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10 Popular Dog Sayings Explained

6. Your bark is worse than your bite

This refers to someone who is all talk, very little action; someone who talks a good (often loud) game but can’t substantiate or back it up. So who first barked but couldn’t bite (besides my first Labrador Retriever, who let us know when a leaf blew outside)? Some scholars believe the first notation of record for this phrase was in a 17th-century paper, “1663 Lauderd, Papers I,” wherein it was written, “It is intended that that letter shall be a great bark if not a byt.”

7. Let sleeping dogs lie

Don’t cause or do something to make trouble, nor wake the beast within, right? As a metaphor, yes. The origins of this idiom can be traced to famed Canterbury Tales author, Geoffrey Chaucer. He wrote in Troylus and Crisedye (1374), “It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake.”

8. Sick as a dog

This is one phrase that drives me batty, truly. Why is a dog the sickest? Argh. Some theories claim this simile goes back to the 17th century, when dogs ate just about anything (many still do), and such an unsettled diet would cause dogs to become ill. According to the Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms, the saying goes back to the 1500s. Either way, feeling quite under the weather is generally associated with being as sick as our canine friends.

9. Raining cats and dogs

As for this meteorological entry, a 1651 collection of poems by Henry Vaughan referenced a roof that was secure against “dogs and cats rained in shower.” But why cats and dogs at all? One theory points to Odin, Norse god of storms, often depicted with dogs and wolves with reference to wind. Some say cata doxa, Greek for “contrary to experience or belief” is a possible reference to raining very hard. Certainly, in my dog’s world, if it rained marrow bones, the forecast would be bright and sunny in his eyes.

10. Who let the dogs out

A canine-inspired song list would not be complete without this thumpa-thumpa chair dance-inducing Baha Men hit. Animal Planet spawned a series title from the song featuring the skateboarding bulldog sensation, Tillman, and pals. Double-dog dare you to attend any sort of canine expo and not hear this song played.

Got a favorite dog-themed quote or song? Let us know in the comments!


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+ add your own
1:36PM PST on Feb 24, 2013

'Looks like a dogs breakfast' :)

1:32PM PST on Feb 24, 2013


7:27AM PST on Feb 23, 2013


8:56PM PST on Feb 21, 2013


1:02PM PST on Feb 21, 2013


7:00AM PST on Feb 21, 2013

díky ,krásné

6:31AM PST on Feb 21, 2013

i've heard of 4 of them with those meanings before, didn't know where the others came from, so thanks!

what about the "you've made a dog's dinner out of it?" saying?

11:25AM PST on Feb 20, 2013

I'm going to have "Who let the dogs out" stuck in my head now.

10:39AM PST on Feb 20, 2013

Thanks, interesting.

8:07AM PST on Feb 20, 2013

thank you

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Thanks, would be nice to actually see global action.

This is a very interesting and useful article.Thanks for sharing.


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