55 Dog Idioms and Phrases
Dogs have been constant partners with people for thousands of years, first as working animals and then becoming a family protector and friend. It is then, hardly surprising that our deep seated interactions and observations of canine behaviours have led to the incorporation of their traits and characteristics into our language.
This article details 55 dog themed idioms and phrases.
Done up Like a Dogs Dinner
Are you Dressed for the Occasion?
1. Done up like a dog's 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 dog's dinner!"
2. 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".
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.
Love Me, Love My Dog
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 recognise an excited and 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."
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.
- 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.
Mean as a Junkyard Dog
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.
Dog Idioms - from BBC Learning English - YouTube
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 describe or tell a person that they are badly dressed. Also also used to describe someone who is very messy or disorganized.
An example would be: "I hope you aren't going out dressed like that! You look a proper dog's breakfast."
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 and hardly ever get to the point."
Now That's a Shaggy Dog Story
Super Happy Funny Dogs Video - A Bit Of Fun
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."
A Right Dog and Pony Show
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.
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, really dare you.
26. Run with the big dogs.
Meaning that you are capable of running alongside the top performers or competitors. 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. They 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."
Its Just 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?
35. That dog won’t hunt.
Meaning: That won’t work, forget it.
36. My dogs are barking.
Meaning: My feet hurt.
A way of describing something that is a bit worn - 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.
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 - you had better get a dog.
Its a Dog's Life
41. Dogs of war
This phrase is taken from a Shakespeare play - 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.
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 or spotless. Also used to describe someone who is of high repute and honesty.
49. Sad as a hound dog’s 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 dog's life
To say that someone has had or is having a very miserable time or existence.
Example: "Danny has had a dog's 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."