Idioms about dogs

Idioms about dogs

Keep a dog and bark (oneself)

- to hire or pay someone who is responsible for some amount of work, but then do or oversee most or all of that work oneself.

Why are you paying a copy editor when you end up disregarding all of the changes anuway? Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

(It’s) not my dog

- phr. It’s not my problem.

So what! It doesn’t matter! Not my dog.

(as) mean as a junkyard dog

- especially cruel, spiteful, malicious, or violent.

Her dad is usually a pretty nice, chilled out guy, but he gets as meen as a junkyard dog when he's been drinking.

a dog's age

- an exceptionally long period of time.

It's been a dog's age since I worked one of these machines, but I'll give it a shot!

a dog's dinner

- something that is really messy and /or disorganized.

I really need to clean out my closet—it's starting to look like a dog's dinner in there.

a barking dog never bites

- one who regularly makes angry or threatening statements, but rarely acts upon them.

Mr. Steward may yell a lot, but I doubt he will do anything to you - a barking dog never bites.

be done like a (dog's) dinner

- to fail or lose. Primarily heard in Australia.

Your team will be done like a dog's dinner if they play against the all-star team.

everybody and his dog

- used hyperbolically to express a large number or a majority of people.

I'm so jelous, everybody and his dog is going on vacation this summer except for me.

as clean as a hound's tooth

- very clean

The classroom was as clean as a hound's tooth when the students finished cleaning it.

as crooked as a dog's hind leg

- dishonest

The politician is as crooked as a dog's hind leg and nobody likes him.

as sick as a dog

- very sick

My friend was as sick as a dog when he left the restaurant last night.

one's bark is worse than one's bite

- one's words are worse than one's actions

You should not worry about the secretary. Her bark is worse than her bite and she is really a very nice person.

bark up the wrong tree

- to choose the wrong course of action, to ask the wrong person (a hunting dog may make a mistake when chasing an animal and bark up the wrong tree)

My boss is barking up the wrong tree. I did not cause the computer problem.

better to be a live dog than a dead lion

- it is better to be a live coward than a dead hero (this is from Ecclesiastes in the Bible)

It is better to be a live dog than a dead lion so I walked away and did not try and fight with the man.

better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion

- it is better to be the leader of a small group than a follower of a bigger one

The young athlete always played for his hometown team rather than moving to a larger city with a bigger team. He thought that it was better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion.

call the dogs off or call off the dogs

- to stop threatening or chasing or hounding someone

The police decided to call the dogs off and stop hunting for the man.

dog and pony show

- something that you disapprove of because you think that it has only been organized to impress you (like a dog and pony show in a circus)

We had serious questions about the project but we only got a dog and pony show when we questioned our business partners.


- ready or willing to fight and hurt others to get what one wants

It is a dog-eat-dog world in our company.

dog in the manger

- someone who prevents others from doing what they themselves do not want to do (in Aesop's Fables a dog that cannot eat hay lays in the hayrack and prevents the other animals from eating the hay)

My friend always acts like a dog in the manger and often tries to prevent us from enjoying ourselves.

every dog has his day

- everyone will have his chance or turn, everyone will get what he deserves

"Don`t worry about him. Every dog has his day and he will eventually suffer for all the bad things that he is doing."

fight like cats and dogs

- to argue and fight with someone (usually used for people who know each other)

The two children were fighting like cats and dogs when we entered the room.

go to the dogs

- to deteriorate, to become bad

Many things in our city have gone to the dogs during the last ten years.

lead a dog`s life

- to lead a miserable life

The man is leading a dog`s life since he married the woman who everyone told him not to marry.

yellow dog

- a despicable person or thing.

I can't believe you get so invested in these debates - all politicians are yellow dogs that can't be trusted.

let sleeping dogs lie

- do not make trouble if you do not have to

You should let sleeping dogs lie and not ask our boss about the dispute.

a live dog is better than a dead lion

- it is better to be a live coward than a dead hero (this is from Ecclesiastes in the Bible)

A live dog is better than a dead lion and I told my friend not to get into a fight with the angry man in the restaurant.

put on the dog

- to dress or entertain in a luxurious and extravagant manner

We put on the dog for my parents when they came to visit us.

rain cats and dogs

- to rain very hard

It has been raining cats and dogs all day.

rub (someone/someone's fur) the wrong way

- to irritate someone (just as you would irritate a dog or cat if you rub their fur the wrong way)

The woman who I work with always rubs me the wrong way.

see a man about a dog

- to leave for some unmentioned purpose (often to go to the washroom)

I left our table in the restaurant to go and see a man about a dog.

a shaggy dog story

- a long and often pointless story that is told as a joke and often ends in a very silly or unexpected way

My friend told me a shaggy dog story about how he lost his bicycle.

one's tail between one`s legs

- feeling beaten or humiliated (like a frightened or defeated dog as it walks away)

The manager left the meeting with his tail between his legs after he was criticized by the company president.

the tail wagging the dog

- a situation where a small part of something controls the whole thing

The tail is wagging the dog. The receptionist controls everything in the office.

lucky dog

- an incredibly lucky person

A: "I won another bet in the basketball tournament—that's three in a row now!"

B: "Wow, you lucky dog!"

top dog

- the most important person in an organization

My uncle is the top dog in his company.

turn tail

- to run away from trouble or danger

We decided to turn tail and leave the restaurant before there was an argument.

work like a dog

- to work very hard

The boy worked like a dog on his school project.

you can't teach an old dog new tricks

- it is difficult for older people to learn new things

You can't teach an old dog new tricks and I do not think that my father will ever change his eating habits.


- noun - the corner of a page of a book that has been turned down to mark one's place.

I always leave a dog-ear in my textbooks to indicate an important page when I'm studying.

- verb - to fold over the corner of a page of a book to mark one's place.

I really hate it when people dog-ear their books. It ruins the look of the page!