20 Dog Idioms in English

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In the English language, idioms add color and expressiveness to our conversations. Among these, dog idioms are particularly popular, reflecting the special place these animals hold in many cultures. This post explores 20 common dog idioms, their meanings, and how they are used in everyday speech.

Dog Idioms

1. Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: Accusing the wrong person

Example: He blamed Sally, but he was barking up the wrong tree.

2. Let sleeping dogs lie

Meaning: Avoid restarting a conflict

Example: They stopped arguing; best to let sleeping dogs lie.

3. Every dog has its day

Meaning: Everyone gets a chance eventually

Example: Just wait, every dog has its day.

4. Dog-eat-dog

Meaning: Ruthlessly competitive

Example: It’s a dog-eat-dog world in finance.

5. Dog tired

Meaning: Extremely tired

Example: After the hike, I was dog tired.

6. Dog’s breakfast

Meaning: A complete mess or failure

Example: The project was a total dog’s breakfast.

7. As sick as a dog

Meaning: Very ill

Example: He was as sick as a dog yesterday.

8. The tail wagging the dog

Meaning: Something small controlling something big

Example: It’s the tail wagging the dog in that team.

9. Top dog

Meaning: The leader or boss

Example: In this office, she’s the top dog.

10. Hair of the dog

Meaning: Alcohol consumed to ease a hangover

Example: He had a beer, hair of the dog.

11. Teach an old dog new tricks

Meaning: Learn something new later in life

Example: He learned Spanish—old dogs new tricks!

12. That dog won’t hunt

Meaning: That idea won’t work

Example: We tried, but that dog won’t hunt.

13. Working like a dog

Meaning: Working very hard

Example: He’s been working like a dog all week.

14. Dog days of summer

Meaning: Hottest days of summer

Example: August is the dog days of summer here.

15. Dog whistle

Meaning: A subtly aimed political message

Example: His speech was full of dog whistles.

16. Underdog

Meaning: Someone less likely to win

Example: She was the underdog but won the race.

17. Dog in the manger

Meaning: Preventing others from using something

Example: He’s a real dog in the manger with his books.

18. Dog and pony show

Meaning: An elaborate display or performance

Example: The presentation was a dog and pony show.

19. Like a dog with two tails

Meaning: Extremely happy

Example: He was like a dog with two tails.

20. Put on the dog

Meaning: Behave pretentiously

Example: They really put on the dog at parties.

Related: 20 Interesting Cat Idioms in English

Dog Idioms


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