Guide to English dog idioms

Guide to English dog idioms

The British are crazy about their dogs & there are quite a few British dog idioms, so here’s Perfect Cuppa’s guide to some you might hear:


Puppy love

You might remember this as the famous hit written by Paul Anka in 1960. According to the Learner’s Dictionary, it is when a teenage love story is not taken seriously by adults.


In the doghouse

This is the mythical place where a person goes if they have done something wrong – just like a dog being sent to a kennel. Cambridge English Dictionary is more specific, saying it is ‘when someone is angry at you for something you did or did not do.’


Dog tired

Exhausted? Well you would be if you were Arthur the Great. Your Dictionary dates this phrase back to a story surrounding this medieval British leader, who always sent his sons out to hunt down a pack of trusted dogs. The boys then return very tired, and so the saying.


Dog days

We’ve all seen a tired dog on a hot day. The phrase typically refers to those days during the height of summer when not a lot happens – so if you’re doing something during the ‘dog days’ that means there’s not a lot going on. It’s a nice, lazy life for some…


Doggy bag

Can’t quite finish your meal? In Britain if you ask for a ‘doggy bag’ and point to a plate that is still half-full of food, they will take it away and pack the meal for you to take home and finish. Don’t feed it to the dog, though, have it for lunch next day!


Let sleeping dogs lie

Think of the hotel sign ‘do not disturb’ and you will understand this phrase – don’t disrupt something that might be unstable if woken up. dates the saying as far back as Chaucer, who advises allowing a ‘slepyng hound’ to stay asleep in Troilus and Criseyde.


Dogs’ dinner

Another phrase for ‘ugly’, most often applied to clothing or food. You won’t be very popular if you use it, though, because the message will not be a positive one, whether it’s hidden in a phrase or spelled out clearly.


You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Once a working dog knows how to do the job, it is hard for the animal to un-learn it. That’s the basis of this phrase. In other words, it’s not easy to retrain someone who has been doing something the same way for a long time. Q Language questions whether it’s a proverb or an idiom. Whatever the case, now you know what it means.


Four-legged friend, Man’s best friend

These two speak for themselves. If you’re a dog-lover you will have no trouble relating!


Victoria Rennoldson, Founder of Perfect Cuppa English


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English Idioms & Expressions


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