10 Dog Idioms – Do You Know What They Mean?

dog Idioms cover

Why are peeps always comparing their life or themselves as part of a dog or a dog’s lifestyle? Dog Idioms are everywhere and we use them so many times a day that you probably don’t even know that your doing it! Do you know what they mean? If not, while you’re relaxing during these dog days of Summer, why not check my favourite 10 and let me know if you have a favourite too!

Dog Idioms to paw around with

1. Hair of the dog

 dog Idioms hair of the dog

Cure me of my hangover!

Hair of the dog actually started as a method to treat a rabid dog bite. You would grab some of the dog’s hair from the dog that bit you and put it into your wound. In Scotland it’s a popular belief that it will also prevent evil consequences.

Today we use the term as a way to cure a hangover. What ever you indulged in last night to excess, so the saying goes it’s wise to take a glass of the same thing the next morning to help ease the pain.

This stems back to the earliest known reference of the term from the mid to late second millennium BC. The text includes a recipe for a salve to be applied to the god Ugarit’s forehead, which consists of one of the ingredients as “hairs of a dog”

2. Bite the hand that feeds you

 dog Idioms bite the hand that feeds you

An ungrateful person who turned against you!

This saying was started in 1940 by Richard Wright who published an essay titled, “I Bite the Hand That Feeds Me” It was in response to David Cohn‘s review of Wright’s Native Son novel.

David Cohn was a regular contributor to The Atlantic, representing the progressive literary establishment. In responding as he did, Wright was running the risk of offending his patron, of biting the hand that had fed him.

3. His bark is worse than his bite

 dog Idioms Beagle Fight

He’s all talk and no action!

Someone who’s gruff mannerisms are worse than their bite. They may well get angry and shout, but doesn’t take any physical action.

It’s exactly how I like to bark at big dogs when I’m near my peep, but if they come close I get very shy!

4. Bark up the wrong tree

 dog Idioms barking up the wrong tree

You’re barking up the wrong tree mate, the squirrel left hours ago.

It refers to the actions of someone who has judged a situation incorrectly. Think when your flirting with that cute dog in the park and she is totally unreceptive of your advances.


5. Dog’s Bollocks

 dog Idioms dogs bollocks

The very best thing!

The reasons why the ‘dog’s bollocks’ are considered to be the very best thing aren’t clear. It may be linked to an associated phrase – ‘stand out like a dog’s balls’, which means to be outstanding.

The word bollocks,  which means testicles has been part of the language since the 18th century, but didn’t become slang until the early 20th century. The ‘dog’s bollocks’ seems to have originated in Britain in the first half of the 20th century.


6. Dog eat dog world

 dog Idioms dog eat dog world

The world can be competitive and cruel!

“Survival of the fittest” in its most literal definition. Everyone fends for themselves and leave the weak behind.  If you can’t take care of yourself, you get eliminated.

A dog eat dog world is one in which you must eat or be eaten.

7. Dog days of summer

 dog Idioms dog days of summer


Sleepy, easy and warm!

It’s the sultry part of the summer, and occurs during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun. Today we usually call the months of July and August as the dog days of summer a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, and lots of soaking up the sun.

8. Raining Cats & Dogs

 dog Idioms raining cats and dogs

I can’t believe how crazy the weather was!

  • Odin, the Norse god of storms was often pictured with dogs and wolves, which were the symbols of wind.
  • Pictures of witches who flew around with their black cats became signs of heavy rain for sailors.
  • “Cats and dogs” may come from the Greek expression cata doxa, which means “contrary to experience or belief.”

Therefore, raining cats and dogs may refer to a storm with wind (dogs) and heavy rain (cats).

9. Tail Wagging the Dog

 dog Idioms tail wagging the dog

Are banks running governments?

Basically a topsy-turvy state of affairs, where a small part or group is guiding the whole, rather than the other way around. Sort of like your dog telling you where to walk, when to feed them and keeping an endless supply of treats for their enjoyment.

The phrase “the tail that wags the dog” dates to the turn of the last century. In 1907, it appeared in Von Arnum’s Fraulein Schmidt.

10. Lazy as a dog

 dog Idioms lazy as a dog

I’m feeling lazy as a dog!

Now this saying basically means that dogs are lazy; dogs only work hard when forced, or at least they appear to work hard, but actually really don’t.  All the while, they are man’s best friend.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s rubbish and a saying that needs to stop!

I think the more popular idiom is “work like a dog” Which is smarter, better and wiser!

However with all the work I just did writing this post, I have to tell you I’m pooped!

Do you use idioms and if you do which ones? Let me know in the comments below.


We used many resources on the interwebs, but found this site very helpful.  And if your would like to find more dog idioms check out Metaphor Dogs.