DOG Idioms: 16 Common DOG Idioms with Examples

Learn 15+ most common Dog Idioms in English with meaning and examples.

Common Dog Idioms in English

(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. It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog.

Dog in the Manger

  • Meaning: A person who prevents others from using something, even though the person himself or herself does not want it
  • Example: Bobby is being a dog in the manger – he won’t let the other kids play with his ball, even though he never uses it.

Note: This idiom originates with a fable by Aesop about a dog who sleeps on straw that sheep could otherwise eat.

Dog-and-Pony Show

  • Meaning: A flashy presentation, often in a marketing context
  • Example: The salesman gave us a real dog-and-pony show, but I’m still not sure what the product will cost.


  • Meaning: Intensely competitive
  • Example: Real estate sales is a dog-eat-dog world. It’s not for everyone.

Note: This is most often used with world, as in this example.

Every Dog Has His (Its) Day

  • Meaning: Everyone has a moment of fame, power, or influence
  • Example: Joe has had a run doff bad luck. But every dog has his day, and today he was singled out for praise by the president.

Every Man and His Dog

  • Meaning: Many people
  • Example: Every man and his dog wanted to interview me after I on the race.

Note: This is occasionally used outside Australia.

Fight Like Cat and Dog

  • Meaning: Continually arguing with each other
  • Example: Those two fight like cat and dog, so please don’t put them together on the project.

Go See a Man About a Dog

  • Meaning: Go to the bathroom (said as a euphemism)
  • Example: I’ll be right back-I’ve got to go see a man about a dog.

Go to the Dogs

  • Meaning: To become disordered, to decay
  • Example: This has always been a nice hotel, but it’s going to the dogs.

Have a Dog in the Hunt (Fight, Race)

  • Meaning: To support a certain person in a competition
  • Example: I’ll be happy working under either Carl or Sheila-I don’t have a dog in that hunt.

Note: Hunt is the usual version in the USA.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

  • Meaning: To avoid stirring up a problem; to leave things alone
  • Example: Alice and Maria have argued over office space in the past. It’s best to let sleeping dogs lie and leave them where they are.

Puppies and Rainbows

  • Meaning: Perfect, ideal (usually used slightly sarcastically, in contrast with a less ideal situation)
  • Example: At first my marriage was all puppies and rainbows, but then reality set in.

Note: Puppy dogs and rainbows is also used.

Puppy Dog Eyes

  • Meaning: A begging look
  • Example: I try to be strict with my daughter, but when she looks at me with those puppy dog eyes, I buy her candy.

My Dogs Are Barking

  • Meaning: My feet hurt
  • Example: My car broke down, and I had to walk all the way home from the mall. I’m OK, but my dogs are barking!

Note: A well-known shoe brand, accordingly, is called Hush Puppies.

Rain Cats and Dogs

  • Meaning: Rain very heavily
  • Example: It’s raining cats and dogs. Look at it pour!

Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

  • Meaning: To change someone’s long-established habits. Usually used in the negative: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
  • Example: We tried to explain social media to our grandfather, but it’s no use-you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Common Dog Idioms in English | Image

Common DOG Idioms with Meaning and Examples

(Common DOG Idioms with Meaning and Examples)

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