Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

Many English idioms have to do with dogs.

Our canine companions are all over the English language.

Today we share idioms and high-level vocabulary with ‘dog’ and ‘hound.’

These phrases aren’t just for questions about dogs because they’re not actually about dogs!

They are appropriate for many different topics!

We’ll share where on the IELTS exam to use it and how to do it!

Watch the episode on YouTube:

Today’s question

This question came from a student in our 3 Keys IELTS Facebook group.

This is a private group for students in our IELTS course.

Hi Aubrey Carter and Jessica Beck, what does “dog opening” mean? Is it formal?

The word ‘dog’ here is used as a verb.

You might see in an article, “Cultural conflicts will dog opening the area to mining.”

  • dog: cause problems

This is not used very often.

You may see it in the news or academic articles, but we don’t recommend it on IELTS.

It’s rare enough that some examiners might not be familiar with its meaning.

However, there are other phrases with the word ‘dog’ that you should use!

#1: Dogged

  • dogged: stubborn; intense

The adjective dogged is often used to describe someone’s level of determination.

His dogged determination was evident when he tried to get promoted.

She has a dogged determination to get a raise.

This adjective is not overly informal.

It can be used anywhere on the Speaking exam.

We also use it to talk about governments and policies.

It would work for both Speaking Part 3 and Writing Task 2.

Governments need dogged determination in order to amend this issue.

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#2: Hounded

We use this verb to mean pester or annoy.

It is used to describe the tenaciousness of the press or paparazzi.

He was hounded by the press.

You can use this to describe anyone that is annoying.

I’m being hounded by my neighbor. He’s always asking to borrow things.

#3: Barking up the wrong tree

This is an extremely useful idiom for the IELTS exam!

It means you’re asking the wrong person.

I wanted to ask my supervisor about a raise, but I knew I’d be barking up the wrong tree.

He asked me for a ride but he was barking up the wrong tree because my car is in the shop.

It is more informal.

It’s perfect for Speaking Part 1 or Part 2.

#4: Dog eat dog

This has the same meaning as ‘cutthroat.’

  • dog eat dog: intense competition or negativity

Work environments can be described as ‘dog eat dog.’

I had to quit because it was so dog eat dog at the office.

At my ideal job, the office won’t be dog eat dog.

You are very likely to need to talk about your job or future work goals on IELTS.

Use this idiom to get the idiomatic language you need.

Where to use informal vocabulary on IELTS

You’ve noticed we often share where the vocabulary we teach should be used on the exam.

This is because the vocabulary must be appropriate for the question.

Speaking Part 1 and Part 2 need to be more informal.

These are questions a friend would ask you.

This can also be the case for General Training Writing Task 1.

Letters to friends and family must use informal vocabulary.

Where to use formal vocabulary

On the other hand, other parts of the exam need a much more serious tone.

Vocabulary and idioms are how you set this tone.

You need to know how formal or informal each phrase is.

This way you know where to use it on the exam.


You need idiomatic vocabulary on the IELTS exam.

This is vital to score 7+ on test day.

Today’s phrases are a great way to meet this requirement.

Keep in mind that you must know how formal phrases are.

You must use appropriate vocabulary for each question.

For all the strategies you need, sign up for our online IELTS course!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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