6 Intense Expressions Using the Word for 'Dog' in French

Idioms With Feeling Using 'Chien,' the Word for 'Dog' in French

French Expressions with Dog
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About 40 percent of the French consider their dogs the most important things in their lives. That's good because there are 10 million of them in France, which works out to about 17 for every 100 people.

Many of the smaller breeds live charmed lives in handbags, on restaurant chairs or eating gourmet doggie food; the country's many hunting dogs are tolerated; dogs who chase cars apparently get chained up and sort of forgotten; and a lot of homeless pooches just run free.

In the midst of all this is the growing French appreciation for the rights of dogs (and cats, horses and other pets); 2014 legislation changes their Napoleonic-era status as personal property to "living and feeling beings" who can be protected from cruelty and inherit wealth. 

French Idioms Featuring Dogs

Although the French may have a hot-and-cold relationship with their dogs, they are a part of everyday French life and have been for centuries. So naturally dogs appear often in popular French idioms. Here are six French-language idiomatic expressions using chien, the word for dog in French

Actually, the French word for dog can appear in one of three forms in expressions: as un chien for a male dog, une chienne for a female dog, or un chiot for a puppy. The latter is always masculine. Careful: The plural chiottes is slang for toilets.

1. Traiter quelqu'un comme un chien

Translation: To treat someone like a dog
Meaning: To treat them badly, physically or emotionally

Mon boss me traite comme un chien; il me parle agressivement, ne me fait jamais de compliment.
My boss treats me like a dog; he speaks aggressively to me, never pays me a compliment.

2. Avoir du chien

Translation: To have some "dog"
Meaning: To be attractive, to have a lot of charm. Used mainly for women

Sylvie n’est pas vraiment belle, mais elle a du chien, et elle a beaucoup de succès auprès des hommes.
Sylvie is not really pretty, but she has this special something, and she has a lot of success with men.

3. Être d’une humeur de chien

Translation: To be in a dog’s mood
Meaning: To be in a very bad mood

Oh la la, je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais je suis d’une humeur de chien ce matin!
Oh my, I don’t know why, but I am in a terrible mood this morning!

4. Avoir un mal de chien (à faire quelque chose)

Translation: To have a dog’s pain (to do something)
Meaning: To be in a lot of pain OR to find doing something very difficult

Hier, je me suis tordu la cheville, et aujourd’hui, j’ai un mal de chien.
Yesterday, I twisted my ankle, and today, it hurts like crazy.​

J’ai un mal de chien à faire cet exercice de grammaire.
I have a very hard time doing this grammar exercise.

5. Dormir en chien de fusil

Translation: To sleep like a gun’s hammer ​
Meaning: To sleep in a fetal position, curled up in a ball​

Olivier dort allongé sur le dos et moi, en chien de fusil.
Olivier sleeps lying on his back and me, curled up in a ball.

6. Se regarder en chien de faïence

Translation: To look at each other like china dog statues
Meaning: To look at each other in a coiled, aggressive way​

Ils se regardaient en chien de faïence et on pouvait voir la haine sur leurs visages.
They were looking at each other with intensity, and you could see the hatred on their faces.