Idioms in Depth: English Dog Idioms

dogDogs 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!

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