We humans have dozens of expressions referencing the canine community. We’re tempted to apologize to the dog species for some of the expressions that convey a less-than-positive meaning (i.e., when we refer to a man as “a dog!” we’re not exactly paying a compliment). But then again, for all we know half of our dogs’ barking may reference us, perhaps not in a positive light:
- You can’t teach an old person new tricks.
- Who let the people out?
- Argh! Human breath!
But before our imagination about canine language gets us into the doghouse, let’s examine some human expressions referencing dogs, what they mean and which breeds might best illustrate the phrases.
Dog Sayings and Expressions
Three Dog Night
It’s so cold we need an extra dog for cuddling and warmth. No breed better illustrates this than the Siberian “Bring on the Cold!” Husky..
Showing off. The playful, do-any-trick Havanese has a tendency toward stealing the spotlight and hot doggin’ (and here you thought we would name the Dachshund as the hot dogger?)
Slept Like a Dog
Slept long and hard. So any dog with a guard dog tendency probably doesn’t sleep “like a dog.” For example, a Mastiff may look like he’s sleeping hard, but he probably has one eye open for prowlers. My German Shepherd seems to sleep lightly, perhaps even worrying in her sleep. The French Bulldog, however, is a great example of a breed very capable of sleeping very peacefully.
Double Dog Dare
We really, really dare you. This term seems to stem possibly from “black dogs” as slang for bad shillings (so thus a dare for a bad shilling, we suppose), but regardless, the expression is most appropriately illustrated by the Cane Corso. This serious, devoted breed isn’t overly reactive or threatening, unless his family is threatened. But at that point, the dog’s expression – even without sounding an alarm – seems to double dog dare intruders to mess with his loved ones.
Run with the Big Dogs
Being able to run in the fast lane, with the top performers or competitors. You might guess I’d name a Greyhound to illustrate this term, but the term doesn’t necessarily reference speed. We’re actually going to name the Belgian Malinois as the best example. Few breeds are as hardy, tough, committed to work, and eager to perform a task.
Pretty as a Speckled Pup
We all know how cute a speckled dog is so naturally this means extremely cute or attractive. Although this idiom was never associated with a specific speckled breed, we think the German Pointer is as pretty a representative as any with speckles to spare.
Working Like a Dog
When dogs have a job to do, they don’t mess around. They put in the time, effort and dedication to ensure the job is done and done right. There are many working and herding breeds who showcase this sort of work ethic, but the driven Border Collie really puts their mind to it. The Border Collie excels at any job and is know for having the tenacity to adapt and exceed expectations at work.
You Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down
This expression best captures the Havanese’s personality, for they are 1) good dogs, and 2) certainly don’t stay down (or off your lap for that matter). Havanese were bred in Cuba for companionship so they have upbeat personalities, prioritize cuddling, and also have dancin’ feet. With such entertaining antics, why should they ever keep their four paws on the ground?
His Bark Is Worse Than His Bite
This refers to someone who seems scary but isn’t all that bad. This reminds us of Yorkies, who tend to bark to announce newcomers as well as squirrels passing by. The Terrier genes make them tougher than you’d guess; rodent chasing is not for the faint of heart.They’re vocal, sassy, loyal, clever, and self-opinionated. They pack a heavy punch when it comes to personality, but since they only weigh about 7 pounds, they (especially when they confront new dogs!) occasionally bite off more than they can chew.
Other dog expressions include:
- The Dog Ate My Homework: Not as much of an idiom as an excuse. But if you have a dog with a taste for paper, this might just be the truth!
- Chase One’s Tail: To try and try only to be unsuccessful.
- Raining Cats and Dogs: First found in a collection of poems in 1651. Olor Iscanus in 1651, Henry Vaughan referred to a roof being secure against “dogs and cats rained in shower.”
- There’s Life in that Old Dog Yet: Just because someone’s old, doesn’t mean they don’t have energy to do things.
- My Dogs are Barking: Feet are hurting
- Like a Dog with Two Tails: Extra happy