Dog Idioms

five golden retriever puppies looking cute as they hang out of a big bucket

Welcome to this blog post on dog idioms! If you’re a fan of English idioms, and if you have ever been to the UK, then you have probably heard the phrase ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ before. But did you know that there are several more dog-related idioms in the English language?

As many of you will know, our wonderful founder Lorraine loves dogs – in fact, when she is not teaching, working on the Intrepid English Academy or reading non-fiction books, you will most likely find her dog-spotting on a run, or walking her friend’s dog.

Listen to this blog post on the Intrepid English Podcast here.

For the feline fans out there, we also covered some cat idioms in a recent blog post.

Today we will look at five dog-related idioms and their meanings. 

Try and use these dog idioms in your English conversations this week. Better still, use them in a one-to-one lesson with Lorraine or one of the other Intrepid English teachers – we’ll be suitably impressed!

1. (One’s) bark is worse than (one’s) bite

Have you ever entered a house with a dog and the dog starts barking loudly at you? This can be quite scary. In most cases though, once the dog gets to know you and realises you’re not a burglar, they calm down and are quite friendly. 

This is an expression used to mean that someone isn’t as harsh or as mean as they first appear. Their words are worse than their behaviour.

“The new headteacher seems really strict. But I saw him comforting a child who’d fallen over in the playground. I think his bark is worse than his bite.”

“Everyone is scared of the boss, but she’s lovely once she gets to know you. Her bark is worse than her bite.”

2. Puppy love

Who doesn’t love puppies? Puppy love is an expression used to describe romantic feelings of infatuation, normally in adolescence. 

What do puppies do when they know they’ve done something wrong? They look up at you with big, innocent eyes full of love. This is the way someone who is in ‘puppy love’ might look at the object of their affections.

“He was totally enamored with her. It was puppy love.”

“Look at those two kids holding hands. Such puppy love – it’s really sweet to see.”

3. Like a dog with two tails

What do dogs do when they get excited? – They wag their tails! So imagine how excited a dog with two tails could be!

This expression is used to describe a person who is ecstatic and really excited about something.

“He was so happy about getting the job. He was like a dog with two tails.”

“Emma was ecstatic about getting an A on her exam. She was like a dog with two tails.”

4. Let sleeping dogs lie

If a situation or problem has settled, then don’t interfere and make it worse. Just leave it alone.

“It looks like Stephen has calmed down since the argument. Don’t ask him about it again. I think it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.”

“I don’t think you should ask Sandra about the break-up. Just let sleeping dogs lie.”

5. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

This expression means that you can’t teach new ideas to a person who is stuck in their ways or unwilling to change. This is generally not a very polite expression.

“I tried to teach my Granddad how to use the ipad we bought him for Christmas but he’s not interested. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

“I don’t believe them when they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – I’m looking forward to going back to University next year.”

Exercise:

Now it’s your turn. Fill in the gaps with the correct dog-related idiom from the list above.

1. After finally submitting his dissertation, Jack was like a ___________.

2. Despite asking my elderly neighbour to call me when he needs some help with his gardening, he still tries to do it all by himself. I guess you _______________.

3. When I first met him he seemed really harsh. But now I’ve got to know him. He’s actually really nice. His ______________.

4. Ethan is only thirteen but he is so in love with his girlfriend. He insists it’s not __________ though.

5. We thought about taking them to court, but the hassle wasn’t worth it. We decided to _____________.

Discussion Questions: (write your answers in the comments below)

1. Did you experience puppy love as a teenager? What do you think when you look back on it now?

2. What do you think – can you teach an old dog new tricks? Or not? Perhaps it depends on the dog!

3. When was the last time you felt like a dog with two tails and why?

Do you want to learn more about idioms? We’ve got plenty of blog posts on all types of idioms. We’ve also got a whole self-study course in the Intrepid English Academy on Essential English Idioms, covering Animal Idioms, Money Idioms, Life Idioms, and plenty more!

Want to practise using these idioms in conversation? Book a free trial lesson with an Intrepid English teacher here and we can discuss your language learning goals.

This blog was written by Intrepid English teacher, Kate, and recorded by Maddox.

You can visit my Intrepid English Teacher profile page to find out more about me and add me as a friend! 

If you have any questions, or you would like to request a topic for a future blog, you can contact us here or email us at Intrepid English.

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