24 Dog Metaphors, Similes and Idioms that Pop!

My favorite dog metaphors include:

  • A dog is a man’s best friend.
  • He is a dog with two tails.

Some great dog idioms include:

  • Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.
  • The Dog Ate my Homework.
  • It’s a Dog Eat Dog World.

Read on for more dog metaphors and idioms below.

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Examples of Dog Metaphors

1. Dogs are a man’s best friend.

To say that dogs are a man’s best friend is to highlight their great companionship. They’re loyal, they’ll never judge you and will always be there for your every need (even if it involves fetching sticks). Dogs have been the companions of humans since ancient times; in fact some experts believe that dogs were domesticated as far back at 30 thousand years ago!

2. He is a dog with two tails.

This is a metaphor that means you are very happy or excited about something. For example, you might use this phrase when talking about a birthday party or Christmas morning when you wake up and find presents under your tree.

It is used to refer to the idea that dogs who wag their tails are very happy. So, if a dog had two tails to wag, it would be double as happy! The saying appears to have first turned up in the English language in the early 19th Century.

dog metaphors

3. He’s a dog.

This is a metaphor that means you think someone is lower than you morally or socially. It’s often used derogatorily against women, in particular, but can also refer to a man who is rude to women.

More recently, it has been employed in counter-cultures as a positive reference. For example, you can call a friend “dawg”, and rapper Snoop Dogg proudly embraces the title for himself.

Dog Similes

4. Asking a dog to sit still is like asking a toddler to stay in their chair

This is a simile that means you think a dog, or even a person, can’t stay still. It can be used interchangeably. For example, you could also say “asking a toddler to stay in a chair is like asking a dog to sit.”

You might find this simile used in the description of a child who is always on the go. It might also be used to explain someone whose attention span has been shortened by ADHD and other attention disorders.

Ironically, you can train a dog to sit, so long as you train the dog at a young enough age.

5. Crooked as a dog’s hind leg

A dog’s hind leg is not usually straight – it’s usually got a bend in it. So, it’s crooked!

But there’s another definition of ‘crooked’. This second definition means to be dishonest and untrustworthy.

These two separate definitions come together in this idiomatic simile to say that someone is corrupt or dishonest. If you say someone is crooked as a dog’s hind leg is to say they’re very crooked – in other words, very corrupt!

6. To work Like a Dog

Working dogs on farms are famously hard-working. They will work vigorously from dawn to dusk. They’re usually smart, ambitious and quick to do their tasks thanks to their genetic makeup. Their ancestors were once great hunters.

So to say that a person is working like a dog is to say they’re similarly relentlessly hard working. You could say this positively – “I work like a dog, so you should employ me” – or negatively – “my boss has been working me like a dog.”

7. Like the Dog that caught the Bus

This means that you don’t know what to do with something you won or captured.

The saying comes from the idea that dogs will often chase busses, but don’t know what they would do if they catch the bus. They’re not going to eat it, are they? The fun in the game of chasing the bus is in the chasing, not in the catching of the bus.

If a dog catches a bus, chances are they would have no idea what to do.

So we’ll use this saying in jest at someone who has gotten something they really wanted, but now don’t know what to do with it. For example, you could say it about a man who worked all his life to retire, but now that he’s retired he’s really bored.

8. Like a Blind Dog in the Meat Market.

Imagine a blind dog in a market where he can smell meat all around him. He will desperately want the meat and run around trying to find it. But his search will be pretty inefficient and cause a big mess. He’ll run into things, knock meat off tables, and annoy all the butchers. And after all of that he might not even get his meat!

We’ll use this idiom to talk about someone who is doing something inefficiently, incompetently or haphazardly. For example, you might call a politician with a lot of tax money to spend and no idea how to spend it a “blind dog in a meat market”, meaning he’s not doing a very good job figuring out how to spend the money.

Dog Idioms

9. Barking up the Wrong Tree.

This means someone was trying to solve a problem in the wrong way. Literally, you might envisage a dog that’s at the base of a tree barking up at it, as if it’s trying to catch a squirrel or cat. But the cat’s up a completely different tree!

Similarly, you would use this idiom when you see someone doing something and they’ve got the complete wrong idea. All their effort is for nothing!

Read More: Tree Metaphors

dog idioms

10. Its Bark is Worse than its Bite

Someone whose bark is worse than their bite is a person who is angry and yelling and screaming, but in reality is pretty harmless.

It relates to a guard dog that will bark and bark at someone, but won’t (or will only lightly) end up biting them if they got too close.

You might use this idiom about someone running around saying they will sue you for something … but you know they really won’t. They’re probably just making a big fuss and will go home, calm down, and cause you no harm.

11. Going to see a Man about a Dog

This idiom is used to conceal where you’re really going or what you’re really about to do.

If someone asks you where you’re going and you don’t want to tell them what you’re up to, you can simply say “I’m going to see a man about a dog”. It doesn’t mean you actually are going to do that. It’s just a way to disorient someone and make them confused while you slip off to go to the bathroom or do whatever it was that you were really going to do.

12. Hair of the Dog.

The ‘hair of the dog’ is an alcoholic beverage that you drink in order to cure a hangover. There isn’t any evidence that this would actually be a cure, but it’s something young partygoers might say when they wake up and want to start partying all over again the next morning.

The idiom comes from an ancient belief that rabies from a dog bite could be cured by placing the hair of the dog that bit you in the wound. Of course, that doesn’t work!

13. If you want a Friend in Washington, get a Dog.

This saying is popular among political elites in the United States. It’s attributed to Carl Icahn who said it in the mid-1980s.

At the heart of this idiom is the idea that no one can be trusted in politics. Washington, being the political center of the United States, is used as a location where you can’t make friends – no one is trustworthy. So, if you can’t trust a human, revert to a dog (man’s best friend!) if you really want a true friend!

14. It’s better to be the Head of a Dog than the Tail of a Lion

This saying means that it’s better to be in a leadership position in a small organization than in a subordinate position within a large organization. The dog represents something small in relation to the size and grandeur of a lion.

You might use this saying when talking about someone who has been offered a leadership job in a small organization. They might be contemplating whether to stay in their lower-down position in the small organization, or to step into a leadership role instead, despite the fact the organization overall has less prestige or influence.

15. The Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are the hottest days of summer – usually late July in the Northern Hemisphere. We call them the dog days because during these days the star Sirius (known as the dog star) would rise just before the sun. This saying goes all the way back to Greek and Roman days.

Read Also: Summer Metaphors

16. It’s a Dog-Eat-Dog World

A dog-eat-dog world is a world where there is ruthless competition going on. It relates to the idea that if we lived in a world with only dogs, there would be no structure, rules or civilization controlling our behavior.

You might use this phrase when referring to a sporting event that is particularly brutal and competitors could get away with anything they want. It could also be used in politics where people are going around backstabbing each other all the time.

17. You can’t Teach an old Dog new Tricks

It’s believed that young dogs can be trained while older dogs are harder to train. Supposedly, older dogs are stubborn and more resistant to learning, although many professionals dispute this.

But, we will usually use this saying idiomatically to talk about stubborn older people who won’t change their ways. For example, you might say it about your grandfather if he says socially inappropriate comments. You might dismiss his behavior by saying – “Oh, gosh, he’s old and doesn’t understand. You can’t teach an old dog a new trick!”

18. It’s Raining Cats and Dogs

This means that it’s raining really heavily. It’s an odd idiom because no one really knows where it comes from.

Some believe that it is linked the idea that cats and dogs raining down from the sky is unbelievable. So, you can say it when the rain coming from the sky is so heavy that it’s unbelievable.

Others think it’s linked to the Norse god of storms, who was often seen with cats and dogs. So if a storm is coming you could say it’s raining cats and dogs to refer to the idea that the Norse god of storms is nearby.

Read More: Storm Symbolism and Rain Metaphors

19. Dog Whistle

We say something is a dog whistle when it’s something that’s said with the intention of only being heard by a certain segment of the population who is ready to hear it.

Usually, this idiom is used to talk about politicians who use veiled racism in their language. The idea is that people who are racist will hear it and understand the politician agrees with them, while the politician can maintain plausible deniability because it’s not an overtly racist comment.

The saying comes from the literal dog whistle, which is a whistle that makes a sound at a pitch that can be heard by dogs but not humans.

20. To go to the Dogs

The saying “gone to the dogs” means that something has deteriorated or is not as good as it once was. You might say this about your country if you don’t like the direction it’s taking – “this country has gone to the dogs.” You could also say it about a restaurant you used to like but has stopped serving food that’s quite as good.

It’s believed that this saying comes from China, where cities used to disallow dogs within the city limits. If a city has lost control or decorum, the dogs will make their way into the city and take over the streets – so it’s “gone to the dogs”.

21. A Dog’s Life

“A Dog’s Life” means an unhappy and uncomfortable way to live. You might use this saying to refer to the life of someone who lives on the street, sleeping on the floor like a dog, and going about their life eating scraps in an inhumane way.

Or, it could be used simply to refer to an unhappy poor working-class person’s life where they work 12 hours a day to make a living.

Ironically, many dogs today have very comfortable existences in the homes of their wealthy owners. But, this saying originates in the 1600s when dogs mostly lived sad existences.

22. Dog Tired

“Dog Tired” means that you’re really, really tired. The saying comes form Alfred the Great who sent his sons out hunting with their dogs. When the sons would return home they would be incredibly exhausted. Because hunting with the dogs was such an exhausting activity, we now have the saying in our everyday language.

23. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

This means to not stir up trouble.

Dogs will often bark, fight and cause trouble. But when they’re sleeping they are peaceful, it’s quiet, and you can have some rest.

So if someone is about to say something that will cause a fight, their friend could turn to them and say “let sleeping dogs lie” to remind them that maybe it’s a good idea to just not speak up or you might metaphorically wake the dogs – in other words, you might cause a lot of trouble!

24. The Dog ate my Homework

This saying is used by students around the world. It’s a typical (but terrible) excuse for why the student hasn’t completed their homework. If they can’t come up with a better excuse, they’ll just say “the dog ate it”. Of course, the teacher will know the truth … so it’s not going to work. Sorry, kids!

Conclusion

This list of dog metaphors, similes and idioms is by no means exhaustive. There are dozens and dozens of different sayings we have about dogs because they’ve been by out sides through millennia.

And if you’re looking for a metaphor or idiom to describe a dog in your story, don’t forget you can always make one up yourself that suits your own situation. Creative and figurative language is something that anyone can make up. You’re only limited by your own creativity!