Going to the Dogs


“Going to the dogs” is a popular idiomatic phrase used to describe a situation or a place that is deteriorating, declining, or becoming less successful. While this expression may seem peculiar at first glance, it holds a rich history and has evolved to carry multiple meanings in different contexts. In this article, we will explore the origins and meanings of its usage as an idiom, and its various interpretations, including its slang usage.
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What Does “Going to the Dogs” Mean?

When someone says that something is “going to the dogs,” they are typically expressing their concern about a negative change or deterioration in a particular situation, organization, or place. It implies that things are getting worse or falling apart, often due to a lack of proper care, attention, or management.

Origins of the Expression:

The exact origins of the phrase “going to the dogs” are not entirely clear. However, its roots can be traced back to ancient times, where dogs were sometimes considered as symbols of misfortune or bad omens. Over time, the negative connotations associated with dogs influenced the evolution of this idiomatic expression.

One possible origin is related to hunting culture. In the 17th and 18th centuries, aristocrats in England and Europe engaged in fox hunting with packs of hounds. A hunt that “went to the dogs” meant that the hounds failed to follow the scent of the fox, leading to an unsuccessful and disappointing hunt. This notion of failure and disappointment eventually seeped into the broader use of the phrase.

Being Left for the Dogs:

The phrase “left for the dogs” is another variation of this idiom. It means to abandon something or someone to their own demise or to a negative fate. It implies neglect and disregard for the well-being of whatever is being left behind.

Is “Going to the Dogs” an Idiom?

Yes, it is an idiomatic expression. An idiom is a group of words whose meaning is different from the literal meaning of its individual words. Idioms are used in everyday language to convey figurative meanings and are often deeply rooted in cultural or historical contexts.

What Does “Dogs” Mean in Slang?

In certain slang contexts, “dogs” is used as a term to refer to feet. This slang usage likely originated from the idea of comparing human feet to those of dogs. For example, “My dogs are tired after a long day of walking.”

In other slang contexts, they can be used to refer to one’s friends or companions. This usage is more common in certain subcultures or regions.


1. What does “going to the dogs” mean?

“Going to the dogs” is an idiomatic phrase that refers to a situation or a place that is declining or deteriorating.

2. Where did the expression “going to the dogs” come from?

The exact origins of the phrase are unclear, but it may have roots in hunting culture, where unsuccessful hunts with hounds contributed to the negative connotations associated with dogs.

3. What does it mean to be “left for the dogs”?

To be “left for the dogs” means to abandon something or someone to their own demise or a negative fate, implying neglect and disregard.

4. Is “going to the dogs” an idiom?

Yes, it is an idiomatic expression conveying a figurative meaning.

5. What does “dogs” mean in slang?

In slang, “dogs” can refer to feet or to one’s friends or companions, depending on the context and region.

As language evolves, idiomatic phrases like “going to the dogs” take on new meanings and interpretations. While the origin of this expression remains shrouded in history, its continued usage in modern language highlights its enduring relevance in describing situations of decline and deterioration. Next time you come across this phrase, you’ll have a better understanding of its figurative meaning and the colorful linguistic landscape it represents.
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