Dog Idioms

Dogs have been a part of human society for thousands of years, serving as working animals, protectors, and companions. In this article, we will delve into the origins and meanings of these idiomatic expressions, giving you a better understanding of how they came to be and how to use them correctly. So, let’s get started and explore the fascinating world of dog idioms!

List of Common Dog Idioms

  • (The) Tail That Wags the Dog
  • Dog in the Manger
  • Dog-and-Pony Show
  • Dog-Eat-Dog
  • Every Dog Has His (Its) Day
  • Every Man and His Dog
  • Fight Like Cat and Dog
  • Go See a Man About a Dog
  • Go to the Dogs
  • Have a Dog in the Hunt (Fight, Race)
  • Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
  • Puppies and Rainbows
  • Puppy Dog Eyes
  • My Dogs Are Barking
  • Rain Cats and Dogs
  • Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Dog Idioms with Meaning & Examples

Common DOG Idioms with Meaning and Examples

(The) Tail That Wags the Dog

  • Meaning: A small part of something that controls the whole thing.
  • Example: Darlene is the company president, but if you look closely, you’ll see it’s really her assistant making the decisions. Her assistant is the tail that wags the dog.

Dog in the Manger

  • Meaning: Someone who selfishly prevents others from using or enjoying something that they themselves don’t need or want.
  • Example: The new employee refused to share her ideas with the team, even though they could have helped the project. She was like a dog in the manger.

Dog-and-Pony Show

  • Meaning: A presentation or display that is overly elaborate and showy, but lacking substance.
  • Example: The new product launch was a dog-and-pony show. The executives spent more time talking about the packaging than the actual product.


  • Meaning: A situation in which people will do anything to be successful, even if it means harming others.
  • Example: The business world can be dog-eat-dog. Companies will do whatever it takes to stay ahead of the competition.

Every Dog Has His (Its) Day

  • Meaning: Everyone will have their moment of success or good fortune.
  • Example: Even though he struggled in his early years, Jack finally got his dream job. Every dog has his day.

Every Man and His Dog

  • Meaning: A large number of people.
  • Example: Every man and his dog showed up to the concert. The venue was packed.

Fight Like Cat and Dog

  • Meaning: To argue or fight constantly.
  • Example: The siblings fought like cat and dog when they were growing up.

Go See a Man About a Dog

  • Meaning: To excuse oneself from a conversation or situation without giving a specific reason.
  • Example: Excuse me, I have to go see a man about a dog.

Go to the Dogs

  • Meaning: To decline or deteriorate.
  • Example: The company’s financial situation has gone to the dogs.

Have a Dog in the Hunt (Fight, Race)

  • Meaning: To have a vested interest in the outcome of something.
  • Example:  I don’t have a dog in the hunt, so I’ll stay out of this argument.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

  • Meaning: To avoid stirring up old problems or conflicts.
  • Example: We decided to let sleeping dogs lie and not bring up the issue again.

Puppies and Rainbows

  • Meaning: A situation or outcome that is overly optimistic or unrealistic.
  • Example: The marketing team’s projections were full of puppies and rainbows. 

Puppy Dog Eyes

  • Meaning: A pleading or pitiful expression.
  • Example: The child gave his mother puppy dog eyes when he wanted a treat.

My Dogs Are Barking

  • Meaning: My feet are hurting.
  • Example: After a long day of walking, my dogs are barking.

Rain Cats and Dogs

  • Meaning: To rain heavily.
  • Example: It’s raining cats and dogs outside. 

Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

  • Meaning: To teach someone something new, especially if they are set in their ways.
  • Example: It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

Dog Idioms in Popular Culture

Dog idioms have been used in popular culture for many years, appearing in literature, movies, and TV shows. Here are a few examples of how dog idioms have been used in popular culture:


In the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the character Atticus Finch uses the phrase “barking up the wrong tree” when he tells his daughter Scout that she is accusing the wrong person of a crime. This phrase has become a common idiom in the English language and is often used to describe someone who is pursuing the wrong course of action.

Another example of a dog idiom in literature is in the book The Call of the Wild by Jack London. The phrase “dog-eat-dog world” is used to describe the harsh reality of life in the wilderness, where only the strongest survive. This phrase has become a popular idiom to describe a competitive and cutthroat environment.

Movies and TV Shows

Dog idioms are also frequently used in movies and TV shows. In the movie Legally Blonde, the character Elle Woods uses the phrase “bend and snap” to describe a flirting technique. This phrase has become a popular idiom and is often used humorously to describe a clumsy attempt at flirting.

Another example of a dog idiom in popular culture is in the TV show The Office. The character Michael Scott uses the phrase “dog and pony show” to describe a flashy and superficial presentation. This phrase has become a popular idiom to describe a showy and insincere performance.