Dogs are known as Man’s best friend and, appropriately enough, they have inspired a fair number of common idioms. Practice with some of our favorite English dog idioms and you’ll be top dog (the best) in no time!
As sick as a dog – very sick
- Last flu season I got as sick as a dog so this year I’m going to be more careful.
Note: Another, similar, idiom is “dog tired” which means extremely tired.
To bark up the wrong tree – to make a mistake or incorrect assumption
- You are barking up the wrong tree if you think I am responsible for our big loss last week – I had nothing to do with it.
Dog-eat-dog – used to describe a ruthless or cutthroat environment
- Their company is famous for the dog-eat-dog mentality it fosters among its employees.
Every dog has his day – everyone gets a chance in the long run
- If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After all, every dog has his day.
Note: It is possible to say its instead of his in this idiom (but hers would be nonstandard).
Fight like cats and dogs – to strongly disagree or otherwise argue with someone
- My brother and I used to fight like cats and dogs when we were younger but now we’re great friends.
Go to the dogs – to deteriorate or worse
- The neighborhood I grew up in used to be a great place for families but over the last few years it has really gone to the dogs.
In the doghouse – in trouble or disfavor
- He was really in the doghouse after he fought with his wife’s family at Thanksgiving.
Note: This idiom suggests that disgraced people are kicked out of the main house and force to seek shelter with the dog.
To work like a dog – to work hard
- At my last job we had to work like dogs just to make our sales quotas.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks – it is hard for older people to adapt to new situations
- Jim tries his best but he’s used to doing things the old-fashioned way. I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Visit our dedicated idioms homepage to find more idioms and extra practice!