

21. A barking dog never bites

A way of saying that a person who makes constant threats, rarely carries them out.

22. Be like a dog with two tails
To be very happy, or to show great pleasure. This originates from the wagging of a dog's tail as a sign of happiness.
Example: "He been like a dog with two tails ever since he had that big win at the races."

23. Three dog night
A way of saying that it is so cold, that we need an extra dog for cuddling and warmth.

Super Happy Funny Dogs Video

More Canine Idioms and Phrases

24. Throw to the dogs
A way of saying that they have allowed a person to be criticized or attacked. This is usually in an attempt to protect themselves.
Example: "They offered me no support or advice, instead I had to fend for myself. They simply threw me to the dogs."
Sometimes a variation of this is used: Thrown to the dogs. This is to discard a person has being worthless.

25. Double dog dare
This phrase is a way of saying that I really dare you.

26. Run with the big dogs
Meaning that you are capable of running alongside the top performers. You are at the top of your game.
Example: "Joey really stepped up his game this year. He is now up there running with the big dogs."

27. Bite the hand that feeds you
Meaning: An ungrateful person who turned against you.

28. Lazy as a dog
A way of saying that someone is very lazy.
Example: "I wish you would motivate yourself a bit more. Stop being so idle. I swear that your'e as lazy as a dog."

29. Dog eat dog world
A way to describe a situation of fierce competition, and one in which people may be willing to cause harm to others in order to succeed.
Meaning: That the world can be a very competitive, and cruel place.

30. Give a dog a bad name
Once a person has acquired a bad reputation, it can be difficult to for it to be restored. This idiom is used to describe a situation where even an innocent action is taken as evidence that someone is up to no good. Their actions are always coloured by their poor reputation.
Example: "Talk about giving a dog a bad name — he tried to hand in a purse he found on the office floor to the receptionist, and he was immediately viewed with great suspicion by other colleagues."

Puppy Love
Puppy Love

Lets Not Forget These Cute Puppies

31. Puppy love
A way of describing an infatuation — or young adolescent love.
Example:
"You will have to forgive her, she's young and infatuated with her first boyfriend. I think its a case of puppy love."

32. Puppy dog eyes
A way of describing someone who is using their eyes, or an appealing cute expression to try and appeal to your better nature. An example would be: “ Don’t you give me those Puppy Dog Eyes — you are definitely not getting any more ice-cream. You’ve had enough already.”

33. Bought a pup

A way of describing someone who has been swindled e.g. they thought they were buying something much better than they actually got.
Example: "I was led to believe that this was genuine designer bag, but it turned out to be a cheap imitation. Looks like I was sold a pup."

34. Pretty as a speckled pup
A way of saying how cute something is.

Dog Idiom Poll

Do You Use Idioms?

See results

Idiomatic Expressions

35. That dog won’t hunt

Meaning: That won’t work, forget it.

36. My dogs are barking

Meaning: My feet hurt.

37. Dog-eared

A way of describing something that is a bit worn, or well used.

38. A barking dog never bites

A way of saying that someone may be making lots of threats, but they are unlikely to carry them out.

39. Dogsbody

This term originated in the The Royal Navy’s during the 19th Century. A regular meal at that time was a mixture of dried peas and eggs boiled in a bag which was often referred to as ‘dog’s body’. Today, the phrase is used to describe someone who does all the work.

40. If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog

Meaning: friends are few and far between — if it’s a friend you want here, then you had better get a dog.

It's a Dogs Life

41. Dogs of war
This phrase is taken from a Shakespeare play called Julius Caesar. "Let slip the dogs of war!" It is a cry to war and havoc. A phrase used to conjure the image of a pack of hunting dogs relentlessly chasing down their prey.

42. Doggy bag
A phrase often used in restaurants when asking for a bag in which to take home the remains of your food. Supposedly, with a view to giving your dog a treat when you get home.

43. Dog and bone
Originated as English Cockney rhyming slang that describes a telephone. So well used that this phrase has become used in everyday language.

44. Call your dogs off
A way of saying that someone should tell their friends or associates to “back off” or stop picking on you.

45. Dog in the night-time
Used to describe someone who unwittingly connives to involve themselves in a crime.
This idiom has its origins in the Sherlock Holmes adventure book "Silver Blaze" published in 1892. It refers to a family dog that would not bark at night while horses where being stolen. This is because the dog knew the person who was carrying out the theft.

Sad as a hound dogs eye
Sad as a hound dogs eye

Bring on the Hounds

46. Hell hound
This phrase is steeped in history and fable. The most recognized use of the phrase is of Cerberus - Hades' three-headed guard dog. However the term may have originated from the Egyptians use of hounds to guard graves.

47. Rock hound
A person (usually a geologist) who studies the origin, structure, and composition of the Earth.
Example: "He's may only be young, but he's becoming a real rock hound. He's out collecting rock samples every chance he gets,"

48. Clean as a hound’s tooth
A way of describing something very clean. Also used to describe someone who is of high repute and honesty.

49. Sad as a hound dogs eye
A way of saying that something is extremely sad.

50. A Glory hound
This idiom describes someone who is looking for glory, fortune, and fame.

We've Reached the End. So don't Wear that Hang Dog Air!

51. Let the dog see the rabbit
This idiom is used to say that you should let a person get on with the task they are doing as they have the skills and attributes needed to achieve it.

52. In a dogs age
A way to say a very long time.

53. A dog in the manger
A way to describe a person who prevents, or hinders others from having something that may to their benefit. Even though they themselves do not really want or need it. They just don't want others have it.

54. To lead a dogs life
To say that someone has had, or is having a very miserable time.
Example: "Danny has had a dogs life — he is given no respect by his family, and they constantly take him for granted."

55. A hang-dog air
Used to describe someone has a shame-faced expression.
Example: "Don't be so miserable. Cheer up. Just don't go around all day wearing that hang-dog expression."

Questions & Answers

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      • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

        Ben Reed 

        6 years ago from Redcar

        @HappyTom LM: Thank you.

      • HappyTom LM profile image

        Tom Christen 

        6 years ago from Switzerland/Ecuador

        A great lens, thank you very much for sharing.

      • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

        Ben Reed 

        6 years ago from Redcar

        @knit1tat2: Thank you.

      • knit1tat2 profile image

        knit1tat2 

        6 years ago

        some of these I've heard but with different animals in the saying, still, no matter how say it, dogs are usually great people! Thanks for a cute lens, always nice to get smile!

      • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

        Ben Reed 

        6 years ago from Redcar

        @bossypants: Thank you.

      • profile image

        bossypants 

        6 years ago

        I hadn't heard someo f these. Very educational! And, great pictures, too!

      • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

        Ben Reed 

        6 years ago from Redcar

        @Lady Lorelei: Thank you.

      • Lady Lorelei profile image

        Lorelei Cohen 

        6 years ago from Canada

        I'm shocked that I have not heard many of these dog idioms before (where the heck have I been?) Seriously this is one ridiculously cute article and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

      • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

        Ben Reed 

        6 years ago from Redcar

        @lionmom100: Thank you. Pugs can be really cute - but they can also look mean if provoked...

      • profile image

        lionmom100 

        6 years ago

        I love these dog idioms. I was really amused by the pug being paired with Mean as a junk yard dog." Lol

      • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

        Ben Reed 

        6 years ago from Redcar

        @anonymous: Thank you - its always good to spread a little joy.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        6 years ago

        Its always fun to visit one of your lenses. :)

      • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

        Ben Reed 

        6 years ago from Redcar

        @Loretta L: Thank you.

      • alenmic profile image

        alenmic 

        6 years ago

        Thanks for great lens...

      • Loretta L profile image

        Loretta Livingstone 

        6 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

        Another great lens.

      • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

        Ben Reed 

        6 years ago from Redcar

        @alenmic: Thank you for the visit and comment - always appreciated.

      • alenmic profile image

        alenmic 

        6 years ago

        @beaworkathomemom: yes,i do, too..but how can a dog bark when it's biting?...^^..just kidding......

      • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

        Ben Reed 

        6 years ago from Redcar

        @TonfaGuy: Thank you for your visit and comments.

      • TonfaGuy profile image

        TonfaGuy 

        6 years ago

        great lens. thanks.

      • beaworkathomemom profile image

        beaworkathomemom 

        6 years ago

        Great lens. I agree with the idiom "A barking dog never bites".

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        I hadn't heard of "Be like a dog with two tails." before, fun!

      • gatornic15 profile image

        gatornic15 

        7 years ago

        Great lens!

      • Camden1 profile image

        Camden1 

        7 years ago

        I couldn't even remember what an idiom was until I read your definition - it's been waaaayyy too long since English 101! Great lens!

      • profile image

        DebMartin 

        7 years ago

        I love these. And all the dog images. Well done. d

      • John Dyhouse profile image

        John Dyhouse 

        7 years ago from UK

        Love the images that you have found for these idioms. I think my favourite is the small dog barking up the wrong tree. wonderful fun and a great lens - blessed

      • CCGAL profile image

        CCGAL 

        7 years ago

        I love how you have found such charming images to illustrate each idiomatic expression. Very nicely done!

        My dad used to say he had to go see a man about a horse, but it makes sense using dog, too.

      • Charmcrazey profile image

        Wanda Fitzgerald 

        8 years ago from Central Florida

        These are so cute. You must have been collecting these sayings for a long time. Very creative lens.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        8 years ago

        Wonderful lens. I really love it. Thanks for sharing. 5 stars for you :)

      • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

        KonaGirl 

        8 years ago from New York

        I really enjoyed your lens. Very clever with great graphics and images.

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