French Language Blog

The Dog Days Are Over – French Expressions with Chien Posted by on Sep 11, 2015 in Vocabulary

Earlier this summer (mais où est donc passé l’été? – where has summer gone?), I wrote a post with expressions and proverbs using the word chat. Whether you’re a cat person or a dog person, it’s not fair to exclude the dogs of their own post 😉 So, for all my fellow dog lovers, let’s get started!

As I was doing a braindrain on expressions with dog I knew in French, I realized just how many we have in English. Think about it – top dog, can’t teach an old dog new tricks, a barking dog never bites, dog-eat-dog world, dog days of summer, the hair of the dog… The list goes on and on.

French also has many uses for le chien – there are so many expressions idiomatiques and proverbes. Maybe it’s because dogs are considered man’s best friend*. Maybe it’s easier to compare a dog’s behavior to our own. Regardless of the reason, here are some fun expressions with le chien to broaden your knowledge of French!

* = and we certainly use their help when we can! Il y a les chiens d’aveugle (guide dogs), les chiens d’utilité (working dogs), les chiens de berger (sheepdogs), les chiens de chasse (hunting dogs), les chien de traîneau (sled dogs), les chiens policiers (police dogs), les chiens secouriste (search and rescue dogs), et les chiens de garde (guard dogs)!


Let’s get started!
(hot diggety dog! new vocabulary!)


arriver comme un chien dans un jeu de quilles – arrive like a bull in a china shop
avoir du chien – to be very attractive
avoir un mal de chien – to be sick as a dog
couché en chien de fusil – to be in the fetal position
entre chien et loup – at nightfall
être comme chien et chat – fight like cat and dog
être d’une humeur de chien – to be in a foul mood
être malade comme un chien – to be sick as a dog
il fait un temps de chien – the weather is pretty awful
ne pas attacher son chien avec des saucisses – to be cheap/miserly
nom d’un chien! – holy cow!
parler à quelqu’un comme à un chien – to treate somebody badly
se regarder en chien de faïence – to glare at each other



Chien qui aboie ne mord pas – A barking dog doesn’t bite
Qui couche avec le chien, se lève avec des puces – If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas
Bon chien chasse de race – similar to ‘like father, like son’
Les chiens ne font pas des chats – a child is the spit and image of his parents


Can you think of any additions?

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About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!


  1. Steve Etter:

    A person is the spitting or spittin’ image of someone else. Not the spit and image.