Happy Chinese New Year! English expressions with the word “Dog”

Idiomatic expressions using our favourite animal! 

to fight like cats and dogs

– to argue and fight with someone (usually used for people who know each other)

“My sisters and I never got on very well as children. We used to fight like cats and dogs!”

you can’t teach an old dog new tricks

– it is difficult for older people to learn new things

“Good luck getting grandpa to start going to yoga with you. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

as sick as a dog

– very sick

“I was sick as a dog after last night’s meal.

bark up the wrong tree

– to choose the wrong course of action, to ask the wrong person (a hunting dog may make a mistake when chasing an animal and bark up the wrong tree)

“She thinks it’ll solve the problem, but I think she’s barking up the wrong tree.”


– ready or willing to fight and hurt others to get what one wants

“It is a dog-eat-dog world in our company.”

one’s bark is worse than one’s bite

– one’s words are worse than one’s actions

Don’t get upset at anything my father says. His bark is worse than his bite.”

the hair of the dog

– a drink of alcohol that one takes when recovering from a hangover

Steve: I’m really paying for all those gin tonics I took last night. 
Tony: Yeah, I’m hurting too. Hair of the dog?
Steve: Why not! We´ve got a few beers left in the fridge.

to hound (someone)

– to pursue or chase someone, to harass someone

“The manager is always hounding the younger members of her staff to make them work hard.”

let sleeping dogs lie

– do not make trouble if you do not have to

“I’m going to keep my mouth shut about what I do know, let sleeping dogs lie.”

rain cats and dogs

– to rain very hard

It has been raining cats and dogs all day.

rub (someone/someone’s fur) the wrong way

– to irritate someone (just as you would irritate a dog or cat if you rub their fur the wrong way)

I’m sorry I rubbed your fur the wrong way. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

see a man about a dog

– to leave for some unmentioned purpose (often to go to the bathroom)

I left our table in the restaurant to go and see a man about a dog.

one’s tail between one`s legs

– feeling beaten or humiliated (like a frightened or defeated dog as it walks away)

“After bragging about her great musical ability, she lost the competition and went off with her tail between her legs. “

better to be a live dog than a dead lion

– it is better to be a live coward than a dead hero (this is from Ecclesiastes in the Bible)

“I called for help rather than running into the burning building because a live dog is better than a dead lion.”

lead a dog`s life

– to lead a miserable life

“I’ve been working so hard. I’m tired of living a dog’s life.”

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